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January 24, 2013 8:25 AM   Subscribe

The Price of a Stolen Childhood [NYTimes.com] When Nicole was a child, her father took pornographic pictures of her that still circulate on the internet.
"The detective spread out the photographs on the kitchen table, in front of Nicole, on a December morning in 2006. She was 17, but in the pictures, she saw the face of her 10-year-old self, a half-grown girl wearing make-up. The bodies in the images were broken up by pixilation, but Nicole could see the outline of her father, forcing himself on her."
posted by Fizz (47 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously
posted by Blasdelb at 8:43 AM on January 24, 2013


Thanks for that Blasdelb. It seems obvious and yet I've never thought about how those images are still floating around as constant reminders for those unfortunate victims. Shows how blessed I am in that I've never had to deal with something like this.
posted by Fizz at 8:45 AM on January 24, 2013


What a brutal world. It never ceases to shock me how easily a handful of monsters can create so much more harm than thousands of well-meaning people can create good.

I hope the victims, more than the restitution, can help one another (though I've got nothing against restitution). For those who are afraid to click, despite the drop quote, the article focuses much more on the mechanics of restitution for victims (as a provision of VAWA, which you may or may not know was allowed to expire last year), as well as the impact of laws which require notification to victims of child pornography when someone in possession of an image of them is arrested, than it does on the abuse.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:46 AM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I like the idea of people paying, but I'm not sure about how this is working out. So, they've identified a couple girls. What about the others? Do the few who are currently known get all the money? I do definitely see a reason to want them supported with things like therapy and education, but if someone has pictures of a hundred different girls, giving all his assets to the one who is a known victim does what for the other 99? But that's a concern about how it's structured, not with the notion that there should be compensation in some form.
posted by gracedissolved at 8:52 AM on January 24, 2013


Ugh.

While not the same, I have zero clue why Reddit has a "dead kids" subreddit on there. Isn't there privacy laws regarding something like that? Disgusting. And not being a prude or anything since I see gore, etc. but something about showing dead kids. WTF kind of sickness is that?
posted by stormpooper at 8:57 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


This sort of thing is exactly why horror films ceased to horrify me years ago. Reality is so, so much worse.

That said, can money make up for anything? I'm sure it probably can't hurt, but I just don't know how these victims can possibly find anything resembling "restitution" for what they've been put through. Putting a meaningful value on such things is surely not possible. And identifying and locating the victims must be one Hell of a daunting task.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:59 AM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


That was very difficult to read, but I'm glad I did because it was very informative about how the law (at least in the US) currently works.

I really hope that victims of abuse can forge something resembling a normal and healthy life afterwards, and if financial penalties incurred by the guilty go towards that, then that can only be a good thing.
posted by Faintdreams at 9:03 AM on January 24, 2013


How will any future Supreme Court case work if VAWA is no longer law? Can anyone knowledgeable speculate?
posted by jaguar at 9:04 AM on January 24, 2013


Like kinnakeet, I doubt that money is the answer here.

the bigger, broader, more societal issue has to be that of shame -- the fact that we continue to live in a society where it seems nothing is dirtier, nastier, more revolting than sex. So a person who is forced into sexual situations at an early age is somehow infected for life.

For instance, I can't remember where I read it, but I recall coming across a study where it was concluded that for children who had been molested at an early age, the number one factor in whether or not it would negatively affect them throughout their life was the response of the adults around them. If the response was disgust, revulsion, shame, the kids were effectively doomed to NOT getting over it. Whereas, those who were treated more or less "normally" by the adults around them tended to do okay in the long run.
posted by philip-random at 9:05 AM on January 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


It discusses that in the article, kinnakeet. Victims struggle with school, jobs, relationships, and a lifelong need for counseling that, it's argued, are exacerbated by the knowledge of the continued sharing. The idea behind restitution is that the victim shouldn't be the one paying the costs of the crime.
posted by kavasa at 9:06 AM on January 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


Bleh. That's not really a relevant idea phillip, but typing on the phone is such a PITA.

Briefly:

1) I'm suspicious of your recollection of your study
2) Victims suffering harm right now shouldn't be denied recompense because theoretical future victims wouldn't need it as much
posted by kavasa at 9:24 AM on January 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


I find the "money isn't the answer" stuff... kind of self-righteous. Money may not solve all your problems, but it can get you therapy, it can tide you over when you have periods of depression, it can get you power over your life, and that can be very healing. And the real problem is societal shame? Yeah, no. The real problem is men cyberstalking you because they were so turned on by your child porn. The real problem is having to wonder if any of the men (and yes, it is 99.9 percent of the time men) in the shop you are in are one of those who slavered over pictures of you being raped.

Spewing out that the *real* problem is that the kids involved shouldn't think anything of it just because they were fucked for the entertainment of thousands of is blaming the victim.
posted by tavella at 9:32 AM on January 24, 2013 [20 favorites]


The author, Emily Bazelon, is also on the weekly Slate political gabfest. I expect they'll talk about this on this week's episode (typically out Friday).
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 9:37 AM on January 24, 2013


It's interesting, I notice that many male non-victims of sexual abuse dismiss as "thought problems" the problems sexual abuse causes to people in the long run such as PTSD, dissociation, psychosis, depression, cognitive problems, executive disfunction, physical pain----

I just.. find it ironic that people who haven't experienced years of sexual abuse find it easy to think the problem is simply "not being ashamed" or "thinking it's fine" and then it's all fine.

I was the sickest and worst I've ever been when I was in therapy that was focused on seeing the disorders related to trauma as a "thought problem" with the solution being to just not think about it and not see it as a problem.

I think these kinds of "treatments" can cause a lot of serious harm to people exposed to them. During the time I was in that kind of therapy I dated two different men who also thought the reason women have such a hard time with sexual assault is that they need to reframe it and think positively. They were both sadists, both of whom mentioned being sympathetic to NAMBLA and to the idea that if we were more open to sexual activity between children and adults or imbalanced power situations and accepted it socially than there wouldn't be any actual harm to the children or lesser powered person in the situation.

The lifelong issues many face from these issue require so much more money than I think the average person understands. Money is extremely needed to provide survivors with ongoing therapy, assistance with beingin the workplace (or even functioning at home) or finding jobs that match their disabilities, and doing the advocacy work of educating the general public about how to not further attack survivors for being disabled after what they've gone through.
posted by xarnop at 9:39 AM on January 24, 2013 [27 favorites]


I used to prosecute these cases and have talked to more sexually abused children in forensic interviews then I care to remember. Not to mention putting some of them on the witness stand.

From my experience and research, phillip-random is right that how well children recover from any sort of sexual abuse depends greatly on the response of the rest of us. Assigning blame where it belongs -- on the offender -- and listening well without imposing our own emotional reactions, and asking victims what outcomes they want is all very healing.

Unfortunately, there isn't any really great way to help victims of child pornography -- by which I mean the children whose abuse has been recorded -- to recover from that. These images circulate and circulate, titillating other offenders and would-be offenders, for huge amounts of time. It is an ongoing offense to the victims. Not only that, viewing child pornography is a reinforcement for other people who are actively offending -- so one child's victimization feeds the victimization of many others.

Child porn never seems to people like one of the worst sexual abuse offenses, but in fact in terms of damage inflicted and encouraged, I think it is.
posted by bearwife at 9:41 AM on January 24, 2013 [28 favorites]


i started cutting, and considering suicide, and packed run-away bags before any of the adults even knew i was molested. there was a small outcry and then within weeks the adults were letting my abuser babysit me (although he never touched me again). i'm still pretty fucked up by it all. just one person's history - but i disagree with your conclusions, philip-random. i'm "infected for life" because i was taught to give a blow job at 8 years old by someone who was in a position of power and protection.
posted by nadawi at 9:48 AM on January 24, 2013 [20 favorites]


The Atlantic (from this morning) - America Has an Incest Problem.

I just found out recently that my mother's side of the family dealt with this for several generations. While it doesn't fully excuse my mother's behavior, it does shed some light on her attitudes towards me growing up.
posted by lonefrontranger at 9:56 AM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Reading this article is giving me the reaction of "Sell the offenders organs to pay restitution to these victims: if they can't contribute to society as people, maybe they can contribute as meat", which I know is emotional and wrong, but damn if I can't convince myself of that right now.

I'm just going to take Don & Mike's advice and just "hang up and listen"
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:03 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I read the NYT article, I was reminded of this MeFi post (and was writing up a post). tl;dr Canadian police photoshopped the abused child out of some child porn photos to try to find the location of the abuse and find the child. The original links are unfortunately dead, but these links should explain the story.
Sifting Clues to an Unsmiling Girl
Toronto police find hotel where child-porn pictures taken
Wikipedia Article on Masha Elizabeth Allen
posted by theora55 at 10:10 AM on January 24, 2013


gracedissolved, the distribution of restitution is generally not very fair, but better some victims should get some help. Some of these women are stalked and need protection, they presumably all would benefit from highly skilled therapy, etc. And consequences tend to enforce rules.
posted by theora55 at 10:15 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow. Way more impactful piece than I imagined, and I'm glad to have read it. Thank you, Fizz. Lots of conflicted feelings that I'm going to spend a while sorting through.

I'm particularly disturbed on the note that the article ended with. The section in which Amy says “O.K., I didn’t work for this money. I mean, I didn’t put in 12-hour days for years straight. But I earned it, kind of. Even if I didn’t earn it.” struck me because the whole vibe of those paragraphs is that restitution will never be enough, and neither woman was raised with the financial acumen to spread that money out in a way that will be meaningful for her entire life. We do not have the tools to make her whole, and, as others in this thread have pointed out, there are a lot of women (and probably a lot of men, too), who will never be whole.

I didn't want to derail the thread too far, but I did want to comment on xarnop's perspective: A while ago, a rape victim confided in me that she had been raped, and in that conversation she asked me a question that blindsided me, the gist of which was "knowing this, what do you think of me now?"

I am not a victim of abuse, so you are more than welcome to discount my perspective, but when I hear that question I would like to respond in a way that acknowledges the hurt and injury, but that says that my opinion of the victim isn't lowered by the fact that they've been victims.

Which is complexified by my observation above that "We do not have the tools to make her whole."

I guess what I'm saying is that so far as I can see, the best I can do is to acknowledge the hurt but not dwell in it, to try to separate the crime from the victim, and to carry on as though the victim can "not be ashamed". All the while knowing that that cannot and will never be enough.
posted by straw at 10:17 AM on January 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


the bigger, broader, more societal issue has to be that of shame -- the fact that we continue to live in a society where it seems nothing is dirtier, nastier, more revolting than sex.

hmmm? I re-read this part of my comment and I can easily see how this sort of logic could be used by an abuser to maybe not justify but certainly mitigate his/her actions. So, all apologies for not being more sensitive in how I organized my thinking.

As for this --

I can't remember where I read it, but I recall coming across a study where it was concluded that for children who had been molested at an early age, the number one factor in whether or not it would negatively affect them throughout their life was the response of the adults around them. If the response was disgust, revulsion, shame, the kids were effectively doomed to NOT getting over it. Whereas, those who were treated more or less "normally" by the adults around them tended to do okay in the long run.

I didn't make this up. I do recall reading about the study and I do recall that it made me hopeful on the level that maybe we can't outright stop the sexual abuse of children (ie: there will always be damaged people wreaking damage on the innocent), but in, as straw just noted, separating the crime from the victim, we can change the degree to which this damage results in long-term scars for the abused.
posted by philip-random at 10:33 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Money as restitution is not a problem. The problem is figuring out how to put the money in a bag and forcing this rapist to eat it, and then hanging him from a tree and beating him like the piece of shit pinata that he is.
posted by phaedon at 10:35 AM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Philip-random, is this the study you were thinking of? As you can see it generated a good deal of controversy, but I think the idea that it is possible to recover from childhood sexual abuse is an important one. Too often it seems like victims are written off as "damaged goods" and in some cases I have seen treated as potential offenders themselves, without ever giving anyone reason to do so.
posted by TedW at 10:44 AM on January 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


maybe instead of insisting that it's totally something you read and giving us your impressions of it, you can find the actual study. in my own history, people who tried really hard to separate "the crime from the victim" did it to tell me to just get over it already, which personally was less than helpful.
posted by nadawi at 10:45 AM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


How is he?” she asked her parents in the weeks after his arrest. “Is he going to be mad at me?”

I swear I just felt my heart fall out of my chest and sink through the floor.
posted by sonika at 10:48 AM on January 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think that taking money and freedom away from these pieces of shit who took pleasure out of the physical documentation of these horrible acts is generally a good thing. To the scale that it hurts them very much, yes.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:50 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


nadawi, I hear you. I won't comment further in this regard unless I can find something substantive. In that light, TedW's link doesn't feel like the right study, because the focus there seems to be more on the actual occasion of the abuse (was it coercive, forced etc?) than its aftermath.
posted by philip-random at 10:52 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


she asked me a question that blindsided me, the gist of which was "knowing this, what do you think of me now?"

Suggested answer: "I think I'm honored that you trusted me enough to tell me, that you are a strong and courageous person for having survived this, and that I am truly sorry you experienced this."

How is he?” she asked her parents in the weeks after his arrest. “Is he going to be mad at me?”

I swear I just felt my heart fall out of my chest and sink through the floor.


Victims often feel very ambivalent toward their abusers. Especially child victims. That's why it is so important to listen to them and what concerns them and put our own emotional reactions on a shelf where they aren't another burden for the victim to bear.
posted by bearwife at 10:53 AM on January 24, 2013 [18 favorites]


Can someone help me understand the table linked in the Atlantic article lonefrontranger? It's here and certainly substantiates the author's claim the child sexual abuse is overwhelmingly perpetrated within the nuclear family. Can anyone figure out where the numbers come from? Or tell what duplicate perpetrator means?

They don't jibe at all with what I have long understood to be the risk factors for sexual abuse, which I've understand in shorthand to be, basically, having a single mom who works and dates men (this describes me, so I am particularly attune to it). Is that reserach out of date and/or discredited? The linked table makes it seem like biological fathers are a much greater threat (like, 10x the threat) than step-fathers and that surprises me.
posted by looli at 11:08 AM on January 24, 2013


My mother explained to me this weekened what a good man her child molesting father was and for me to not just see the bad but see the good in him.

I think it's very painful to both love someone and face that they have done monstrous things. It feels easier to try to just be ok, to make everything ok. Erase the damage. Forgiveness. Everything is ok.

And after years of everything being ok and carrying the abuser while they cry and want to die for the wrong they know they're doing, eventually you see that you're not ok. And you can't just make everything ok. And someone you love, who you can see good things about, who you want love from and want to give love to... has done things that are so horrible you can't fathom them.

I think the well intentioned desire to ensure that "survivors can be healthy!" is as useful as the idea that autism can be cured. Sure, SOME developmental disorders can be cured. But some require ongoing maintenence and acknowledgement of disability status that rigid determination to provide aggressive "cure" oriented treatments might make some people worse off who could simply use ongoing support and understanding that their experiences left them different, and often in a lifelong way.
posted by xarnop at 11:13 AM on January 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Regarding looli's question, I don't have access to the paper itself, but the abstract of Finkelhor and Baron point "e" calls outs stepfathers. Is it possible that HHS Administration for Children & Families (http://www.acf.hhs.gov/ is the root of that link) table's "Parent" category includes married but not biologically related? Especially given that their other category in which this might fall is "Unmarried Partner of Parent"?

My sample of discussions about sexual abuse with women who were sexually abused as children is small, but "stepfather" has ranked highly in those. Which I think makes sense, the one-night-stand is more likely to be rebuffed, or the victim is more likely to not feel like calling out the casual relationship as threatening the victim's relationship with their mother.

What struck me in that HHS table was how wildly different the numbers were relative to each other. The columns that leaped out at me were "Other Relative" vs "Unmarried Partner of Parent". Why is that 7,131 to 441 in New York, and 1,115 to 3,035 in Massachusetts. Different data collection methodologies? Different cultures?
posted by straw at 11:35 AM on January 24, 2013


i think it's also dependent on the communities you're in - a lot of the survivors i know, myself included, would count our risk factors as being in a devout religious household where the patriarchy rules more than normal, sadly biology doesn't seem to be a barrier to many of the abusers i know.
posted by nadawi at 11:39 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


a lot of the survivors i know, myself included, would count our risk factors as being in a devout religious household where the patriarchy rules more than normal

I would love to know if anyone's conducted a study on the rate of sexual abuse in highly religious communities vs. in comparable secular enclaves. I'm not talking about abuse by clergy, but rather sexual abuse perpetrated by family members or community members at large. I wonder if some community characteristics lend themselves to a culture of abuse.
posted by sobell at 4:34 PM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is not to endorse the perspective, but books like The Trauma Myth or, much less controversially Trauma and Recovery discuss those kind of ideas.

On the more flexible end of the spectrum, like the latter book, Herman simply argues that a culture's response to trauma and the traumatised has a strong affect on how the latter recover.

Beyond the more incendiary arguments, the Trauma Myth pushes what I think is at least a superfically plausible scenario for some cases; namely that what happens after the events can be as, or more, damaging than events themselves - or compounds the damage. Abuse takes places on a continuum and encompasses far more than the act and actors. Nonetheless, very controversial book and theses.

I do think it's important that people can discuss these things. So much about abuse - especially involving children - is tied up in social notions of sacred and profane, the actual victims and their voices can be lost in a maelstrom of cosigns and symbols.
posted by smoke at 4:42 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


The "keep calm and carry on" response makes sense for a trauma that is *over*, not one that's ongoing. It's hard to recover from a trauma you're currently experiencing, and if pictures are still being circulated you are still being victimized, and also still being exploited. This is a fact, even regardless of how you feel about it.

The "keep calm and carry on" response also isn't a reason for not pressing charges when a crime has been committed, and I highly doubt that the "healthiest" parents were the ones who were so chillaxed that they didn't even bother to report the offence. For ongoing crimes like these, it would indeed, sadly, be "normal" to say that yeah, there are people out there profiting from your victimisation even now, but that's none of your business, you have to forgive and move on. And yeah, the images are being used to harass you even now, but you just have to tell the harasser to stop (and the next harasser, and the next harasser), and rise above the drama, because there's nothing you can do about it. Sure, you're getting called a "porn star", but do you have something against sex workers? You're not ashamed, are you?

In my opinion, you wouldn't have to *feel* "disgust, revulsion, shame" at any of this to know that it's not right. A way of demonstrating that society agrees that it's not right, is to make it cost the perpetrators something to keep participating in this. It might not be the best possible way of bringing justice but it is *a* way of bringing justice, which makes a nice change. Unless someone has an actual better idea, objecting to it seems a lot like concern-trolling to me.
posted by tel3path at 5:29 PM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Concerning the religious-family/patriarchy occurrence: ok, this is generalisation, but it is from my experience of different cultures and countries....
1 all crime is cultural. Rape +/- murder is particularly popular one in the West. Killing an ex girlfriend then yourself and kidnap for ransom were popular in Italy when i was there, yet rare/never in the UK. The first was seen as romantic and sad. Usually did not include much stalking it seemed, and Western stalkers do not usually commit suicide. Violent crime is rare in China, poverty & pickpocketing endemic. etc.
2 Countries either commit crimes at home or in the street. That is, either crime is very rare, but wifebeating, incest etc is common, or those are low but mugging, assault etc are common. The West is a do-crime-to-strangers society.
posted by maiamaia at 5:37 PM on January 24, 2013


I believe the mennonite/amish are a crime-at-home example. But, low crime in the street. I'm trying to say, each way round has a gain - imagine being able to walk safely anywhere at night, as a woman?
posted by maiamaia at 5:39 PM on January 24, 2013


You make a good point, straw. It makes total sense that a step-father would be considered a parent, legally. Don't know why that didn't occur to me.
posted by looli at 6:19 PM on January 24, 2013


It seems to me that parents and other folks can respond well to a child who is abused and the child can still experience really negative psychological consequences. Maybe those psychological consequences would have been worse had the family response been more accusatory, but a supportive family doesn't necessarily erase the trauma of abuse, just mitigate it.
posted by jaguar at 7:16 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, that was devastating. (Thanks for posting it, though).

. RIP VAWA.
posted by likeatoaster at 8:29 PM on January 24, 2013


People criticising financial compensation need to keep in mind that money is the only means of compensation that the law generally recognises. So if someone libels you, steals from you, breaks your leg, or damages you in any other way, the answer is money. The primary purpose of these payments are to put the victim in something like the place she would have been in without the injury, of course, but I think compensation has an important social role generally.

Criminal punishment (e.g., a prison sentence) just recognises that someone committed a crime against society. Society is big and hard to visualise; the seriousness of the injury can get lost when we look at it like that. When a court orders compensation for a victim it means a lot more: it places the injury against a human scale, which calibrate our sense of the seriousness of crimes; and it potentially forces the offender to confront the fact that their act hurt a real person, which is one of the aims of rehabilitation. As long as the purpose of compensation is tied to the injury of the victim it is not only just in itself, but helps us accomplish our goals of a just society in a more compassionate and less punitive way.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:58 PM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


About dead kids on Reddit. Ugh.

Quote: ******While not the same, I have zero clue why Reddit has a "dead kids" subreddit on there. Isn't there privacy laws regarding something like that? Disgusting. And not being a prude or anything since I see gore, etc. but something about showing dead kids. WTF kind of sickness is that?
posted by stormpooper at 8:57 AM on January 24***********


I think several people there have explained why they look at such pictures. I would try to read them if you are really interested.

I, personally, have worked in the medical field for 20 years [veterinary] so I am familiar with gore --In addition, I have never had children of my own nor have babysat for any length of time.

There is something about children that seems, to me, to be eternal and their bodies seem to be treated as sacrosanct. Their deaths[in vivid visual form] really bring home the fragility of life despite our society's attempt to hide this fragility at nearly all costs [attempts at censorship by people who cannot understand that others, possibly, do not think the way they do]. These pictures [because we are a primarily visual-based species] sear it into my mind the importance of being safe [rather than yolo and/or doing risky behavior just for the hell of it and/or when I am angry or otherwise impaired these kind of pictures tattoo the **emotional** importance of being safe in a way that nothing else ever could.]

I do not look at the pictures very often, but when I do I remember all of the poor animals I have helped; then I realize that kids can often suffer the same kinds of injuries because both are innocent of the dangers of what could happen to them out in the real, non-insulated world.

Sure, you could accuse me of trying to dress up thrill seeking with my wordy superstructure of seemingly esoteric arguments, but I truly assure you that that is not how **I** think. It is not a thrill at all, it is scary and unforgettable unlike written words or lectures on a silent page.
posted by RuvaBlue at 9:03 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


" I just.. find it ironic that people who haven't experienced years of sexual abuse find it easy to think the problem is simply "not being ashamed" or "thinking it's fine" and then it's all fine.

I was the sickest and worst I've ever been when I was in therapy that was focused on seeing the disorders related to trauma as a "thought problem" with the solution being to just not think about it and not see it as a problem." posted by xarnop at 9:39 AM on January 24

This is not what [I think] the original poster was saying at all. This only applies to the adults around the child near the time of the actual events NOT THE CHILD now or in the child's future. This person did not say that therapy once the events have left a terrible impression on the person is not a very important and a vital part of helping people. If the trauma was not physical[causing injury] nor scary at the time of the trauma nor ongoing the child's future interpretation of how to react is mostly from the people whom he loves/around the child. They were not saying to not treat PTSD> I have had PTSD from physical [a car crash] and primarily emotional events. Both caused repeated re-living of the events/words that last for years and occasionally still upset me. What would NOT have helped was to see a very impression-giving extreme emotional response from the people around me at the approximate time of the events. Yes, I want the people around me to truly sympathize and acknowledge that it was totally wrong for the abuser to do/say what they did, but more scary reactions can re-enforce and complicate traumatic memories.


Recent science articles about memory have proved that talk therapy-counseling minutes after an event is not advised. Having time to process then go to counseling after you have had some time to interpret it on your own is better for treating PTSD [in addition to beta-blockers]. Memory is not a video/audio recording of an event; each time you recall a memory you base it on what you recall from the previous time of remembering. Thus, it is continually changing. Psychological therapy when you are able to talk about it is the best time to start re-interpreting it and reducing its emotional impact, gradually.
posted by RuvaBlue at 10:22 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ruvablue, I have certainly read plenty of studies that first response plays a role in later adjustment-- and I totally agree with you that other people's extreme emotions can make it much harder for a suvivor rather than easier.

I have spent the last three years up to my ears in research on epigenetics, gene-environment interactions, environmental impacts of physical (food, water, air) and emotional (family, peers, social) factors on biological functioning in the body.

Thousands of studies I've read and spent a good deal of time discussing their validity with biology and psych teachers and trying to find research from good sources. You can check my posts for a small sample, but I literally have thousands of studies I poured through in my old computer.

I, myself, was curious about seperating out what the actual affects vs the claimed effects of abuse could be on various different types of people based on various different types and durations of abuse and other factors in their lives. And also, on tracing the biological health problems I have (allergies, chronic infections, viral infections, poor immune system, auto-immune thyroid problems, hypoglycemia, irritable bowel)-- and how they lined up with the physical manifestions of ancestral and childhood exposures to poor environments.

My main reason for doing this reading was to disprove the theory that if you "think positively" about traumatic events you will thus have no effects from it.

There are many different kinds of effects and what kinds of effects happen depend on the person and I don't think effects should be projected ONTO people. Whether there are severe or lingering affects just depends on the person. I think the idea that other animals "don't get trauma" is really silly. I knew a dog that was weaned at a few days and it nursed on a blanket into old age. People are animals and animals can be affected by their environments. That's basic science. Seriously if you don't think animals can be altered by experience you haven't read much basic science, pavlov anyone? Yeesh. Animals can be tortured and the effects observed and there is plenty of actual research done of this type. It's awful research but if you doubt their can be long term or generational effects even in animals who lack the type of cognitive formations humans have you could simply exlore that rather disturbing field of research and probably change your tune.

My point being, the problem isn't the belief system about the trauma causing physical affects if it's happening in non-human animals who don't even HAVE a belief system or concept of "trauma". Harlow's monkeys? Maybe they just needed to realize their abnormal behavior and tendency toward mokey alcoholism was a myth because they weren't actually altered by their mothers being absent.

Also I think putting pressure on survivors to think positive and be fine deprives them of being able to acknowledge any negative feelings they do feel in order to make themselves more pleasant to people around them. I think CBT and other techniques are great for turning of mourning, panic or negative symptoms, but they can be very cruelly applied to require people who deserve to express how horrific their experience was for them to shut up because it pleases others.

I've had so many debates with people who think trauma has no effects if you think about it properly that I put in the time to research if that were true. I am fine with debating it but it does get frustrating when the general population decides "the best thing to do" without actually reading research and thinking cirtically about that research. And yes, research can be codswallop and always needs to be evaluated and challenged but it's still better to consult and ponder research than to simply pull ideas out of anacdata and personal bias and refuse to re-evaluate them.
posted by xarnop at 10:17 AM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I want to clarify a bit more--- I'm not sure the original posters intent and believe it may have been very different than how I heard it. The previous paragraph is why I feel it's important to challenge notions that trauma is a myth or that the right mindset or social attitude will result in abuse not having affects. I do think it winds up hurting survivors too.

Many of whome self medicate or can't hold jobs, are on the streets. Could really use ongoing services and not "adjust your mindset and stop being altered by pretend trauma" lectures.
posted by xarnop at 10:20 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


xarnop: Everything you have said above seems to jibe with what I know, including the ideas about animals experiencing PSTD-ish symptoms and being frequently affected emotionally and behaviorally by traumatic events. Being a licensed veterinary "nurse" [called technician] for 20 years and owning many dogs, cats, chickens etc. I can confirm that this fits in with what I have learned [original college days and continuing education] and experienced.

"Also I think putting pressure on survivors to think positive and be fine deprives them of being able to acknowledge any negative feelings they do feel in order to make themselves more pleasant to people around them."
Yes, that is very insensitive, and ultimately cruel, of anyone [including professionals in the field] to force this onto people who have already and/or continue to receive trauma either physically or psychologically. Life is not as simple as some people wish it were.
posted by RuvaBlue at 12:57 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


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