Friday, 7 April 2017

World Health Day

Today marks World Health Day.

According to the World Health Organisation, depression is now the leading cause of illness and disability worldwide.  This fact does not shock me in the slightest.  However, according to a study conducted in the Eastern part of Germany, despite an increase in mental health literacy amongst the general public, they still prefer to distance themselves from people with major depression and schizophrenia. Education is key!

Theresa May announced that there would be mental health support in our schools, workplaces and communities. However, this is not the first time the government has made promises to improve education and support.

Over 90% of individuals who complete suicide had diagnosed mental health issues. There is not enough being done to help those who are struggling.  Suicide is the second largest cause of death in 15-29 year olds.

According to Disability News Service, more than 220 member groups of mental health networks have closed in two years. These groups are user led and volunteer run.

Very soon, the mental health centre in Stoke Newington will be closing due to extortionate rent hikes.  Patients and GPs had not been made aware of this.

£800m that was set aside to assist NHS mental health services has allegedly been sacrificed in order to "balance the books" of the NHS.

The NHS is still struggling to improve services available to youngsters.

In Canada, 85% of homeless youths are struggling with mental health issues.

Globally, mental health is given lower priority and fewer resources compared to physical health.

75 million people in India suffer from mental health issues yet the psychiatrist to patient ratio is 1:343,000.

Benefits assessors are being told to discriminate against those suffering with mental health issues.

People are talking more about mental health which is wonderful. However, with the stigma still attached and the lack of funding around the world, this global epidemic does not look set to change for a very long time.

How can you help?

Mind lists a number of resources available for those supporting someone with a mental health issue.

Educate yourself on mental health issues. Don't bother with sensationalist media. Read journal articles. There are many available for free online. Read personal blogs. Join groups on Facebook.

Become an ally.

Stop the stigma.

Raise your voice out loud. Petition your government. Lend an ear to someone in need.

If we stop fighting, things will only get worse. Now is the time to stand up and be counted.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Survivor Shaming (Victim Blaming) CONTENT WARNING

I read an article today in the Metro pertaining to a survivor of the Rotherham Sex Gangs and her son. As I often do, I decided to also read the comments (WHY DO I DO THIS?!) and engaged in a conversation with one particular commenter.

Below you will see the conversation. I have redacted names and comments from others.

THEM: She was in love with him? WTF?
It's all wrong but political correctness lead by the Labour Gov't extended the abuse by these gangs long after it should have ended.
At 14/15 I would hope that most girls could distinguish between love and abuse.
She aborted once but then got pregnant soon after then admits she thought they were in LOVE?
That says it all.

ME: If you have never been in that position you have no idea what it is like!

THEM: That's true but that's my opinion. Also the critique about the Labour Gov't is fact as the inquiry showed.
When I was that age I was studying for my O Grades and working straight after school every night as were my sisters. We had no time for that.

ME: I didn't disagree about the government involvement/corruption but your opinion on how she ought to have realised it wasn't love is incredibly damaging to survivors of this kind of abuse.

THEM: I don't see it as damaging if other young girls realise that grooming isn't love if they see this discussion here or somewhere else and it makes sense.
I'm not blaming the victims for this, I'm highlighting that fact that they believed that grooming was love and continued abusive relationships like this.I wonder how much of her reasoning is based on the need to ameliorate the circumstances under which the son was born to make him (son) and herself feel better.

ME: She was a child! You say you are not victim blaming yet you are also suggesting that she should have known better. As a survivor of abuse, I know first hand how abusers can grind you down. It isn't easy for a person to see outside of their own situation in cases like these. Your thoughts are not your own. No person willingly enters into an abusive relationship.

THEM: She should have been warned about the grooming gangs by her parents. From what I've learned from the inquiry many parents of victims tried to warn their kids but couldn't stop them going out and getting abused. How much was due to child like innocence and how much due to stupidity?

ME: Or rather how much was due do dangerous and manipulative individuals?

THEM: I would guess if all these girls were at home studying and watching tv then none of this would have taken place on the scale it did. As a father of a daughter the same age I can guarantee she will never be groomed or fall into an abusive relationship. I warned her from an early age the dangers of grooming. She has told me of every incidence of paedophiles and other idiots approaching her on social media and real life and I've reported them to CEOP and the Met.

ME: I was abused as a young teen and then got involved in an abusive relationship as a young adult. Is that my own fault? I am above average in intellect and by your logic you would think having been through it once I would be able to avoid it again in the future right? Abusers don't wear signs. They look the same as everyone else. They manipulate a person into believing their lies. I suggest you look up gaslighting. As I said earlier, until you have been through it, you have no idea.

THEM: I will reply to this when I get back in the house.


THEM: I am very aware of the results of sexual, physical and mental abuse. I have dealt with the fallout of abuse of close friends and family and none of them described it as love which is the point I was making. Just because you suffered during your younger years doesn't mean that you have to keep reliving that life and keep suffering.

ME: Second hand knowledge is no where near the same as first hand experience.
I was too young in the first instance to realise what my abuser was doing and how wrong it was. He had me convinced that if I told anyone then I would be blamed.
In the second instance, I truly was in love with my abuser. I believed him every time he said he wouldn't do it again. My heart broke every time he wept an apology. I wanted to believe that he wouldn't do it again. Every time. For two years.
Predators are unlike "ordinary" people. They live to manipulate and control and they are very good at it.

THEM: I get what you're saying, I do. I was told by a psychiatrist that people who've suffered that kind of abuse shouldn't tell their loved ones about it, by that I mean new partners and new friends because they can't help change the past and it leads to breakdowns in relationships and that's what I tell my close friends that have been through it. You owe it to yourself to learn from it and control the hurt it's caused and live a better life. That could mean steering your kids and friends away from the same malevolent people and behaviour. That's not meant to be patronising but I can't say it any other way. I feel sad for this lady in the story and I wasn't intentionally insulting her.

ME: I'm not sure who this psychiatrist was but they are incredibly wrong and probably ought to not be practicing! Talking about these sorts of things help to raise awareness.
I talk about my own abusive past in an attempt to help other survivors know that they are not alone. 

When you say "they can't help change the past" I don't get what you mean by that. The past is gone and can never be changed. Telling new friends/partners about my own abuse has never lead to a breakdown of the relationship.

Of course you ought to learn from past mistakes but as I stated earlier, predators are unlike "ordinary" people. They appear to be like everyone else on the outside and sometimes it can take many years to realise what they are doing/have done. You can educate as much as you like but these people can subvert even the most intelligent individuals. I know this because it has happened to me.
I had no doubt that you were not intentionally insulting this lady but words cause more damage than the intent behind them. You can do aboslutely everything in your power to protect those you love but sometimes it's just not enough. Sometimes the predators are simply too smart.

Victim blaming (or as I prefer to call it, survivor shaming) is absolutely everywhere. Practially all rape/abuse cases are reported with a sort of bias towards the survivor. What were they wearing? How much did they drink? What did they do to provoke it? etc. I'm sure you've seen it in the media. It happens too in the courtrooms.
As decent human beings, we ought to do our best to not shame the survivor. Sometimes that means we have to be really careful with the words that we use. I'm not at all having a go, just giving you the facts as a survivor of more than one incident. 

I will add to this if any more is said.

This is classic survivor shaming (victim blaming). I wanted to break down his responses and highlight exactly how he is survivor shaming but I just don't have enough spoons!
This person doesn't see their comments as damaging. Of course not. It's so much easier to blame the survivor. Why? 

Survivor shaming is not unique to rape survivors. Those who are bullied are questioned. People living in poverty are seen as lazy good-for-nothings. People with mental health issues are often blamed for having bad lifestyle choices (drunk/drugs etc). The list goes on. People even blame themselves when shit things happen to them!  

It's easy to blame the survivor for inviting these things into their own lives. If they truly were innocent then that means that BAD things happen to GOOD people and that just doesn't happen right RIGHT?? 

This is one of the reasons I struggle with "self help" stuff and NLP. These types of things often out the onus of the struggles onto the individual. I'm sure you've heard before "You get out what you put in" or "The universe can only return what you send out". This kind of thinking is also dangerous and destructive! 

The world can be an unsafe place, it is for many. It can also be unjust. I consider myself to be a good person. I've had many people tell me that they think I'm selfless or I do amazing things for those less fortunate than I. 

If the universe returned what I had sent out then surely by now I'm due some real good fortune? Instead I'm trying my damnedest to keep my head above water.

I don't think that the universe is out to get me. I know that I'm probably a bit too sensitive. I see a lot more than your average individual. Being so open leaves me open to the bad things as well as the good. 

People often say that one person can't change the world. They're wrong. One person could inspire someone else who in turn could inspire 10 more people and so on.
Instead of blaming people for the situation that they are in, why not see how you can help them change that situation?

One by one we can all change the world!

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Mind your language - CONTENT WARNING

I often feel an incessant need to correct people. It's almost like a tic. It comes out of my mouth without it being processed in my brain. I don't ever intend to demean a person when making a correction- I merely aim to educate.  There are better ways to do so, this blog for example, but I literally cannot stop myself.

There is an adjustment that I would urge people to make for the sake of others (potentially even themselves)

When referring to an individual who has been raped, please refrain from using the word "victim" as it can be very damaging.

Having been through such traumas at a rather young age and again as a young adult and more recently, I have personally come to find the term "victim" demeaning and oppressive. It's pitiful and tragic. As a person in general, I am neither of these things but that word made me feel all of them and worse. Victim is so finite.

As a young adult, I considered myself a rape "victim" and couldn't process my thoughts and feelings. I felt so small and insignificant and almost as if I had a sign above my head saying "rape victim".

Once I started using the term rape "survivor", I noticed a change in how I perceived myself and it truly helped my recovery. I have never got over being raped but it hurt a lot less until the most recent incident. The term survivor is empowering. It is uplifting. It gives us control!

Because of the uncertainty as to whether or not my most recent trauma was rape or consensual sex, I am unable to move beyond the incident and now that word "victim" is back to haunt me.

This is not much to ask of people really. I know that changing every day terminology is difficult, however, if you pay close attention to people who have been through this trauma, you will see the difference in their reaction to "victim" versus "survivor". I wouldn't encourage you to "test" this theory unless you have a high level of trust from the survivor although you could exchange the trauma and interchange the word victim with survivor and notice a reaction from someone entirely removed from the situation.

Words affect us all on an unconscious level. We don't even realise it until we change these words.

Survivor implies strength. It may not be felt by the individual but it sure will help.

Please note, there are individuals who will not consider themselves a survivor for many reasons. In this instance, you can offer the term survivor in a context relevant to the moment but it is not a word you should press on an individual especially if they are not ready. When in a neutral environment discussing rape, try to make a conscious effort to use the term survivor. Point out the word "victim" in a news article and let people know why they ought to change their words too. I imagine your level of tact to be somewhat greater than my own!! Those with lived experience of this kind of trauma, or indeed any trauma, may refer to themselves as they wish. As an outsider, you do not have that right.

Words matter.

Update 18 July 2017

I have recently launched a petition to encourage the media to refrain from using the term "victim". I would be grateful for signatures and shares.

For a visual representation of the differences between "Rape Victim" and "Rape Survivor" I have taken a screen grab of the Google Images search results for each phrase. See below.

Rape Victim

Rape Survivor