Visible Support for the Invisible Pain: Psychiatric Service Dogs and Sexual Assault Survivors

After completing an investigative inquiry on the relationship between sexual assault and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, I asked myself what a possible solution could be. Psychiatric Service Dogs were a possible solution that I discovered, yet they were not being used in any amount of mass popularity though they proved to be helpful in a victim’s healing process. This paper delves into the question, “Why are service dogs not widely used to improve the quality of life for sexual assault survivors?”

Visible Support for the Invisible Pain: Psychiatric Service Dogs and Sexual Assault Survivors

Over the past few decades, the mental health industry has grown in understanding phenomenally. Much of this is due to breakthroughs in medicine and technology. But what if there was a method of treatment that has been accessible for centuries, yet is ignored and underfunded in today’s society? One may ask how this could be, and the answer is capitalism. If this treatment is not an object “big pharma” can profit off, it has very little hope of widespread popularity without intentional awareness being brought to the public’s attention. Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs) have been proven to lessen symptoms of mental illness and allow their human companions to become less dependent on drugs, they show promise in improving the lives of sexual assault (SA) victims yet because of lack of research funding and the high cost of training the animal they are not widely used aside from military veterans suffering from PTSD.

Introduction of Psychiatric Service Dogs

A common image of a service dog is a seeing eye dog, yet there are many other disabilities that can be mitigated with the help of a service dog. Marshall specifies a PSD as the following: “A service dog trained individually to mitigate the effects of their disabled partner’s psychiatric disabilities by performing specific tasks” (Marshall, 1998). The intention of including PSDs in mental health treatment is to mitigate the handler’s symptoms and improve quality of life through independence (2012). There are different tasks a PSD can be trained to perform. One of the most relevant tasks is an alert, which is an extremely important action to many who suffer from seemingly random panic and anxiety attacks. An alert is an immediate and obvious change in the dog’s behavior, often manifesting in an act of barking, jumping, or pawing to attract the owner’s attention. The dog is trained to alert once they sense a rise in the handler’s blood pressure or heartrate, or sporadic breathing. An alert allows the handler to realize what is happening and to curb the effects before they become full blown (Marshal, 2012).  Reports were made specifying how have a service dog has changed a person’s life. One testimony being, “Robert discussed how even signing up for the training with Amy had pushed him to go back into public spaces and to attempt things that he had not been comfortable doing for years. He also discussed how having a goal to work towards gave him strength” (Marshall, 2012). Another testimony states the following, “I mean, it’s been life changing. It’s given me more of a clear path and direction as to where I want to be a few years from now. It’s given me more hope and light at the end of the tunnel. I can accomplish things; I can get back to some type of normalcy” (Marshall, 2012). Though these animals bring great joy, a “conservative estimate” of the number of PSD-handler teams determined by the PSDs equaled 10,000 (NIMH, 2017). This number is minute compared to the amount of PSDs that could possibly be used today.

Psychiatric Issues and Current Relations to PSDs

Mental disorders are prevalent in today’s society. Studies funded by the National Institute of Mental Health found that major mental disorders cost the nations at least $193 billion a year in lost earnings alone. Combined with disability benefits and health care expenditures, the total cost of major mental illness to the nation is over $300 billion a year. According to studies by the National Institute of Mental Health, 46.4% will be expected to experience a diagnosable mental disorder in their lifetime. Only 39.2% of those with a diagnosed disorder receive mental health services (2017). This should lead to asking the question, would PSDs lower this cost? PSDs are a small investment that could save this nation billions of dollars annually, yet private insurance agencies do not currently subsidize PSDs for mental health treatment though they have been proven to alleviate symptoms. This is worrisome as PSDs have been proven to be beneficial to those suffering from mental illness. Studies have been done to look at how PSDs may help those with PTSD.

Newton’s research found that:

“On July 22, 2009, Senator Al Franken introduced bill S. 1495, the Service Dogs for Veterans Act (SDVA) of 2009, as his first piece of legislation. The Act requires the VA to begin a three-year pilot program “to assess the benefits, feasibility, and advisability of using service dogs for the treatment or rehabilitation of veterans with physical or mental injuries or disabilities, including post-traumatic stress disorder.”

            Another issue those whom rely on PSDs face is discrimination due to the lack of visible disabilities. Due to the invisibility of mental illness and PTSD, PSDS are often discriminated against in public, illegally being barred from access to locations protected by the ADA. There is also no certification that proves a PSD is legitimate, and a rise in fake service dogs has caused suspicion against anyone who is not obviously handicap (Newton, 2014). In a study, Newton observed that, “Every participant had experienced having someone ask them to leave their place of business or tell them that they were unable to bring their dog with them inside. For some participants, it was a small inconvenience that could be dealt with either by going to another business that did not object or by explaining their legal rights to enter as the dogs were licensed service dogs (Newton, 2014).” This issue, though not wanted, should not effect how many people look to PSDs to improve their quality of life.

Sexual Assault and Psychiatric Disorders

Rape is traumatic because it includes a loss of control over one’s body during assault. This can lead to a shattering of women’s beliefs about their own safety in the world. In a study done by Chang et al  involving female college students, it was discovered that female victims of sexual assault, compared with nonvictims, reported significantly greater depressive symptoms (2014). General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is another mental disorder alike PTSD that SA victims often acquire after an assault due to the change of perspective while looking at the world around them. GAD often affects a person’s quality of life as “individuals with GAD experience frequent feelings of anxiety and worry about several events or circumstances, which they find difficult to control. This condition has lasted for at least six months prior to diagnosis (Holmes, 1998).” In her research, Kolk found that victims rarely suffer from flashbacks like war veterans and instead their symptoms mainly include being unable to be present and calm, being “out of it,” being overwhelmed by rage, and lacking meaningful involvement with their current lives (2013). A large majority of rape survivors suffer from intense psychological reactions directly after the attack, and often lasts for up to three months. Severe symptoms lasting longer than this acute phase is what most diagnose as PTSD. The definition of PTSD has newly changed, the greatest difference is the shift from an anxiety disorder to a new category of trauma. The diagnosis has remained mainly stagnant with symptoms including recurrent, involuntary and intrusive distress memories, avoidance of distressing memories and thoughts, as well as hypervigilance.

Many victims begin to show symptoms of PTSD after losing important societal connections and ties that are severed after an incident. Individuals blame themselves for the assault due to making choices that allowed the incident though legally they cannot be faulted for. This type of self-blame often comes up in dialogue as “I should have left the party earlier,” or “I could have parked somewhere else.” It is completely irrational, as no one could possibly know the future. These thoughts are illogical, but often put much weight on a victim as they try to discover what could have possible prevented their assault. No one is at fault except the person who decided to prey on another. In Miller’s paper, “Self-Blame Among Sexual Assault Victims”, ‘‘The locus of violence rests squarely in the middle of what our culture defines as ‘normal’ interaction between men and women.’’ (2007) She found that in her study, 73% of rape victims directly denied that they had been raped. One theory to explain this curiosity is that because violent and crass behavior is expected of young males, female victims do not believe their experience was anything out of the norm nor anything worth reporting. The tendency to blame women for their victimization is internalized by victims, leading to statistics reporting of hiding victimization rather than reporting it. When initially seeking help after an assault, these women report of disturbances in sleep patterns, sexual function, appetite, and spoke of assault-related fears. Even with these severe and often life-altering symptoms, only a total of 31% of victims returned to a follow-up visit, most never seeking psychological help again afterwards (Holmes, 1998).

The Possible Benefits of Paring PSDs with SA Survivors

Animals are known to serve as social lubricants by stimulating conversation and facilitating human-interaction. The study  done by Holmes showed that female abuse survivors who were paired with a PSD after being diagnosed with PTSD resulted in increased self-esteem, feelings of empowerment, decreased anxiety and decreased depression. One argument for the use of PSDs is the fact that they are a non-invasive form of therapy (1998). PSDs are able to reduce their handler’s symptoms without the use of medication or allow their handlers to become less dependent on traditional medication. This allows those affected with mental disorders to avoid unwanted side effects and reducing or removing medication can increase the treatment options of possible other health conditions. Animal therapy is not widely used in western-medicine, though there are many types that have been proven to do wonders for those who utilize the human/animal bond.

Marshal references a study by Meinmersmann that looked at the cost effectiveness of Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy with female abuse survivors. Participants found that they experienced much more dramatic results within a short time period compared to traditional conversational psychotherapy. Though the equine therapy did cost more per session, the fast results made it less expensive overall to get the same results of conversational therapy (2014). Service and therapy animals are used in many different situations. The cost would not differ greatly from traditional therapy if insurances covered the same amount as they did for conversational therapy.

One type of therapy dog that has become popular in recent years is a Residential Mascot (RM) (Marshal, 2012). These dogs live in a facility, often nursing homes, and provide emotional support for residents. Not only do they offer support, but they create and facilitate an atmosphere of social bonding within the facility. One issue many SA survivors struggle with is withdrawing from society after the attack and the use of dogs in this context would surely mitigate symptoms.

PSDs are trained to perform tasks to assist their handler in everyday living and many tasks these dogs are trained for would be beneficial to SA survivors. Some of the most often seen tasks include: Alerting a handler to mounting anxiety levels, proving reality to a handler believed to be hallucinating, rousing a handler when sedated in the presence of danger, forcing a depressed handler out of bed with persistent activity, using their bodyweight to perform deep pressure therapy with handler, interjecting when handler begins to self-harm, alerting and rousing handler during night terrors, turning on lights during night terrors or panic attacks, providing a barrier in public places, alerting to the presence of others in an environment, “clearing” a home for intruders before the handler enters, finding exits during panic attacks, and grounding a handler in the present during flashbacks of an assault (Marshal, 2012). This disbands the claim that PSDs do nothing more than offer companionship. Though companionship is an important part of the works these animals do.

 In Newton’s study of pairing PTSD suffers with PSDs, most participants recorded that they felt as if they had lost all hope before beginning the study. All participants expressed great improvement once they were paired with a PSD. After obtaining their PSD, participants reported that they were able to venture into public spaces with far less anxiety and were able to return to feeling like “a normal person”. All participants reported a decrease in their dependence of medication after receiving their dog. This is included in the six most reported side effects of receiving a PSD. The six are decreased fear of public spaces, decreased anxiety, decreased depression, nightmare interruption, medication reduction, and compatibility with other treatments (2014). To say anybody with a mental illness should get himself a dog would be irresponsible. If a person can’t go into public spaces without their dog, that’s a condition that should be treated, not encouraged. These animals should be used to help a victim through recovery rather than become a crutch for one to lean of for the rest of their life.

PSDs Act as a Physical Testimony

When a veteran returns home from war, they will not be forced to testify to prove the fact that they had been in the military. They will not be asked what they were wearing when a bomb was set off. They are socially accepted as a hero who sacrificed for their country. These are not the same reactions that SA survivors receive when they express their ordeal. A study by Ullman in 2014 looked at how reactions of loved ones and strangers effected a woman’s healing process after SA. Common negative social reactions to the disclosure of their ordeal include victim blaming, attempting to force the victim into an action (ex: telling the police), or focusing on how the disclosure impacted their relationship with the aggressor rather than caring for the victim. As predicted, negative social reactions to a victim speaking on the SA was related to greater PTSD symptoms. This is because negative social reactions to assault disclosure were associated with less perceived control over recovery, causing a victim to deem the world around them as unsafe and feel the need to protect themselves accordingly with damaging coping habits (Ullman, 2014). A PSD could be useful in curbing these habits. Using a dog to be aware of surroundings allows a handler to feel as if they no longer need to be on-guard at all times. Having a larger animal in proximity is it’s own measure of safety as a possible assailant may be more hesitant to act than if a female was walking alone.

Necessary But Not Profitable

PTSD has in the past, been closely related to those in combat. Yet SA victims are diagnosed with the disorder at a 10% higher rate than veterans. Today, almost all media attention, research, and funding regarding PSDs is associated with the military and the expanding population of veterans coming home with PTSD symptoms. Increasing amounts of privately funded nonprofits provide service dogs to veterans at no cost. One reason PSDs are used at a higher capacity with veterans is because most civilians do not have the resources to pay for a $20,000 animal. Service dog research is scattered and underfunded as pharmaceutical companies aren’t interested in non-drug therapy (Jacobson, 2014). Though insurance companies do not cover service dogs, the federal government is looking at whether to provide them in certain cases to veterans. After dogs proved to be helpful with wounded Iraqi war veterans, this year the Department of Veteran Affairs kicked off a three-year study to assess the benefits. The VA is reimbursing nonprofit organizations $10,000 for each dog they provide to a veteran (Patriot-News, 2010). No such federal program exists for SA survivors.

One reason that PSDs may be especially beneficial to SA victims is because they are often abused by people close to them and can have more issues with trust and relationships than people who have suffered trauma like a natural disaster (Jacobson, 2014). Nancy Fierer, the director of Susquehanna Service Dogs, said 70 percent of people who need dogs can’t afford them. While the organization offers financial assistance for some and won’t turn away anyone in need, not being able to pay the fee extends how long a person has to wait for a dog. Those who receive a dog are required to pay $5,000 — an amount that is sometimes hard for those suffering from disabilities to pay. It costs the organization approximately $20,000 to train a single dog (Patriot-News, 2010). This would be considered cruel to withhold treatment if it was in any other form,

Sexual assault is prevalent in today’s society, yet it is only recently being accepted that women cannot just get up and walk away from said ordeal. PSDs are a way not only to improve the quality of life for a SA survivor, but also create awareness for the problem that is mental health disorders. PSDs should become more accessible to those in need of them, just as any other treatment should be. Dogs should not be used as a crutch to walk with the rest of a SA survivor’s life, but a tool to be used in healing. This can only become a norm once both the work service dogs do and the trauma of sexual assault is taken seriously by the general public.

United?

United?

            One of the largest religious organizations in the history of the United States has found itself in turmoil. The United Methodist Church (UMC) may not continue to be as united as its title suggests due to infighting between the denomination’s parties and nations it is found in.

As the United Methodist Church grows in Africa without ceasing, political tensions are growing and very few have hope that it will stay undivided; these tensions can be diffused with a split between the African and the American church.

The United Methodist Church has been known historically to take a middle road stance in almost all issues. This allows for each member to form their own beliefs in the faith and allows for wildly diverse congregations. Yet in the diversity, all are united by a love for Christ and by a denominational code of conduct called The Book of Discipline. To become an Elder of the church, one must take an oath promising to uphold the Book of Discipline whether or not one agrees with all laws and by-laws made by the book. One issue of recent is the fact that individuals and whole churches have begun to nullify this covenant by choosing to completely disregard statements made that they do not theologically agree with. Written in an article of the United Methodist’s Good News Magazine, last year a large church voted to withhold their apportionments, tithes to the greater organization, because they disagree with how the United Methodist Church has handled upsets within itself (Goodstein “UMC to Reassess”). This is not the first protest from within the walls of the church, which have taken many forms over the past few years.

A large amount of these protests are due to one common discrepancy; homosexuality and religion. Today the Book of Discipline describes homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teachings” (304). The UMC does not allow for their ordained clergy to officiate weddings between same sex couples nor does it allow for clergy to be in a same sex relationship themselves. The UMC is one of the last mainline denominations to keep their code on this matter unchanged (Fenton “Mt. Bethel”). This has caused much infighting within the denomination and so much tension that it has brought about the question; can the United Methodist Church as it is today survive the cultural revolution that has brought much freedom to the queer community in the United States? At the moment, many fear the answer to this question is no. The next question to be asked is; what will happen next? At the moment, many accept that the answer to this question is an unknown future division in the church.

If this division is truly up and coming, it brings many questions to the table as well. The greatest of these asking how exactly the church would be split. Examining the last jurisdictional meeting of the church as a whole gives insight. The United Methodist Church meets as a worldwide body every four years at General Conference which was last held this year in Portland Oregon. Each conference is met with protestors advocating many issues, but this year the LGBT community pushed hard to show their presence and many bills were brought to the table addressing issues on human sexuality and how the denomination chooses to deal with it. This year 33% of delegates at General Conference were from overseas, articulating the rapid growth of the denomination and the belief that the American church will soon be a minority (Boorstein “With Talk of Schism”). This minority status is problematic because the church as a whole votes on legislation that effects congregations worldwide, not just in certain countries. This way of governing complicates the homosexuality issue. As the American church is behind in cultural aspects such as this, the acceptance of homosexuality as a norm is unimaginable to others which is why the UMC has not found an acceptable way of handling this situation. If the American sect of the UMC and other western countries split from the more conservative and faster growing division of the church, it may allow for all parties to be able to keep the values they find most important.

One of the greatest factors in this issue is the growth of the United Methodist Church in Africa. Culturally Africa is very different from that of North America. The western church grows more liberal each day if for no other reason than the culture around it is more liberal than ever. Yet the African church stays consistent to what they believe is biblical teaching; often aligning with conservatives in the Western hemisphere.

The African Church does have reason to resist falling in line with the American cultural change. Homosexuality is a crime in 38 out of 54 African nations (Gilbert “GC2016”). Christians are already persecuted for their faith, with Nigeria killing more Christians in 2015 than the rest of the world combined with the intent of eradicating the Christian faith from the continent (Harriet “Christians Flee”). After taking this fact into consideration, it is quite understandable as to why delegates from Africa almost wholly vote along the same lines as their American conservative counterparts (Hutchinson “The Hopefully United Methodists”). Why would Bishops and other guardians of the church bring more persecution to their flocks in regards to an issue that impacts almost solely the American church when “Pastors have been beaten and killed, and members of their congregations forced to convert to Hinduism in an increasing number of attacks across the country. On average a church is burned down or a pastor beaten three times a week,” (Hutchinson “The Hopefully United Methodists”). No matter the reason, the African church still gives the conservative party in the American church an advantage during voting at General Conference and liberals have begun looking for ways around this. Both parties in this situation would benefit from what a split between the two cultures would bring.

Not all agree with this idea, and have come up with other solutions to this problem. One other solution is to allow each individual congregation to choose their own standing on homosexuality. This proposal has been named “A Way Forward” yet “talk of a ‘middle-way’ or of ‘agreeing to disagree’ is comforting and sounds Christ-like. However, such language only denies the reality we need to admit. Neither side will find ‘agreeing to disagree’ acceptable” (Boorstein “With Talk of Schism”).  Not only this, but what will happen when homosexuality is no longer the issue, and the church must face the next cultural crisis? Questions also arise with the other popular idea for splitting the church; splitting it into three new denominations consisting of a liberal, moderate and conservative church. Would geographic location decide which church enters each new denomination, or would each congregation or local pastor decide? Not only this, but the allocations of the large amount of money the UMC holds would be fought over quite mercilessly between the three newly born denominations.

The proposed split on cultural lines is the most clean and simple way to do what must be done to allow each individual congregation to flourish in the community it finds itself in. Both sides believe they are doing God’s will, with the African church praying “for the return of our denomination to biblical teachings, the unity of the church” (Gilbert ”GC2016”) while many Americans call out for complete inclusivity in the body of Christ with the Love Your Neighbor Coalition stating “We must insist that peace is not going to come through ignoring the demands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians for full inclusion in the church” (Gilbert “GC2016”). Unfortunately, the only true way to know which side is God’s will is to ask him personally.

The United Methodist Church is full of politics, unanswered questions and differences in opinions yet we have lasted 48 years as a denomination, have found ourselves in almost every city in the country and have brought Jesus Christ to places in the world where he was unknown. Everything once born must also die, and the United Methodist Church may be on it’s deathbed. This is something that can be met with fear, or it can be met with logic and understanding. One must remember that no matter the title on the front of a church, its main goal should always be creating more disciples of Jesus Christ. If the church forgets this, it should not even be in existence.

Making Conversation-Appiah Reflection

Human beings tend to focus on what differs in a situation rather than what binds two things together. It has been said in a previous article that I read in either this class or philosophy stating that when people begin to look at things they have in common with others, they can find a much larger amount of examples than when looking at what differs. Yet this is what we so often choose to do. One thing Appiah said that truly resonated with myself was “If we only came together to try and settle the things we disagree about, we wouldn’t be getting along.” He states that friendships he has cultivated would not be as they are if the friend group came together with a mindset to change the world with what is adjacent to their own beliefs.

Appiah then goes on to talk about how beautiful humans can be when they set aside their differences to come together in love. Not forgetting or going back on their values and morals, but knowing the individual is greater than a set of religious rules. This is something my denomination faces challenges with. We have had pastors leave congregations and congregations leave pastors over the homosexuality issue. At the moment, I am actually writing a paper for another class with the topic being about the upcoming inevitable split of the Church with this issue being at the apex. While observing at my local church who believes what, why and how strongly, I’ve realized a trend that if a person intimately knows a LGBTQ+ person inside a family relationship or a friendship they are much more likely to support the liberal party in our denomination fighting for an upheaval of the Book of Discipline. This falls right in line with Appiah’s belief that stereotypes are destroyed once you see the individual over a group.

 

Form

“Embrace the glorious mess that you are.” -Elizabeth Gilbert

Where is the line between loving yourself for who you are and changing for the better? Who gets to decide what flaws and quirks are acceptable to live with and which must be chiseled away as they add imperfections to the sculpture of our soul? This thought is something that is often not pondered yet is of utmost importance. The easy answer would be “Answer to only yourself. Stay to true your heart and values. That shall bring you to the correct path.” This is utterly false. Dangerous even. Society has imprinted upon our soul, has twisted our values for better or for worse, has skewed our image of what is acceptable. Because of this not even our inner thoughts can be relied on. As I realize this, I believe I have discovered what the frame of acceptable behavior may be based upon. To have flaws is to be human. To work towards Christ is to be holy. He is the measuring point. Using anything else will cause a soul to attempt to belong in a way that is only unnatural. To attempt to fit a square block in a round hole.

Authenticity

Authenticity. Synonyms that pop into my head: true, real, genuine. I believe living an authentic life means knowing yourself, your values, and living in a way of honor. Authenticity is living life in accordance with one’s soul. It is a way to experience a life full of joy, passion, and wonderment. Authenticity is finding joy in yourself. It is running in the rain to your car, skin impervious to the cold because your thoughts running wild with passion for the event just left.

There are moments in my life in which I can only explain as electric. They are moments in which I am in a place that I could see myself forever staying. These places have a certain magic to them, a magic that stills my driven mind and leaves only a “yes, this is it” in the place of what is usually thousands of incomprehensible ideas happening every second of the day. These moments I am often nothing more than a face in a crowd. I often wonder, are those around me experiencing the same as I? The conclusion I have come to is that the magic of the moment is confined to my very being. I hope others experience these moments of authenticity as I do. That there are places in their life in which they can be nothing but the image impressed onto their soul.

This is what I define as authenticity. A soul where it belongs. A spark set afire. A flame in a place it is welcome. It is a wonder of why all people do not follow this path in life. As I have found it, once discovered, it is distressing having to return to any other type of half-life. Is it that most have not discovered what I have, or is it that the cruelty of a society set against one’s soul is too much to handle? As it is, those who must ask for society’s forgiveness to live according to the soul have yet to truly discover authenticity.

Small Victory

What is a small victory?

Victory. We find one’s victories to often amount to their value and perceived success in life. We define the words used in daily language in the actions we take while speaking them to others. We define words in the tone found in our vocal chords as we speak. We define words in the way a person is perceived who can be described using such word.

This ability is a power that few have discovered. And even fewer have chosen to act on given power. Words are nothing more than sound, echoing around the room in which we speak them. What the room is conceived of is also in our realm of choice. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it truly make a sound? If a person speaks powerfully, yet no soul is stirred, have they even uttered a word?

Victory. It is only what we make it. What the individual makes it. There is no victorious committee. No person to set rule, no person to give value to an achievement. The value given to a personal victory directly corresponds to the image we have of ourselves. To value us is to value our doings. Coming back to the question, what is a small victory? It is what an individual decides is a small victory.

A Study of the Correlation Between Sexual Assault and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

During the most recent presidential campaign, one candidate was constantly accused of allegations of sexual assault, rape, and derogatory treatment against women. After the first piece came out with proven evidence of its accuracy, many believed that this candidate was finished and would drop out of the race in shame. He did not, so those who called for his resignation now called for an apology. Instead they were given a hasty excuse of “boys will be boys.” The fact that this person can find success in our nation after showing blatant disrespect to half of the population shows that our society is not gender equal and does not give justice to those it allows to become victims of “boys will be boys.” The awareness of sexual assault and the acceptance that many assault victims suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is growing, and because of this funding has been given to the research of support and treatment that is different from previous treatments created specifically for war veterans.

From the first recognition as a disorder, PTSD has often been associated with war veterans and first responders. These brave men and women must live with their experiences for the rest of their lives, and society has respected their service and have accepted their newfound disability connected to it. It has been fairly recent that survivors of sexual assault and rape have been given the same courtesy to openly struggle with their mental scars. Veterans and survivors have much in common, both trying to navigate through invisible obstacles that make daily life often impossible. Many assaults are committed by those previously close to the victim, and being hurt be those one trusts is much like not knowing who the enemy in the field is, worrying about shooting at friend or foe. There is strong and compelling evidence that a majority of rape survivors suffer largely immediately following the rape, and now there is research proving that many also suffer from chronic psychological problems for years after. The severity of these problems differ due to many different variables including social support, their relationship with the perpetrator, and physical damage caused initially. This is proven in Ullman’s study, “both preassault ratings of social support in general and postassault support responses should affect recovery from traumatic events like rape.  In general, persons with better social support have better mental and physical health and general social support is an important buffer of life stress.” Statistics gathered by Holmes in the study in 1998 shows that more than 12 million women in the United States have been sexually victimized, and more than 680,000 adult women are sexually assaulted each year. When initially seeking help after an assault, these women report of disturbances in sleep patterns, sexual function, appetite, and spoke of assault-related fears. Even with these severe and often life-altering symptoms, only a total of 31% of victims returned to a follow-up visit, most never seeking psychological help again afterwards. One reason for lack of social support and seeking out professional mental healthcare is in correlation with the role of the perpetrator in the victim’s life.

Women sexually assaulted by a stranger are more likely to contact police and define the event as an assault. Many believe this to be true because attacks like this are seen as “black and white” rather than “grey”. Rape within the confines of a relationship is more questionable in our society and would often be considered “grey”. Defining the attack as an assault allows the victim to receive more medical and mental health care compared to those who delay disclosure do to fear of a close relationship with the criminal. Those who cover or hide their assault often avoid dealing with the reality of the event by drinking, withdrawing from social circles, and dropping out of school or work. Women also face societal stigma after reporting claims of sexual assault. This is described as a “second injury” (Zoellner) which refers to a lack of support after a traumatic event caused by disbelief of its verification and lack of support coming from one’s community, society, family, and friends. Many victims begin to show symptoms of PTSD after losing important societal connections and ties that are severed after an incident. Individuals blame themselves for the assault due to making choices that allowed the incident though legally they cannot be faulted for. This type of self-blame often comes up in dialogue as “I should have left the party earlier,” or “I could have parked somewhere else.” It is completely irrational, as no one could possibly know the future. These thoughts are illogical, but often put much weight on a victim as they try to discover what could have possible prevented their assault. No one is at fault except the person who decided to prey on another. In Miller’s paper, Self-Blame Among Sexual Assault Victims, ‘‘The locus of violence rests squarely in the middle of what our culture defines as ‘normal’ interaction between men and women.’’ (2007) She found that in her study, 73% of rape victims directly denied that they had been raped. One theory to explain this curiosity is that because violent and crass behavior is expected of young males, female victims do not believe their experience was anything out of the norm nor anything worth reporting. The tendency to blame women for their victimization is internalized by victims, leading to statistics reporting of hiding victimization rather than reporting it.

PTSD is often thought to only happen after a sudden, well defined incident. This societal view can be harmful to others whose PTSD was onset due to a long term involvement with an abusive partner or other building trauma. In Kolk’s article, it has been found that for most traumas involving women and children occur in the context of intimate relationships rather than after meeting a stranger on the street. “Researchers consistently report that in approximately 2 to 3 months, many of these early reactions have lessened and although levels of various symptoms have not returned to normal they have improved in most rape survivors. (Neville 1999)” Yet in a follow-up study, many survivors reported that they had not fully healed after 5 years had passed. Neville’s survey data has also suggested a link between sexual assault history and eating disorders in survivors. Those who hold in their initial anger due to not being able to talk about what had happened or other reasons, experience more severe PTSD symptoms as time progresses away from the incident.

The response to trauma from assault and rape survivors is also often different from veterans with PTSD. In her research, Kolk found that victims rarely suffer from flashbacks like war veterans and instead their symptoms mainly include being unable to be present and calm, being “out of it,” being overwhelmed by rage, and lacking meaningful involvement with their current lives. A large majority of rape survivors suffer from intense psychological reactions directly after the attack, and often lasts for up to three months. Severe symptoms lasting longer than this acute phase is what most diagnose as PTSD. The definition of PTSD has newly changed, the greatest difference is the shift from an anxiety disorder to a new category of trauma. The diagnosis has remained mainly stagnant with symptoms including recurrent, involuntary and intrusive distress memories, avoidance of distressing memories and thoughts, as well as hypervigilance. The change has also redefined what constitutes a traumatic event and has added four new symptoms.

The change in definition has not only allowed more people to be assisted with their struggles, but also has spurred the research community to look deeper into PTSD. It has also made a distinct difference between anxiety disorders that show up after a trauma from those who suffer with flashbacks and physical responses to triggers. To be diagnosed with PTSD, there must be a “gatekeeper”, or initial event that one can trace symptoms back to. If a gatekeeper cannot be found, a patient is often diagnosed with another mental disorder like Clinical Depression or General Anxiety Disorder. One of the goals having to do with reframing the prognosis of PTSD was to spur additional research of the disorder. One difficulty researchers are discovering is due to the vastness of symptoms related to the disorder. One example of this is the modulation of arousal states that vary from individual to individual. Some space out, disappear and feel nothing, suffering from hypoarousal while others suffer from hyperarousal and behave as though their life is in danger. In Kolk’s reflection of her research, she adds, “I have been surprised that something that is so obvious to me is not central in our pursuit of effective treatments: learning to regulate your autonomic arousal system is maybe the single most important prerequisite to dealing with PTSD… How people develop treatment techniques that are based on the premise that you can bypass this issue, and ignore what is going on in the basement, beats me”. In a study done by Bisson and Andrew, they looked at different types of treatments that could possibly shorten the length one suffers from the disorder. They found that without treatment, over a third of individuals reported having PTSD six years after developing it. There was also a 50% chance of remission at two years. Most researched and tested interventions have been trauma-focused behavioral therapy that occurs over 4-12 sessions. This technique was found more helpful than a single-event debriefing, which was actually found to have a negative impact on an individual’s coping of trauma. Much more research is needed before a breakthrough in healing those with PTSD can be obtained.

Society has come a far from victim shaming and stoning women who were raped in the confines of a city, yet it still has a long way to go before it can be titled “just”. Taking assault seriously and researching the effects it has on its victims is a start, but there are many problems left. Some of these problems include the need for a witness to identify a criminal in a lineup, the absurd cost of rape kits and the disordered way they are handled during an investigation. It is due to the patriarchal society that we live in that rape and assault is a commonplace in our learning institutions and impacts more than a majority of the women in said facilities. It must become a norm that sexual violence against anyone, especially young women, is disgusting and unacceptable. Those who commit these violent acts should be seen as pariah, not raised to become prominent figures of our nation. As co-existing members of a dangerous world, we must ask, “how can we change this?”

Societal Habits and Globalization: Change the World

Societal Habits and Globalization: Change the World

Savannah Hinde

Bowling Green State University

Abstract

Using three articles found in Emerging by Barclay Barrios, I have come to the opinion that changing the world is incredibly possible. Usage of creating social habits in churches today is the same thing that changed the face of the nation during the civil rights movement and can be used to change the face of the world in the future.

Key Words: Aids, Civil Rights, Relationships, Connections

Societal Habits and Globalization: Change the World

When a child is small, their parents often tell them that they can do anything they set their minds to. Changing the world is “no biggie” as long as they want it enough. As this child grows, the realm of possibilities shrinks until it is nothing more than a list of majors on a college website. But what if humans kept their belief in the impossible? Is it even possible to change the world today? Certainly others have done it, but it seems today close to impossible to even cancel a gym membership let alone the suffering of humanity. Using three essays found in Barclay Barrios’ Emerging, there are things one can do to make the impossible possible, this is through changing societal habits and  unifying communities for a common friend.

In the piece From Civil Rights to Megachurches by Charles Duhigg, the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century is connected to what makes Saddleback Church of California thrive. It is believed that movements, no matter the cause, become successful when the leaders of said movement use social habits to unify otherwise secluded groups of people as well as discovering the power of connectivity between individuals. The Montgomery bus boycott held traction at first because of it’s person of interest, Rosa Parks. Many people knew this woman through her involvement of many organizations, clubs, and volunteer work. Her social connections created an outrage of her arrest, and it became a societal expectation of the black community to boycott the buses. There were those who cared passionately about this cause, but many became involved for no other reason than other around them were. Meetings for other sources of peaceful protest became the norm to attend during the weekdays, and walking to work instead of riding the bus became a daily reminder of the cause. The success of the boycott became an outline for those who wanted to change the world in different ways. Though unwittingly, Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church is one of these people. He moved to California to serve those who did not know Jesus, and impacted the local area to the point that today, his church is one of the largest in the world. The church grew so fast that he was not able to care for it’s individuals and came to the solution of weekday meetings between small groups of members. In doing this, members of the church created social habits based in their faith which resulted in taking responsibility for their growth as Christians. The church went from something they did, to who they were. Both Warren and MLK Jr. found ways to create a movement that did not sputter out, that had participants who did not need to be lead, but instead became leaders.

Due to how western media depicts it, people often think of Africa as a dry desert void of technology. This is not so, and Helen Epstein’s AIDs, Inc. explores new tactics organization’s use to create awareness in South Africa’s AIDs crisis. Young people in South Africa are well versed in sexual education, yet the percentage of those with the deadly virus is steadily increasing. One organization, loveLife, is taking a new approach to public relations towards teens. It has been realized that negative ads and scare tactics do not create a significant impact when it comes to a young adult’s choice in becoming sexually active, so loveLife has put a positive spin on advertising and uses marketing techniques borrowed from soda and clothing companies. Teens have the opportunity to join a “Y center” where they can play sports and do other activities, but must go through a sex education class before gaining membership. These actions have allowed teenagers and young adults to become more comfortable with openly talking about sex, but does not actively prevent the spread of HIVs. Speaking about AIDs is still taboo and the author believes it to be because of the lax way loveLife tackles the topic.

In the essay Making Conversation by Kwame Anthony Appiah, the author explains how the world has become a single community of sorts, and how that has impacted the ease for one to change the world. Traditions, no matter how deeply ingrained into a society, can be changed relatively easily with the view of society’s judgement. This can be seen in examples of Chinese foot binding and the change in a woman’s role in American society. Humans have adapted to this, but have yet to harness it’s potential to do good in the world. It is not because different societies argue on what is “good”, but why and how it should be played out. The globalization of communities can be used in amazing ways.

All three of these diverse articles hit on one subject that when thought about can seem almost too simple. Society and the influence of one’s community on an individual is what allows a movement to become impactful. In South Africa, the AIDs epidemic is no closer to ending because the people are afraid to speak on such a taboo. Yet in the article, Epstein talks about the neighboring nation of Uganda and how their take on AIDs is successful do to its normalization in the culture. He says, “Kampala taxi drivers talked as passionately about AIDs as taxi drivers did elsewhere discuss politics or football. And they talked about it in a way that would seem foreign to many in South Africa because it was all so personal: “my sister”, “my father”, “my neighbor”, “my friend”’ (Epstein 116). Uganda has made talking about AIDs into a social habit, therefore changing society’s view on it. Many changes in society have less to do with the learning of new facts, and more with perspectival change. Appiah speaks to this as well. He argues that old and beloved traditions can be broken within a short amount of time with no more than changing society’s view on a tradition. An example of this is foot binding in China. This tradition was thousands of years old, and the first attempt at eradicating it in the 1910’s and 20’s was unsuccessful in it’s method of explaining the negative effects it had on oneself. Soon, the Chinese found themselves loosing respectability within the world’s community as other nations began to scorn the practice. Once it became known as taboo in other countries, foot binding was almost fully eradicated within a generation. Social habits do not only end malpractices, it also binds people together. This can be in many settings, from a church community to the entire black community of America. They can be used to explain the civil rights movement, “Social habits are what fill streets with protesters who may not know one another, who might be marching for different reasons, but who are all moving in the same direction. Social habits are why some initiatives become world-changing movements, while others fail to ignite” (Duhigg 85). There are many movements started, but very few become world changing.

The social movements that make an impact and flourish can seem random at times, but Duhigg believes that there is a three-part process to how a movement gather followers:

“A movement starts because of the social habits of friendships and the strong ties between close acquaintances.

It grows because of the habits of a community, and the weak ties that hold neighborhoods and clans together.

And it endures because a movement’s leaders give participants new habits that create a fresh sense of identity and a feeling of ownership.” (Duhigg 85)

A person with no investment of a cause often joins in because a friend near them is invested. Soon a large group is moving in one direction, and other members of a community fear becoming an outsider, which causes them to join the movement. Soon it become impossible to return to the previous norm, and a new normalcy in a community is created. The last worry of a leader for such movement is to avoid burnout by feeding new reasons to continue and allowing followers to find ownership and leadership in the movement, quickly making it their personal responsibility to continue growth.

This outline of success can be seen in action at Saddleback Church in California, pastored by Rick Warren. He believes that the American church as a whole is losing members because it has allowed people to be comfortable as observers and not pushing them into action. Once a person is invested in their own faith, a pastor become a guide rather than the entirety of one’s religious life. This is also true for bringing new people to Christ, “If you try to scare people into following Christ’s example, it’s not going to work for too long. The only way you get people to take responsibility for their spiritual maturity is to teach them habits of faith. Once that happens, they become self-feeders. People follow Christ not because you’ve led them there, but because it’s who they are.” (Duhigg 97) This viewpoint in churches was first seen elsewhere.

It is common knowledge that the Montgomery bus boycott was one of the first large-scale demonstration of the civil rights era. Rosa Parks was not the first African American to be arrested on public transportation in the city, yet she made all the difference. She was involved in many different social circles within the city which created a personal investment for many as their generous, meek and mild “friend” was incarcerated. These friends began the movement against the city buses, and soon it became a personal movement for so many that it became humiliating as an African American to be seen on a bus. Black preachers talked to their congregations and told them that every other black church would be doing this, essentially telling them that it would be very embarrassing to be seen on a bus that day. They would be alone, “Men were ridding mules to work, and more than one horse-drawn buggy drove over the streets of Montgomery. Spectators had gathered at the bus stops to watch what was happening” (Duhigg 95). The Montgomery bus boycott was an example of a city-wide social movement that soon became nation-wide. Today, we have the opportunity to create world-wide social movements.

Changing social habits throughout a university may seem intimidating, yet technology today gives people the opportunity to change much more than what they can simply see around them. Only in the past few centuries has humanity been drawn into a singular web rather than small societies clueless of each other, “Now, if I walk down New York’s Fifth Avenue on an ordinary day, I will have within sight more human beings than most of those prehistoric hunter-gatherers saw in a lifetime” (Appiah 44). Humanity now belongs to a new community, which is the world as a whole. The only question left is how can this community become closer? Binding friendships are needed to change societal habits, and it is not easy to become invested in lives thousands of miles away from one’s own life. Change does not occur because at once, everyone suddenly decides to face the same direction. Change relies on social patterns that begin as friendship. The answer to the question is “slowly”. Humans must begin to learn to focus on what binds them together rather than the geographic entities that separate.

The scale of what can be changed has grown to encompass all of humanity. Because of technology, the way humans communicate has changed completely. This can be used to connect people across the world through social media, putting faces to numbers and creating compassion for those who suffer. Money can be raised in a blink of an eye and with the click of a button. It is believable that the world is becoming a better and more just place to live because of the global connection we have today.

 

References

Appiah, K. A. (2010). Making Conversation. In B. Barrios (Author), Emerging (3rd ed., pp. 43). Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Epstein, H. (2010). AIDS, Inc. In B. Barrios (Author), Emerging (3rd ed., pp. 43-59). Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Duhigg, C. (2010). From Civil Rights to Megachurches. In B. Barrios (Author), Emerging (3rd ed., pp. 85). Bedford/St. Martin’s.

 

Forgiveness

Mosaic Ministries 1/24/17

Savannah Hinde

 

Let’s begin with a well-known bible story in the book of Matthew

21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone[a] who sins against me? Seven times?”

22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven![b]

23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.[c] 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.

26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.

28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars.[d] He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.

29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.

31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened.32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.

The King forgave the servant who owed him more money than he could pay in lifetimes of work. Yet this same servant couldn’t forgive the minute debts for his peer. The amount the servant owed the king was 10,000 talents. In today’s terms this is over 1 billion dollars, and the king just forgives him. This is amazing to think about when we put God in the king’s place and us as the servant.

His mercy, grace, forgiveness, and passion is unconditional, and he gives it to us for no other reason than his generous love. He does ask us though to show this same love and forgiveness to our brothers and sisters. The King was not happy when the servant didn’t show mercy to his peer. God also dislikes it when we are not kind to the people around us.

This is for many reasons, but on is that Unforgiveness hurts the victim, not the offender. It’s like holding a heated pipe. The person who hurt you has already let go of the incident. Now the person hurt is the only one getting burned.

Unforgiveness leads to bondage, Forgiveness leads to freedom.

And forgiveness is a choice that we all have the option to choose.

This choice is not easy, but there are steps that you can take to begin to heal from a wring done to you.

The first step in letting go and forgiving is to begin to control your thoughts. Stay away from thinkingly wrongly of the person who has hurt you. Do not wish them harm or misfortune, and if you can, begin to find joy in their happiness.

Next is watching your tongue. Bringing up things of the past is often harmful, and stops you from moving on to what the future holds. Bringing up old issues in new arguments is never a good idea.

My sisters and I fight constantly about household chores, and it often goes like this:

“You forgot to do the dishes last night so I had to do them.”

“No way! You owe me! Remember 3 years ago when we were camping and I took the garbage to the dumpsters because you were afraid of the racoons?!?!”

Needless to say, that argument stood no ground.

Leaving things in the past isn’t always forgetting them completely, but instead it is often consciously not bringing the incident up because it IS forgiven and should not be brought up again.

Lastly, forgiveness is finding it within yourself to love that person unconditionally again. To find joy in their success, to help them if you see them on the side of the road, to share with them and to minister to them like God would like us to. This is not an easy task, and can sometimes take years to achieve. But when we rely on God, it is always possible.

Let us pray.

Dear God,

You know what is on our hearts, our hurts and our happiness. You know the grudges we hold and the people we hold them against. This week allow us to ask ourselves why we hold these grudges, as they only do harm to us. Let us begin the process of forgiveness, and as we begin down that road, let us rely on You.

In Jesus Christ,

Amen

Start Anew

Mosaic 12/27

Start of the new year.

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish celebration of the new year, and takes place in September. To them, it is one of the holiest days of the year, and is very much unlike the new year’s eve we will be celebrating in a few days. One commonality the two do have though is the idea of “starting fresh” and setting resolutions for the upcoming year. This holiday celebrates God’s promise to his people, showing forgiveness for their sins and showing mercy towards their debts. Not unlike the way Jesus Christ was sent to take away our sins and seal our debts away. A tradition of Rosh Hashanah is to fill one’s pockets with bread and emptying those pockets into a river, watching the bread melt away. This symbolizes casting our sins away, starting anew, and starting fresh.

Everyone has things they wish they could just forget and let go. It doesn’t always have to be something we did wrong, but a wrong done to us that is now weighing us down, affecting our every day lives. We have a loving God who cares for us more than anyone on this Earth could care for us, and he does not want to see us suffering under the weight of our sins and the hurts of the world. The world may cast you aside, saying you are not worth much, that you will not be able to achieve your dreams, that you are not valued. These are all lies. And these lies have been told to people throughout the course of history. Including Jesus’s own disciples.

I’ll admit, I do not have all of the disciple’s names memorized, and if you gave me the quiz they give Sunday school kids in exchange for candy, I would not get much. But one disciple that stands out to me is Matthew, and what his story says about how our Father views us. Let me read to you the story of Matthew’s calling to join Jesus.

 

Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax booth. “Follow me,” he said to him. And he got up and followed him. 10 As Jesus was having a meal in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with Jesus and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 When Jesus heard this he said, “Those who are healthy don’t need a doctor, but those who are sick do. 13 Go and learn what this saying means: ‘I want mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

When Jesus called Matthew to follow him, those around him did not understand.

“Matthew the tax collector?”

You see, in Jesus’s day, tax collecting was not a career to be proud of. In fact, those in this profession were treated as scum, seen as greedy traitors, and not welcome in many parts of society. Yet Jesus still wanted him.

The religious leaders around him turned up their nose at Matthew and his friends. But Jesus told them they were valued, that they matter. They did not have to live as the dregs of society anymore, but were welcomed into the arms of the King.

Jesus said to Matthew “Get up and follow me.”

He asked him to leave everything he was familiar with, and to start anew.

And Matthew did not look back.

This is the same story for Jesus’s best friend; Mary Magdalene. She was a prostitute, she had had five husbands and was living with a man she was not married to. Jesus didn’t berate her, didn’t tell her she should be ashamed, but instead said “Follow me and sin no more.” She could belong to Jesus. She didn’t have to find her worth in men or in money or anything else the world offered her. She had Jesus.

And you have Jesus. You don’t have to find your worth in this world or any of it’s shallow promises. You have the choice to place your value in Jesus and the Father, the creator of the universe.

When you live for Jesus, it’s less about how you live, but what, or whom, you live for. When you love Jesus with your entire heart, its not about the rules of religion, its about love.

We are told to first love the Father, and then love our neighbors like our brothers and sisters.

When we love others like this, it is natural to follow what God wants, when you love someone, you don’t lie to them, you don’t steal from them, and you do not become jealous of them.

There are struggles in this life though, and you will be tested. Everyone is tempted in their life, and we should not beat ourselves up against wanting to do the wrong thing as long as we fight that urge. Even Paul, the guy who wrote a huge chunk of the New Testament, struggled. In the book of Roman’s he says this “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”

Jesus does not promise easy, he does not promise that a commitment to him means no troubled waters, he does not even promise happiness. What he does promise is joy. He promises fulfillment. These are not the same as happiness, as they do not disappear in times of trial.

The beauty of starting anew in Jesus is that there is nothing that you can do to be “too dirty” or “not worthy” for him. Say yes to him, and your past is wiped clean. The greatest part about it? You don’t need a holiday to start. He wants you anytime.

Lets pray.

Oh My Jesus,

Thank you for loving us. We don’t deserve it, and we do so many things that we wish we could wash away from our past. With you, we can. Let us learn to live for you, and love you, because without you our lives will never be filled with the joy you bring. Remind us of your love daily, and let us never forget the sacrifice you made for us so that we may live fully in you.

Amen