Category: Conformity

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Domestic Sex Trafficking: Hidden in Plain Sight

00Adverse Childhood Experiences, Child Development, Conformity, Emotional Abuse, Featured news, Sex, Trauma March, 20

Source: geralt at Pixabay, Creative Commons

When she was a young girl, Danielle (name changed) was recruited into domestic sex trafficking from her long-term foster home. She was only able to leave this life once her mother regained custody of her.

Sex trafficking, a term used to describe the phenomenon of individuals performing commercial sex through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, is an epidemic. It affects about 25 million people globally. The US-based National Human Trafficking Hotline received 6,244 calls of domestic sex trafficking cases in 2017. Because of the difficulty in obtaining precise information, it is likely that the number affected is higher.

A common misconception about sex trafficking is that it is fundamentally a trans-border phenomenon—that the victim must have been moved from one country to another for the event to be considered trafficking. This is not the case. While both domestic and international sex trafficking share the feature of forcibly relocating an individual so that the person might perform commercial sex, domestic sex trafficking occurs within the borders of the victim’s country, and sometimes within their own community.

Victims of sex trafficking are controlled by the trafficker. Victims do not choose their clients, or the locations where they work, nor do they keep the money that they receive from clients. They are monitored by the trafficker and cannot leave; their life is at risk if they try to escape. They work in prostitution, pornography, strip clubs, escort services, brothels, massage parlors, and over the internet. While there are people who work in these services by choice, and control their work and earnings, there are many who have been coerced into it and are controlled by a trafficker.

There are many ways sex traffickers lure victims into the sex trade. In many cases, sex traffickers are expert manipulators who prey on a person’s emotional or financial vulnerabilities and offer exactly what the individual needs or desires, such as love and care, lavish items, shelter, money, or a job, with the hopes of later exploiting them. The victim is initially oblivious to the trafficker’s, or their proxy’s, real identity and intentions. The relationship begins as positive but becomes abusive, with the person being forced into the sex trade, and forced to stay in it, to work for the trafficker.

Some populations are particularly vulnerable. One of the top risk factors in becoming a victim of sex trafficking is having experienced childhood trauma. In an interview with The Trauma and Mental Health Report, Megan Lundstrom, CEO of Free Our Girls (a US-serving anti-trafficking organization) and a survivor of sex trafficking herself, reports the findings from her 2017 project:

“What we found is what we’re calling ‘The Perfect Storm.’ Upwards of 90 percent of the women that we interviewed for that project had experienced some form of child abuse, primarily some form of childhood sexual abuse. When you have that high of a correlation that most women in the commercial sex trade experienced some kind of childhood sexual abuse, clearly there’s something going on there.”

Lundstrom continues by paraphrasing one of the young ladies in her study: “I almost feel like I had a sign written on my forehead that said, ‘I’m damaged goods, please exploit me,’ in that traffickers know how to single in on those vulnerabilities.”

This is also true for Ana (name changed), whose trafficker was the owner of a tattoo shop. She recalls: “He asked me a bunch of questions, clearly testing my victim potential before-hand, all under the guise of a tattoo artist apprentice. I took the bait. I had childhood trauma, so I had ‘bait’ practically written across my forehead.”

In terms of recruitment locations, the National Human Trafficking Hotline reports that 15 percent of US sex trafficking recruitment occurs at homeless and domestic violence shelters. A victim of domestic sex trafficking, Jessica, recounts her experience that relates to this finding. She had been abused by her parents as a child, and found herself homeless after being thrown out of the house at age 14. She describes the circumstances of her victimization: “One day I was at a soup kitchen having coffee and stale muffins for breakfast when I was approached by an older guy, probably late 20s. He asked me to have a real cup of coffee with him and I agreed…mostly because it was nice to have someone speak to me like I was a human being.”

She describes her trafficker using the most common recruitment tactic: posing as a romantic partner (otherwise known as a Romeo Pimp), and convincing her that he would love and take care of her: “When he asked me to be his girlfriend, I felt like the luckiest girl alive. God, I was so dumb.”

Jessica goes on to say that her lack of interpersonal supports, such as friends and family, made it more difficult to leave the life of a trafficked person.

Exposure to adverse childhood experiences has long-term consequences, and impacts potential future victimization. Lundstrom explains why this is:

“When you have been assaulted at a young age, you learn how to shut off mentally, you know how to dissociate, you know how to protect yourself but you also struggle with feelings of ‘my body is not my own, I’m not important, this is maybe the only way people care about me’. So when you have that package, that perfect storm of vulnerability starting at a very young age, traffickers go after that.”

The status quo will continue until we recognize that sex trafficking happens in our communities. We can properly identify, and thus intervene in or prevent such cases, by educating our families and friends, as well as the community. Teachers, the hotel industry, healthcare providers (who can also incorporate trauma-informed care), police, airport workers, and child-welfare workers can be further educated on how to recognize these red flags while dispelling unhealthy myths.

— Riana Fisher, Contributing Writer, The Trauma and Mental Health Report. Chief Editor: Robert T. Muller, The Trauma and Mental Health Report. Copyright Robert T. Muller

This article was originally published on Psychology Today

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Police “Blue Wall of Silence”; Facilitates Domestic Assault

00Anger, Conformity, Domestic Violence, Featured news, Mental Health, Relationships, Work April, 17

Source: Stefan Guido-Maria Krikl on flickr

In January 1999, Pierre Daviault, a 24-year veteran constable of the Aylmer Police Services in Quebec, was arrested on 10 criminal charges for allegedly assaulting and drugging three ex-girlfriends between 1984 and 1999. Daviault resigned from the police force a few days later, but he was only sentenced to three years’ probation, no jail time.

In their 2015 book Police Wife: The Secret Epidemic of Police Domestic Violence authors Susanna Hope (pseudonym) and Alex Roslin describe instances of police spousal abuse within the U.S. and Canada, reporting that at least 40 percent of U.S. police-officer families experience domestic violence, compared to 10 percent of families in the general population.

Some officers are speaking up. Lila C. (name changed), a Canadian corrections officer (CO), was interviewed by the Trauma and Mental Health Report to discuss the growing issue of spousal abuse in Canadian law enforcement. Lila’s former colleague, Stephanie (name changed), was a victim of abuse. Awareness of Stephanie’s predicament, and the inability to do anything about it, affected Lila’s mental health more than anything else on the job.

Lila explained:

“Steph and I bonded very quickly and we were very open with each other, which is normal when two COs work together so often. But she never actually told me about the abuse she was taking at home. I noticed bruises on her neck myself.”

Stephanie’s perpetrator was her husband—a long-time police officer of the Peel Regional Police in Ontario. He was a man Lila knew well, and considered a friend:

“At first I didn’t want to believe what I was seeing and I kept quiet for the first few hours of our shift that day. But eventually, I asked ‘what’s that on your neck, what’s going on?’ And then came the breakdown period and she told me everything.”

Upon opening up to Lila, Stephanie revealed that she was frequently abused by her husband at home, both physically and verbally.

“My first gut response was ‘you need to leave him and tell someone’. I mean, how could he continue to work in law enforcement, deal with these types of cases on the job, and then go home and abuse his wife off the job? But Steph wouldn’t do it—she wouldn’t leave him. She felt that she wouldn’t be able to have him arrested. If she called the police to report him, who would believe her?”

In Police Wife, authors Hope and Roslin argue that one factor perpetuating abuse is that many officers think they can get away with it.

Carleton professor George Rigakos explains in an interview with Hope and Roslin: “A major influence in the use of domestic violence is a lack of deterrence. If there is no sanction, then it’s obvious the offence goes on.”

Referred to as the “blue wall of silence”—an unwritten code to protect fellow officers from investigation—officers learn early on to cover for each other, to extend “professional courtesy.”

And when a woman works up the nerve to file a complaint, police and justice systems often continue to victimize her. She must take on a culture of fear and the blue wall of silence, while simultaneously facing allegations of being difficult, manipulative, and deceptive.

Lila explains:

“I mean, I saw her almost every day and it was a huge elephant in the room. We didn’t bring it up again. And though I didn’t see her husband often, when I did see him, it was weird. He had no idea that I knew—I just couldn’t be around him, knowing what he was doing. But there was no getting away from the constant reminder of this unspoken and undealt-with abuse.”

Knowing both the victim and the perpetrator, knowing that the abuse was not being addressed on a systemic level, and feeling powerless to do anything about it herself affected Lila’s mental health and enthusiasm about the work she was doing:

“About two months in, I started having panic attacks on my way to work and even during my shift. I vaguely remember nights where I had bad dreams. It’s weird, I wasn’t even the one being abused, but I felt unsafe. I knew that I couldn’t say anything, because it would probably make things worse. I feared for Steph’s life, but in some strange way, I also feared for my own.”

Many officers face ostracism, harassment, and the frightening prospect of not receiving support when they do not abide by the blue wall of silence. Believing she would not be taken seriously if she decided to come forward (because of her gender) only amplified Lila’s sense of powerlessness and anxiety.

“I know that the system is unjust towards women, and that makes this situation even more hopeless to confront.”

Stephanie eventually left the corrections facility where she and Lila worked, and they gradually lost touch. Lila doesn’t know if Stephanie is still with her husband, and looking back she partly wishes she had said something about it.

Hope and Roslin explain in Police Wife that we are often reluctant and afraid to intervene if we think a friend or family member may be in a violent or abusive relationship. They encourage bystanders to acknowledge the courage it takes to reach out.

–Veerpal Bambrah, Contributing Writer, The Trauma and Mental Health Report

–Chief Editor: Robert T. MullerThe Trauma and Mental Health Report

Copyright Robert T. Muller

This article was originally published on Psychology Today

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“Ex-Gay” Conversion Therapy Movement Puts Lives at Risk

00Conformity, Featured news, Mental Health, Sexual Orientation, Social Life, Stress, Trauma Psychotherapy September, 16

Source: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

There is a billboard in Richmond, Virginia hanging above the interstate with a picture of identical male twins and a caption that reads: “Identical Twins: One Gay, One Not. We believe twin research studies show nobody is born gay.”

Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX), the organization that created the ad, promotes the view that being gay is a choice, not a genetic predisposition, despite extensive research showing the contrary.

The claims in the ad are not only false, but the men featured are not actually twins at all, or even brothers. According to the Huffington Post, the face of South African model, Kyle Roux, was superimposed onto two different bodies to give the illusion of twins. Roux was shocked to see his face on the ad, as he didn’t give permission for the image to be used. And…he is openly gay.

PFOX is part of the controversial Ex-Gay Movement, encouraging gay persons to refrain from same-sex relationships, eliminate homosexual tendencies, and develop heterosexual desires. Their view: Gay must be cured.

They consider sexual orientation a choice, and those who identify as gay are willingly choosing a deviant lifestyle. But this ideology results in family rejection and self-hatred among LGBTQ individuals, as well as intolerance and discrimination in the community.

Organizations promoting this view are often affiliated with religious institutions. PFOX believes gay people can renounce homosexuality through religious revelations or conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy.

Sexual orientation conversion therapy became popular in the 1960s. According to the American Psychological Association report, Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, different disciplines of psychology influenced practices of conversion therapy.

In response to such treatments, numerous mental health and psychological organizations publically announced that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and is not something that can or should be cured. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association’s Board of Trustees removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Second Edition (DSM II) in 1973. And in 2000, they further stated:

“The potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.”

The risks are even greater among gay youth. A 2009 study by Caitlin Ryan of San Francisco State University found that young adults who experience family rejection based on their sexual orientation are eight times more likely to attempt suicide and six times more likely to experience depression.

Despite these findings and professional opposition to conversion therapy by both the American Psychiatric and American Psychological Associations, many of these treatments continue to be used and promoted.

Michele Bachmann, a Republican former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, considers homosexuality a choice. Bachmann and her husband were found to be practicing conversion therapy at their Christian counseling clinic in Minnesota.

Conversion therapy is still legal in most U.S. states, though anti-conversion bills have been signed into law in California, New Jersey, and Washington DC. Campaigns such as the #BornPerfect movement are working toward expanding state bans into other areas.

While public attitudes and legislation are shifting toward respect for LGBTQ individuals, conversion therapy is still a common practice, compromising mental health, threatening lives, and undermining efforts of movements that stress tolerance and equality.

–Eleenor Abraham, Contributing Writer, The Trauma and Mental Health Report

–Chief Editor: Robert T. MullerThe Trauma and Mental Health Report

Copyright Robert T. Muller

This article was originally published on Psychology Today

A Contrast to Psychiatry: The ‘Hearing Voices’ Movement

A Contrast to Psychiatry: The ‘Hearing Voices’ Movement

00Conformity, Education, Featured news, Identity, Mental Health, Psychiatry, Trauma Psychotherapy May, 15

Source: Oiluj Samall Zeid / Flickr

The 1961 classic, The Myth of Mental Illness by Thomas Szasz, revolutionized the way we think about atypical mental phenomena.

And over the years, the diagnosis of schizophrenia has been criticized fervently, with some characterizing it as an umbrella term for separate psychological phenomena that vary in combination and severity from person to person.

Critics of the term have described the way experiences such as hearing voices are conceptualized and defined.  The International Hearing Voices Network (Intervoice) views hearing voices as a normal variation in human experience—albeit one of an unusual nature.

Representing a lesser known view within the field of mental health, the group encourages voice hearers to “accept that the voices are real, and to accept that the voices may have meaning (metaphoric or literal) based on one’s life experiences.”

In the interest of communicating different (and sometimes controversial) ideas in mental health, The Trauma & Mental Health Report recently spoke with a mental health nurse (who requested anonymity), whose current research examines voice-hearers’ narratives about their emotional experiences.  While not a member of Intervoice, the interviewee’s research represents an alternate approach to traditional psychiatry.

 Q:  Can you explain the structure and method of the narrative approach you are working on?

A:  Put at its most basic, I am following the method called ‘Dialogical Narrative Analysis’, outlined by Sociologist, Arthur Frank.  In my work, Dialogical Narrative Analysis examines the stories that voice-hearers have about their emotions and what those stories do for them.

Q:  How best do you think these experiences should be conceptualized if not as psychopathological?

A:  It would be best to ask those with the experience.  At the moment it seems as though they are greatly helped when they don’t dismiss their experiences as ‘illness’, but engage with them as meaningful.  Having seen the prolonged effects of both approaches over a number of years, I can say that it’s the voice-hearers and those with unshared beliefs [what we usually refer to as delusions] who clearly have the most to teach us.

Q:  Supporters of drug interventions often explain the use of pharmaceuticals for treatment as diminishing the occurrences of delusions or hallucination.  Can you comment on this way of thinking?

A:  It’s a normalizing practice; it seeks to return outliers to a normal.  I’m hardly the first to point out that what is considered normal is subject to extreme change.  This is how we get situations where persons and behaviours are rated as mad in one generation and acceptable in the next— like having a baby outside of marriage, or homosexuality.  This leads some in the Hearing Voices Movement to hope that what happened to the identity of being homosexual can happen to the identity of being a voice-hearer.

Q:  Does this point out a flaw in our cultural and scientific understanding of the meaning of ‘delusion’ and ‘hallucination’?

A:  The word ‘delusion’ is a judgment, and in the Hearing Voices Movement they tend to prefer the term ‘unshared belief’.  Many would agree that the problem with a ‘delusion’ is not so much in thinking, but in the interaction with humanity.  ‘Hallucination’ also implies a shared version of ‘real’ experiences which would be difficult to justify, a concept of normal which is utopian.

Many within the Hearing Voices Movement reject both terms.

Q:  Should therapeutic efforts end with the attempt to remove the occurrences of hallucinations or delusions?

A:  I think you can see now that I am not altogether in favour of ‘therapeutic efforts’.  Too often there is a lot of therapeutic effort, a lot of money, a lot of well-meaning people, and not very much thinking.  I am quite certain I would not like to be on the receiving end of ‘therapeutic efforts’.  I would like there to be justice and healing in communities.

Even if we were to know the complete neurological makeup of a voice-hearer’s brain, we would still lack true insight into the actual experience of hearing voices.  Understanding and accepting the lived experiences of these individuals is an indispensable tool for promoting coping and recovery.

It allows us to see the distressed individual not as some ‘gene-machine’ gone wrong, but a human who bears a certain relationship to himself and the world.

– Pavan Brar, Contributing Writer, The Trauma and Mental Health Report

– Chief Editor: Robert T. Muller, The Trauma and Mental Health Report

Copyright Robert T. Muller

This article was originally published on Psychology Today