National Coming Out Day

 

I told my mom I was a lesbian when I was 16. My mom told me "as long as you are happy, who am I to tell you who to love?" My mother and I became closer and are still close 8 years later.

(Photo Courtesy of Whisper and Huff Post – see link below)

My hope as an educator and ally is if you know a young person (or an old person!) in your world who identifies as LGBT or Q, you respect and appreciate them for the person they are.

For information about National Coming Out Day, and to see more cool quotes, click on this link:  National Coming Out Day 2014: LGBT Whisper Users On Acknowledging Their Sexuality In The Open by Curtis Wong.

Also, check out this link to the Human Rights CampaignIt explains why today is important and also features a pretty cool (short!) video.

Coming Out Day -

It matters.

Let’s change the channel.

 

Photo courtesy of StopBully.gov

Photo courtesy of StopBullying.gov

Bullying….something we hope our children don’t experience – or instigate. Even if they do not experience bullying directly, 56% of students have been bystanders and witnessed bullying in the school setting. (The Family Place Be Project.org) Odds are, your child or their friends will indeed be effected by bullying. With the school year just beginning, now is a good time to be armed with strategies to assist the young person in your life when faced with this issue.

Bullying occurs when a person or persons repeatedly harms or threatens another person either verbally, physically, emotionally, or socially. This can be done directly (hitting, teasing, threatening) or indirectly (starting rumors, leaving someone out on purpose).

I won’t waste our time going through all the effects bullying can have on a person. We all know it can increase anxiety and depression. It can decrease self-esteem. The child may not want to attend school, and is likely to skip PE. (Guess where a lot of bullying takes place while in school?)

……………And the effects can last a lifetime.

So what do we do?

1. Labeling people as “bullies” and “victims” is not a great idea. Labeling a person implies this is who they are and who they will always be, and we don’t want these young people to carry that label into adulthood – we want them to grow into confident, compassionate humans.

2. Model empathy and kindness. Avoid disparaging remarks about others, especially those who identify as a minority within your community; someone who is “different” than you as far as race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, or economic status. Typically these individuals become the targets of those that bully.

3. Understand the social messages that inundate our society.  Reality shows frequently model belittling between individuals. I just don’t find that entertaining; in fact, I find it hurtful and painful to watch. The message we send to people, regardless of age, is that by insulting others, people can appear more confident and powerful. The truth is, the person doing the belittling is probably dealing with their own feelings of insecurity, or have experienced bullying themselves. They haven’t learned social skills that enable them to communicate effectively without using hurtful messages. We also hear controlling messages in music, and experience less-than-friendly rivalry with certain sporting events, such as wrestling. (Bullying statistics.org) Start a conversation with your young person about these messages.

4. Focus on positive behavior. When you see a young person being kind to someone, remark on it. However focus on what the child did and what the outcome was, not how you feel about what the child just did. For example, “I noticed you help Richard get away from Tom when he was teased. He looked relieved.” (Guidelines for Effective Discussions About Bullying.) That can inspire the child to be kind because it makes HIM feel good about his actions, not because it makes YOU feel good or proud.

5. Talk about bullying. Explain bullying is never okay, and that it is important to tell an adult if it happens to them or a peer. According to stopbullying.gov, give them strategies such as telling the person doing the bullying to stop – but do not confront – then walk away. Or disarm him with humor, then walk away. Or just walk away. (Get the pattern here?) An adult should be informed – or tell friends – so s/he won’t feel so alone. Walk in groups of friends or stick by adults, since it isn’t is likely to happen if there are adults around.

6. Look for tell-tale signs that your child may be having problems. Classic signs include increased anxiety and depression, falling grades, or feeling “too sick” to go to school. Locker room bullying before and after PE class, as well as during class, is common. Playground bullying as well as during intramural sports are other typical bully opportunities. If your child or student refuses to dress for PE, attend PE class, or decides they no longer want to play on a team or go out for recess, red flags should be going up.*

7. Be there for your child. Ask them open-ended questions about their day. Ask who they hang with, eat with, talk to. Show them you are there for them.

8. Many kids are bystanders, that is, they witness the bullying, but don’t know what to do. I totally get that. There is a fear of becoming a victim themselves. But when that happens, the person who bullies has an audience, which they like, and they also take the silence as approval and encouragement. So let’s have them try these strategies offered by Stan Davis of StopBullyingNow.org and StopBullying.gov.

  • Help the person being bullied escape by telling him he is needed elsewhere and then walking out with him.
  • If someone is sharing a rumor, change the subject.
  • Do not spread rumors, and tell friends to not share rumors as well.
  • Spend time with or become friends with the person who is being bullied so they don’t feel alone.
  • Tell a trusted adult.

9. One other interesting tidbit to keep in mind. According to Bullying Prevention of the State of Maine and Stan Davis, encouraging a student to talk with the person who bullied  them to explain how they feel is a big no-no. By telling that person they feel hurt, sad, mad…whatever… s/he has gained power over their target that they were seeking – their bullying worked! It won’t stop the behavior, in fact it may make the problem worse. Remember, this isn’t a squabble between two friends.

In summary, the only way to stop bullying is to make it socially unacceptable.

This goes beyond “it’s not nice” to bully. How can we change our social constructs so that good deeds demand more of our focus than negativity? TV, music, movies, sports, news, daily conversation…..be aware of the subtle messages our youth are receiving. We can’t change what is on TV, but we can change the channel.

IMG_3474

*Roman, C., & Taylor, C. (2013). A Multilevel Assessment of School Climate, Bullying Victimization, and Physical Activity. Journal of School Health, 83(6), 400-407.

Sorry Mom

Originally posted on TeenWorldConfidential:

Construction Zone! 

I am revamping my website and have not had time to write much! Please enjoy this post – it is one of my first posts on TeenWorldConfidential. 

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Sorry Mom

Sorry Mom

So, my youngest daughter is studying abroad in Australia. What a great experience, right? For spring break, she asked if we would mind if she went on an adventure trip with some of her friends. “Sure!” I said….”just no scuba diving, bungee-jumping, or skydiving.” (Did I mention this was an ADVENTURE tour?). She agreed. Kind of. I think what she said was, “Oh, Mom. You don’t need to worry about me!”  About two weeks later she sends me this photo. If you look carefully, her hands read, “SORRY MOM”. (You can click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Yup. As parents we want the best for our children. We want them to be healthy, productive members of society…

View original 423 more words

Let’s Talk: Sexually Assaulted Males.

Males who are sexually assaulted may feel distressed, confused, and isolated.

Males who are sexually assaulted may feel distressed, confused, and isolated.

Society tends to place a greater eye on female victimization when it comes to rape and sexual assault. I get that. It’s pretty scary to think about the physical strength of a male vs. the strength of a female and the odds of defending herself. There’s a bit of testosterone involved.

However……

Females are not the only victims of rape, and we are doing society a disservice by neglecting this important reality.

As we know, instances of sexual assault and rape are markedly underreported for many reasons. According to the National Institute of Justice, these are some of the more common reasons that men and women do not report sexual abuse:

  • shame
  • embarrassment
  • lack of support by authorities
  • humiliation
  • distrust of legal system
  • guilt
  • privacy
  • fear of retribution
  • afraid of what others will think

Consider this: what if a male is physically or psychologically forced into having sex, either by a man or woman? There is an untruth that all guys “want it”, so males cannot be raped. Another fallacy is if a man is raped, he must identify as gay. Imagine how difficult it would be to report the assault when the societal assumptions about male sexuality are so skewed.

According to Sally Strosahl, M.A., LCPC, this situation is more common than we realize, and the psychological effects on the male victim can be devastating, just as it is for other sexes (female and intersex*). She relayed the following story about a high school male with whom she had the privilege to counsel.

“Mike (not his real name) began to close himself off from friends and family. He often retreated to his bedroom after dinner rather than engage with the family as he usually had in the past. His appetite decreased as well and he began to lose weight.
Mike, who is typically upbeat and easygoing, suddenly became surly and easily irritated. As his personality continued down a negative path, his parents recognized this as an indicator of depression and sought out my therapeutic services.
After the first couple of sessions, he began sharing personal details about his relationship with his girlfriend. She was a bit older; a senior in contrast to his sophomore status.
Mike wasn’t quite ready for a sexual relationship, though he did enjoy time spent together. However, his girlfriend had different ideas and wanted to engage in sexual activity with this young man. Using psychological coercion, she forced him into a physically intimate relationship despite his preference to wait until he was ready.
Using threats such as, “ If you don’t have sex with me, I’ll tell everyone you have a small penis” or derogatory statements such as, “I don’t know why I bother going out with you. You have no idea how lucky you are to have me.” She was psychologically abusive by taking advantage of his vulnerability. Mentally beating Mike down, his “girlfriend” coerced him to have sex – otherwise knows as rape. However, this young woman soon grew bored with him and broke it off, possibly going on to her next sexual conquest.
After several sessions of therapeutic work, he slowly came to understand that he was a victim of rape, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. Eventually he met a new girl – his age – and has a healthy relationship thanks to the hard work this young man went through with counseling and with the support of his parents.

I want to emphasize that as awful as rape and sexual assault is for a victim, not getting the appropriate psychological help to recover can make the situation infinitely worse. I encourage all victims of abuse – sexual or other – to seek help. It is not your fault – no matter if you are male or female. Get help.”

Sexual assault of men is real. Because of the social stigma attached to it, reporting is incredibly low. According to the Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine,  61% of all rapes are not reported. Male-only statistics are harder to come by because of the lack of reporting. Being aware that this actually occurs is the first step in advocating for these individuals.

Here are some telling statistics according to The Campus Sexual Assault Study researched by RTI International.

Since entering a college campus…

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 12.09.08 PM

We are all familiar with the media accounts of men in power who have sexually assaulted and abused young boys and men. Religious leaders, teachers, a university football coach … all using their authority to coerce males for their sexual pleasure and/or to demonstrate their dominance. But women can do the same.

I happened upon this interesting article When Men Are Raped by Hanna Rosin as I was finishing up this blog post. For further investigation about men who are sexually assaulted, I recommend this article.

Would you like more information or support? Please go to these links. You are NOT alone.

RAINN

Pandora’s Project

1 In 6

Men Can Stop Rape

Band Back Together

Universities also offer support and counseling. Please, go talk to someone. It’s not your fault.

With counseling, sexual assault victims will find their path blooming with hope.

With counseling, sexual assault victims will find their path blooming with hope.

(*Intersex: A person is born with ambiguous male and female anatomy – external as well as internal. Sometimes it is obvious at birth, other times it isn’t noticed until puberty, and sometimes a person never knows! There are several medical conditions associated with being intersex, including Turner Syndrome and Klinefelter Syndrome. This has nothing to do with sexual orientation. See my blog for more information about different types of identities. Facebook You Have Set A Great Example.)

The Global Impact of Making a Friend

 

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Cook - World Trade Center, NYC

Photo courtesy of Jennifer S. Cook – World Trade Center, NYC

Comprehensive sexual health education isn’t just about condoms and STI’s. If you have been following my blog, you realize lately I’ve been touching on issues such as decision-making, domestic violence, and healthy relationships. These topics are all under the umbrella of “personal safety” within the construct of comprehensive sex ed.

Personal safety also includes the topic of bullying. I have written a blog regarding bullying that is ready to post, however I happened upon this Ted Talk yesterday and felt the urgency to share it today instead.

Zac Ebrahim: I am the son of a terrorist. Here’s how I chose peace.

Yes, take a minute to think about this Talk. Incredibly inspiring, isn’t it?

Despite being raised, mentored, and indoctrinated into a belief system of violence and terror, and despite bullied incessantly throughout his school career, Mr. Ebrahim came to understand that bloodshed and cruelty are not the answer. He lives his life on the very basic humanistic rule….The Golden Rule:

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.

And what changed the trajectory of his life? One friend. One friend who happened to be Jewish. One friend he had been led to believe would be his mortal enemy merely because he was Jewish. One friend who was “different” than him – and then another friend, then another –  who made him realize we are all just people who pretty much just want to enjoy and live life like everyone else. Yet it was his weary mother who finally gave him permission to follow his intrinsic awareness of compassion v. hatred – “I’m so tired of hating people” she told him. A simple, profound, and yet freeing statement.

There are so many layers to his story – so many components we could peel away and analyze: bullying, terrorism, education, raising children, world experiences, perspectives of others… But to me there are two resounding messages I would like to encourage people, especially impressionable adolescents, to consider.

  • One message I would like to emphasize is to get out into the world and meet people who are “different” than you…different cultures, different sexual orientation, different spiritual beliefs, different skin color. If you have the opportunity, travel to different countries. You will find the differences are what make people interesting. It will challenge your perspective and help you grow as an enlightened, compassionate person.
  • The other message is to treat others with kindness and compassion. You just never know how your behavior toward another person can make a difference  – not just personally, but even globally. If people are busy thinking about ways to be compassionate and kindhearted, they will be less likely to be plotting ways to bully or demean.

                (And yes, this is what is taught in comprehensive sex ed. Surprised?)

In this day of remembrance, and everyday, show kindness to those you come across.

All it takes is a smile.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 9.51.03 AM

 

It’s a Human Issue

 

People in abusive relationships need support and resources...but often feel isolated and alone.

People in abusive relationships need support and resources…but often feel isolated and alone.

 

We know it happens. It happens all the time. Women. Children. Men. Wealthy. Poor. Highly-educated. Illiterate. Religious. Atheist. Gay. Straight. Black. White. Every shade in between. Doesn’t matter.

We’ve seen it in movies, on TV. But that’s not “real” life, we think. Entertainment.

Then it becomes real. For everyone. On news shows, sports shows, internet – you name it. We witness the sudden, reflexive act of violence. But the raw, indifferent abuse continues on this incapacitated woman as her fiancé unapologetically drags her from the elevator to the hall. Remorse? Regret? Concern? Nah. Not at all. No panic, no regard for her well-being is demonstrated. Clearly this is not that big a deal to him. Think this has happened before? Uh, yeah. I’m betting.

It is so easy for people on the outside looking in to wonder “Why did she marry him? Why is she with him?’. It’s an incredibly complex issue. It starts and ends with the mind, not the fist. Those who abuse. Those who are abused.

It’s power. It’s insecurity. It’s manipulation. It’s dangerous.

It’s inexcusable. Yet, it happens.

1.3 million women a year are abused by a domestic partner….as far as we know. Domestic abuse, as with rape, is underreported because the burden of conviction is excruciating and frustrating. The added complexities of domestic abuse – fear, insecurity, financial dependence, safety, and even love – make it difficult for victims of abuse to escape their situation. This needs to change. Though it hurts my heart that this women’s personal life has taken the media by storm – without her permission – I do believe it will be used as an impetus for change.

And I have a feeling we are on the cusp of big change.

But change can’t happen unless we – as a community of humane individuals – become vocal against this unacceptable behavior.

Speak up.

                   Be aware.

                                 Listen to your inner voice.

                                               Become informed.

Keep the conversation going….stop the silence of shame, judgement, and blame.

MEN – I’m speaking to you, too. This is NOT a woman’s issue.

It’s a family issue, a community issue, a human issue.

Watch this TedTalk video for an inside look at domestic violence. Remember – it may not be you or your partner, but it could be your friend, family, neighbor….or your child.

Leslie Morgan Steiner

 

Domestic abuse is not okay. We know that. Yet, it continues to happen.

If. You. Think. Someone. Is. Being. Abused…..SAY SOMETHING.

If. You. Know. Someone. Is. Being. Abused…..DO SOMETHING.

For more information, or to get help or advice, please click on the following links:

  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline:
    1-800-799-7233
    thehotline.org