Term Post #3 : The Holomodor of Ukraine

“The aim of censoring regimes is to purge historiography in order to make it a tool of the ideology justifying the rulers' position of power”

The Holodomor is the name given to the famine in the Ukraine in 1932-1933. The name means 'Hunger Extermination' and even today, it is not lawful to use certain words when describing it inside Russia – it's very existence was denied by the Soviet Union until a few years before the collapse of the government in the late 1980's. Estimates of the numbers of dead are variable due to the suppression of information available from the Soviet government and accessible to study, but a general consensus is guessed at around three million people. Adam Ulan, the director of the Russian research center at Harvard, estimates the loss of life at 5-7 million Ukrainians while other sources suggest that up to fourteen million may have died. (Clearly without more information that is unknown at this time, a more specific and appropriate number can not be defined.) Before this time, Ukraine was considered a part of the Soviet Union and was also starting to have a strong nationalist movement forming that was hopeful for independence from Russia and the Union. It was also at the death of Lenin in 1924 that Josif Visarionovich Dzhugashvili – more commonly known as Joseph Stalin- was able to cement his rise to power over Russia and its unified territories and gain full control over both the government and its propaganda wing, the Communist Party. Once in power, Stalin began a campaign of 'five year plans' to rapidly advance industrialization and modernity into the Soviet Union and its people. The first Five Year Plan contained provisions that removed the individual farmer from the control of their land making the land consolidated property of the state and forcing peasants/farmers to either move to cities and work in the rising industries or continue to farm on the new 'collectives' with new tools and rules. It is thought that the Stalinist government hoped to suppress and control the growing Ukrainian nationalist movement as well as individual support systems that could be used for revolt against them. These were the circumstances/national policies that set the stage for the coming famine and genocide.

With the new policies of land appropriation, things turned challenging for people very quickly. Some of the more well to do farmers burned off their crops refusing to join the collective farms causing many farmers (also known as Kulaks) to be deported to concentration camps to die leaving fewer people to farm. They were also branded as 'enemies' encouraging both the official law enforcement and other citizens to 'liquidate' them as a class. A decree requiring production quotas was passed and so in most cases all grain and food products that were produced were taken by the government for export to gain money to increase the speed of industrialization... living little to nothing for the populace itself to eat. In fact, as the quotas were unable to be met, government representatives were sent to villages to look for hidden food- a true irony as they would walk past those dead or dying of starvation in their search for just a little more food to sell to Europe.

When the starvation became evident, it was seen by Stalin and many in power the result of the peasant's failure to work adequately within the new collective system. Examples of that way of thinking can be seen in the many accounts given by survivors. When a Chairman of the Village Soviet was informed of the many deaths that happened in a village in the county of Cherkasy, the chairman was said to have not wanted to believe the 'story', to object to the use of the word 'starved', and to say that the only deaths that could have happened were to the idle, the lazy, and those who refused to work in the collective farms who needed to be exterminated anyway as “enemies of the people”. Yet one observer during this time stated that peasants in the Ukraine had resorted to 'eating dogs, horses, rotten potatoes, the bark of trees, grass-anything they could find... and no matter what they did, they went on dying, dying, dying.” The writer Isaac Babel returned to Moscow after visiting the famine stricken Ukraine and he told a friend that some of the things he had seen were impossible to speak or write about including cannibalism. It seemed to be impossible for those in power or with a strong belief in the ideology of the Communist party to see that the policies of 'progressive humanity' could fail … it could only fail as a result of enemies from without and so the 'five year plan' and the system itself continued to move forward creating not only more death, but endless numbers of enemies would be created by the numberless individuals who were starving. Between the torture and death of his political opponents as well as citizens, Stalin can rightfully be called one of the most successful mass murderers in history.

During this time frame, the Soviet government strongly curtailed freedom of expression and used censorship to try and control the information that was able to be discussed. Many who spoke of the existence of the famine were imprisoned or executed and the official state talking points were of consistent denial that the famine existed at all. This strict code to denial went so far as to also refuse any food aid that other countries did try to send to the individuals in the Ukraine. Information that was given out to other countries relied on these particular talking points, and so even in the United States, Stalin's propaganda and misinformation of the famine was spread. New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty wrote during the crisis: “Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration of malignant propaganda. There is no actual starvation or deaths from starvation, but there is widespread mortality from diseases due to malnutrition.”

The changes that the Hunger Extermination brought to the Ukraine were far reaching and are still in work today. Initially, it destroyed the Ukraine's political leadership and also changed the demographics of the population between the deaths and the encouraged resettlement of other Russian ethnic groups into the affected areas. (Even the capital city of Ukraine had been changed from Kharkiv to the city of Kiev where it remains today.) It helped bring the separatist nationalist movement to the core of Ukrainian politics, history and identity. Any effort to have the Holodomor recognized by the United Nations as an act of genocide is heavily resisted by Russia and so the politics over the situation continue on into the current relationships of both countries; many other countries have acknowledged the Holomodor as genocide or as a 'deliberate act of famine' by the Soviet authorities. (The U.N. has recognized that the Holomodor was “a national tragedy of the Ukrainian people caused by the cruel actions and policies of a totalitarian regime.”) While this was certainly not the first major challenge that the inhabitants of the Ukraine had with Russia, it seems to have certainly caused the most pain and remembrance in large swaths of the population. In some ways the Holodomor is still a censored topic: when looking for sources for these writings, I found many books on the history of Russia and the Ukraine that mentioned the Holodomor only as a famine and in one or two short sentences... easy to be missed and forgotten. Other changes that have happened that now have international consequences due to this and other massacres committed or sanctioned by other dictators such as such as Mao Zedong in China, Augusto Pinochet in Chile and Pol Pot in Cambodia, is that the International Criminal Court has been developed and no longer (with some exceptions) allows national sovereignty to be the reason that dictators can commit atrocious acts against their own citizens. The system is no where near perfect, but it is much better than nothing.

We still have the challenges of censorship and genocide in our world today. Discovering how to combat it and use speech to attempt to not only right the wrongs that have been perpetrated but to also attempt to keep genocide and atrocities from happening is something that many scholars and individuals still debate today. How much secrecy can a government have and still allow full freedom of expression? How much openness can we have as a society and still have security? How much of either are permissible to be restricted to keep the majority of people safe, secure, and also free? It is a debate that I suspect will continue long into the future... as long as human beings continue to exist.

I hope you enjoyed... or at least learned something new. Not a topic that can really be enjoyed, is it....


Term Post #2 : The Irish Potato Famine / Irish Genocide

From time immemorial, rulers have tried to manipulate the past, discipline historians and control collective memory”

The Irish potato famine is generally agreed to have been between the years of 1845-1852 with around one million deaths and the population of Ireland shrinking by at least twenty percent between deaths and loss by emigration; there are some suggestions that almost one million people also emigrated for other countries during this time with most headed to the Americas. The history between England and Ireland for over six centuries has been filled with hostility and the unfortunate circumstance that the good fortunes of one country usually spoke of the bad situation of the other. At the beginning of the famine, Ireland was under the control of England and its parliament and most of its land was controlled by English landlords who didn't live on their land; in fact, for the seven hundred years before the famine, the Irish people had gradually become tenants in their homeland with the English as the major landowners. In 1690, the British government passed penal laws in Ireland that restricted the rights of individuals who practiced the Catholic religion by prohibiting them from holding public office, getting education, owning land, participating in civil activity, and inheritance rights... pretty much the majority of things that helped people and their families rise out of poverty. By 1843, Ireland's demands for the repeal of their union with England- and the strength behind that demand- was seriously disquieting to the British government. Many commissions/ special committees that looked at the situation in Ireland right before the genocide/famine had nothing positive to say about the circumstances on the ground there: “Without exception their findings prophesied disaster,” or as stated by John Mokyr, “population grew unrestrained, continuously exacerbating poverty, thus making the resolution of the problem by a catastrophe ultimately inevitable.”

And so the straw broke in the form of the fungus Phytophthora infestans also known as potato blight. The potato crop had become the food that the majority of the Irish population depended on for their basic subsistence as almost two-thirds of the population depended on farming for their survival. The fungus was quick working as one day the plants would look healthy and then the next… the plants were dead. If the disease to the potato plants had been it, then the outcome might have been very different and this disaster wouldn't be seen as a genocide. What makes this challenge a man made disaster was the politics and economics that surrounded and enlarged it. As the crop failed and people went hungry and began to starve, the political decisions that England made compounded the problem. Part of the blame for the political decisions that were made can be focused on the attitude that the English populace and politicians held towards the Irish population. Between the racial animosity, the religious difficulties and the English perception that the Irish were a more primitive people, the difficulties between both cultures in some ways was inevitable... it was also a common misconception that the Irish poor took a perverse pleasure in degradation and squalor.
The British prime minister at the beginning of the famine, Sir Robert Peel, stated “There is such a tendency to exaggeration and inaccuracy in Irish reports that delay in acting on them is always desirable.” In fact, the skepticism of the British government in believing or understanding the depth of the crisis- whether intentional disbelief or not- would prove fatal to many. Another challenge was that the land owners (who were mostly English) continued to force optimal growth and work out of the Irish creating large amounts of food that were then exported to England. Some figures suggest that several ships left Ireland daily laden with food for England and in some of the worse times of hunger, the exports were protected by military escorts from the hungry populace. By some accounts, enough food was shipped out of Ireland to England during the famine to sufficiently feed around two million people. As far as I can ascertain, this was the first time in history that a country during a famine where food was a dire need for the population didn't stop exports of food as well as allowing imports of food in. When relief was sent by England, it was not only insufficient but was only a fraction of the amount of food shipped out as well as food that was not easily used in the rural areas of Ireland.

There are many things that can be seen today that we can trace the roots back to An Gorta Mor (the Great Hunger). Even with the pressure and the discrimination that was committed in the cause of removing the power of the Catholic religion and to try and force the population into Protestant leanings, the constitution of Ireland which was ratified in 1937 stops short of calling for a national religion, but does acknowledge the leading role of the Roman Catholic Church. Even the language of discussing the famine says a lot about how it is viewed by the speakers- many people call it the Great Irish Potato Famine, while the Irish call it the Great Hunger. The culture itself changed as even the language of choice shifted from Irish to English and some of the customs disappeared- it is the modern Irish and nearby historian who continues to try and pull the past forgotten traditions, folklore, and customs back into the collective consciousness. It was also right before the famine and during it that the agricultural practices were changed from grain to 'pasture farming' which persisted on after the tragedy itself. The diaspora of thousands to America and other lands helped spread some of the Irish culture with its people, but also removed it from its central place- in both the lives of those who left and in the lives of those who stayed behind and managed to survive. Ireland also was unique among European countries at this time and after due to the severe population loss as all other European countries experienced rapid population growth during this time frame and the years after. The seeds of Irish independence were well watered during the famine and within a few years, Ireland was able to gain her independence from England. And today, both countries are still working on an understanding and tolerance of each other and their differences.

During the time of this indirect or direct genocide (depending on which point of view you take), there were many people who spoke out about the famine, the deaths and the devastation. One of the most well known was the speaker and writer, John Mitchell. As one of the first men to recognize and name the famine as a genocide, he was also one of the most outspoken in his hatred of the British government and its policies towards Ireland. When Parliament and those men ruling England became frustrated with the rhetoric of Mitchell and others, they passed a law called the Treason-Felony Act. This law was meant to try and censor the kingdom's critics in Ireland by creating a mechanism for 'legitimate' punishment. A few people were prosecuted under this law, but most were acquitted... John Mitchell was successfully convicted and was sentenced to fourteen years transportation to Bermuda. He managed to escape and made it to the United States where he continued his writing and vocal rhetoric for the complete independence of Ireland. In a tract that he wrote in 1861, he said, “I have called it an artificial famine: that is to say, it was a famine which desolated a rich and fertile island that produced every year abundance and superabundance to sustain all her people and many more. The English, indeed, call the famine a 'dispensation of providence;' and ascribe it entirely to the blight on potatoes. But potatoes failed in like manner all over Europe; yet there was no famine save in Ireland... The Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight, but the English created the famine.” Strong words indeed – no wonder the English government tried to silence him. Censorship continues to this day as both Irish scholars and others portray the famine as a mostly natural disaster and play down any role that the British government had in its beginnings and long lasting effects and mortality.

Thoughts or comments....? :)


Term Post #1 : Freedom of Speech, Censorship and the Role they play in Genocide

“Language is not only a means for exposing and discerning truth, but also for stifling and misrepresenting it.”

Human beings have been around on this planet for thousands of years and from what we know of the history of the human race, murder and genocide has accompanied our existence from the very beginning. Depending on your particular viewpoint of our beginnings (whether we have been 'created' or purely evolved from one celled organisms in a primordial ooze), the first murder was either committed within the second generation of God's chosen people or the first genocide is theorized by some paleontologists/ archeologists to have occurred between early humans (Homo sapiens) and Neanderthals back near the very beginnings of our race. The pages of written history are spattered with the blood and deaths of the innocent and those who were in the way of those in power due to race, culture, gender, religion or even misperception... and even in our modern, civilized world, we still perform crimes and acts against humanity as a whole destroying the peace and prosperity that we all long for. Over the last two hundred years as ways of communication have increased and information and news has become available to a larger percentage of the global population, historians and journalists have tried to appropriately document and report on the transgressions of government leaders and dictators. As such,these individuals are most likely to find themselves on the wrong side of governments and those in power. They are more likely to be bullied or tortured into silence, forced to help with propaganda campaigns to ensure their survival, and many are killed or imprisoned every year. In our current world, we can more easily discover these horrors and fight them, but it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge that people have risked their lives throughout the human time line to try and stop human rights violations. While most we will never know due to the lack of documentation and the time that has passed, we can acknowledge and be grateful for their sacrifices and existence. For many human rights advocates, language is one of their most commonly used weapon to share information, to bring violations to light, and to strengthen others in the fight and their cause. I wish to acknowledge some of the people who have given of their time, safety and freedom to future their ideals of freedom and safety for all.

It is my intention to take this opportunity to look at how leaders and dictators use government and armies to achieve their own ends while using the law and other forms of coercion to stifle and limit dissent or challenges to their ambition. One tool that governments and those in power use to restrain communication between individuals and the population at large is censorship. This a great tool which is used to limit language and ideas that the powers that be disagree with and restrict the ability for people to speak freely about their thoughts, lives and opinions. It is through the use of censorship and the limiting of freedom of speech that dictators and leaders control large population of people who feel oppressed and dissatisfied with life... and in some cases can eventually lead to genocide.

Freedom of speech and the ability to safely express opinions and views are widely considered to be a fundamental attribute of individual freedom. In the United States, James Madison argued at the very beginning of the colonies' development that government acts restricting speech and open debate were fundamentally wrong- yet it hasn't stopped other government officials or people in authority from attempting to control or limit speech that they find difficult or unacceptable and this pattern of repression continues into our current culture. While some laws restricting speech can be seen as reasonable- laws banning hate speech or allowing criminal responsibility for some forms of speech are an example, others can be seen as restricting and limiting of speech that should be protected and allowed. Examples from 1965 and today show how some patterns of repression continue even as leaders and times change. In 1965, John and Mary Beth Tinker were told that they were not allowed to wear black armbands in school as a statement against the American interference in Vietnam; their rights to do so were affirmed by the Supreme Court later on in Tinker vs Des Moines. In 2012, a school banned their cheerleaders from using positive, religious messages on their banners.... and a court again upheld the student's rights to free speech and expression. Determining the boundaries of where free speech should be curtailed have been debated since the idea came to fruition and even laws banning certain forms of hate speech can be seen as stifling legitimate views and expressions. As Charles Levendosky once opined, “One man's hate speech is another man's political statement. And political commentary has – and should have- the highest First Amendment Protection.” John Stuart Mill, who wrote a publication titled Essay on Liberty, stated “Strange it is, that men should admit the validity of the arguments for free discussion, but object to their being “pushed to an extreme”; not seeing that unless the reasons are good for an extreme case, they are not good for any case.” Another related tool that those in authority use to control speech and ideas that they find distasteful is censorship; the control of verbal or pictorial speech by individuals or groups or manipulating what information people can receive and share as well as keeping information secret. To have a truly open and prosperous society, individuals need to have the ability to seek, receive and give out information to others. Censorship can be in seen in small ways such as when libraries remove or ban a book so that it cannot be used by patrons due to content.... to something as big and convoluted as the internet filtering that some states impose on its citizens such as Iran and China. Used together, governments or leaders can severely restrict and limit how people interact with their community, families and other groups.... even how they feel about life and where they live and the level of fear and anxiety they feel in their daily lives. There is some evidence that over time people begin to self censor themselves which potentially suppresses not only the ideas and expressions of the individual, but also those that surround that person- family, community, etc...

Unearthing and examining the history of different countries with a focus on how limited speech and effective censorship can not only cause a 'chilling' effect on people, but also potentially lead to human rights abuses and genocide is difficult the further back in time we travel. Many written records from our past were created by the victors of wars and conquests and so all documents that were written and survive to this day (with few exceptions) were written and distributed by those in power and therefore, not necessarily truthful or accurate. Perception is everything and we gain our views, ideas, and biases from our experiences, the people around us, and our environment... which is why censorship and limiting speech works so well, as the less input we have, the less information we have to develop our views in a well rounded way. It is easier for dictators to steer our thoughts/ actions and easier to convince people of the lack of humanity in others without the full ability to question the information coming at you if what input you get in controlled and focused on the message you want people to agree with. It is this process which eventually leads to propaganda, the process of combining different forms of communication to try and influence people and groups towards one viewpoint. It usually only shares one view of the position and along with censorship, suppresses alternative views and discourages inquiries challenging the stated position. And so, many of the documents that are available to historians can be seen as propaganda or, at the minimum, a limited view of the discussed topic.... one of the reasons that history can 'change' over time as more facts or perspectives are discovered. As M.C. Beaton once wrote, “The way propaganda works as any schoolboy knows is that if you say the same thing over and over again, lie or not, people begin to believe it.” And historians can be caught up in the same web as they try to separate fact from fiction and other altering viewpoints while governments and those in power try and restrict what information is available and how it is viewed. There is some evidence that governments have in some cases destroyed or culled materials from their records and archives to keep it from potentially being viewed and dissected even in our more modern and 'enlightened' times. When confronted with censorship, historians and the everyday individual must decide whether to collaborate with the government, impose censorship onto themselves, or resist and leave themselves open to persecution. These are important viewpoints to keep in mind when studying history, large groups, governments, leaders, etc...

So, how do the combination of limiting speech and the freedom of expression lead to crimes against humanity or genocide...? There are so many examples in the course of human events to chose from (unfortunately). The examples I have chosen vary due to location, culture, and the facts. However, they also have a few things in common; those in power either didn't share important information or made specific decisions knowing the harm they would cause, people allowed themselves to become focused on the differences that they disliked in other groups, censorship and limited speech as well as the use of propaganda were used to further their desires and to attempt to limit the knowledge and discussion of the consequences of their decisions. I also specifically choose examples that I had heard briefly mentioned during my studies or my fun readings over the courses of my lifetime so that I could take the opportunity to not only learn more about the transgressions and the aftermath, but also to try and understand how they came to be. I also recognize that some of my choices are not free of controversy, that full documentation does not exist and that even the term genocide may be questioned by both scholars and the lay historian today. Therefore, the examples I have chosen are the Irish Genocide also known as the Irish Potato Famine and the Holodomar in the Ukraine.

Thoughts so far...?


It's Done.... Thank Goodness! An Introduction to the Next Three Posts :)

Whew! My term paper for the torture class is done and turned in. I am going to post it here but I will break it up into three different sections as follows due to length:

Post #1 - Censorship, Freedom of Speech and how they can contribute to Genocide
Post #2 - the Irish Potato Famine / Irish genocide
Post #3 - the Holodomor in the Ukraine

I'll post one a day so if you find the paper interesting... well, you won't have to wait long for the rest :) Let me know what your thoughts are!

(My several pages of sources are available to anyone who asks. :)


Happy Thanksgiving! :)

This post is most of my notes from a talk that I gave in Sacrament meeting last Thanksgiving. I thought that I would share it here. Happy Thanksgiving, my friends :)

I am very honored to have the opportunity to speak on this Sabbath day. I have been given the topic of gratitude and what it means to me. I found this topic a little difficult because of my current and recent challenges but also because I believe that gratitude is seen by many as a noun... something you have... whereas I guess I see gratitude as a verb and something that must constant be active to be useful. The ability to see shortcomings or to find things to complain about is easy. In some ways, self pity and other self absorbing emotions or behaviors as easy as well. But the cultivation of true gratitude in our lives is more difficult. True gratitude often includes a sense of gratitude that is combined with a sincere desire to repay others for what we have been given. This is not to say an external or imposed obligation is what is suggested. This sense of obligation that comes with our thankfulness arises naturally within us as a recognition of our blessings and how we have been supported and cared for by others. To be blunt, gratitude is not the same as indebtedness.

Gratitude is such a simple word and yet, this word describes an act, attitude and lifestyle that is complex, intricate, requires sincere introspection, and is one of the most important aspects of the gospel. We cannot truly live the gospel or understand the Atonement itself without some strong understanding of the idea and necessity of this emotion. A few scriptures help illustrate this:

DC 46:7 - But ye are commanded in all things to ask God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils.

DC 78:19 - And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.

An ancient Roman Philosopher (Cicero) once stated “Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.” A strong foundation of gratitude in our lives is necessary for all of us and more especially when we are faced with challenges. Sometimes our trials will make us feel weak – whether it is a weakness in our physical body, our spirit, or other difficulties.... gratitude gives us a foundation with which to begin to become stronger. Sometimes, in our weaknesses, this is the only step that we are able to take to help ourselves. In our moments of devastation and despair how many of us have been able to pray to our father and thank him for the things and blessings that we have? If you have been able to do this at times in your life, do you remember the comfort and peace you felt from what would seem a simple act?

A well known LDS speaker (Meg Johnson) once said “gratitude from your mouth is “thank you” and gratitude from your heart is “I love you” This week, most of us here had the opportunity to celebrate the holiday of thanksgiving. Some of us met with family members, traveled distances to join with relatives... and many of us celebrated by eating too much food. :) Thanksgiving as a national holiday is only one day a year, but we as members of this church know that we need to give thanks and show gratitude on a daily basis- in our prayers, in our thoughts, in our attitudes. My brothers and sisters, do we remember to give thanks....?

In my life that I have when I sit down quietly and begin to thank Heavenly Father for them. During times of great struggle (and there have been a few) I have found that one of the ways I am able to find a way to smile and continue my responsibilities and trying to move forward in my goals is to sit down with pen and paper and just quietly think and write all the blessings that would come to mind. After a few minutes of this intentional introspection I would find it almost impossible to continue feeling sad or picked on or the pain of the struggle I cannot say hat those feelings truly went away but I have found that gratitude helped make those feelings seem less enormous and less dragon-like and overwhelming. No matter what the circumstances in your life all of us have so much that we can be grateful for... we just need to pause and look for them. Gordon B Hinckley said “ When you walk with gratitude, you do not walk with arrogance and conceit and egotism, you walk with the spirit of thanksgiving that is becoming to you and will bless your lives.”

What can we do to help promote the feelings and attitude of gratitude in our lives? One thing that we can do is to actively work on being positive and to actively fight our human tendencies to complain, to look out for ourselves and not others and to see the negative more easily than the generous amounts of 'positive' things in our lives. Taking the time and mental focus to 'catch' ourselves when we are freeing negatively, when we are expressing and focusing on the negatives in our lives... and to work to change these thoughts and behaviors can make big differences in our lives. Even small steps and attempts can make huge changes.

Brothers and Sisters, Jesus himself has given us so many examples of gratitude. Two that come immediately to mind is the miracle of the loaves and fishes (Matthew 15:4) and the miraculous healing of the ten lepers. All were so thankful for food and healing and felt peace and joy for the gift, but how many showed gratitude to the Savior for the gift itself? Of the lepers, we know that only one took the time to express his gratitude to the Savior. The lepers were clearly pleased and thankful for the wonderful opportunities that were now available to them... so happy that they were unable to do anything but immediately jump into the activities and opportunities that they now could enjoy and not giving a thought to the giver.

How many of us become so excited and pleased at the gifts that we are given that we too forget to show gratitude for the blessings and gifts that we are thankful for? And how often are we unable to see past the negative thoughts and emotions we struggle with over the blessings that we feel we lack and deserve? C.S. Lewis once said “not only heaven but all this earthly past will have been heaven to those who are saved.” Can you imagine? As we work towards a greater sense of gratitude in our lives, our trials can become easier to bear. When we focus on what we have and not what we lack, we can find true joy in our lives now... and not have to wait for the perfect time or place! What a wonderful blessing all on its own!

I hope and pray that we as individuals can put forth more of our energy towards a true sense of gratitude in our lives and the lives of those around us. I say these thoughts in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


Ethical Concerns for Providers when Dealing with Refugee Populations

There is no doubt that mental health professionals and other service providers can help alleviate the effects of trauma, torture and other crimes that are perpetrated against people and communities due to circumstances, religion, war, etc... Throughout this class, I have learned quite a bit about the consequences to both individuals and groups based on trauma/ torture and have even broadened my views of how those terms should be defined. Between therapies that are individualized or set up for groups (such as a family, community or people with the same traumas and problems in common) and interactions that attempt to alleviate suffering through the use of medical training, pharmaceuticals, neurobiological or cognitive therapies, etc... Many groups and professional have been focused on – and continue to try- to help victims and the society as a whole heal, develop techniques for survival and daily care, as well as trying to improve the quality of health and life of those affected. However, there can be challenges as well as ethical problems that the mental health / medical provider can face in these situations.

One challenge can come in the form of using pharmaceuticals to help the patient deal with some of the symptoms that cause difficulty in their lives. While studies do suggest that medication makes a bigger impact on an individual's symptoms, the issue is not that black and white. How the patient and/or their family feels about medical care in general (or mental health medication specifically) has an effect on how the medication is used and therefore, how successful it can be. An individual's culture may also weigh into the decision to use medical treatments/ medicine of any kind. And how the services are provided might also affect the utilization of those services. Language, economics, and other barriers can cause misunderstandings and challenges as well. A perfect example of this problem can be found in the book, “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” written by Anne Fadiman. An amazing and very sad biography.

Another thing that is very important for the provider to acknowledge and understand is that the trauma itself may be what the provider wishes to treat and focus on... but the provider is still treating a person. An individual with different perceptions, biases, experiences and other ways of seeing and moving through the world. And so while trying to treat the troublesome symptoms of the past trauma, it is imperative that the person being treated isn't seen in the narrow sense as a label or a diagnosis. The patient needs to be viewed and looked at in the 'prism' of their views and life... so recommendations and therapies need to be available to the patient in a way that fits their current set of circumstance and needs. I thought of an experience in my life when I had a few sick animals who lived with me and my family in a one room yurt. The vet said that one cat needed to be fed a special food, another cat needed a different special food and the other cats couldn't eat either food. When I mentioned that I lived in one room, I was told to deal with it. I did figure out a solution that worked, but it took a while and I didn't use the resources that had been offered nor have I been back to that clinic. I probably would have felt differently and used the resources offered if the provider had made them seem possible. Just a thought on that topic.... So making sure that the resources used are more helpful than stressful and really address the 'whole person' are needed. That takes more time and energy as well as an understanding of an an attempt to put your own biases, etc... aside. That is a bit difficult to do for most of us. :) Also making sure that the resources are available to use in a way that works for the client makes them more likely to be utilized and more likely to help the patient with lasting change in their lives... which is the goal!

Another important element – which I touched on in the last paragraph is to make sure that a thorough understand of the person and their culture are attained. By understanding what is important to the individual and what they use to not only make decisions but base most of what is important in their life on.... the suggestions and recommendations that are given by the mental health providers are more likely to not only be followed but misunderstandings are more likely to be caught quickly and early in the process. That helps develop the trust relationship between the provider and the patient as well as help the patient to work harder to help themselves because not only does it matter to them as individuals, the provider has shown that it matter to them too. (Aren't we all more likely to accomplish our goals when we have a friendly goal 'buddy'?) So by having decent understanding of the background and viewpoint of the patient, the service providers can make fewer but more meaningful referrals and help keep the patient on task. An example is not suggesting a patient with PTSD have an occasional drink to relax but maybe a cookie or a walk with a friend instead. If the culture sees nightmares and terrors as a curse from God that must be overcome.... then they are much less likely to take the Ambien to sleep nor will their family encourage them to do so. Telling an individual to eat pork or stop smoking for their health when smoking is part of their religious practices or the eating of pork is against their beliefs will either cause total noncompliance or partial uncompliance as the patient will only do it when they feel pressed to do so or have another compelling reason to do so. It is important that the clinician recognizes what his values are and recognize when he is potentially pushing values and cultural norms on the patient and not actual treatment. I know those examples are not mental health related, but I thought they did help me make the point I was attempting to make. :)

Another thing that it is imperative that mental health providers think about when dealing with challenged and refugee populations is to follow the information and tools that have work in the past as evidenced by studies and their own observations and life experience, but to also recognize that the current work that is being done can give good insights into potential therapies simply because if it appears to be currently working, with so few good studies out there.... if every is in agreement to try something new... that has the potential to help victims now as well as future populations. This kind of flexibility to look outside the box but also to be cautious and thoughtful about trying therapies that haven't had a lot of use and study is a challenging but needed trait in these providers. It is also this flexibility that allows the clinician to look at the individual in a well rounded way, and not just the way that they have been taught to see certain symptoms or mental distress.

Lastly, it is important that the clinician recognize and maintain clear boundaries between themselves and their patients so that both parties can work together for improvement and satisfaction. When the boundaries are loosened, both parties may find it very challenging to continue to work together and to work towards progress in the manner that was possible when the division between the two was clearly laid out. Providing services that also allow the individual to have privacy not only from strangers who do not have a legitimate need to know their information, but also family can also help the patient by making things clearer and less likely to be misunderstood through another person's biases and thoughts mixing into the mix. An example could be when the parties involved have a language barrier – a translator from outside the patients inner circle may make a different translation that a family member or a friend who may interpret what the patient is saying or needs based on what they think the patient needs... not quite the same thing. This kind of translation can also compromise a patient's need and right for confidentiality making services more challenging for them to get and undermining the trust needed between the patient and the provider. The provider must also to make sure to care for and recognize problems that may crop up with themselves from working with this population and take care to not allow themselves to become burned out or harmed in the process of helping others... which can cause them to be unable to continue to help or even to cause more trauma to the patient.

To be a provider to such a challenged population comes with both risks and rewards for the clinician and the patients. Understanding the important ethical concerns that should be addressed can help everyone involved do a better job, be safer, and to help people gain more resiliency and a better quality of life through the therapies. What more can we ask for? :)


Aaack! Aaack!

In the past, I have found myself really busy and struggling to juggle all the 'needs' and how to meet and accomplish all of them. Juggling Bug and appointments and the household and the spouse was barely doable – no surprise that my health became really poor as taking care of myself wasn't in my list of priorities. With the other family changes in my life, I have been able to make caring for myself a great priority and my health has improved a lot. Gluten is still a huge issue for me – sometimes I feel like the world is made of wheat and so I can't touch anything or go anywhere.

I'm back in a little bit of a crunch time again. After I was laid off in August, I have continued to look for work and I am still enrolled and completing three college classes. In September, I accepted a 'temporary / part time' job which was supposed to last three weeks and I would either have full time or nothing. I have been working almost forty hours a week at around minimum wage since that time. The company that I am working for is now suggesting that they may keep everyone at relatively low hours, wages, and 'temporary' positioning through December. So I'm hanging in there in the hopes of full time because I have the potential to make a lot more. But I would be lying if I didn't say that I feel the weight of the work that I am trying to accomplish. Working full time, doing school work full time, continuing to look for work and trying to fulfill my church, family and personal responsibilities... well, I feel really pushed and rushed around. (I'm also in the middle of moving as well.) I haven't been taking care of myself as well as I could and my sleep has been problematic again. It's like my brain can't shut off and is constantly continuing to try and rearrange and figure out how I am going to get it all done. So I will wake up after a few hours and my brain is already 'running' as I wake up. And it has to run for a bit before I can sleep again. So part of my brain will continue the list, rearrange it, or add more to it... while another part of my head is quietly swearing and imaging sleep. So I'm making lists, thinking 'Ack', and trying to image my mind into dreams. I will admit it's not working well. ; )

So over the last few weeks I have been trying something new... and its working! A few weeks ago, many of you know that I adopted two almost grown kittens who needed a home quickly... or they wouldn't have been around for one! So even though I didn't need any more cats... didn't want any more cats... I have two more cats! And they are such a blessing. We have a race to the door when I come home and a race to bed when I am getting ready to head there. I have purring and snuggling during scripture study and I am sleeping so much better. It's funny because I am still behind on so much but I don't feel nearly as stressed about it now. It's just a wonderful thing. Sleep, I took you for granted when I was younger.... I don't anymore. So I am grateful for my new pals and the other blessings in my life. They mean a lot to me!

What new blessings do you have in your life? :)


Modern European History - Disecting a 'Tale of Two Cities' from 1958

So one of the things that I have been learning this semester is how to do a historical matrix. I have a few under my belt at this point and what they tend to entail is watching a film that has both a plot and the historical situation involved in it. Teasing out both pieces and then discussing them is the assignment and while I am finding it a little difficult, here is an altered version of my first one. I have altered it a little because I have no idea how to create columns and rows on a blog page and I also have removed a few personal comments. This post is based on the film “Tale of Two Cities” released in 1958 If you have a chance, watch the one produced in 1935... it is better. :)

Can I start this matrix/assignment by saying that I find this time frame challenging to study as its such a difficult time period. What a struggle to live during that time... the French Revolution is one of the most challenging times to focus on. It just seems so vicious for all who lived then whether you were in France of not....but France was definitely the worst I think. The older version seemed more true to the book as well... I didn't feel quite the atmosphere in this movie that I felt in the book and the older version.

Summary of the Movie

Broadly, this film is about the struggles of many people during the beginning of the French Revolution. There are several characters of various walks of life whose lives interweave in both painful and distressing ways. We learn about Dr Mannette and visit he makes to the home of a nobleman (we later learn his name is Darnay) where he watches the deaths of two young people and learns of the death of their father. Unwilling to ignore the horrors he has seen, he reports the aristocrat and Dr Manette is not seen again outside the Bastille for eighteen years. When he gets out he is housed by an old servant (Mr Defarge) who keeps him their until the doctor's daughter Lucy and his banker arrive to pick him up and take him to peace and safety in England. On the way down, Lucy Mannette meets both a nobleman named Charles Darnay and a barrister named Sydney Carton. Due to a set up, Mr Darney is tried for treason and manages to be acquitted with the help of Mr Carton. Both men return to England as both men are in love with Lucy; however, Mr Darnay wins Lucy's hand in marriage. Within six months of their marriage Lucy is pregnant and Mr Darnay discovers that some of his servants in France have been locked up and need his help. Knowing it is dangerous, he returned to France and is immediately arrested and thrown into jail.

The Bastille is successfully stormed and its prisoners released as well as its large stockpile of weapons and gunpowder. At the head of the mob is Mr. Defarge along with his wife- she is the only living relative of the three deaths at the beginning of the book whose telling caused Doctor Manette to be sent to the Bastille. Within six months of their marriage Lucy is pregnant and Mr Darnay discovers that some of his servants in France have been locked up and need his help. Knowing it is dangerous, he returned to France and is immediately arrested and thrown into jail. Lucy returned to Paris with her companion Posy and Sydney due to her concern for Charles and soon it is apparent that Mr Darney will be put to death as an aristocrat and for the bad deeds of members of his family. Sydney, in his attempt to save Lucy, the life of her unborn child, and her sorrow over the mental health and life of her husband, blackmails a prison guard that he recognizes from England to help him and with the help of this man and Mr. Lorey, he (Sydney) managed to get Lucy and Charles with their belonging back to England. Sydney Carton takes the place of Charles Darney and pretends to be the defeated aristocrat until this death.

Historical Matrix - The order runs as follows: each number has two sections. The first section shows the part of the film picked for analysis and a brief description of the scene. The second contains the analysis. :)

1. Minute 13; quote by aristocrat EvrĂ©mondes ...Dr Mannette is told by an unknown noble (after watching a young girl die)... “Doctor, you are not summoned here to listen to the babbling of this kind... You may forget these serfs. I only wish to impress upon you doctor that the things you have seen and heard in this house are not to be spoken of. You would do well to mark that.” (I do not remember this scene in either the book or the older movie)

I think this scene was included to give us (the modern reader / watcher) members, but understanding of how the majority of people – or serfs- were treated in this society. They were cherished by family members and maybe even by community, but as serfs they owned nothing except their feelings and thoughts. Their lives, energy, possessions, etc... were all owned by the noble who owned them and the land they worked. This scene suggests how the majority of nobles probably felt about their serfs in this time frame; like property without feelings or lives, just to work for them and accomplish what the nobleman wishes. If they die or 'break' more are created through birth to take their place... and as such easily replaced if necessary or if the personality or looks of one were not to the owner's liking.

2. Minute 1:03; quote by Mrs. Defarge ... “You're the one who shot the people down. Genocide!”

I think this scene is trying to express and show us a few things. First, the peasants no longer worry about being killed as they are dying of starvation and other problems. In this sense, the number of dissatisfied and frantic people creates a form of 'mob' mentality. Death is no longer the peasant's primary concern. As the mob realizes that they are winning the mood of the group not only continues to focus on its anger and for some revenge, the peasants feel no pause at harming anyone they see as an enemy- even people who are only following the orders given to them... people who may not be that far removed from the peasants themselves in money or station. Those who have felt oppressed or overpowered rarely deal with great power in the most rational and truly 'right' and fair ways. The deaths of the king's men at the Bastille and even some of the aristocrats show that. You can hear in the laughter and the yelling the total out-of control nature of the peasants in the mob. When I was watching some of the footage of the Egyptian protests during the 'Arab Spring', I could see some of the same play of emotions of the people's faces as they fought.

3. Minute 1:08; quote by unknown servant of Mr Darnay - “What have any of these others done?” Mrs Defarge - “You ate, while we starve!”

These thoughts express both the bewilderment of those who have been removed from power or those who had some more control over their lives.... and the anger and need to 'scapegoat' that many of the peasants felt. When people make others into a scapegoat, it also absolves the 'scapegoat-er' of any wrongdoing and gives them justification for their poor behavior. We still do this today to so many people and groups over perceived grievances. I think that sometimes we as humans are so anxious for change that we do not realize that things can't be instantaneous... it causes chaos as the differing sides fight and struggle. Bloodless revolutions or large change usually take 'time'... very rarely does history give us King William and Mary. :)

4. Minute 1:10-12; Quotes - Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton talk of responsibility. Carton – “How simple it all sounds. Far simpler than I'd imagined. Goodbye to France. Farewell to all responsibilities.” Darney - “I have been selfish. I should have gone back to France when my cousin died... worked out and supervised all I meant to do.” Carton - “I see. In view of that I hope you won't contemplate doing anything foolish.” Darney - “You must leave me to make my own decision.”

This scene helps to show the hierarchy of the society and the challenges and responsibility that came with each 'station' of life. Even though aristocrats and the nobles had different problems than the other classes they too had responsibilities and things that they were required to do as well. For those who had some thoughts that were influenced by the Enlightenment, they were in a double bind... being pushed in two directions as all sides fought farther apart to hold onto what they had and to attempt to gain more. Today, we can see the same problems... the gaps between the 'haves' and 'have nots' are growing in all countries and so all people feel the tension and the struggle that is starting to build between us.

5. Minute 1:41-44; Sydney Carton sits alone in the cell.

At all times in every person's life we have times where we have done something challenging, or must or feel we must make choices that break us. How we make those choices shows our character and what truly does matter to us. Whether rich or poor, male or female, no matter our station in life, all of us must make these choices or they may be made for us. Some must reflect longer on their choices, but all will feel them and the pain they cause No character in my life from a book with one exception has ever made more of an impression on me. I have named a beloved pet after him, writing many stories and thoughts about him. This character always reminds me that in all of us is the ability to care and do amazing things... we need only have the strength and motivation to do so. I hope that I do in the mountains and pits of my life.

Minute 150-151; Sidney Carton - “Suddenly I want to weep, but I must hold my tears in check less they think it is myself I weep for.... and who would weep for Sydney Carton? A little time ago none in all the world... but someone will weep for me now. And that knowledge redeems a worthless life. Worthless but for this final moment which makes it all worthwhile. It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done. It is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.”

We all weep for the Sydney Cartons of the world. “There must be some appeal - some chance of a reprieve” And at some point most of us give – maybe not our lives, but a part of us to take away the pain or a punishment of another. All we do to help our fellow human beings find joy and relief throughout all the ages of history matters … even when most do not remember or know of their existence.

Have a great day, my friends... and hope you enjoyed :)


Fear and Loathing… for “Four Friends”

So after missing a week of class, I arrived last week feeling shaky and tired but, with a drink and tissues in hand and a computer, pen and paper in front of me, I settled down ready for another provocative evening of film and thought. I cannot say that isn't what I got.... ;)

I cannot say that I liked the film “Four Friends” and I dearly wish that I could. At least I wish I could say something definitive about it.... whether I hated it or loved it or something. Instead I feel this mass of emotions that hours later I cannot seem to dispel. I feel twisted up and almost suffocated by the waves of them that flow over my thoughts and are buffeted by the winds of memory, hopes, dreams, and regret. Hours after I arrived home I found myself awake, restless and sweating... feeling the darkness close in as my eyes stared into the nothingness. Every attempt that I made to clear my mind was insufficient and only seemed to throw the distractions into sharper relief... causing even more agitation and restlessness in my heart. So, here I am, trying to empty the swirl of thought vomit in my brain onto the page in the hopes of some relief, some small amount of weariness to be allowed to enter my brain and slow it down enough for the oblivion of sleep to take over and allow the darkness to pull me into the deep. I was vaguely horrified by my reaction and to stay sitting and not to leave... to not walk out of the film and to go home... well, that was a serious amount of work. I am still not sure how I accomplished it.

Within the first few seconds of watching Georgia almost literally waltzed onto the screen, I felt feelings of deep loathing and disgust. She appeared to be a character/ person with traits that I dislike intensely. I felt she had self-confidence bordered on arrogance and an immaturity that frustrated me. I saw her as vain, overly flirtatious, manipulative and even a little benign. And as I watched I was torn between my feelings of dislike and a growing amount of dismay as I started to realize that I didn't like her not only for the 'legitimate' reasons, but I think I also didn't like her because I saw some 'parts' of her that I felt were mirror images of some of the things that I hate in myself. And so, as I sat there loathing her, I realized how much I really loath myself. How I want to be pretty and I'm not. How I want to be liked and to be wanted by the people that really matter to me... and I am not. And how I would love to be able to enjoy things more... and I can't. And I could see her confusion and her hopes and her dreams written all over every aspect of her being... and I could feel my confusion in my youth. I could feel the dreams that I had to be loved and to have a wonderful normal family and to be me... to be cared for as myself even though I am eccentric and I have too much energy and I speak without thinking and I also think a bit too much of myself. I worry about whether I am accomplishing enough and what other people think and all sorts of stuff! So watching Georgia and her behavior was a bit like watching a distorted image of myself and things I wished I was brave to do or feel comfortable doing... and feeling jealous. And feeling angry because I want so much and I can't have it whether I'm good or bad or anything. It's like nothing I do that's right and nice gives me anything positive at all... except the comfort I feel from doing it. And then I feel scared because I think that I am running from life too and I'm not sure that I feel like I want to find it but I don’t want to feel like I've wasted it either. In essence, Georgia is a spitfire... and I am conflicted about them.

Danilo was a very interesting mix of a person and I found myself drawn to him even as I was repulsed by Georgia. I thought I could feel his fear of her and any relationship with her but also his extreme hope and love towards the America that he saw and wanted to exist. He wants a better life than his father has and is frustrated that his father seems so unhappy and doesn't want to better things. As he says, “There is college...” and his father states, “Not for you. In America we work.” His father also says “I'm tired and I have to go to work – that is America.” I heard that line and I can't even express how often I have felt that way. I think I have just thought the ending slightly differently... In my mind, I think “I'm tired and I have to go to work – what else can I do. I'm an adult and I must eat or die.” This is a very different viewpoint than the romantic and fairly extreme viewpoint that Danilo carries in his heart. Danilo is also a bit too honest and speaks his mind and his heart to his detriment. His mouth is both a blessing and a curse as it brings him happiness and a lot of pain. His every word holds so much meaning – when he looked at his father and said ' Dada” … you could hear the hope and joy and 'feel' what that meant to him. That one word became a complex tapestry of images and emotion as we look at his young face.

His friend David was an interesting mix as well. He is overweight and seems to understand life a little more - “between chromosomes and tradition, what else can I do.” He is easy... easy going, easy to lead, easy to love, easy to leave.... easy to forget. And he seems to know this about himself. So he is quick to laugh and think good thoughts of others and worry... sometimes too much... most of the time not much. And Tom.... well, I didn't feel anything much about him at all. I do not feel like until the end of the film he fleshed out much as a character at all. He didn't seem like anything more than a colored shell until he came back from fighting in Vietnam. The funny thing is that I do not feel like he changed that much... but he did in the sense that he seemed more grounded and his character felt more real. I am not sure that I ever really liked him... but I didn't dislike him either. He just seemed like a decent boring guy by the end... isn't that how most of us turn out as adults. :)

And so the movie finally ended. I could still hear the scream of the saddened and distraught mother... who is no longer a mother... and the wife... who is no longer a wife... just a woman. “I don't really know what to do with that word.” Sadly, I am almost in the same situation and I do not know what to do either. I can still feel her loss and her grief and confusion and I can claim those emotions as my own. I hope that someday I will not understand her grief as well as I do now. And I hope I am not offensive if I admit that I never, ever want to watch this movie again. I want to let the images and emotions fade so that I can continue to heal from my past. I want to forget.


Rape, Assault, and the Damage to Individuals and our Society

So, over the last few weeks, we have covered the basic ideas of what trauma and torture are, an understanding of how it affects the individual victims by causing PTSD and other medical problems, and how if affects and changes the actions of family members, friends, and caregivers. So it seems only fitting that this week we look at some of the most common trauma in our society as well as how it changes and impacts our society as well. Some of the most common forms of violence and trauma in American society is physical and sexual assault. Some studies show that the United States has the highest rate of homicide than any other first world nation (approximately 8.3 per 100,000 people) with the exception of the Bahamas and Ecuador. (Isn't that pretty interesting that our country holds itself up as a Superpower and the 'police' of the world, but we as a nation cause just as much harm to each other as we do to other countries... maybe even more. Something to think about when looking at American culture and what we like or want to change about it.) While homicide is at the extreme end of the spectrum of violence, physical assault is much more common place and studies show that a considerable percentage of our population have experienced physical assault at least once in their lives. Adolescents and adults are most likely to be assaulted and both African American and Hispanic populations have higher rates of assault/ homicide over other racial groups.

There are a few subtle and clear paths to see the effects of both physical and sexual assault of the individuals in our society... and therefore, the society as a whole. Studies show that people who have either been victims of crime or family members of the former tend to behave and think differently in a few aspects of their life. Some numbers mentioned in the text express this trend:

1. 36% of family members that have experienced criminal homicide become more careful about their personal safety.

2. 74.7% of people who have had experience with alcohol related vehicular death also admit to taking extra precautions to protect themselves from crime.

3. 11.7% of victims choose to begin carrying a gun

Another number mentioned was that 94% of emergency room visits in 1994 where the patient was seen for violence related injuries, the injuries were attained as part of an assault. In general, women tend to fear being a victim of crime more than men and so they restrict many aspects of their lives and their behavior based on that fear... but most members of our society have some fear of being a victim at some point in their lives and that is a tragic statement in and of itself. Victims of assault (whether physical or sexual) are more likely to develop and have problems with chronic health conditions such as pain, gastrointestinal disorders, headaches as well as other complaints. Other concerns are that these individuals receive more medical care overall, have non normal sexual function, and challenges with somatic symptoms that as twice as frequent as the general population.... as well as bulimia and low body weight. They are less likely to see their health in a favorable light, are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and substance abuse and see a future ahead of them that is bleak and devoid of good things. In fact, rape and physical assault victims as associated with the highest levels of PTSD among women when compared with other civilian traumas.

One paradox that I see in our society is that as a rule, the victims of crime are seen as a part of the crime and some blame is attached to them. If a women is raped, it is because of her clothing, her choice to have a drink, her choice of friends, whether she 'fought' hard enough, etc.... I think that we tend to perpetuate this ideal because it helps each of us to 'feel' safer- we don't wear those clothes, etc.... but it is also so embedded into our culture as a way of controlling people – mostly women and minorities- that we don’t even realize that we are doing it. One of the pharmacists that I worked with at one point said that a teenager who was killed was entirely to blame for her own death as she made the choice to go see someone she had only known online and she must have been stupid as well. I was horrified by the statement and nothing I could say to her would change her opinion. However, I think that the textbook worded the thoughts that I was feeling best:

“Predatory assailants, not victims, cause assaults, irrespective of any risk factors the victims might possess.”

“...Studies show that all victim's behaviors are of lesser significance than offender characteristics in determining the outcome of sexual assault...”

It feel pretty conflicting to realize not only how common rape and assault are in our communities, county and the world overall, but to also learn how much these acts cause such long term harm not only to the individuals affected but also to our society as a whole was pretty challenging for me. I hear the terms rape culture and see the way people of both genders react when talking about cases of rape or sexual assault. But to see a brief view of the ripples that these acts are causing across the society I live in is staggering. Even if all assaults both sexual and physical ended today and never happened again in America... it would be generations (if ever) before our society recovered because of the damage caused in the past. I wonder how many of my reactions are involuntary based on my past. I wonder how as people modify their actions and behaviors that we model for the future generations, if we can ever really lose those behaviors.

What are your thoughts?