Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The decades-long shadow of abuse #childabuse #survivors

Courtesy of BBC News website. 

The decades-long shadow of abuse

Silhouette of two girls rescued from a sex trafficking ring talking behind a screen
Sexual abuse can affect survivors for decades afterwards. Lives can be blighted by breakdowns, substance abuse, relationship difficulties and the trauma of not being believed.
Piers - not his real name - was abused regularly from the age of 13 by a teacher at his school.
It was not until more than three decades later that he was able to confront the legacy of the abuse, and deal with the control that his abuser had held over him for all those years.
Piers went to the police when he was in his mid-40s, after attempting to kill himself and a number of periods in a London clinic. There, he was finally able to open up, discuss what had happened to him and understand the scale of the impact of the abuse on him.
The more time passes, the easier it is for a victim to talk about being abused, says Pete Saunders, chief executive of Napac (National Association for People Abused as Children). He cites research from the US suggesting that survivors come forward after an average of 22 years after the abuse stopped.

“Start Quote

There are probably a lot more male survivors than society acknowledges”
End Quote Pete Saunders
"That certainly tallies with what we've found at the charity and from my own experience," says Saunders, who says he came out as a survivor 25 years after his abuse ended.
"For me in one sense I'll never get over it. I'll never know why I was targeted and be angry to the end of my days."
Yet he has come to terms with the abuse. "I've had some pretty good psychotherapy on the NHS. You learn to live with it."
A year ago he was on public transport in London when an encounter triggered memories. "A guy on the Tube was pressing up against me. He had the same smell of alcohol and body odour as the person who abused me. I had to close my eyes, pray and count to three. I was in danger of physically attacking him."
It was a "moment of terror". But as time goes by you have more good days than bad, he says.

Previously in the Magazine

Jimmy Savile with his motor home, 1969
Jimmy Savile has been described as an expert at "hiding in plain sight". He was the eccentric who seemingly joked openly about his sex life, the knight who surrounded himself with children.
Despite this, Savile's alleged sexual abuses went uninvestigated in his lifetime.
Yet he was hardly a furtive figure, hiding in the shadows. His 1974 autobiography boasts of having taken home an "attractive" runaway from a remand home before he handed her to the police. As columnist Hugo Rifkind observed in The Times: "It was right out there, in plain view, and nobody wanted to see."
Equally, a persona forged on a love of children can be a common disguise for a sexual predator.
Journalist Malcolm Gladwell wrote in the New Yorker how former football coach Jerry Sandusky concealed years of grooming and sexual abuse behind his "loveable goofball" personality and a life that was "all about the kids".

From his work at the charity, he believes that men find it harder to admit to being abused. "They feel weak for letting it happen to them. There are probably a lot more male survivors than society acknowledges."
The children's charity NSPCC estimates one in four children are victims of sexual abuse, but the nature of the problem makes it hard to quantify.
Elie Godsi, a clinical psychologist and author of Violence and Society: Making Sense of Madness and Badness, says the impact of abuse carries on for decades. It affects everything - altering character, behaviour and identity, he says. Depression, anxiety, self-harm and drug and alcohol abuse are common. "It will affect the rest of their life. Especially if you don't tell anyone."
Godsi works as an expert witness in sex abuse cases, assessing the level of damage in adult claimants.
"If your breast has been touched once, it's obviously different to if you've been raped - it won't stay with you as long."
But any victim of abuse can find it hard to move on. Godsi cites the example of the scout who described being abused by Jimmy Savile while fully clothed.
The way that victims are treated when they come forward is vital. Inquiries will show that some people did come forward in relation to Savile and were not believed, Godsi says. "When you first disclose it's absolutely crucial that people believe you. If you get a negative reaction, that could ensure you never talk about it again."
Piers's abuse started after he confided to a teacher the fact that he had been sexually molested, on a single occasion, during the previous weeks.
"I was terrified, horrified, I couldn't tell my parents about the molestation and I didn't know what to do or who to turn to. The teacher I did go to was initially helpful but rather than address it through the police, the school, my parents or the local authority, he turned it around and started sexually abusing me. I couldn't understand what was going on. In my mind, this person was protecting me from the rest of the world.
"He told me not to tell anyone about the previous abuse. He said that as this had happened to me I must be a homosexual - and that I should keep that a secret. Then, using the original molestation almost as a justification, he started to abuse me regularly."

If you've been affected...

  • ... the following organisations can help:
  • The police if you have evidence of having suffered sexual abuse so an investigation can be made
  • NSPCC charity specialises in child protection
  • National Association for People Abused in Childhood offers support, advice and guidance to adult survivors of any form of childhood abuse
For most of his adult life, Piers has struggled with psychological issues - self-destructive behaviour, periods of heavy drinking and self-medicating with both legal and illegal drugs.
He came to believe there must be something seriously and fundamentally wrong with him.
"Even though I saw psychiatrists, psychologists and had therapy at many different times in my life, I never talked about what had happened. I had no perspective of what had happened to me. I would only discuss and treat each individual symptom as and when they arose."
Piers left school at 15 and describes part of his life as having been successful - landing good, well-paid jobs wherever he went and being viewed as intelligent. But he never believed in himself.
"At 45, I attempted suicide. Fortunately, being well-insured, I was treated at a private clinic in London that saved my life."

“Start Quote

Everything in my life had become a secret - I had felt shame and guilt all of my life”
End Quote Piers
It took numerous further stays at the same clinic during 2012 until Piers eventually opened up. As an indication of how strong the level of control that his abuser still had over him, Piers says this was the only person he wanted to speak to at the time.
"It was as if my emotions had all been locked away - but then when it all came out, it was a mind-altering experience. I didn't tell my family at first, the only person I wanted to speak to was the person who had abused me - whom I had remained in contact with.
"I began to realise that the only reason I felt I could count on him as my sole confidant was that he had successfully estranged me at a very young age from my family and friends and instilled in me an irrational fear of everyone. That stayed with me until now.
"At work in a group around the coffee machine, I always felt like a 12-year-old boy. I realise now that seeing this teacher all the time, I became isolated from my family and friends, I didn't develop relationships with my peers, I didn't experience the mistakes and successes of teenage life, I didn't get the opportunity to develop a sense of self.
"I went straight from 13 to 30 almost overnight. My entire adult life I have been plagued by shame, guilt, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. I always believed that I was toxic, somehow polluted and could only serve to harm others."

“Start Quote

I was so shocked at how awfully I was treated when I reported it”
End Quote Lucy Duckworth
He says he constantly felt that he was covering up a lie, and feared that people would somehow find out.
"I developed numerous coping strategies and mechanisms - running away from problems from country to country, changing jobs regularly. After 30 years, these coping mechanisms no longer worked and I was too exhausted to carry them on or create new ones. After years of running away I finally crashed.
"After numerous stays in the London clinic, I decided I wanted to tell my family, especially my sister who works in education and in whom I have the utmost trust. I knew the first thing she was going to ask me was what I had done about it. Before I could tell my family I knew that I would first have to tell the police. I was terrified - I thought that I was going to be put in prison."
Outside the court before the trial of Jerry Sandusky It can take years for a conviction, as in the case of US coach Jerry Sandusky
"Even after my initial interview and further statements I felt dreadful about myself for reporting this," says Piers.
"I now realise that over the years I had lost all perspective over the enormity and seriousness of the events. Everything in my life had become a secret. I had felt shame and guilt all of my life. After reporting this abuse to the police I feel I don't own the secret anymore. It's not mine anymore and so now I can start afresh with honesty and dignity."

The case of Jerry Sandusky

Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is put in a car the Centre County Courthouse after being sentenced in his child sex abuse case

  • Former Penn State assistant football coach convicted of child abuse
  • Convicted in June of 45 counts of molesting boys over 15 years
  • Sentenced this month to 30 to 60 years in prison

Even after reporting abuse, victims face another struggle.
"They go to the police, then they are told they have to wait a few weeks, months, years."
Survivors are left to manage their existing conditions, come to terms with what has happened, relive the experience and worry about what happens next.
"What do they do with this when they wake up at four in the morning suffering panic attacks with no-one there to reassure them?" Piers says. "In the public sector, it would appear, that there is very limited support and it's very slow.
"I hope now that people who want to come forward who are not involved in the Savile inquiry will receive the same level of service from the police and the employers of the perpetrators as we seeing demonstrated in this case.
"Going to the police I felt like an awful, evil human being. I thought because the person who had abused me was well-respected in the community, it made me feel like I was the perpetrator."
The CPS has not yet decided whether to prosecute the teacher involved.
Child abuse campaigner Lucy Duckworth emphasises the difficulties of reporting cases of sexual abuse decades later.
She says she was abused for about five years up until the age of 11 by two priests - one Catholic and one Church of England.
Duckworth underwent therapy when she was in her early 20s, and it wasn't until a few years later that she felt able to report the abuse.

The Penitential Vigil mass at the Catholic Church's Towards Healing and Renewal symposium on sexual abuse of minors in Feb 2012 
A vigil for those abused by priests held earlier this year
"I was so shocked at how awfully I was treated when I reported it," she says. "First of all the police said, 'What do you want us to do about it?' Then I wasn't given clear guidelines about what was going to happen to the perpetrators."
Duckworth says she was working in a school at the time and feared losing her job. "I was told not to tell colleagues in case they thought I was an abuser, too."

“Start Quote

If you keep it buried you don't know if people are going to believe you”
End Quote Elie Godsi, clinical psychologist
She is currently setting up a charity, See Changes, which is campaigning on the issue of mandatory reporting of known or suspected child abuse by people in authority.
Not fully understanding at the time that the abuse was wrong, the child is not attempting to absorb detail, she says. Decades later, being quizzed by a detective, the adult victim can find it hard to recall the colour of a carpet or the orientation of a room. These are the details that can underpin a witness statement.
"I knew it was wrong but felt it must be right - it didn't occur to me to report it. Because it involved the church, there is an assumption that everything that happens is supposed to happen. There were details in my initial report that I couldn't remember.
"During my therapy, those details became clearer, but there was an assumption that the therapist had somehow planted all those memories. We hear this a lot from abuse survivors," Duckworth says.
If the victim is believed, disclosure is a huge step forward, Godsi says. "You realise it's him, not you. But if you keep it buried you don't know if people are going to believe you."
In 2012, there are child protection organisations, dedicated police teams and counselling options.
"In the late 1960 and 70s there was nothing. There was a feeling that Jimmy Savile, the priest, vicar, and local headteacher wouldn't do that," says Godsi.
Now children can expect to be believed. And there are structures for interviewing them properly.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Underneath My Mask - via @Hidden_Beth - Anti Bullying Support Group

Ah i’m so excited, i’ve decided i’m going to start my own face to face group for those who have been bullied, so we can support each other through the affects after the bullying has stopped, or if people are still being bullied, we can show them that they can get through it.
You guys don’t realise how much this means to me, this is my motivation, my reason for living, i spoke to my Doctor today, she has seen my blog, she told me that i’m a totally different person on here, and i need to get better. So this is my reason for getting better. So i can do these groups!
What you guys don’t know is that, i am struggling very much, with my depression and self harm, and suicidal thoughts. I have a suicide diary, full of quotes and poems, i have a letter already written.
So please, help me with this group, i really want to do this! I want to get better just so i can do this, to help others! So they don’t have to go through what i have been through.
The group will be in Flintshire, i’m going to have a search around to see if i can get anywhere to hold it, if you are interested, please comment below, email me: missbeth94@hotmail.co.uk or tweet me @Hidden_Beth
Also, if you have any ideas for the group, i would be very thankful to hear them!
Thank you, and please take care!

Don’t let them win! You’re better than them!

Fifty Shades of Abuse #OneVoice By @EveThomas40 #childabuse @Oprah #survivors



I have a dream, a dream that I want to share - #OneVoice.

As I struggled through the last 7 years of my marriage I found an escape, writing.  Sitting at the desk I secretly created another world, a devastating place far worse than my own life.
Amy was born and through her I shed my pain and as her story unfolded, as my fingers stroked the keys I knew that one day she had to be free and happy and so I went on to write the rest of her story.  My brave leading lady found love again something I knew I would never experience because I was trapped and had been for a very long time.  BUT........

On the 1st November 2010 I was born again, I finally became free, I just couldn’t stand it any more and so the ending of Choices-The Darker Years was re-written as I began to take the journey myself.

Now I have found MY VOICE, a voice that was silenced for many years and I can tell you it’s liberating and empowering but I wanted to help others and so #OneVoice was created.

Now you may ask what is #OneVoice and the answer is simple. #OneVoice is THE place to come if you want your voice heard, no matter what your pain is, no matter what caused it you now have a place to come.  Writing helped me so much and so I offer you the opportunity to share your pain and with this you get to nominate a charity of your choice.

Fifty Shades of Abuse, the first #OneVoice book has given fifty voices from around the world the chance to be heard, fifty voices that will NEVER BE SILENCED!  Along with this each survivor has nominated a charity to receive a 1/50 share of the TOTAL revenue.

The very first #OneVoice book is almost ready to be published and as the nominations for charities roll in from around the world I am truly humbled and honoured, #OneVoice is GLOBAL!

I have many ideas for #OneVoice and my ramblings and blog can be found on my website along with a wealth of information. 

I hope you will pay me a visit at www.evethomas.co.uk.  Thank you for reading and I just want to say a massive thank you to Jan for giving me this opportunity to raise awareness.  Abuse MUST stop!  WE CAN 


Survivors not victims!

Eve x

Follow Eve on Twitter  @EveThomas40
On Facebook  

Friday, 26 April 2013

All it takes is just one voice.. via @thistangledweb #childabuse #survivors #advocates

Please welcome my friend and fellow author/advocate Kate Swift. Kate works tirelessly to help other survivors of childhood sexual abuse, male and female. She is a published author (see below) and works very hard to raise awareness on all issues surrounding childhood sexual abuse. She is an inspiration to me personally and to many others. 

*Trigger Warning*

Firstly a little information about me... My name is Kate Swift and I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (amongst other things!). In '2010' I built a website (www.thistangledweb.co.uk)  to reach out to other survivors. I also created a facebook peer to peer support group... both have gone from strength to strength and are thriving. 'This Tangled Web' became a constituted charity in '2011'. My thanks to Jan for inviting me to be a guest on this amazing blog site... I hope you will enjoy hearing my voice...  

In recent weeks I have been reflecting on the survivor's voice... can I write an entire blog post about it... I sure can. As children who experience the hideous crime that is sexual abuse our voices are unheard... silenced or silent. Not helped by the fact that as children of course we do not have the wisdom and knowledge we do as adults. We also may not have the words & language necessary to communicate what is happening. Furthermore fear, shame and other factors can and usually do keep us quiet too... sometimes we never use our voice in that way. The power of the silence & shame can keep our voice mute indefinitely. When you think about a child being born into this world... what is the very first thing people in that room want to hear... the baby's very first cry. Then the child's first word, we wait and we will them to talk... and then abuse can lock them into silence.

This is why finding your voice as a survivor of abuse is so vitally important. The sad fact is often when we do finally break that excruciating burden of silence our voice can be ignored, silenced and even ridiculed... by the people around us who are 'supposed' to love and care for us. Once again we can be locked into silence... I lived in that silence both as a child being abused and then as a teen/young adult living back in the family home. Sometimes it was the most crazy experience... everyone around me acting like 'normal' and yet the voice inside me could not/did not feel like anything was 'normal'.... how could it be? My voice was also met with ridicule "Did you lay back and think of England" my mother once screamed at me during a heated exchange. The voice when not silenced can be the builder of someone's dreams or a weapon of mass destruction. The choice of words used is so critical, and more so with children/young people. 
Finding my own voice was one (if not the) most liberating thing I've ever done. Whilst I couldn't say my voice out loud growing up... I could share it on paper and those scribbled pieces of paper written all hours of the night... through tears & pain went on to become the foundation on which I built was is now a charity 'This Tangled Web'. My goal... to reach out to others and shatter the silence... to let them know they are not alone... to HEAR their voice, their words, their pain, their journey or even their silence. 

All it takes is just one voice to speak up and in doing so another survivor to hear it. When I stand up and tell my story... I give someone else the message, belief, empowerment to know that if I can - perhaps they can too. As survivors this is a very powerful tool against abusers and it is also a very healing tool for us as people on our individual healing journeys. At 'This Tangled Web' sometimes we are a voice for someone who does not yet feel they can share their own in the public arena. This was very apparent to me recently with the 'William Roache' situation. That man used his words to rip at the hearts of survivors... those words made some of us hopping mad... others were reduced to tears (the power of a voice). I was in the hopping mad camp and I hit twitter with my thoughts & feelings. I rarely rant in that way but such was the depth of my anger that I could not be silent. That was also because I have found my voice... I have heard it and others have heard and validated me too. What was really poignant about that ranting were the private messages I received. Messages from people who said 'rant for me'... 'speak for me'... 'be a voice for me' and that is a privilege to do. What we also want to do is help people to find their own voice or to find the courage to use it. A lovely memory of this happening was when we published our first peer support group book titled 'Silent No More'. We want to give people the opportunity to say whatever they wanted/needed to say and if they wanted they could add their name or not. Over 90 survivors from across the globe came together to be 'Silent No More'... many for the very first time. I am incredibly proud of that book, I look at it and I don't see a book, I see a collective voice. Our collective voice is getting louder I believe... we are stronger together.

'As children we lived in our silent, individual abusive situations. As adults we now come together and are a voice not just for ourselves but for future generations to learn from' 
'You silenced us BUT together our voice is louder than ever'
'I am taking the power away from you... I am the strong one now and little me too.'
~ Kate Swift ~
We have published the following list of books which are available from online retailers as well as direct from This Tangled Web.
'This Tangled Web' 
'Nobody's Rag Doll' 
'Silent No More'
'Growing Stronger, Growing Free' 
'Kate's A-Z of Healing' 
You can find us on Twitter @thistangledweb
You can find us on our charity Facebook page (the peer group is confidential and not open to public viewing)
You can visit us at www.thistangledweb.co.uk
You can email me directly tangledweb010@yahoo.co.uk 

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Guidelines for prospective guest bloggers #childabuse #survivors

Still Looking for guest bloggers.

I thought it best to post some guidelines etc to help out.

Submissions are to be sent to JanLFrayne@yahoo.com

Topics are your choice, as long as there is a connection to child abuse in some form (see below) or mental health issues in general.

Paedophiles and their supporters may not submit...

Posts can include: child abuse survivor stories, art and poetry, child abuse as a topic in the news media, as well as PTSD, D.I.D, and other areas of abuse "aftermath" that adult survivors are forced to deal with. Therapy, recovery, and healing from abuse and all forms of child advocacy and awareness are included. I am also happy to promote other writers that have published their own books on the above topics.

The post can be anonymous if you prefer. If you are happy to be yourself then you can also include photos, links to yourself on social media and your own website.

My aim is to make this blog a comprehensive resource for other survivors and also to promote awareness regarding all aspects of being a survivor of abuse. Speaking out and sharing our experiences is a great way to both help ourselves in our healing journey and to help others to understand us better.

Many thanks for your interest!


Monday, 22 April 2013

Making the Connection Between Childhood Abuse, Depression and Suicide #childabuse #survivors

It is naive of us to believe that all children enjoy a happy childhood and family life; abuse remains the unspoken family secret and scientists are actively involved in research to help understand the long-term effects, and to prevent child abuse. The fact is that physical, emotional and sexual abuse, and to some degree neglect, in childhood leaves victims vulnerable to all manner of psychiatric disorders and a propensity toward committing suicide, usually in their young adulthood. Scientists and psychiatrists have made a firm connection between childhood abuse, depression and suicide.

Of course, not all victims of abuse in childhood attempt suicide. In a 2008 report published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, Dr. Gustavo Turecki and his colleagues at McGill University in Montréal, Canada, found that the incidence of suicide attempts bears a correlation to the type of abuse and the identity of the abuser; generally, a first-line relative, such as a father or brother, will have far greater impact on an individual. Neglect appears to be the least traumatic of the forms of abuse in terms of predicting the likelihood of depression and/or suicide later in life. Sexual abuse appears to carry the highest risk, and then emotional and physical abuse; the combination of two or more can be especially lethal.

The purpose of these studies is to identify adults who might be at greater risk for depression (and other psychiatric problems) and, ultimately, suicide by opening up conversation and recognizing the propensity of abused children to have mental illness leading to self-inflicted death as adults. There is also a factor that plays a role in the odds of a childhood abuse victim suffering from depression: memory.

What You Don’t Remember Can’t Hurt You, Right?

There is a school of thought among psychiatric professionals that the brain of a child who suffers abuse finds a default mechanism to either switch off their ability to remember, and therefore dwell upon, abusive incidents, or to repress memories sufficiently that they are able to function in the aftermath of abuse. In both cases, the result is almost invariably depression. It is worthy to note that, statistically, 83.3% of childhood abuse occurs in the family home and between family members, not strangers. In a home where there is spousal abuse (more than just a typical argument between a couple), odds are close to 60% that there is also child abuse going on. In-home child abuse is seldom reported; the children involved usually live in fear and do not understand that they have options for recourse. As a result, episodes of depression frequently begin at a very young age, and are too often written off as childhood “moodiness”.

Dr. Thomas Verny, a practicing psychiatrist and author with a specialty in pre-natal psychology, knows that abuse can and sometimes does start before a child is even born, but the burden of it occurs once a child is functioning within the family unit. He has studied and counseled many childhood abuse victims, and says, “Repressed memories are a defense mechanism; it is an automatic process, not one that the victim thinks through.” He also believes that there is a distinct correlation between childhood abuse and depression, among other disorders, the worst of which, in his opinion, is borderline personality disorder, an incredibly complex mental illness. “Schizophrenia is actually easier to treat,” he says.

A Case Study

Joan is an only child, and now, in mid-life, an orphan; this is a fact in which she finds relief. Joan’s father was a patriarch with an iron fist, a bully. She was the couple’s only child and when her father’s day went poorly, Joan’s evening was hell. Her mother, also abused emotionally and physically, was paralyzed and did nothing to stop her husband’s tirades exacted upon their daughter. Joan could do no right by her father. If she brought home a near-perfect report card, he would pick holes in it until there was an excuse for battery. If she dressed in blue, she looked ugly; if she dressed in red she looked like a tart. Joan quit school at 17 and moved out; it probably saved her life, but the damage was done.

Joan has suffered from episodes of depression all her life, and there is nothing to suggest that because her father is dead now that these bouts will stop; they haven’t and he has been gone five years. Fortunately, when Joan attempted suicide for the second time when she was 21, she received excellent psychiatric care and knows how to cope with depression when it hits, to recognize the triggers and to nurture herself when the “darkness descends”, as she puts it. But Joan’s depression has a distinguishing feature to it: she instantly defaults to thoughts of suicide when the wall of depression consumes her. Because Joan knows this, she also understands that she is not truly suicidal any more, but this is how her brain copes, just as it chose repression of memory to withstand her childhood abuse.

Part of Joan’s strategy is to let the people who love her know as soon as she finds herself sliding into depression; that way, they do not bear the burden of guilt, and they know it’s nothing they have done. Thanks to this openness, Joan’s family does not have to fear she will take her own life. There is no way for Joan to make the abuse go away; it is part of her past and cannot be changed, so coping with its legacy is all she can do. Joan is able to rationalize her depression and three attempts at suicide, now that she is a mature adult and has received proper care, but she is 100% certain that the abuse she suffered as a child resulted in her depression and was the causative factor in her desire to end her life.

Saving Lives is the Goal of Research

Scientists like Dr. Turecki and his team are engaged in their studies with the intention of predicting those at risk for suicide and preventing them from taking their own lives. In some instances, that’s harder than it sounds because a physical, biological shift occurs, not just mental trauma, in many cases of childhood abuse. Dr. Turecki, in examining 60 brains of mostly adult males who committed suicide, 40% of whom had been abused in some form during their childhoods, saw something startling: “There was a change to certain critical genes that then lead to the development of certain behaviors, that in turn increased the risk of suicide.” What Dr. Turecki witnessed was the result of a change in DNA; this is very different from depression as an outcome of childhood abuse. Like Joan’s experience with her brain taking what is tantamount to “separate” action to protect her from the abuse and its terrible memories, Dr. Turecki has found that traumas suffered due to abuse in childhood may actually cause the brain to undergo physical alterations, some of which may lead to suicide.

Some may argue that the sheer embarrassment, terror and shame brought on by childhood abuse is sufficient to warrant suicidal thoughts, and they’d be correct. But there is an established link between childhood abuse, depression and ensuing suicide. The rate of clinical depression and major depressive disorder in people who were abused as children is significantly higher than the general population.

Initially, Dr. Turecki’s team was searching for one specific gene that formed the connection, but much to their surprise, they have, thus far, uncovered more than 100 such genes. “It is more complex than we thought at the beginning,” says Benoit Labonte, a member of the McGill Group for Suicide Studies and part of Dr. Turecki’s research crew. With the aim of developing a test that will single out those at risk for suicide, and to find treatments (not just for the mental aspects, but for the physical alterations in the brain) -Dr. Turecki adds, “We know already that we can modify these changes in cell models.” There is hope for what victims would see as hopeless.

Another study conducted at the Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University in New York City, took a slightly different approach to the same problem and revealed similar results. The 34,653 subjects of the study were a mixture of males and females all with a history of childhood abuse, to varying degrees. The study, reported in the February 20102 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, and entitled, “Childhood maltreatment and the structure of common psychiatric disorders”, looked more at the link between childhood abuse and depression as opposed to, ultimately, suicide. It found that men showed “externalizing liability”, where women experienced “internalizing liability”. In simple terms, this is how they burdened the guilt from their youthful experiences.

The Columbia study concluded: “The association between childhood maltreatment and common psychiatric disorders operates through latent liabilities to experience internalising and externalising psychopathology, indicating that the prevention of maltreatment may have a wide range of benefits in reducing the prevalence of many common mental disorders. Different forms of abuse have gender-specific consequences…”

What both of these studies, among many others, suggest is that by identifying childhood abuse, even if we are failing to prevent it (which we, as a society, are), we can take action to grapple with the psycho-social outcome, to help victims manage the ensuing depression, and prevent a vital person from ending his or her life.

Read more http://depressiond.com/making-the-connection-between-childhood-abuse-depression-and-suicide/

Friday, 19 April 2013

The Rape of Men - A Weapon Of War

Sexual violence is one of the most horrific weapons of war, an instrument of terror used against women. Yet huge numbers of men are also victims. In this harrowing report, Will Storr travels to Uganda to meet traumatised survivors, and reveals how male rape is endemic in many of the world's conflicts

Dying of shame: a Congolese rape victim, currently resident in Uganda. This man’s wife has left him, as she was unable to accept what happened. He attempted suicide at the end of last year. Photograph: Will Storr for the Observer
Of all the secrets of war, there is one that is so well kept that it exists mostly as a rumour. It is usually denied by the perpetrator and his victim. Governments, aid agencies and human rights defenders at the UN barely acknowledge its possibility. Yet every now and then someone gathers the courage to tell of it. This is just what happened on an ordinary afternoon in the office of a kind and careful counsellor in Kampala, Uganda. For four years Eunice Owiny had been employed by Makerere University's Refugee Law Project (RLP) to help displaced people from all over Africa work through their traumas. This particular case, though, was a puzzle. A female client was having marital difficulties. "My husband can't have sex," she complained. "He feels very bad about this. I'm sure there's something he's keeping from me."
Owiny invited the husband in. For a while they got nowhere. Then Owiny asked the wife to leave. The man then murmured cryptically: "It happened to me." Owiny frowned. He reached into his pocket and pulled out an old sanitary pad. "Mama Eunice," he said. "I am in pain. I have to use this."

Laying the pus-covered pad on the desk in front of him, he gave up his secret. During his escape from the civil war in neighbouring Congo, he had been separated from his wife and taken by rebels. His captors raped him, three times a day, every day for three years. And he wasn't the only one. He watched as man after man was taken and raped. The wounds of one were so grievous that he died in the cell in front of him.
"That was hard for me to take," Owiny tells me today. "There are certain things you just don't believe can happen to a man, you get me? But I know now that sexual violence against men is a huge problem. Everybody has heard the women's stories. But nobody has heard the men's."
It's not just in East Africa that these stories remain unheard. One of the few academics to have looked into the issue in any detail is Lara Stemple, of the University of California's Health and Human Rights Law Project. Her study Male Rape and Human Rights notes incidents of male sexual violence as a weapon of wartime or political aggression in countries such as Chile, Greece, Croatia, Iran, Kuwait, the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia. Twenty-one per cent of Sri Lankan males who were seen at a London torture treatment centre reported sexual abuse while in detention. In El Salvador, 76% of male political prisoners surveyed in the 1980s described at least one incidence of sexual torture. A study of 6,000 concentration-camp inmates in Sarajevo found that 80% of men reported having been raped.

I've come to Kampala to hear the stories of the few brave men who have agreed to speak to me: a rare opportunity to find out about a controversial and deeply taboo issue. In Uganda, survivors are at risk of arrest by police, as they are likely to assume that they're gay – a crime in this country and in 38 of the 53 African nations. They will probably be ostracised by friends, rejected by family and turned away by the UN and the myriad international NGOs that are equipped, trained and ready to help women. They are wounded, isolated and in danger. In the words of Owiny: "They are despised."
But they are willing to talk, thanks largely to the RLP's British director, Dr Chris Dolan. Dolan first heard of wartime sexual violence against men in the late 1990s while researching his PhD in northern Uganda, and he sensed that the problem might be dramatically underestimated. Keen to gain a fuller grasp of its depth and nature, he put up posters throughout Kampala in June 2009 announcing a "workshop" on the issue in a local school. On the day, 150 men arrived. In a burst of candour, one attendee admitted: "It's happened to all of us here." It soon became known among Uganda's 200,000-strong refugee population that the RLP were helping men who had been raped during conflict. Slowly, more victims began to come forward.
I meet Jean Paul on the hot, dusty roof of the RLP's HQ in Old Kampala. He wears a scarlet high-buttoned shirt and holds himself with his neck lowered, his eyes cast towards the ground, as if in apology for his impressive height. He has a prominent upper lip that shakes continually – a nervous condition that makes him appear as if he's on the verge of tears.

Jean Paul was at university in Congo, studying electronic engineering, when his father – a wealthy businessman – was accused by the army of aiding the enemy and shot dead. Jean Paul fled in January 2009, only to be abducted by rebels. Along with six other men and six women he was marched to a forest in the Virunga National Park.
Later that day, the rebels and their prisoners met up with their cohorts who were camped out in the woods. Small camp fires could be seen here and there between the shadowy ranks of trees. While the women were sent off to prepare food and coffee, 12 armed fighters surrounded the men. From his place on the ground, Jean Paul looked up to see the commander leaning over them. In his 50s, he was bald, fat and in military uniform. He wore a red bandana around his neck and had strings of leaves tied around his elbows.
"You are all spies," the commander said. "I will show you how we punish spies." He pointed to Jean Paul. "Remove your clothes and take a position like a Muslim man."
Jean Paul thought he was joking. He shook his head and said: "I cannot do these things."
The commander called a rebel over. Jean Paul could see that he was only about nine years old. He was told, "Beat this man and remove this clothes." The boy attacked him with his gun butt. Eventually, Jean Paul begged: "Okay, okay. I will take off my clothes." Once naked, two rebels held him in a kneeling position with his head pushed towards the earth.
At this point, Jean Paul breaks off. The shaking in his lip more pronounced than ever, he lowers his head a little further and says: "I am sorry for the things I am going to say now." The commander put his left hand on the back of his skull and used his right to beat him on the backside "like a horse". Singing a witch doctor song, and with everybody watching, the commander then began. The moment he started, Jean Paul vomited.
Eleven rebels waited in a queue and raped Jean Paul in turn. When he was too exhausted to hold himself up, the next attacker would wrap his arm under Jean Paul's hips and lift him by the stomach. He bled freely: "Many, many, many bleeding," he says, "I could feel it like water." Each of the male prisoners was raped 11 times that night and every night that followed.
On the ninth day, they were looking for firewood when Jean Paul spotted a huge tree with roots that formed a small grotto of shadows. Seizing his moment, he crawled in and watched, trembling, as the rebel guards searched for him. After five hours of watching their feet as they hunted for him, he listened as they came up with a plan: they would let off a round of gunfire and tell the commander that Jean Paul had been killed. Eventually he emerged, weak from his ordeal and his diet of only two bananas per day during his captivity. Dressed only in his underpants, he crawled through the undergrowth "slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly, like a snake" back into town.
chris-dolan-refugee-law-project "The organisations working on sexual violence don't talk about it:" Chris Dolan, director of the Refugee Law Project. Photograph: Will Storr for the Observer
Today, despite his hospital treatment, Jean Paul still bleeds when he walks. Like many victims, the wounds are such that he's supposed to restrict his diet to soft foods such as bananas, which are expensive, and Jean Paul can only afford maize and millet. His brother keeps asking what's wrong with him. "I don't want to tell him," says Jean Paul. "I fear he will say: 'Now, my brother is not a man.'"

It is for this reason that both perpetrator and victim enter a conspiracy of silence and why male survivors often find, once their story is discovered, that they lose the support and comfort of those around them. In the patriarchal societies found in many developing countries, gender roles are strictly defined.
"In Africa no man is allowed to be vulnerable," says RLP's gender officer Salome Atim. "You have to be masculine, strong. You should never break down or cry. A man must be a leader and provide for the whole family. When he fails to reach that set standard, society perceives that there is something wrong."
Often, she says, wives who discover their husbands have been raped decide to leave them. "They ask me: 'So now how am I going to live with him? As what? Is this still a husband? Is it a wife?' They ask, 'If he can be raped, who is protecting me?' There's one family I have been working closely with in which the husband has been raped twice. When his wife discovered this, she went home, packed her belongings, picked up their child and left. Of course that brought down this man's heart."
Back at RLP I'm told about the other ways in which their clients have been made to suffer. Men aren't simply raped, they are forced to penetrate holes in banana trees that run with acidic sap, to sit with their genitals over a fire, to drag rocks tied to their penis, to give oral sex to queues of soldiers, to be penetrated with screwdrivers and sticks. Atim has now seen so many male survivors that, frequently, she can spot them the moment they sit down. "They tend to lean forward and will often sit on one buttock," she tells me. "When they cough, they grab their lower regions. At times, they will stand up and there's blood on the chair. And they often have some kind of smell."
Because there has been so little research into the rape of men during war, it's not possible to say with any certainty why it happens or even how common it is – although a rare 2010 survey, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 22% of men and 30% of women in Eastern Congo reported conflict-related sexual violence. As for Atim, she says: "Our staff are overwhelmed by the cases we've got, but in terms of actual numbers? This is the tip of the iceberg."
Later on I speak with Dr Angella Ntinda, who treats referrals from the RLP. She tells me: "Eight out of 10 patients from RLP will be talking about some sort of sexual abuse."
"Eight out of 10 men?" I clarify.
"No. Men and women," she says.
"What about men?"
"I think all the men."
I am aghast.
"All of them?" I say.
"Yes," she says. "All the men."
The research by Lara Stemple at the University of California doesn't only show that male sexual violence is a component of wars all over the world, it also suggests that international aid organisations are failing male victims. Her study cites a review of 4,076 NGOs that have addressed wartime sexual violence. Only 3% of them mentioned the experience of men in their literature. "Typically," Stemple says, "as a passing reference."
congolese rape victim“One man was told: ‘We have a programme for vulnerable women but not men”: a Congolese rape victim. Photograph: Will Storr for the Observer On my last night I arrive at the house of Chris Dolan. We're high on a hill, watching the sun go down over the neighbourhoods of Salama Road and Luwafu, with Lake Victoria in the far distance. As the air turns from blue to mauve to black, a muddled galaxy of white, green and orange bulbs flickers on; a pointillist accident spilled over distant valleys and hills. A magnificent hubbub rises from it all. Babies screaming, children playing, cicadas, chickens, songbirds, cows, televisions and, floating above it all, the call to prayer at a distant mosque.
Stemple's findings on the failure of aid agencies is no surprise to Dolan. "The organisations working on sexual and gender-based violence don't talk about it," he says. "It's systematically silenced. If you're very, very lucky they'll give it a tangential mention at the end of a report. You might get five seconds of: 'Oh and men can also be the victims of sexual violence.' But there's no data, no discussion."
As part of an attempt to correct this, the RLP produced a documentary in 2010 called Gender Against Men. When it was screened, Dolan says that attempts were made to stop him. "Were these attempts by people in well-known, international aid agencies?" I ask.
"Yes," he replies. "There's a fear among them that this is a zero-sum game; that there's a pre-defined cake and if you start talking about men, you're going to somehow eat a chunk of this cake that's taken them a long time to bake." Dolan points to a November 2006 UN report that followed an international conference on sexual violence in this area of East Africa.
"I know for a fact that the people behind the report insisted the definition of rape be restricted to women," he says, adding that one of the RLP's donors, Dutch Oxfam, refused to provide any more funding unless he'd promise that 70% of his client base was female. He also recalls a man whose case was "particularly bad" and was referred to the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR. "They told him: 'We have a programme for vulnerable women, but not men.'"
It reminds me of a scene described by Eunice Owiny: "There is a married couple," she said. "The man has been raped, the woman has been raped. Disclosure is easy for the woman. She gets the medical treatment, she gets the attention, she's supported by so many organisations. But the man is inside, dying."
"In a nutshell, that's exactly what happens," Dolan agrees. "Part of the activism around women's rights is: 'Let's prove that women are as good as men.' But the other side is you should look at the fact that men can be weak and vulnerable."
Margot Wallström, the UN special representative of the secretary-general for sexual violence in conflict, insists in a statement that the UNHCR extends its services to refugees of both genders. But she concedes that the "great stigma" men face suggests that the real number of survivors is higher than that reported. Wallström says the focus remains on women because they are "overwhelmingly" the victims. Nevertheless, she adds, "we do know of many cases of men and boys being raped."
But when I contact Stemple by email, she describes a "constant drum beat that women are the rape victims" and a milieu in which men are treated as a "monolithic perpetrator class".
"International human rights law leaves out men in nearly all instruments designed to address sexual violence," she continues. "The UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000 treats wartime sexual violence as something that only impacts on women and girls… Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently announced $44m to implement this resolution. Because of its entirely exclusive focus on female victims, it seems unlikely that any of these new funds will reach the thousands of men and boys who suffer from this kind of abuse. Ignoring male rape not only neglects men, it also harms women by reinforcing a viewpoint that equates 'female' with 'victim', thus hampering our ability to see women as strong and empowered. In the same way, silence about male victims reinforces unhealthy expectations about men and their supposed invulnerability."
Considering Dolan's finding that "female rape is significantly underreported and male rape almost never", I ask Stemple if, following her research, she believes it might be a hitherto unimagined part of all wars. "No one knows, but I do think it's safe to say that it's likely that it's been a part of many wars throughout history and that taboo has played a part in the silence."
As I leave Uganda, there's a detail of a story that I can't forget. Before receiving help from the RLP, one man went to see his local doctor. He told him he had been raped four times, that he was injured and depressed and his wife had threatened to leave him. The doctor gave him a Panadol.
Survivors' names have been changed and identities hidden for their protection. The Refugee Law Project is a partner organisation of Christian Aid (christianaid.org.uk)

Copyright  Will Storr

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

What is Incest?

Incest is sexual intercourse or other sexual acts such as fondling, molestation, exhibitionism and sexual abuse, either physical or emotional, when it occurs between family members. 

It can affect both males and females and more than one member of the family can be abused.
It is not, and should not be confused with, the normal physical affectionate contact which is essential in a loving family relationship.
Who Abuses?
Sexual abuse happens in families of every social and economic background and the perpetrators of the abuse are often in other ways normal, upstanding members of society. Though women do offend, the majority of known perpetrators are men. The abusers can be parents, grandparents, step-parents, uncles and brothers etc. They are all people with whom the person would have a trusting relationship. Children are particularly trusting making it easy for them to betricked into sexual activity. Perpetrators know this and take advantage of these vulnerabilities. Children may or may not feel that what is happening to them is wrong, but are often tricked or convinced into secrecy by the offender. Children don’t tell for various reasons - fear, threats that they or someone else they love will be harmed if they tell, fear of not being believed or fear of getting a perpetrator whom they love into trouble. Sometimes the only ‘loving’ contact the child has is the abusive contact and they may not want to lose this. Sometimes the young child does not realise that what is occurring is wrong until later on in life.
The person affected by an incestuous relationship is often afraid to tell because of the disruption and stigma the revelation may cause to the family unit e.g. Daddy may have to live somewhere else or the children may be taken into care. Incest can become the family secret. Incestuous behaviour can carry on from one generation to the next e.g. father abuses daughter and then goes on to abuse granddaughter. Sometimes the entire family may need counselling in order to break the cycle.

Fear perpetuates secrecy, secrecy perpetuates abuse.
  • Loss of trust – it can be difficult for victims who have been abused to trust enough to form close relationships.
  • They may have low self-esteem and may have difficulty with schoolwork or job performance. Alternatively, they can become super achievers. They can become obsessive about being the best – top of the class, top achiever in the workplace etc.
  • They can be hypervigilent – like a frightened deer watching out for predators.
  • They may bury the memory of the abuse which may then surface years later possibly at some emotional time in their lives e.g. following marriage, the birth of a baby, or even coverage of sexual abuse on a T.V programme or in a newspaper.
  • They may suffer from flashbacks in which memories of the abuse can surface suddenly, often triggered by a smell or sensation. Flashbacks can be very frightening, but they can be a sign that the trauma is coming to the surface, and hopefully some healing can occur. This is a time when professional support can be valuable.
People who are survivors of sexual abuse are indeed people with a lot of courage, strength and bravery whether they realise it or not. It takes courage to confront what has happened to you and a lot of support is needed while you are doing this. With the help of counselling, people can talk about the abuse and, by experiencing and expressing their deepest feelings, can gradually make sense of the chaos, so that hopefully they can learn to trust and let go of the past so that they may have a full and healthy life.

It is important to understand that only the person themselves can decide if and when they are ready to talk about their abuse.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Prevalence and incidence of child abuse and neglect in Britain #childabuse via @NSPCC



Key child protection statistics

June 2012

Statistics homepage

  • Approximately 50,500 children in the UK are known to be at risk of abuse right now.
  • One in four young adults (25.3%) were severely maltreated during childhood.

We do not know exactly how many children in the UK have been abused.

The UK does not publish statistics on the number of substantiated child abuse cases recorded every year (this would be the incidence of child abuse).

Official statistics

The number of children on child protection registers or the subject of child protection plans tells us how many children are known to be at risk of abuse right now.

This is not the same as knowing how many children have been abused.

Research indicates that abuse and neglect are both under-reported and under-recorded.

Below are the most recent figures.

  • Approximately 50,500 children in the UK are known to be at risk of abuse right now.
  • Latest available figures show that there were 50,552 children on child protection registers or the subject of child protection plans in the UK as at 31 March 2011 (or 31 July 2011 in Scotland):England: 42,700
    Northern Ireland: 2,571
    Scotland: 2,880
    Wales: 2,401
For a breakdown by category of abuse and for the source of these figures please visit our page on child protection register statistics.

Research statistics

Research studies tell us the proportion of children who suffer abuse (this is known as the prevalence of child abuse).

Child abuse and neglect in the UK today (Radford et al, 2011) is a major piece of NSPCC research which interviewed 1,761 young adults aged 18-24 years; 2,275 children aged 11-17 years and 2,160 parents of children aged under 11.

Below are some key findings.

Severe maltreatment
  • One in four young adults (25.3%) had been severely maltreated during childhood.
  • Around one in five (18.6%) children aged 11-17 have been severely maltreated.
  • One in seven young adults (14.5%) had been severely maltreated by a parent or guardian during childhood.
  • More than one in eight children aged 11-17 (13.4%) have experienced severe maltreatment by a parent or guardian.

Sexual abuse

  • Nearly a quarter of young adults (24.1%) experienced sexual abuse (including contact and non-contact) by an adult or by a peer during childhood.
  • One in six children aged 11-17 (16.5%) have experienced sexual abuse.
  • Almost one in 10 children aged 11-17 (9.4%) have experienced sexual abuse in the past year. Teenage girls aged between 15 and 17 years reported the highest past year rates of sexual abuse.
See our sexual abuse statistics pages for more information.

Physical violence

  • One in nine young adults (11.5%) had experienced severe physical violence during childhood at the hands of an adult.
  • One in 14 children aged 11-17 (6.9%) have experienced severe physical violence at the hands of an adult.
See our physical abuse statistics pages for more information.


  • Neglect was the most prevalent type of maltreatment in the family for all age groups.
  • One in six young adults (16%) had been neglected at some point in their childhoods and nearly one in ten (9%) had experienced severe neglect.
  • One in seven children aged 11-17 (13.3%) have been neglected. Almost one in ten (9.8%) have experienced severe neglect.
See our neglect statistics pages for more information.

Emotional abuse
  • One in 14 young adults (6.9%) experienced emotional abuse during childhood.
  • One in 14 children aged 11-17 (6.8%) have experienced emotional abuse.

Experiencing domestic abuse

  • Nearly one in four young adults (23.7%) were exposed to domestic violence between adults in their homes during childhood.
  • Just under one in five children aged 11-17 (17.5%) have experienced domestic violence between adults in their homes.
See our domestic abuse statistics pages for more information.

  • More than one in five children aged 11-17 (22.9%) who were physically hurt by a parent or guardian did not tell anyone else about it.
  • More than one in three children aged 11-17 (34%) who experienced contact sexual abuse by an adult did not tell anyone else about it.
  • Four out of five children aged 11-17 (82.7%) who experienced contact sexual abuse from a peer did not tell anyone else about it.
From: Radford, Lorraine, Corral, Susana, Bradley, Christine, Fisher, Helen, Bassett, Claire, Howat, Nick and Collishaw, Stephan (2011) Child abuse and neglect in the UK today . London: NSPCC.


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