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Awareness

July Is Disability Pride Month

In honor of Disability Pride Month, we explore some best practices for offering solidarity to people with disabilities. This is about accepting and honoring the uniqueness of people and their abilities. There absolutely is pride in who they are, despite the limitations society puts on them and the boxes they’re made to fit into.

Having a disability is an identity like all other groups. There is a culture that people with disabilities share as a whole, and there are subcultures within each disability that someone identifies with. Meaning, they can take pride in their strength as someone with a disability and also participate in that culture along with those who have varying disabilities. They come together in unity, understanding the complexities of the world they have to move around in and how they can be referred to or treated. They can also acknowledge the subculture they participate in as someone who’s deaf or utilizes a wheelchair, for example. These individuals share deeper nuances of their world, how people respond to them, or don’t respond at all. 

Disabilities aren’t always seen. It isn’t that easy to place them into categories, nor should we try. They represent all walks of life and contribute in the most profound ways in their communities. These people are professionals, athletes, educators, first responders, writers, artists, our political officials, etc.  They need to be at the table. They need to be respected; they need to be included and invited into mainstream discussions and decisions.  One of the mottos shared by many with disabilities is, “Nothing about us without us,” i.e. please don’t make decisions for us without our input. 

What can you do this month and beyond to support people with disabilities?   

  • Always interrupt stereotypes and negative statements about people with disabilities. Interrupt comments made to or about someone in your presence.  
  • Ensure people with disabilities are given the same opportunities for employment, inclusion, training, choices, and successes.  
  • If you don’t know, ask. People are open to someone taking an interest in who they are and asking questions, instead of making assumptions or just staring. 
  • Find out the appropriate ways to approach someone who’s blind or hard of hearing.
  • Understand that someone’s wheelchair is an extension of themselves and touching it requires consent. 
  • Use People First Language
  • Learn more about autism or TBI and ask them what will be most beneficial for them at work, or home, at school, and in social situations. Learn more about what TBI is.

Everyone deserves to be proud of who they are. People with disabilities work hard to achieve things others take for granted every day. So learn more about someone you might know. Check out the Disability flag and why it was created that way. Our planet is incredible and diverse and people with disabilities are and always will be a valuable part of our communities.

 


Written by Wendy Ivy, Associate Executive Director

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in Relation to Sexual Assault Survivors

Although we have an understanding of the importance of mental health awareness in the month of May, we need to differentiate minority mental health in July to signify the intricate hardships that minorities may face from stereotypes, sexism, systematic oppression, and classism. The objective is to accentuate the attention that needs to be considered for minorities battling mental health adversities. Mental health disorders do not discriminate against age, gender, race, ethnicity, or identity. The unfortunate reality is that we need to focus on emphasizing mental health for various minority groups. Additionally, individuals who need mental health assistance contributes significantly to sexual assault statistics at staggering numbers. Even more so when investigating minority groups. 

 

The Context of Minority

A person who identifies as a minority is one who does not consider themselves a part of the dominant culture in society. Who might be a minority? Well, it can simply be anyone whose identity does not align with white, higher income, male, heterosexual, Christian, and able-bodied individuals. The word minority also may represent the differential of power between majority and minority groups alike, and can make individuals who identify with such groups feel a sense of inferiority compared to those of the dominant culture (Bryant-Davis et al., 2010). 

 

Why Does Minority Mental Health Matter?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, gay men experience higher levels of risk of adverse health problems such as mood disorders, suicide, substance abuse, and anxiety (Messih, 2018). This can become problematic if individuals who need proper mental health care feel as if barriers are hindering them being able to have access to quality care. Furthermore, there are conceptualizations in unrepresented communities about causes and cures of mental illness as well as the stigma that follows being diagnosed with a disorder. The purpose of minority mental health awareness month is not meant to imply that the dominant culture’s mental health is not a priority, but rather that we need to acknowledge the auxiliary attention that must be presented to promote quality mental health care for people of unrepresented communities. Although there is treatment for those with mental health disorders identifying as a minority, there are many barriers to receiving accessible and proper mental health care.

 

Barriers to Seeking Mental Health Care May Include:

    • Lack of resources
    • Financial burden/lack of insurance
    • Social stigma/ shame of mental illness
    • Location of treatments and offices
    • Bilingual services 
    • Cultural beliefs
    • Mistrust of the mental health system

 

 

psychiatry.org

 

Mental Health and Sexual Assault on Minority Groups

Generally, we see an increase of minority and sexual orientation groups have higher levels of anxiety, depression, suicide ideation, and many other mental health disorders due to societal traumas and factors. According to SAMHSA (2010), over 70% of African American adolescents diagnosed with major depression disorders did not receive treatment for their condition. In relation to sexual assault,  it is evident that the crime can increase the likelihood for developing a mental health disorder. More specifically, survivors of unrepresented communities underutilized treatment and care. Women may not be able to seek out assistance to alleviate the distress caused by sexual assault with possible consequences of victim blaming due to racism, classism, sexism, and other forms of systematic and societal trauma.  

 

Sexual assault on minorities with those of mental health disorders has become an epidemic due to the lack of knowledge of resources and cultural barriers for individuals seeking help. In addition, the prevalence of negative outcomes following from sexual assault demonstrates that it is common for women to develop serious mental health challenges after being sexually assaulted. Research suggests that there is a disproportionate amount of sexual assault among underrepresented people, and with lack of proper mental health care can be detrimental for their wellbeing. Ethnic minorities experience more symptoms of PTSD and anxiety such as Latina women having significantly more psychiatric hospitalizations and anxiety following a rape than white women (Jacques-Tiura et al., 2010). Comparing the Caucasian group to African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and American Indian groups exhibits a significant increase in mental health disparities because of societal hardships. Individuals across all ethnic minorities who do not receive professional help, often search for other ways to heal such as self-medicating. Cultural and societal oppression may lead to feeling shame, isolation, or a lack of safety that can negatively impact a person’s well-being and deplete their coping mechanisms in a crucial moment of crisis. 

 

You Are Not Alone

The structure of the mental health services demonstrates insufficient resources of culturally appropriate services that may help to serve the minority populations regarding sexual assault. By recognizing the need for awareness for ethnic and cultural differences of rape survivors, society will be able to adequately prepare to respond to the needs of sexually abused women identifying as a minority with a mental illness. By standing together, we can envision a nation where any individual affected by a mental health disorder or a sexual assault have access to the appropriate support and quality of care to live healthy and fulfilling lives. ZCenter strives to offer a place where no one feels alone in their struggles.

 


Written by Adella Moss, Intern, Northern Illinois University

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

References

Bryant-Davis, T., Ullman, S. E., Tsong, Y., Tillman, S., & Smith, K. (2010). Struggling to survive: sexual assault, poverty, and mental health outcomes of African American women. The American journal of orthopsychiatry. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3870142/ https://wp.nyu.edu/steinhardt-appsych_opus/ethnic-differences-in-the-experiences-of-sexual-assault-victims/.

Campbell, B. (2005). Learn About Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. NAMI. https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Bebe-Moore-Campbell-National-Minority-Mental-Health-Awareness-Month/Learn-About-Bebe-Moore-Campbell-National-Minority-Mental-Health-Awareness-Month.

Jacques-Tiura, A. (2010). Disclosure of sexual assault: characteristics and implications for posttraumatic stress symptoms among African American and caucasian survivors. Journal of trauma & dissociation : the official journal of the International Society for the Study of Dissociation (ISSD). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20373205/.

Messih, M. (2018). Mental Health Disparities: Diverse Populations. https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/cultural-competency/education/mental-health-facts. 

SAMHSA. (2010). Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Findings. Results from the 2010 NSDUH: Mental Health Findings, SAMHSA, CBHSQ. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUHmhfr2010/NSDUHmhfr2010.htm. 

Security in the LGBTQIA Community

Security is a term that evokes a sense of safety, more specifically in your home and the community surrounding you. As an individual, in a large complex world, wanting and needing this security is essential to survive. But how about if it is difficult to obtain? It may be hard to envision a form of freedom from danger if security threats to adolescents are presented by the government and local community. On the other hand, we do know that the feeling of safety is a crucial aspect in a child’s emotional and social development. The more abundant the safety feeling is, the easier it is for them to be able to explore and experience the world around them. It creates a safe space for one to learn and grasp what is encompassing them in the world.

 

Bill HB1570

On April 6, the citizens of the United States were informed of the first bill to outlaw gender- affirming treatment to minors in Arkansas. The Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act limits youth in receiving gender-changing services as it prohibits insurance from covering hospital bills, prevents medical professionals from seeing transitioning youth, and puts a restriction on all medications and surgeries until the age of 18. Any physician providing health services to a transitioning minor is seen as breaking the law and will face legal consequences in the state of Arkansas. Priya Krishnakumar, while presenting information from the Human Rights Campaign, states that approximately 33 states in America have introduced more than 117 bills to hinder transgender rights (Krishnakumar, 2021). We see spiraling restrictions on individual rights, which can become messy and a concern for the transgender community as well as their mental health. 

 

 

Looking into the future instead of the present

What does this mean for transgender Americans? The new legislation signifies a reverse effect as we lose the decades of fighting for equality with the new statutes devised. A majority of the legislation bills will unfortunately affect the transgender youth in America. The Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2020 confirms the concerns of high risk of suicide and ideation. “Nearly 15% of LGBTQ respondents attempted suicide in the past twelve months, including more than 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary youth” (The Trevor Project, 2021). With the alarming statistics present, this brings us back to the original question. What does that mean for transgender youth? As we are presented with the numbers, we as a society need to take a step back and ponder the concerns that may arise for the trans youth community. 

Society might be at a questionable standstill, debating on whether we will be helping these children or harming their development. As a community, let’s pay special attention to our blossoming children by reaffirming their thoughts, feelings, and autonomy. Let’s share a moment of togetherness to show collective understanding and support for our youth at this confusing time. By doing so, we are choosing as one to put the child’s needs and emotions on the front line rather than the rules and bills. The transgender youth in Arkansas are already facing concerning outcries; transgender youth feel depressed and demoralized that society does not allow them to be their true self.  As Nelson Mandela articulates, “Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear” (World Vision International, 2016). Similarly, we owe it to the youth to be emotionally available by hearing their concerns and protests. Join us as we come together as allies, support our youth, and build a safer world for them.

 


Written by Adella Moss, Intern, Northern Illinois University

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

References:

Cole, D. (2021, April 6). Arkansas becomes first state to outlaw gender-affirming treatment for trans youth. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/06/politics/arkansas-transgender-health-care-veto-override/index.html.

Jenco, M. (2019). Studies: Suicide attempts high among transgender teens, increasing among black teens. The Official NewMagazine of the American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.aappublications.org/news/aapnewsmag/2019/10/14/suicide101419.full.pdf.

Krishnakumar, P. (2021, April 15). This record-breaking year for anti-transgender legislation would affect minors the most. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/15/politics/anti-transgender-legislation-2021/index.html.

Paley, A. (2020). The Trevor Project National Survey 2020. The Trevor Project – Saving Young LGBTQ Lives. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2020/?section=Suicide-Mental-Health.

Paley, A. (2021). The Trevor Project National Survey. The Trevor Project – Saving Young LGBTQ Lives. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2021/.

World Vision International. (2016). Partnership Key to Ending Violence Against Children. https://www.wvi.org/development/blogpost/partnership-key-ending-violence-against-children

 

LGBTQ+ Community and Coming Out: Information for Parents & Guardians

Oftentimes, parents and guardians can feel unsure of what to do and how to respond when their child expresses to them or “comes out” as someone who identifies within the LGBTQ+ community. This list of options is meant to serve as a guide for enabling conversation and growth to those findings themselves in this situation.

Prepare to do the work and educate yourself. Perhaps you are fortunate enough to be in a situation where you fully understand what your child is experiencing and know just how to respond and support them. Perhaps you feel as though you know nothing. It is okay to acknowledge to yourself and them that you are not sure what is going to happen next, but now is the time for you to put in the work and educate yourself to the best of your ability. This may include utilizing the internet, seeking support services through a network such as PFLAG, or even seeking advice from a friend who has experienced the same thing if your child is comfortable with you doing so. The important thing is that you are doing this work on behalf of them, and making sure they feel comfortable, safe, and respected is essential as they express this aspect of their identity to you. 

Actively listen. Your child is likely more nervous than you are as they initiate this conversation with you. Make sure you give them the space and support to express whatever they may be feeling by coming out. This may be something your child has rehearsed and given plenty of thought to, or it might not be at all. In this moment, as they are sharing things with you, practice active listening so that you are taking in what they are saying to you. This may or may not be the right time for you to ask them questions about this, but you can soak in the information they are giving you so that you hear their needs and can understand what can be done in your position to support them rather than interjecting over them with whatever it is you desire to respond with at that moment. There will be the time to express your own feelings, but make sure you are giving them the floor in this crucial moment first.

Respond intuitively. Your child coming out to you is likely something that is a big deal to them. Make sure you are in check with your body language, facial expressions, thoughts, emotions, and words. Altogether, those can impact your child whether you realize it or not. So stay in tune with these feelings so that you can provide the most welcoming environment for your kid and that they leave the conversation feeling supported.

Don’t focus on yourself. You may want to tell your child about a friend or family member within the LGBTQ+ community that you know, or you may even be in a position where you identify within the LGBTQ+ community and are ready to talk all about your own experiences and give advice. Take a breath and remember: baby steps. Unless your child is actively asking to hear this information, don’t turn the conversation towards yourself because that will only take away from the experience for your child.

Acknowledge that you are there as a resource. Your child might not feel comfortable following up with you consistently on this, and as hard as it is to hear- you are not entitled to updates either. However, what you can do is make sure your child knows you are there to confide in, talk with, and to provide support. After this, the ball is in their court and they can decide what to do. It will not help your child if you pressure them and pester for more details. Instead, that can hurt your relationship in such a crucial moment as your child has just opened up to you.

Don’t pressure them for a backstory or details. To elaborate upon the previous point, know that there are certain things that as a parent or guardian you don’t actually need to know. Perhaps your child feels like they want you to know about how they realized they identified within the LGBTQ+ community, but if they don’t want to share that information that is okay. You should never utilize the power dynamic over your child to force them into giving you information because that can set up extremely unhealthy situations for them in the future. In fact, your child may not even have an answer to the questions you want to ask them- that’s okay and you need to accept that as you care for your child, having all of the information possible does not make you automatically supportive and does not make them feel automatically loved. Rather, the continuous work you do to educate yourself and support them will be what makes your relationship positive.

Acknowledge the feelings and bravery needed to invite others to learn about your identity. This very well could be one of the hardest things your child is facing by coming out to you. Far too often those within the LGBTQ+ community are persecuted for their identity and even kicked out of their homes after coming out to loved ones. Your child may not know how you will react and may be aware of the negative consequences potentially facing them, yet they trust you enough to invite you into this aspect of their life. Respect them for that and know they are so brave to do so. This is not the moment to question your child, but to see how brave they are and to remind them of that.

Approach this as a learning process for your relationship. As mentioned above, prior to this moment you may feel as though you have no knowledge, all of the knowledge, or somewhere in between when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community. It is completely acceptable to let your child know this. Let them know this will be a learning process for you, but that you are determined to do what it takes to learn specifically how to support them.

Know that you cannot compare yourself to other parents and guardians. It is worth mentioning that you may have seen the experiences other parents and guardians have had as they experienced similar situations. There is no one right way to go about this just as there is no one right way to go about parenting in general. Being honest with yourself and your child is what will make the difference for upholding a healthy relationship, so don’t compare yourself to others doing it “perfectly” because at the end of the day what needs to matter to you is your child’s health and safety, which fortunately you can enhance through your love and support.

Know what this means. This is a defining moment in your relationship. Your child may want you to be hands on or not, but as you educate yourself on the terminology and backstory of the LGBTQ+ community, educate yourself on the statistics as well. Acknowledge higher levels of sexual assault, increased suicide rates, and how the likelihood of being a victim of a crime increases for those within the LGBTQ+ community. This information is not meant to be something that scares you, but is meant as something to show how needed your support is. Places like ZCenter are doing the work for outreach and prevention education to end sexual violence, but the battle is ongoing, and in your role as a parent you can be there as a knowledgeable support system for your child to help them be aware of other support systems as well.

This guide is not necessarily foolproof in that you are guaranteed a perfect relationship with your child by following these tips. As any parent knows by now, there is no such thing as a perfect relationship with our children because of so many things that are out of our control. What you can do in this moment however, is control your response and give support so your child feels safe and sees you as the ally you are for them.


Written by Haley Wold, Intern, Lake Forest College

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

How to be an Ally to the LGBTQIA+ Community

Ally. What does that word really mean? By definition, we know that it’s one person, group, or nation united with another in a common purpose. France and England were allies in World War II, Katniss and Rue were allies in The Hunger Games, and today, there’s a larger discussion on being an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community. In this case, being an ally means that you don’t identify as part of the community yourself, but you support, unite, and advocate for them. Now, let’s pick apart each of these actions, emphasizing what being an ally truly means. 

Support is the foundation for being an ally to any community; you understand the issues they are facing, you empathize with them, and you take a position that is in line with what they advocate for. So how can we be the best supporters we can be? When it comes to the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s imperative that we educate ourselves on the struggles that they face and the history behind movements that have directly affected them. Do we know about Stonewall and the various Supreme Court Cases that have quite literally debated if members of the community are offered equal protection as cisgender, straight people? Have we informed ourselves of historical and present struggles that the community faces in other countries? Have we ever taken a look at feminist and queer activisms throughout time? Now, it’s understandable that each of these may not be completely accessible, which is why it’s equally as important to be able to talk with members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Listen to their stories, their struggles, and their feelings. Discuss what they want, what they hope to achieve. In order to form support, we must understand and educate ourselves first.

Unite is a way we can show our support. When we think of unity, we think of standing together. That’s exactly what this is, but how can we show unity? Here, we’re walking a fine line between solidarity and performance activism. In order to differentiate between the two, we must ask ourselves: are we doing this for the right reasons? Do we truly believe in and support this cause? If we are true allies, we will not hesitate to show our support, even when it may impact us directly. For example, let’s consider displaying our pronouns. This was originally done by non-cisgender people as a way to avoid being misgendered; however, it soon became a way to target and harm them. In order to combat this, allies also started putting pronouns in social media bios, in email signatures, and more in order to normalize the practice. When I added pronouns into my Instagram bio, a mutual had actually told me that I should remove them because it will “make people think you’re gay or trans or something.” Here, we see the issue of performance activism vs. unity. This friend had claimed to be a proud supporter of the LGBTQIA+, but they couldn’t even do this in fear of being mistaken for being gay or trans. As a result, they just emphasized what so many members of the community are scared of: that being who they are is something they should be ashamed of. This is just one example of how we can achieve unity. If we want to be good allies, we must prioritize the feelings of the community over how something might make us look.

Advocate is how we can combine both support and unity. Advocacy does involve activism, but it also means just being there for the community. It means being willing to listen, offer advice, and support people’s decisions. As someone who is always quick to rush to action, I often find myself needing to take a breath and listen. What you think is the best course of action may be something unthinkable for someone else. As allies, we might never be able to truly understand the struggles that the LGBTQIA+ community faces without directly experiencing them, which is what makes listening so important. We must be careful not to center issues around ourselves; respecting the wishes of the people we stand for is one of the most principal aspects of being an advocate. So how can we be allies to the LGBTQIA+ community? The answer lies in supporting, uniting, and advocating. As long as we are putting our utmost effort, compassion, and open-mindedness into what we do, we will be continuously working on how we can be the best allies we can be.

 

Below is a list of tips and ideas for how we can start becoming an LGBTQIA+ Ally. 

Continue to educate yourself and others.

Just like any other topic, there is always new information to be learned! It is important to know the different identities that people are a part of. The SafeZone Training presentation by LGBTQ+ Center Lake County is a great place to start to learn more terminology, vulnerability to sexual violence, solidarity, and allyship. We at ZCenter also offer training including this information as do many other agencies in different states and counties. Become familiar with your LGBTQIA+ Community partner near you. 

 

Allow space and be a listener. 

Have conversations, hear their stories, learn the history. Allowing space for another person to voice their hardships, experiences, challenges, and successes creates a foundation for not only further educating yourself but also being an ally to that person. 

 

Be inclusive. 

Use gender inclusive language. Introduce yourself with your pronouns. Use other’s preferred pronouns when they are given. Make sure that forms and surveys have gender inclusive language. When you make a mistake, calmly correct it and move on.

 

Be open minded. 

When someone walks into the same room as you, do not make assumptions about anything. Be open minded and start a conversation by introducing yourself with your pronouns to allow them to also share their pronouns. Assuming someone’s gender identity just by the way they dress, look, talk, walk, can lead to being closed minded and not allowing for conversation. 

 

Raise awareness.

Change your language no matter who you are around. Attend Pride events. Correct/Educate close friends or family members when appropriate. Listen to podcasts, shows, documentaries, movies, etc. surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community. 

 

June is Pride Month. Follow us on TikTok and Instagram for more information and ways to be an Ally! 

 


Written by Dana Drozek, Education and Outreach Specialist, and Vindhya Kalipi, Intern, University of Illinois.

 

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

From Die Witch to Greenwich: How Rainbow Washing is the New Crying Witch Hunt

On June 10th, many Americans held a moment of silence for Bridget Bishop, the first person hanged for witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials on this day in 1692. The colony’s legal system had no interest in facts, proof, or logic. Anyone accused was the next potential victim (see Schiff, 2015). Only those who refuse to take on the label of witch (aka admit guilt) were the ones killed. To this day, we still see women killed worldwide simply for the accusation of witchcraft (Suuk & Kaledzi, 2020). 

We should be a society learning from its lessons, moving forward, repairing wounds. Yet, we have a recent national leader who claimed every criticism toward him was a witch hunt. In fact, Vox reported that Trump had used the term over 120 times just up to 2018, and just in response to one investigation (Cassese, 2018). The GOP continues to use this term whenever they want to delegitimize an investigation.

We have taken one of the darkest moments of our own history and ignored the actual suffering of those who were sentenced to death for witchcraft. Witchcraft, considered a legitimate religious path today, was enough to kill someone in 1692. Crying witch hunt is a slap in the face to all who were murdered during witch hunts, a cultural appropriation that ignores the lived experiences of those who practice witchcraft worldwide. 

Here we are in 2021, watching Pride Month unfold as corporations roll out their own rainbow marketing campaign. Hickey (2019) even describes the feeling of being tricked by corporations that don’t support the LGBTQIA community but feel entitled to use rainbows during Pride Month to boost business. This pink dollar, the money spent by the LGBTQIA community, adds up to 1 trillion dollars. That’s a lot of rainbow dough.

So again, we have taken one of the most vulnerable communities in our nation and decided it’s okay to profit off of their suffering. Pride Month began as a protest, an uprising against the routine raids on gay gatherings in Greenwich Village (Walsh, 2019). The Stonewall Uprising in June of 1969 marked the beginning of Pride Month, not rainbow colored mayonnaise. 

In a time when “42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth” (Trevor Project, 2021), we cannot ignore the appropriation. We cannot allow others to take possession of the language, imagery, and identity of those who have been oppressed. 

Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center commits to stading alongside the LGBTQIA community all twelve months of the year. We are here for support after sexual abuse. We are here for questions about sexuality and gender. We are here for parents and allies. We proudly participated in two Pride events last weekend, with a third coming up soon. We strive to be visible in the community as a source of support and services needed by vulnerable communities. So no rainbows in this post. No line of flags. Just support.

 


Written by Kristin Jones, PhD, EdM, Outreach Supervisor.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

Sources:

Cassese, E. (2018). A Political History of the Term “Witch Hunt.” Vox. https://www.vox.com/mischiefs-of-faction/2018/10/31/18047208/trump-witch-hunt

Hickey, A. (2019). Have You Been Tricked by Rainbow Washing? Medium. https://medium.com/@audreyhickey/have-you-been-tricked-by-rainbow-washing-920b5f91377f

Schiff, S. (2015). The Witches: Salem, 1692. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Suuk, M. & I. Kaledzi . (2020). Witch Hunts: A Global Problem in the 21st Century. Deutsche Welle. https://www.dw.com/en/witch-hunts-a-global-problem-in-the-21st-century/a-54495289

Walsh, C. (2019). Stonewall Then and Now. The Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/06/harvard-scholars-reflect-on-the-history-and-legacy-of-the-stonewall-riots/

The Trevor Project. (2021). National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2021/?utm_source=Master+Contacts&utm_campaign=f15c9a66b5-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2021_05_20_NationalSurvey&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e8d7ceff05-f15c9a66b5-33647318&section=SuicideMentalHealth

 

Sex Positivity Post Trauma

A Sexual Society

Sex is everywhere. It is in the ads on TV and on social media, the conversations had among family and friends, and as an integral part of intimate human connection. Recent data shows that the average partnered female-identifying person between the ages of 25 and 59 is having some form of sexual contact weekly (What Is the “Normal” Frequency of Sex?, 2015). These numbers may, to many, indicate that we as a society have decent sex lives. Conversely, Carnegie Mellon took these numbers and examined them further. The International Society for Sexual Medicine (2015) described this study as taking 64 couples and instructing half to increase sexual frequency and the other half to continue as they were. The couples rated amount of sexual activity and happiness with the results showing that those having more sex were not, in fact, happier. According to Mollen & Abbott (2021), sexual wellbeing, including medically accurate education, is integral to positive sexual expression and satisfaction. However, they noted that comprehensive education has steadily declined since 1995, especially for women, persons of color, and those of low socioeconomic status. With this lack of education, how are people as intimate beings supposed to really know about sex? Better yet, how does one distinguish sex? Bad sex? Good sex? Great sex? Hell, was it even truly consensual?

 

Sex as trauma

Based on this information, it appears that society may have become one of double-entendres and sexual banter, without the actual knowledge base to back it up. This includes having real conversations with our intimate partners around the pros and cons of the sex it appears we are all having. Now, couple this information we just discussed and introduce the intricacies of sexual violence. The most recent statistics from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center show that 81% of women and 43% of men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetimes (The Facts behind the #metoo Movement, n.d.). If it is already hard enough for people to discuss sexuality with those that they are engaging in the act with, what does this mean for those that are sexually traumatized?  To further complicate these already large numbers, 51% of these reported incidences are by people they know. This makes future intimacy complex because the reality of sexual experiences directly ties back to a trauma. This can look like dissociation during sex, hypervigilance, or hypersexuality as a means to control the sexual narrative (Maltz, 2012). These things have become much more commonly known, however, it is still very difficult to know how to navigate the changes that take place mentally, physically, and emotionally. 

 

Tips for Post-Trauma Intimacy

The old adage that knowledge is power really matters when it comes to journeying through sexual trauma either as a survivor, or as a significant other of those who have faced sexual violence. These tips can provide some starting points for the journey toward post-trauma intimacy and connection.

 

1.Talk about intimacy. 

Knowing that we as a society do not have a grounded base in sexual health, means that intimacy is not something that many people discuss. How do people feel loved? What are the ways that each person expresses their love, care, and concern for others? Intimacy does not automatically equal sex. The definition of intimacy is closeness, and after trauma, closeness is avoided because that is how that person was hurt. Defining safety, acts of love, etc. is key to building trust and a more close relationship. 

 

2. Learn about PTSD. 

PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is unique to each person and presents with different symptoms. Knowing what your partner is experiencing, or knowing what you as a survivor is experiencing, is integral to understanding what triggers you. Once triggers are identified, they will no longer be unknown and can therefore be managed appropriately without as many surprises. 

 

3. Create positive sexual experiences.

Using consent as a guide, exploration of comfort around sexual interaction can begin to reframe sexuality as a positive instead of something to be feared or avoided. After trauma, the brain wants to keep us as safe as possible, and that includes staying far away from anything resembling the traumatic experience. In order to orient ourselves to sex as a positive interaction, work slowly, by yourself or with a partner to introduce positive sexual interactions using all senses to build a good foundation for sex and intimate connection. 

 

4. COMMUNICATION

Discussing how to work through these difficult experiences is beneficial in two ways. Communicating feelings about trauma allows the survivor and/or their partner to express happiness, sadness, frustration, etc. so it is no longer bottled up inside causing its own set of symptoms.  It also allows people to express likes and dislikes around sex so there is a clearly defined understanding about boundaries and that the survivor is able to regain control in a sexual environment. 

 

Maltz, W. (2012). The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse, 3rd Edition (3rd Revised, Updated ed. edition). William Morrow Paperbacks.

Mollen, D., & Abbott, D. M. (2021). Sexuality as a competency: Advancing training to serve the public. Training and Education in Professional Psychology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/tep0000378

The facts behind the #metoo movement: A national study on sexual harassment and assault. (n.d.). National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Retrieved May 25, 2021, from https://www.nsvrc.org/resource/facts-behind-metoo-movement-national-study-sexual-harassment-and-assault

What is the “normal” frequency of sex? (2015, October 20). ISSM. https://www.issm.info/sexual-health-qa/what-is-the-normal-frequency-of-sex/


Written by Christine Berry, LPC, NCC, Doctoral Candidate, Director of Services.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

The Importance of Positively Talking to Your Kids About Sex

The thought of sitting your child down for the “birds and the bees” conversation can be terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be and is necessary for a healthy understanding of sex. The best sex education strategy is beginning the conversation about sex early and continuing that conversation as the child grows older. This will help your children understand the body and help them feel more positive about their own body. And don’t worry, younger children are typically interested in pregnancy and babies, rather than the mechanics of sex. Here are 5 more reasons to talk to your child about sex: 

 

  1. Body Positivity.  Talking to your children about their bodies openly and honestly shares the message that there is nothing about their bodies to be ashamed of. Your children will more likely be happy with the body they have instead of what they don’t!
  2. Healthy Gender Identity. Gender is different from sex. Sex is something assigned at birth, whereas gender is something based more on how we feel. Sex Education includes conversations about gender so children can grow up understanding who they are and being okay with it.
  3. Recognize Boundaries. Early Sex Education will allow children to recognize what type of behavior is appropriate and  what is inappropriate.
  4. Safer from Sexual Abuse. Learning appropriate boundaries will help children recognize unsafe situations and provide them with the confidence to disclose to a trusted adult if something negative occurs. 
  5. Safe, Consensual Sex. Sex Education teaches children the importance of consent and provide the tools to make smarter decisions. Teaching children positive sexual values provides a framework to make good decisions when faced with the opportunity to have sex at a later age.

There are many more reasons to start the conversation now with your child about safe, positive sex. Becoming a sex-positive parent means knowing your children will grow into autonomous, sexually active adults and supporting children’ s individual sexual identities no matter what. And remember, the process of speaking to your children about sex can seem more daunting than it needs to be. If framed as a series of conversations over time you can avoid the potentially stressful or awkward singular conversation and ensure your child’s future health and safety.  

 

Learn more:

Sex Education for Children: Why Parents Should Talk to Their Kids about Sex by SickKids Staff

Sex Positive Parenting: Rethinking the Sex Talk with Your Kids by Stacey Winconek

How to Talk to Your Kids about Sex at Any Age by Brit + Co

13 Really Good Reasons to Talk to Your Child about Sex by Cath Hakanson

The Sex-Positive Parent by Airial Clark

 


Written by Brigit Dunne, Grants Manager.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

SAAM Spotlight: Sexual Assault among Indigenous Communities

Throughout history, people have faced oppression in multiple forms. People of color, and more specifically women of color, have dealt with sexual assault at a higher rate than others. Today I want to talk about women with Indigenous backgrounds and their experiences with sexual assault and the legal system.

To start, here is a bit of background information on Native American history. At the beginning of European colonization, Native tribes were forced off of their lands and given unfair trades without a full, clear explanation of those trades. Large bursts of European immigrants arrived in the 1400s and again in the 1600s. Meanwhile, Spaniards were colonizing Mexico and South American land. Often times the Native people were forced to leave, either with threats or violence. They continued to be massacred and enslaved while immigrants took over the land (Mark, 2020). In a different stage of history, many Indigenous people were forced into American boarding schools to assimilate to EuroAmerican culture. In more recent years, mascots have started to be rebranded from depictions of Native Americans to other logos. The original goal was to eradicate Native American culture so there would be no threat or competition. Ultimately, this attempt by the government failed. 

Poverty is widespread throughout Native American communities. “In 2017, more than 90% of Lakota residents on the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation—the second largest Native reservation in South Dakota, run by the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council—were living below the federal poverty level” (Bruce, 2019). Initially, in the 1800s, the government had a ‘welfare’ program, but it was not welfare. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) did not include tribe members in decisions and held a lot of control over these Native communities. Over time, the plan was to eradicate and assimilate these ‘foreign’ cultures. 

There is a highway in Canada called ‘The Highway of Tears’. Many women, especially Native American women, go missing along this road. Hitchhiking is quite common because there is a lack of resources. That hitchhiking can lead to terrible things, but for some, it is the only way to get to where they need to be. One article explained the language found on billboards. The billboards depict Native American women and have phrases that go against the idea of hitchhiking. However, many of these people do not have a choice. 

There are also staggering statistics that show people of Indigenous origin are assaulted at higher rates than others. For example, 4 out of 5 Alaskan Indigenous have experienced violence, and 1 in 2 have experienced sexual violence (Clairmont, 2021). While statistics are always changing and sexual assault is an underreported issue, it shows how big of a problem it is in Native communities. 

Another aspect to consider is how the laws differ between reservations and the United States. According to RAINN, “Non-indigenous perpetrators cannot be prosecuted for rape by tribal courts for crimes committed on tribal land and against indigenous people”. Someone who is assaulted on a Native American reservation by someone from a State will have a long, difficult journey in court- if they get that journey at all. In turn, this can prevent people from reporting if they feel nothing will be done. “By their own account, between 2005 and 2009, U.S. attorneys declined to prosecute 67% of the Indian country matters referred to them involving sexual abuse and related matters” (Indian Law, 2021). This goes to show how much work must be done to bring more awareness to sexual assault cases. Rather than focusing on the struggles of Indigenous people, we can work on bringing social justice and support.

How can we support these communities? Several organizations work with Native American and Indigenous populations in the United States and on reservations and independent creators linked below! It is important that we support Native American businesses and advocate, as well as educating ourselves. See our other blog post about Elizabeth Peratrovich, who made waves in the political system for Indigenous rights. 

How to Support

Organizations:

National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center

First Nations Women’s Alliance

Businesses:

She Native

Trickster Company

Bedre Chocolates

 

References

Bruce, A. (2019). When Your Colonizers Are Hypocrites: Federal Poverty “Solutions” and Indigenous Survival of Sex Trafficking in Indian Country. National Lawyers Guild Review, 76(3), 140–182.

CBS News. (2016). Highway of Tears. https://www.cbsnews.com/video/highway-of-tears-3/

Clairmont, B. (2021, accessed). Culturally Appropriate Responses for Native American Victims of Sexual Assaulthttp://www.tribal-institute.org/download/NativeVictimsSexualAssault.pdf

Daily Motion. (2015). Highway of Tears: Documentary on the Unsolved Murders on Highway 16. https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2h7la5.

Indian Law Resource Center. (2021, accessed). Ending Violence Against Native Women.  https://indianlaw.org/issue/ending-violence-against-native-women

Mark, J. (2020). European Colonization of the Americas. https://www.ancient.eu/European_Colonization_of_the_Americas/

Morton, K. (2016). Hitchhiking and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: A critical discourse analysis of billboards on the Highway of tears. The Canadian Journal of Sociology / Cahiers canadiens de sociologie. Vol. 41, No. 3, Special Issue: Canadian Mobilities/Contentious Mobilities (2016), pp. 299-326.

 


Written by Olivia Stueben, Outreach Intern

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

Staff Picks: Books and Films

 Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm.

-Ceridwen Dovey

Can Reading Make You Happier? 

 

With titles that support survivors like Maximize Your Super Powers, Nothing Is Louder than Silence, Living for Today, and Find Your Voice, it’s hard to believe that reading is anything but empowering. Why are books critical for survivors? What do they bring to those seeking a secret formula about how and why we’re feeling the way we do? 

Books allow us to see ourselves in stories, normalize our feelings, and not feel alone. We resonate with characters and appreciate the stories that show hope and healing. We receive insight into moving forward or hearing that being stuck right where we are is okay. Books can be a portal to connection with others, sharing their suffering as well as joys. These stories and poems help us experience multiple realities and give language to thoughts and feelings some of us cannot put into words. Books like Grief Day by Day can expand our understanding; it can feel as though someone is walking hand in hand with us as the book taps into the hidden places where we may not want to look.

Reading makes us laugh, get angry, or cry. It is a personal and visceral experience and it can be incredibly uncomfortable to see yourself in black and white, for everyone to see. At the same time, books dare us to grow and help guide and solidify the goals we have around healing and who we want to be. Books remind us that words like transcending, allies, and courage need to be part of our lexicon; these are powerful terms that we aspire to have and to emulate. Reading also can reduce stress, be soothing, and cause one’s mind to shift gears to a positive or more open state. Let’s be patient with ourselves as we move through pages and remember the books were not written about us but for us. Soak it all in and remember wherever you are on your journey; you deserve this healing process, however that may look for you.

Some people who have experienced sexual assault and abuse have found ways to collect their memories and compile these soul-searching experiences, so others can benefit from their strength and courage. They’re willing to allow others to actually see their story in black and white. We appreciate them and their courage. Although we can highlight some of those books here, maybe it’s not only about the books themselves, but the importance they play as life preservers, an escape from where we are, and finding the truth, your truth.  – Wendy Ivy, Associate Executive Director

 

Staff Picks

  • Christine Berry, Director of Services, suggests Mean by Myriam Gurba. The reason this book is so important is because it highlights how intersectionality plays a role in trauma. In addition, it really shows how added trauma negatively impacts those who are already marginalized. 
  • Anna Lehner, Director of Development, recommends watching Allen v. Farrow, on HBO. This documentary highlights some of the systems, wealth, Hollywood culture, and misogyny, that often protect perpetrators and influence the public views on sexual violence. 
  • Kristin Jones, our Outreach Supervisor, urges viewers to watch the documentary Rewind, directed by Sasha Neulinger. Viewers learn about how a survivor of childhood sexual abuse continues to move forward in the healing journey and how he started a Child Advocacy Center that sparked a movement of more centers like it opening nationwide.
  • Sarah Brennan, our Activism and Volunteer Coordinator, suggests reading Chanel Miller’s Know My Name. Chanel shares her journey to healing and uses her voice to take back ownership of her body and of the narrative. Readers learn more about the process of medical advocacy, the legal process, and what survivors can expect emotionally when going through similar situations. 
  • Haley Olson, a ZCenter BSW Intern, recommends the documentary The Hunting Ground, directed by Kirby Dick. Viewers of this documentary learn about the high prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses by following survivors’ stories and recoveries as they chase justice. The film also deep dives into the academic bureaucracy that seems to prioritize protecting institutions over working towards justice.

 


 

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

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