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Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

Thursday: the psychological need for self-care

In Sexual Assault Awareness on March 31, 2011 at 10:11 am

I’ve noticed over the years how some words develop such terrible stigmas that people will do anything to avoid association.  I first became aware of this trend in college while taking a Women’s Psychology class and on the first day the professor asked the students to raise thier hand if they were a feminist.  There were a few students in the front whose hands shot up, but as  I looked around the room I noticed that the majority of us kept our hands on our desks.  I had never burned my bra in protest.  I had never gone weeks without shaving my legs to prove that women had nothing to prove.  Then I listened as the professor asked who in the room thought that men and women were equal beings deserving of equal privileges.  At this, my hand too  raised.  I had always been the girl with a decent supply of power tools, I always felt that I was equal to male coworkers, and grew up playing co-ed soccer.  So after a lengthy collegiate discussion about how that was the true meaning of a feminist I wondered why the term had gotten such a bad rap.

I now have an equal experience in counseling when the term ‘selfish’ is brought up in that people believe that putting their needs as equal to or ahead of others is deserving of this negative stigma.  When working with secondary survivors of sexual assault I often ask them what they are doing to take care of themselves.  Many give me a funny look and explain that their child, husband, wife, or friend who was assaulted is their main priority and that they spend their time taking care of the loved one.  I think that many would stigmatize themselves as selfish if they briefly left the survivor and took a walk, got a pedicure, went to church, or checked Facebook in another room.  Just like society had equated the word feminist to mean something that it doesn’t, society has also changed the definition of self-care to selfish.  Few secondary survivors realize that they are a better source of support if they themselves maintain their emotional health.  Like another psych professor said in college, “take care of the caretaker.”

So, with this thought in mind, we are striving to take care of the caretakers of child survivors and holding a Parent Support Group.  This group will offer information on how to talk to your child, help to explain what your child is going through, and techniques for helping them.  But the group will also provide an opportunity for parents to engage in self-care; it will be a place to decompress and be able to relate to others.  The group will take place on Monday afternoons from 4-5, and participants must complete an intake before participating.  So I encourage all parents to take some time to process the trauma that the assault has caused them, and remind yourself that an hour away isn’t selfish, it’s self-care.

RCASA at the National Forum on Campus Sexual Assault in Hampton, VA

In Sexual Assault Awareness on March 30, 2011 at 9:29 am

Today is the first day of the National Forum on Campus Sexual Assault. The conference is sponsored by the Virgina Department of Criminal Justice Services and features members from law enforcement, campus, and agencies from around Virginia and the country.

Topics discussed at the conference include:

– The Clery Act and potential changes in 2011

– Sex Crimes Allegations: Management and Best Practices in the University Setting

– Sexual Predators on Campus: Research Studies and Statistics

– Communication Issues and Cross Disciplinary Coordination: Creating Seamless Reporting Systems

There will also be discussion groups featuring a panel of experts, one of whom is our very own Executive Director Carol Olson!

 

Here is a link to the event:

http://www.dcjs.virginia.gov/vcss/training/1011/CampusSAForum.cfm

RCASA is out and about town this week and next!

In Education on March 29, 2011 at 8:01 am

RCASA is presenting at different agencies on Sexual Assault for April’s Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.  Come learn about prevention and intervention of sexual assault and abuse. 

March 29- April 1: National Forum on Campus Sexual Assault

  • RCASA has a booth at the Conference, come by and visit us. 
  • RCASA is part of a community forum: attend and learn from the panel about the challenges and successes of providing prevention and education on college campuses. 

April 2nd: Caroline County Family Fair

  • Stop by RCASA’s booth and attend David presentation on sexual assalt and bullying. 

Held at the Caroline County Middle School

April 6th: Rappahannock Area Community Services Board – ATP Team.  1:00 – 3:00 pm

  • Learn about RCASA’s services from crisis response, medical/forensic accompaniment, legal advocacy and case management, support groups, counseling and therapy.

Held at the Rappahannock United Way on Shannon Airport Drive. 

April 7th:  RappahannockArea Disability Network  – 12:00 – 1:30 pm presentation on  

  • identifying sexual assault/abuse in vulnerable populations,
  • best response to someone who has reported (how to respond, how to maintain potential evidence),
  • and information on what to do next (forensic examination, reporting to police, services available at RCASA and in the community)

 disAbility Resource Center, 409 Progress Street Fredericksburg, VA 22401, Please RSVP no later than Wednesday, April 6 to: shanna.boutchyard@fredgoodwill.org  (Lunch will be served.)

April 9th: UMW Multi-Cultural Fair

  • Come by and visit our booth all day during UMW’s annual multi-cultural day. 

Held at the University of Mary Washington – Fredericksburg Campus

April 9th: CCWV Family Fun Day 12 pm – 3:00 pm

  • Come out for family fun time, lots of games and activities and learn about your local non-profits.  Visit RCASA’s booth and get information on how we serve the community through prevention, education and intervention services for survivors of sexual assault and abuse.

Tuesday Prevention: Teen Magazines

In Sexual Assault Awareness on March 29, 2011 at 7:00 am

Recently, an article came out in the journal Violence Against Women titled ‘Teen Magazines as Educational Texts on Dating Violence: The $2.99 Approach.’ The article examines what role magazines aimed at the teen audience have on teen dating and teen dating violence [TDV].

The article states that teen magazines have the position of a counselor to young women. This role influences how young women look at their own relationships, including whether they should be in one or not, and whether or not they should be sexually active. The study revealed that, of stories about TDV, case studies were the most common. In these case studies, aspects of the teens’ stories were mixed in with ‘cursory references’ to information about the broader social context of TDV (Kettrey, H.H. & Emery, B.C; 2010). This method of storytelling is deemed effective by the authors because of its ability for articles to ‘hit home’ and make them identifiable to teens’ lives. When discussing the cultural frame of TDV, using these case studies can make the information in the article easier to digest and understand. This also helps teens understand that dating violence is both an individual and cultural problem. Of the articles examined in the study that explored the broader social context of TDV, two influences were ‘alluded’ to, ‘’gender socialization and family transmission of violence’ (Ibid, 2010).

The focus of these articles is overwhelmingly on the victim. The victim’s story is told from the victim’s perspective. Exploring how victims were portrayed, the authors found that the ‘circumstances of the victim were often maximized’ (Ibid., p1282). Unfortunately, the dynamics of the violence were framed in the framework of the individual. This was done by ‘highlighting victim naiveté and failing to recognize the cycle of violence’ (Ibid., 1285).

Interventions were found to be framed as legal outlets or services in the community (like RCASA!). The solutions to TDV found in these articles were ‘checklists, psychological counseling, or fairytale ending’ (Ibid., 1287).

The media is a powerful influence on our behavior. It plays a major role in our socialization and how we view and interpret life. With the television being widely available now, as well as the internet, media messages have become more powerful with each succeeding generation. These messages come to u from every angle; walk outside and you will be bombarded by advertising. We spend more and more time in front of the TV, listening to music, surfing the internet. This creates a very obvious disconnect between individuals, this means that these messages are becoming more prevalent and more profound in their effect on us. When we don’t have others to ask the questions of ourselves we can’t, or won’t, we tend to accept the easiest solutions, or what is the first thing we hear.

The article makes clear that, while teen magazines have the ear of young women and can influence positively their ability to avoid or get out of abusive relationships, it is no way presently truly preventing TDV. Prevention of violence is only necessary when there is someone using violence. Thus, prevention efforts must target perpetrators, not victims, or rather not solely victims. These magazines could do wonders in preventing violence is the messages are directed more towards the abusers as well as exploring the social context in which TDV occurs. We need to, as a society, have an open and honest discussion about violence. TDV, IPV, SV, SA….etc, happen far too often to strictly be considered an individual problem. We have a cultural problem.

This is a great article, and it focuses on an incredibly important avenue of information distribution. There are some issues, however, as the article is inappropriately titled. Most teen magazines are directly aimed at young women. Guys tend to either not read magazines, or read magazines aimed at an older audience* (wink, wink) e.g. Men’s Health, Maxim…etc. So they have left out a huge audience of messages. The article also normalizes heterosexual relationships. It neglects to mention the very real, though still rare, gay and lesbian relationships. Also missing is the violence experienced by young men. We know that men experience violence at the hands of their female partners.

The issue is with violence in general, prevention efforts need to be varying and crossing all social structures.

Hombres que sobreviven sexualmente a un asalto sexual

In Awareness Campaigns, Education, Hispanic/Latino, Outreach, Prevention, Professional Training, Sexual Assault Awareness, Trauma on March 28, 2011 at 8:00 am

Hombres que sobreviven a un asalto sexual

“Los hombres que sobreviven a un asalto sexual a menudo sienten vergüenza…lo que contribuye a un sentido de aislamiento y desesperación” – Michael Scarce

Todo el mundo cree que los hombres no pueden ser asaltados sexualmente pero la realidad es que lo son.  Se calcula que que uno de cada diez hombres será asaltado sexualmente durante su vida adulta.  Las estadísticas son muchas más altas en los niños, studios calculan que uno de cada seis niños es asaltado sexualmente antes de los 18 años.  Esta discrepancia entre creencia y realidad significa que los hombres y los niños están entre las víctimas más silenciadas del crimen más silenciado: el asalto sexual.

Qué es el asalto sexual?

El asalto sexual no es sexo; no es un “delito pasional”.  Es un delito violento, de poder y de control.  Ocurre cuando se fuerza, amenaza, coacciona o manipula a una persona para que se lleve a cabo un contacto o un acto sexual en contra de su voluntad.  Nadie pide que se le asalte sexualmente – es el autor del delito quién decide hacerle daño a alguien.  El asalto sexual nunca es culpa de la víctima.

¿Quiénes son los autores de un delito sexual?

A causa de falsas creencias de que el asalto sexual está motivado por el sexo, con frecuencia se asume que cualquiera que asalte sexualmente a un hombre va en busca de sexo.  Por ende, deducimos que el que lo asalto sexualmente fue una mujer heterosexual o un hombre homosexual.  Pero el asalto sexual no tiene que ver con el sexo – tien que ver con la violencia, poder, hostilidad y dominio.  Es un intento de hacerle daño a alguien.  Es posible que una mujer asalte sexualmente a un hombre; y algunos hombres que llevan a acabo asaltos sexuales contra hombres son homosexuales.  Pero la mayoría de los asaltos sexuales contra hombres son cometidos por hombres heterosexuales.

¿Por qué?

A veces, una persona que quiere controlar o dominar a otras personas no le importa a quién domine.  A veces, en un entorno totalmente masculino, como en una prisión o en una escuela para niños, solo hay hombres disponibles.  Y a veces, los hombres que se sienten amenazados por la idea de la homosexualidad asaltan a hombres que piensan pueden ser homosexuales, lo sean o no.

98% de los perpetradores de asaltos sexuales son hombres.  Cuando el perpetrador es una mujer, por lo general, la víctima es un niño o un adolescente.

Si ha sido asaltado sexualmente

Los hombres que han sido asaltados por otro hombre con frecuencia cuestionan su propia sexualidad.  Pero el ser asaltado no cambia su orientación sexual.  El haber sido asaltado sexualmente por un hombre no lo convierte en una persona homosexual.

En muchos casos de violación sexual los hombres – víctimas de violencia sexual pueden tener una respuesta fisiológica ante el asalto sexual, causada por el miedo o por la presión sobre la prostate, pueden hasta disfrutar del asalto sexual.  Esto no significa que el asalto fue deseado, pero puede dar lugar a sentimientos de confusion, auto acusación o duda.

Si un niño es asaltado por un adulto se puede sentir confundido, puede dudar de si ha sido asaltado, o puede cuestionar si debía haber disfrutado de la experiencia.  Si un adulto tiene contacto sexual con una persona menor de edad está cometiendo un delito, incluso si la víctima “estaba de acuerdo “ con la actividad sexual, e incluso si no hubo ningún tipo de fuerza.

Víctimas menores de edad – a veces tienen sentimientos conflictivos con respect a la experiencia, especialmente si algunas partes de la experiencia le parecieron agradables.  Sin embargo, el adulto es la persona responsible de sus acciones.  La víctima no tiene la culpa.

¿Cómo se sienten un hombre despúes de un asalto sexual?

Los hombres que sobreviven a un asalto sexual tienen muchos sentimientos similares a los que experimentan las mujeres en el mismo caso.  También hay preocupaciones y sentimientos específicos que un hombre sobreviviente de un asalto sexual puede tener.  Los sobrevivientes a menudo experimentan una serie de efectos despúes de un asalto, algunos inmediatos, algunos a más largo plazo.  A veces es posible que pasen meses o años hasta empezar a tener sentimientos sobre lo que ha pasado.  eso es normat también.

Los hombres puden sentir: confusión, miedo, nerviosismo, pena, culpabilidad, ira, daño, vergüenza, sensación de falta de poder, incapacida de comer, incapacidad de dormir, incapacidad de concentración, humillación, depresión, traición, einsensibilidad, entre otros.

El temor a la reacción de la gente hace que un hombre que ha sido asalto sexualmente se caye y sufra silenciosamente, convirtiéndose en alcoholico, drogadicto, o en agresor sexual.

Si ha sido asaltado:

–          Vaya a un lugar seguro.

–          Si gusta puede llamar a un amigo o un familiar de su más absoluta confianza para que lo acompañe.

–          No coma, no beba, no se cepille los dientes, no se bañe.  Trate de preserver todas las evidencias que le sean posible.

–          Busque atención médica inmediata (lo recomendable es el de no esperar que pasen más de 72 horas, despúes del incidente ocurrido) – la mayoría de víctimas del Distrito de Planificación No. 16 de Virginia que sirve la ciudad de Fredericksburg y los condados de: Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania y Stafford , acuden al hospital local Mary Washington (Mary Washington Hospital) en donde cuentan con un equipo de peritos profesionales expertos en exámenes forenses completos en la recuperación de evidencias, interrogaciones y un reporte policial si así lo desean, aquí también pueden ser evaluadas por un doctor por cualquier condición médica que necesite ser tratada inmediatamente.  Se les toma exámenes de sangre para descartar la contracción de VIH o cualquier enfermedad transmitida sexualmente.  Este examen es cubierto por su seguro médico y si no lo tiene ciertos de estos gastos pueden ser cubiertos por El Fondo de Compensación por lesiones delictivas y/o criminales (Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund, CICF). 

También hay otras clínicas (a bajo costo) en el area en donde pueden solicitar estos tipos de exámenes (VIH y enfermedades por transmission sexual), si lo desean, o lo pueden hacer a través de su médico privado.

En la mayoría de estos lugares oueda que hablen en español.  En el hospital pueden solicitar un intérprete sin costo alguno.  La policía normalmente tiene oficiales que hablan español.

El examen forense le da la opción de reportar el delito a las autoridades, pero se respeta su opinion si así no lo desea.

Trabajando en este campo puedo decir de que las víctimas por lo menos deben de darse la oportunidad de escuchar a todas sus opciones y decidir.  Conocí a muchas víctimas que no siguieron este proceso, quisieron levanter denuncias sobre sus agresores despúes de haber transcurrido un buen tiempo ya y no pudieron hacerlo por falta de evidencias.  La preservación de evidencias es muy válida cuando el caso se presenta en frente de un juez.

–          Busque apoyo emocional, aquí en RCASA le ofrecemos servicios de prevención, educación, alcance comunitario.  Respetamos la confidencialidad y les brindamos: Línea de ayuda inmediata en casos de crisis, acompañamiento al hospital en casos de exámenes forenses, acompañamiento al hospital si desean proseguir con la demanda judicial.  Tenemos consejería y derivamos a nuestros clientes a lugares especializados, (cómo a clínicas legales y abogados e inmigración, compensación laboral, y a otras agencias que puedan trabajar con el respeto de sus derechos humanos) para que ellos puedan encontrar el cuidado y la comprensión que tanto necesitan.

Si conoce a algún hombre que ha sido asaltado sexualmente:

–          Créale, escúchelo sin juzgar, bríndele Consuelo y apoyo, hágale recorad que no fue culpa de el, anímele a que busque atención médica, sugiérale que nos busque o que busque el centro de crisis de asalto sexual de su area., respite sus decisiones y su intimidad.

RCASA es su CASA y estamos aquí para ayudarles.

Concilio Rappahannock Contra el Asalto Sexual

Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault, RCASA

(540) 371-5502 (español)

(540) 371-1666 (línea de ayuda inmediata)

(Artículo reproducido y modificado de un folleto de la agencia de Violencia Familiar y Asalto Sexual en Virginia (Virginia Family Violence & Sexual Assault, VAASA)

RCASA Sunday with Case Management: Facts about Child Sexual Abuse

In Advocacy, Case Management, Systems Advocacy on March 27, 2011 at 7:00 am

Child sexual abuse has been at the center of unprecedented public attention during the last decade. All fifty states and the District of Columbia have enacted statutes identifying child sexual abuse as criminal behavior (Whitcomb, 1986). This crime encompasses different types of sexual activity, including voyeurism, sexual dialogue, fondling, touching of the genitals, vaginal, anal, or oral rape and forcing children to participate in pornography or prostitution.

Child Sexual Abusers

Perpetrators of child sexual abuse come from different age groups, genders, races and socio- economic backgrounds. Women sexually abuse children, although not as frequently as men, and juvenile perpetrators comprise as many as one-third of the offenders (Finkelhor, 1994). One common denominator is that victims frequently know and trust their abusers.

Child abusers coerce children by offering attention or gifts, manipulating or threatening their victims, using aggression or employing a combination of these tactics. “[D]ata indicate that child molesters are frequently aggressive. Of 250 child victims studied by DeFrancis, 50% experienced physical force, such as being held down, struck, or shaken violently” (Becker, 1994).

Child Sexual Abuse Victims

Studies have not found differences in the prevalence of child sexual abuse among different social classes or races. However, parental inadequacy, unavailability, conflict and a poor parent-child relationship are among the characteristics that distinguish children at risk of being sexually abused (Finkelhor, 1994). According to the Third National Incidence Study, girls are sexually abused three times more often than boys, whereas boys are more likely to die or be seriously injured from their abuse (Sedlak & Broadhurst, 1996). Both boys and girls are most vulnerable to abuse between the ages of 7 and 13 (Finkelhor, 1994).

      • Although child sexual abuse is reported almost 90,000 times a year, the numbers of unreported abuse is far greater because the children are afraid to tell anyone what has happened, and the legal procedure for validating an episode is difficult (American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 2004).
      • It is estimated that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will have experienced an episode of sexual abuse while younger than 18 years.  The numbers of boys affected may be falsely low because of reporting techniques (Botash, Ann, MD, Pediatric Annual, May, 1997).
      • Sixty-seven percent of all victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies were juveniles (under the age of 18); 34% of all victims were under age 12. One of every seven victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies were under 6. Forty percent of the offenders who victimized children under age 6 were juveniles (under the age of 18). (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000).
      • Most children are abused by someone they know and trust, although boys are more likely than girls to be abused outside of the family. A study in three states found 96% of reported rape survivors under age 12 knew the attacker. Four percent of the offenders were strangers, 20 percent were fathers, 16 percent were relatives and 50% were acquaintances or friends (Advocates for Youth, 1995).

      All the above statistics were retrieved from The National Center for Victims of Crime:  http://www.ncvc.org/ncvc/main.aspx?dbName=DocumentViewer&DocumentID=32315

Letter to General Holder, RE: National Standards to Prevent, Respond to, and Monitor Sexual Abuse in Prison

In Legal Advocacy, Prevention, Systems Advocacy on March 26, 2011 at 8:13 am

Robert Hinchman, Senior Counsel

U.S. Department of Justice

Office of Legal Policy

950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Room 4252

Washington, DC 20530

RE:      Docket No. OAG-131; AG Order No. 3244-2011

National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape

Dear Attorney General Holder,

 On behalf of the Rappahannock Council Against Sexual Assault (RCASA), this letter is submitted to express support for many of the Department’s proposed national standards, but also to make recommendations for strengthening or revising other standards. RCASA’s mission is to provide education, prevention and intervention in our community.  Our community also consists of detention centers and corrections facilities.   RCASA advocates on behalf of the women, children and men who have needlessly suffered the serious trauma of sexual abuse, and envisions a world free from sexual violence.

As an organization committed to ending sexual violence, we are eager to partner with corrections agencies to assist victimized inmates. It should be noted, however, that many sexual assault crisis centers, like us, receive the majority of their funding from the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). Currently, organizations are prohibited from using their VOCA funds to provide services to incarcerated victims of sexual abuse. Therefore, we urge the Department to lift this funding restriction to allow VOCA-funded sexual assault organizations to provide services and support to inmates without risking their VOCA funding.

Based on our expertise in service provision and victim advocacy, we offer the following feedback on the proposed standards for your consideration.

 

§ 115.5 Definitions.

 

We are disappointed that immigration detention, military facilities, tribal facilities, and nonresidential probation and parole are excluded from the Department’s standards. Victims of sexual violence, regardless of where they are housed, deserve the same access to safe reporting options, medical and mental health treatment, and protection from retaliation. The Department’s decision to remove specific confinement settings from the standards exempts certain officials from being held accountable for sexual abuse, while sending the message that some victims do not deserve proper services.

§ 115.14[1] Limits to cross-gender viewing and searches.

We are very concerned that the Department removed the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission’s restriction on cross-gender pat searches in adult prisons and jails and viewing of inmates in states of undress as part of routine cell checks in all facilities, despite findings in each of the Bureau of Justice Statistics inmate surveys that a significant percentage of sexual abuse in all types of corrections facilities is perpetrated by staff members of the opposite sex.

In addition to preventing abuse generally, limiting officers from viewing inmates of the opposite sex who are unclothed and from touching opposite sex inmates’ bodies during a search can also reduce re-victimization and related trauma. A significant number of inmates have suffered sexual abuse in the past, and the extreme loss of privacy that comes with cross-gender searches and viewing prevents them from retaining a sense of bodily integrity that is vital to healing. In addition to becoming targets for abuse, inmates who are re-victimized have trouble adjusting to prison life, often resulting in medical and mental health concerns, disciplinary problems and grievances while they are incarcerated, as well as greater challenges to effective reentry upon release. As such, we strongly encourage the Department to reinstate the Commission’s restrictions on cross-gender pat searches and viewing.

§ 115.21 Evidence protocol and forensic medical exams.

This standard relies upon the proven practice of uniform evidence collection, which improves administrative and criminal investigations by maximizing the potential for obtaining usable physical evidence. The Office on Violence Against Women’s 2004 publication “A National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations, Adults/Adolescents” is the definitive source for how to conduct a proper medical forensic examination on adults and post-pubescent youth. Aspects of this protocol may not be appropriate for younger residents in juvenile facilities, however.  We urge the Department to establish an appropriate protocol for children, and to modify the requirement for juvenile facilities to ensure that pre-pubescent children receive an appropriate pediatric examination.

We commend the Department for ensuring that forensic medical exams include a victim advocate. Forensic examinations are critical to the investigation, but can be emotionally difficult and physically invasive to the victim. Inmates who receive support throughout the process are better able to understand their options and effectively participate throughout the process.  Though the Department makes an effort to ensure that sexual abuse victims have access to a support person who can accompany them through the forensic medical exam and the investigation process, we are concerned with how the standard allows a “qualified staff member” to serve as a victim advocate.

Staff members, even those assigned for this special duty, may feel a conflict between their security duties and this support role – and inmates likely will not understand the extent to which their conversations with staff advocates are confidential. Staff members who perform this function would also need to be carefully screened, provided with sufficient training, and be able to dedicate the time and attention needed throughout the investigations process.  Because of these concerns, a “qualified staff member” should be allowed to serve as a victim advocate only in cases where there is no community-based agency in the area able to provide such services. And, when “qualified staff members” are used, they must be carefully screened and properly trained.

In addition to providing a support person to accompany a victim of sexual abuse through the forensic exam and investigations process, it is imperative for agencies to ensure that inmate victims receive a proper medical forensic exam. We are deeply concerned that facility-based medical staff simply will not have the comprehensive training necessary to conduct medical forensic exams. We recommend that the Department require agencies to make every reasonable effort to provide inmate victims access to a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) or Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE).  This is best accomplished by transporting inmate victims to medical facilities with specially trained staff, though in some communities, mobile SANE units will visit a facility and in other localities, SANEs or SAFEs will travel to a facility to provide exams. We recommend that the Department require agencies that transport inmates off-site for medical treatment to develop a protocol that includes which medical facilities can provide medical forensic exams.

§ 115.22 Agreements with outside public entities and community service providers.

Collaborating with outside experts is a low- or no-cost way for facilities to dramatically enhance their relevant expertise and provide victim-centered care. Agreements between corrections agencies/facilities and community-based advocacy organizations should clarify which support services the outside organization can provide and specify the limits to confidentiality.

The Department asks if agencies should be required to attempt to enter into memoranda of understanding that provide specific assistance for limited English proficiency (LEP) inmates. We believe the standards absolutely must include this requirement, as LEP inmates face significant language-related obstacles in navigating facilities’ grievance and reporting systems. LEP inmates need unfettered access to safe reporting options and deserve full access to information about the investigation, the medical exam, and the services available to them.

§ 115.23 Polices to ensure investigation of allegations.

To strengthen this standard, we recommend that the Department add a requirement prohibiting polygraph testing for victims of sexual assault. Polygraph testing often yields inaccurate results and is inadmissible in court. Equally important, polygraph testing can be traumatizing to a victim, which can cripple the effectiveness of an investigation by damaging the rapport that is needed between an investigator and a victim to achieve successful results.  Further, under the 2005 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the federal government prohibits the use of the polygraph testing for victims of sexual violence in states receiving VAWA STOP grants.[2] We believe the Department’s standard should mirror this prohibition.

§ 115.31 Employee training.

§ 115.32 Volunteer and contractor training.

 

Policies aimed at eliminating sexual abuse in detention become meaningful only if corrections staff, contractors, and volunteers are appropriately trained to take action to prevent and address incidents of sexual violence. As such, we strongly support these standards. We specifically applaud the Department’s decision to require training on avoiding inappropriate relationships with inmates and how to communicate effectively and professionally with inmates, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex inmates.

§ 115.34 Specialized training: investigations.

§ 115.35 Specialized training: medical and mental health care.

 

We are pleased that the Department maintained specialized training requirements for investigations and medical and mental health care. Proper training is essential to ensure that these professionals are able to fulfill their specific duties pertaining to properly collecting, preserving, and documenting evidence; assessing inmates for signs of sexual abuse; and ensuring that victims receive appropriate treatment and follow-up care. As is required for investigative staff, all medical and mental health personnel should be required to receive training in the topic areas mandated for staff, regardless of whether they are employed directly by the agency or through a contracted medical or mental health provider.

We appreciate that the Department recognizes the need for agency medical staff to have specialized training, but suggest that the Department clarify what constitutes “appropriate training to conduct [medical forensic] exams.” Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners in the community are required to receive a minimum of forty hours of training, plus additional hours of clinical supervision until they are deemed competent to conduct forensic exams alone. We strongly recommend that corrections medical staff performing these exams meet or exceed the training recommendations found in the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Training Standards for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examiners (Office on Violence Against Women), and that agencies use trainers that meet or exceed the requirements and qualifications detailed in the National Training Standards for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Exams.

§ 115.51 Inmate reporting.

§115.53 Inmate access to outside confidential support services.

 

We are troubled by the Department’s removal of the requirement that inmates have access to an external, confidential reporting option. It is important for agencies to provide inmates with a reporting option that allows for confidentiality, as this may be the only way for a victimized inmate to feel safe reporting sexual abuse.

We are also concerned that this standard only allows for confidential communication between inmates and community-based victim advocates “consistent with agency security needs,” rather than to the extent allowable by law. Confidential counseling provides victims with a safe and trusted way to discuss a sexual assault, deal with their fears, discuss their options for reporting, develop appropriate coping skills, and understand that the abuse was not their fault. While some officials understand the complex needs of sexual abuse victims and will help facilitate reasonably confidential communication, many officials will wrongly insist that any confidentiality is incompatible with facility security.

Confidential support services can actually enhance facility security by potentially improving a victim’s ability to participate in an investigation. Access to confidential support increases the likelihood that a victim will receive quality care and gain trust in the system, which may make victims more likely to encourage other inmates to come forward and report sexual abuse.

 §115.64 Coordinated response.

 

The presence of a coordinated team that responds immediately and professionally following a sexual assault has proven to be an important mechanism – both in the community and in confinement settings – for encouraging reports and securing the victim’s cooperation with an investigation and potential prosecution. We are particularly pleased to see that the Department highlighted Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs) as a model that should be used in confinement settings, and that the Department encourages agencies to work with existing community SARTs or to develop an internal coordinated response. However, this standard could be significantly strengthened by requiring agencies to develop an institutional plan for a coordinated response using community-based SARTs as a model. With a clear plan in place, the benefits of this coordinated response model will not be realized.

 

§115.82 Access to emergency medical and mental health services.

We commend the Department for providing a strong standard that will ensure access to free, emergency medical and mental health services following a sexual abuse incident. We especially applaud the Department’s decision to require timely provision of information about and access to all pregnancy-related services that are lawful in the community, as well as prophylactic treatment for sexually transmitted infections.

 

Additional Suggested Standard (juveniles held in adult facilities).

 

We appreciate the Department’s general recognition that youth are different from adults, and therefore need special protections. Because of adolescents’ stage of development and cognitive and social immaturity, youth have characteristics that make them particularly vulnerable to abuse. In fact, the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission found that youth in adult facilities are at the highest risk of sexual assault of all inmates. Adult facilities housing children and adolescents face a dangerous dilemma with respect to choosing between housing youth in the general adult population where they are at substantial risk of sexual abuse, or housing youth in segregated settings which cause or exacerbate mental health problems. Neither option is safe and appropriate for youth, nor a good practice for corrections agencies ill-equipped to address the unique needs of minors. We believe the Department should prohibit the placement of youth in adult jails and prisons as a way to reduce the sexual abuse of youth. 

Conclusion

The Department has provided many strong standards, especially in the areas of employee training, providing pregnancy-related services to incarcerated victims, and requiring a coordinated response to reports of sexual abuse. However, the Department has significantly watered down other standards, such as by allowing corrections staff to serve as victim advocates, permitting cross-gender pat searches and viewing of inmates in states of undress; allowing communication with outside providers to be monitored; and eliminating immigration detention, military facilities, tribal facilities, and nonresidential probation and parole from the scope of the standards. Sexual violence in U.S. detention facilities has reached crisis proportions and strong standards are desperately needed to protect inmates from the devastation of sexual abuse. We strongly urge you to strengthen the noted standards to ensure that inmates who are sexually victimized while in custody receive appropriate and victim-centered care, and that facilities are focused on prevention.

Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully,

Carol Olson,

Executive Director


[1] For ease of reading, this letter cites solely to the provisions in the adult prisons and jails standards. Except where noted, our recommendations apply equally to the analogous provision in the standards for lockups, community confinement, and juvenile facilities.

[2] Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005, Public Law 109-162, Sec. 2013. Polygraph Testing Prohibition.

RCASA Friday Facts: Sexual Assault and Homeless Women Part 2

In Friday Facts, Sexual Assault Awareness on March 25, 2011 at 8:00 am
Taken from No Safe Place: Sexual Assault in the Lives of Homeless Women
 

By Lisa Goodman, Katya Fels, and Catherine GlennWith contributions from Judy Benitez

Question of Causality

A range of factors increase homeless women’s risk of adult sexual victimization, including childhood abuse, substance dependence, length of time homeless, engaging in economic survival strategies (such as panhandling or involvement in sex trade), location while homeless (i.e. sleeping on the street versus sleeping in a shelter) and presence of mental illness (Kushel, Evans, Perry, Robertson, & Moss, 2003; Nyamathi, Wenzel, Lesser, Flaskerud, & Leake, 2001; Wenzel, Koegel, & Gelberg, 2000; Wenzel, Leake, & Gelberg, 2001). Many of these factors, discussed in more detail below, coexist, interact with, and exacerbate each other over time, creating a complex and distinctive context for each woman.

It is important to note that all of these factors would have a much more tenuous connection with sexual assault if social institutions were in place to prevent homelessness, to protect vulnerable women, and to help them recover and become safe following an initial assault while addressing the myriad other challenges they face. And yet to date, no research has been conducted on the impact of institutional failures on the prevalence or correlates of sexual assault among homeless women. For example, research has not yet examined the unsuitability of traditional sexual assault crisis services, such as hotlines and in-office counseling, for individuals who lack access to a telephone, transportation, literacy skills, and safe housing.

Sexual Assault Prior to Homelessness

The relationship between sexual assault and homelessness is complex, with either experience potentially laying the groundwork for the other.   Indeed, given the traumatic lifestyles of so many homeless women, sexual abuse may precede and follow from homelessness in a vicious cycle downward.   In the next two sections, we take a closer look at existing research on two different types of sexual assault (child sexual abuse and sexual violence at the hands of a partner) as precursors to adult homelessness and subsequent victimization.

Childhood Sexual Abuse

A number of studies have emphasized the correlation between childhood sexual abuse and homelessness among adult women (Bassuk and Rosenberg, 1988; Davies-Netzley & Hurlburt, & Hough, 1996; Simons & Whitbeck, 1991; Stermac & Paradis, 2001; Wenzel et al., 2004; Zugazaga, 2004). For example, one study of women seeking help from a rape/sexual assault crisis center found that childhood sexual abuse was reported by 43% of the homeless participants, compared to 24.6% of the housed participants (Stermac et al., 2004). Another study that took a qualitative approach found that homeless women identified child sexual victimization as a cause of their homelessness (Evans & Forsyth, 2004).

Childhood sexual abuse is also correlated with adult victimization among homeless women (Nyamathi et al., 2001; Terrell, 1997; Tyler, Hoyt, & Whitbeck, 2000; Whitbeck, Hoyt, & Ackley 1997).   One study found that homeless women with histories of childhood sexual abuse were twice as likely to experience adult violent victimization as those without such histories (Nyamathi et al., 2001). For homeless women with serious mental illness (SMI), the connection between child sexual abuse and adult victimization is even stronger.   In one study of women with serious mental illness and histories of homelesness, the chance of revictimization for women who had experienced child physical or sexual abuse was close to 100% – difficult odds to beat (Goodman, Dutton & Harris, 1995; Goodman, Johnson, Dutton, & Harris, 1997).

A number of explanations have been offered for the relationship between child sexual abuse and subsequent homelessness and sexual assault, respectively.   It is possible, for example, that child sexual abuse survivors may find it difficult to trust others, so they develop fewer of the sustaining and supportive relationships necessary to avoid homelessness (Bassuk, 1993). Also, the posttraumatic stress disorder that often results from child sexual abuse can cause women to miss danger cues in their environments due to hypervigilance (attending to everything as a threat) or dissociation (shutting down when faced with threatening situations), resulting in risk for further victimization (Salomon, Bassuk, & Huntington, 2002; Tyler, Hoyt, & Whitbeck, 2000; Whitbeck, Hoyt, & Ackley, 1997). Finally, women who experience childhood sexual abuse have been shown to be at increased risk for developing substance abuse disorders, which put women at increased risk for both assault and homelessness (Burnam, Stein, Golding, Siegal, Sorenson, & Telles, 1988; Salomon, Bassuk, & Huntington, 2002; Simmons & Whitbeck, 1991; Tyler, Hoyt, & Whitbeck, 2000).

However, these explanations alone do not tell the whole story.    A much fuller explanation for these devastating correlations emerges from an exploration of the complex array of historical and current contextual factors many women face, including multiple oppressions, lack of appropriate, culturally relevant, and timely resources, and growing up in unsafe settings without sufficient material and emotional support. Rather than one causing the other, we suggest that the contextual factors that often precede child sexual abuse (and repeated victimization) also precede homelessness.    For example, poor families; people of color; and immigrants, refugees, and victims of sex trafficking may experience systems such as law enforcement, social services, foster care, or welfare not as sources of care and assistance, but of neglect or punishment.   Childhood sexual abuse survivors in particular may have experienced caregivers acting appropriately in public and inappropriately in private, and therefore may be reluctant to trust people whose job it is to help them. As children and as adults, they may be reluctant to seek help from people in “the system” and therefore remain particularly vulnerable to ongoing victimization and homelessness, in addition to self-medication through substances and isolation.

Abuse by Partners

Not surprisingly, a number of studies point to abuse–including rape–at the hands of a current or former partner, as a risk factor for homelessness among women (Toro, Bellavia, Daeschler, Owens, Wall, Passero, & Thomas, 1995).   This is particularly evident for women who experience partner violence at the more severe end of the continuum, and who have been isolated by their abusers from family and friends who might have offered to help them (Baker, Cook, & Norris, 2003).   Indeed, it is estimated that half of all homeless women and children have become homeless while trying to escape abusive situations (Browne & Bassuk, 1997, as cited in Evans & Forsyth, 2004). Experiences of partner violence have also been shown to predict risk of repeat homelessness and shelter use (Metraux & Culhane, 1999).   Yet, there are few studies documenting the impact of partner violence on women who are currently homeless, how the threat of such violence might shape women’s decision-making while homeless, or the nature of the complicated tradeoffs many partner violence victims make to survive on the streets.   For example, a homeless woman may stay in a relationship with a person who abuses her physically or sexually because the risks associated with leaving—homelessness, hunger, poverty, violence on the streets, lack of resources for children, risk of further abuse by additional perpetrators —seem worse than the abuse. Furthermore, the abusive partner may also provide protection and companionship some of the time.

Homelessness as Risk Factor for Sexual Assault

Although childhood sexual abuse and intimate partner violence often precede, and may contribute to women’s homelessness and risk for revictimization, the condition of homelessness itself dramatically increases women’s risk of being sexually assaulted.   Women on the streets do not enjoy the same degree of safety as women who have four walls and a roof to protect them.   Despite being in very close quarters with many others, women staying in shelters often lack robust and nurturing social connections, as people in crisis have fewer resources to dedicate to developing mutual trust than those who feel safer and more grounded (Goodman, 1991).    The need to serve a maximum number of people with limited dollars, combined with some communities’ unwillingness to host shelters in their neighborhoods, often leads shelters to locate within or close to high-crime areas (Burt, et al., 2001; Wenzel, Koegel & Gelberg, 2000).   Moreover, as discussed in subsequent sections, many homeless women have little choice but to participate in activities that place them at further risk for sexual assault, such as panhandling or trading sex for needed resources (Kushel, et al., 2003; Lee & Schreck, 2005).

Individual vulnerabilities also play a role.   Homeless women are more likely than non-homeless women to suffer from substance abuse (Toro et al., 1995; Wenzel et al, 2004), a mental illness that may include psychosis (Toro et al., 1995; Wenzel et al, 2004), domestic violence (Toro et al., 1995), or severe physical health limitations (Wenzel, Leake & Gelberg, 2000) that make self-defense in a dangerous situation harder.   In one of the most rigorous studies of antecedents of sexual assault while homeless, Wenzel, Koegel, and Gelberg (2000) found that women who were dependent on drugs or alcohol; who received income from survival strategies such as panhandling, selling items on the street, or trading sex for drugs or other items; who lived outdoors; who experienced mania or schizophrenia; or who had physical limitations were especially likely to have endured a recent (at most, 30 days prior) sexual assault.   The next sections review our knowledge of some of these factors in more detail.

Survival Sex and Prostitution

Survival for some homeless women is contingent on trading sex for money, goods (food, shelter, clothes, medicine, drugs), services, transportation, and protection on the street (Wenzel et al, 2001).   It is debatable whether sex under these circumstances is ever really a choice; certainly, it is often a requirement last resort strategy for survival.   Further, outright sexual violence is a common occurrence for women who engage in sex trade (Dalla, Xia, & Kennedy, 2003; Nyamathi, et al., 2001).   Wenzel, Koegel and Gelberg (2000) found that over the course of a year, homeless women who panhandled or traded sexual favors for drugs or money were three times more likely to experience sexual assault and other forms of violence relative to their homeless peers who did not engage in sex trade.   Indeed, 84% of women who use prostitution as an income strategy report current or past homelessness – which can mean living with abusive pimps or “customers” in the absence of a more stable option (Farley & Barkan, 1998); and homeless prostituted women are at much greater risk for sexual assault than their non-homeless counterparts (El Bassel, Witte, Wada, Gilbert, & Wallace, 2001). When substance use (often “paid for” by sex) is a factor, the risk of sexual assault increases further, as described in the next section.   Because these assaults often occur in the context of an illegal act (prostitution) and among drug users, victims may be seen by perpetrators as attractive targets, as they are less likely to report the crime or to be believed or seen as worthy of services and protection by authorities.

Substance Use

Homeless women are more likely to have substance abuse problems and to engage in substance use than low-income housed women (Wenzel et al., 2004).   Although substance use and abuse among homeless women may represent their best method of coping with the chaos, unpredictability, and isolation of homelessness, as well as previous victimizations, it is also strongly associated with risk for further sexual assaults. One study found that homeless women who had experienced either physical or sexual victimization in the past month were three times more likely to report both drug and alcohol abuse or dependence than homeless women who were not victimized (24.3% vs. 7.9%) (Wenzel, Leake, & Gelberg, 2000).   As with so many aspects of homeless women’s lives, the causal relationships between substance abuse and victimization are far less clear than the correlation itself. Nevertheless, substance abuse and dependence may put women at risk for victimization in a number of ways, such as by altering women’s perceptions of what is dangerous; leading them to engage in risky survival strategies; causing disorientation that may make it difficult to ward off an attacker; making them a target for assault because authorities will be less likely to believe them; or putting them in an environment that involves interactions with criminals.   Indeed, offenders often rely on drugs and alcohol to incapacitate their victims (Lisak & Miller, 2002).   Furthermore, drug and alcohol services and rape crisis services largely remain fragmented, which can make it difficult for individuals to receive the services they need to recover.

Severe Mental Illness (SMI)

Homeless women with serious mental illnesses such as major depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder are highly vulnerable to victimization. Indeed, in one in-depth study 97% of the participants, all of whom were homeless and had a mental illness, reported experiences of violent victimization at some point in their lives (Goodman, Dutton & Harris, 1995; Goodman, Johnson, Dutton, & Harris, 1997), with an astonishing 28% reporting at least one physical or sexual assault in the month preceding the interview.   Another large-scale study of 1,839 ethnically diverse, homeless women and men with mental illnesses from 15 cities across the US found that 15.3% of the women participants reported being raped in the past 2 months (Lam & Rosenheck, 1998), compared to 1.3% of the men. For homeless women with mental illnesses, rape appears to be a shockingly normative experience. This is deeply troubling, as no one should ever become “used” to being raped or assaulted. To the contrary, there is evidence that the cumulative effects of multiple victimizations may be far deeper than single rape events (Goodman & Dutton, 1996).   Moreover, these women’s ability to get help are greatly compromised by social attitudes that people with mental illnesses   do not experience violation as searingly as others; that their accounts of the abuse and assault are “made up” (Goodman & Dutton, 1996; Goodman, et al., 1999); or that women with mental illnesses cannot clearly communicate a lack of consent. Homeless women with mental illnesses who are also victims of sexual violence shoulder the burden of three forms of social stigma—against poor or homeless people, people with mental illnesses, and victims of rape.

Barriers to Accessing Institutional Support

Although more research is needed to understand the relationship between sexual assault and homelessness, especially research that explores the social and institutional contributions to this enormous social problem, action is also needed.   In this section, we provide an overview of situational, contextual and systemic barriers homeless women face in finding the support they need to heal in the wake of sexual assault.

Homelessness often involves spiraling crises, which means that homeless women might not deal with, attend to, or process sexual assault in the same way as housed women do.   For example, a rape may be followed only weeks later by a notice of loss of social security disability benefits because the victim failed to appear at a hearing scheduled the day after she was raped.    This new crisis may shift the woman’s attention temporarily, but the impact of the previous crisis—the rape—becomes interwoven with the impact of other crises. It is important, therefore, that the sexual assault be addressed in culturally sensitive ways as part of a complex context of trauma and crises.   Unfortunately, few services available to homeless victims of sexual assault are set up to deal with these compounding crises. This complexity presents a range of challenges both to staff at programs responding to the homeless, who are rarely trained to detect and respond appropriately and sensitively to trauma or sexual violence, and to rape crisis counselors, who are often unequipped to deal with the multiple challenges brought on by homelessness.

By their very nature, homeless shelters can worsen women’s psychological distress and compromise their ability to do what is necessary to regain residential stability and increased quality of life.   Homelessness is inherently chaotic, internally and externally, with others controlling access to such basic resources as food, clothing, and shelter. Indeed the very process of accessing the variety of programs necessary to rise out of homelessness may itself create a chaotic situation. There is little privacy, and entering many programs requires subjecting the private details of one’s life to regulation and/or scrutiny.   This lack of privacy and power differential can mirror and exacerbate the impact of the violence many homeless women have survived. This combination of chaos, power dynamics and feeling watched can trigger traumatic memories or symptoms that, in turn, make it more difficult to abide by shelter rules or stay “in control” as shelters require.   Many shelters are neither culturally sensitive nor “trauma-informed,” and have not provided staff adequate training to, for example, deal with women’s angry outbursts therapeutically rather than punitively, or recognize the differences between flashbacks and psychosis. Overburdened staff must balance the needs of the individual with the needs of many.   A woman whose trauma-related nightmares wake up an entire dorm, for example, may be told to leave.

At the same time, many of the options for self-care and self-soothing following a sexual assault are not available to homeless women. As noted earlier, homeless women lack telephones, making hotlines irrelevant.   A woman may become alienated from a traditional sexual assault support group when she cannot make weekly meeting times or finds that unlike her peers, her history includes so many assaults when others report significantly fewer. To make matters worse, general shelters are often full to capacity and may have to turn women away, while battered women’s shelters rarely offer beds to women who fear violence from people who are not traditional partners, leaving them no choice but to return to dangerous and out-of-the-way places to sleep (Amster, 1999, as cited in Evans & Forsyth, 2004).

There is a widespread, although increasingly disputed, belief that trauma must not, indeed cannot, be addressed before a woman is in a stable situation with regard to food, shelter, physical safety, and housing (Herman, 1992) Yet, few rape crisis centers are equipped to help provide the stability that they prescribe, making services fragmented at best, and possibly even irrelevant.   Furthermore, stability may be elusive until the trauma is named and at least partially explored. Fragmented services that force an individual to separate problems that are inextricable can exacerbate existing trauma.

The relationship between homeless sexual assault victims and law enforcement is equally complex.   Sexual assault and rape reporting rates are very low in general (Rennison, 2002).   Homeless women may lack someone, whether peer, volunteer or advocate, to support them through the often-intimidating process of reporting an assault.   Homeless women, already turning to bureaucracies for even their most basic needs (e.g. food stamps, housing vouchers and the like), may be reluctant to engage with yet one more system that they expect will be unresponsive.

Homeless women may not see the police in particular as providing protection and safety. They may be afraid to report a rape because they are involved in illegal activities (e.g. drug related, prostitution) or have outstanding warrants from other activities.   They may distrust police officers because their only contact with them is when they are kicked off park benches and forced to sleep under bushes that are far from the public eye and therefore more dangerous.   For women who engage in street-based sex trade, harassment and abuse by police is so commonplace that many women no longer perceived police as sources of help.   Homeless women of color, immigrants, refugees, and victims of sex trafficking may be even more skeptical about law enforcement and less likely to turn to them for help or protection. Further, law enforcement personnel are not immune from general social attitudes about stigmatized groups such as homeless, mentally ill, prostituting, or substance abusing women, resulting in discriminatory behavior.   Last, because homeless women are highly transient, they generally make poor witnesses in victimization cases; and the very public nature of life on the streets means that few women have a place to hide if an abuser or rapist learns she has “ratted” on him.   These obstacles result in shared feelings of helplessness between even the most sympathetic criminal justice personnel and homeless women.

Sexualidad Femenina, Un Mundo por Reconocer y Redescubrir

In Therapy on March 24, 2011 at 8:45 am

Hablar de sexualidad femenina,  implica muchos subtemas que de acuerdo a los ciclos del desarrollo de la vida de las mujeres,   las van marcando y enfrentando a un mundo,  al que desde bebés les  van prohibiendo conocer y descubrir.

Pasa primero por la etapa de “eso no se dice, eso no se pregunta; a no corra, no se suba a los árboles, cierre las piernas y siéntese bien, no grite, no hable ni se ría fuerte”. Después,  al ir creciendo y teniendo más preguntas o experiencias de niña a mujer jovencita,  viene la Menarca o Menarquía, “ya le vino la enfermedad, debe cuidarse de los hombres; no salga de noche; no se lleve con esas muchachas que son locas, cuidado con salir embarazada, sin casarse”. Y luego,  en la etapa de tener pareja, “los hombres son de la calle y las mujeres de la casa; aguántese  es el padre de sus hijos, las mujeres decentes solo se están con un hombre”.  Finalmente llega la menopausia, y lo que se sabe es “opérese  porque lo que Ud.,  tiene adentro no le sirve para nada; ya es una mujer vieja deje de andar haciendo cosas de joven”.

Todo esto es una educación de la sexualidad desde el miedo,  desde el no amarse así mismas y no aceptar como es un cuerpo sexuado de mujer. Y así de pasar las diferentes etapas de niña, adolescente, mujer erótica, madre, pareja y adulta mayor.  Muchas mujeres van creciendo,  sin  conocer lo que significa habitar su cuerpo, conocer sus derechos  sexuales y reproductivos.  Sobre todo en las mujeres  por su condición de genero, crecen  en la ignorancia, sin una educación sobre como funciona su cuerpo, y como va cambiando a través de todo su desarrollo físico (cuerpo), mental y espiritual. No se les permite reflexionar, tomar conciencia, aprender a mirar su cuerpo y a confiar en sus emociones a medida van viniendo estos cambios en estas diferentes etapas.

El eterno femenino de la sexualidad lleva encerrado muchos mitos, entre ellos es el de la Virginidad, esto ha llevado a las mujeres a pasar por situaciones que les provocan miedo y vergüenza, cuando pierden este “tesoro”, sienten que ya no valen nada, y en muchas culturas y países, aún se castiga severamente a las mujeres, cuando han perdido su virginidad, sin importar si fue por violación o porque inocentemente creyeron en la palabra del hombre amado, sobre la prueba de amor. Por otro lado,  muchas jovencitas, en su sentimiento de sentirse atractivas para el sexo opuesto, llegan a confundirse y creer falsamente que el solo hecho de poseer un cuerpo atractivo sería esencial para llegar a sentirse bien consigo mismas, todo esto incentivado por los medios de comunicación,  que ponen un tipo de mujer, que no es el modelo de la mayoría de las mujeres reales y cotidianas.  

La sexualidad femenina va más allá del deseo que se puede provocar en el otro. La sociedad aún en pleno siglo XXI,  aun está con una enorme tarea para brindar a la mujer una orientación, información y educación, en que la mujer, al tener una conciencia real de su cuerpo y de las sensaciones que emanan del mismo, logrará tener conciencia sobre él y podrá actuar de acuerdo a sus propias convicciones y necesidades. Dejar de ser el objeto sexual o la fuente mediante la cual el otro podrá satisfacerse, para descubrir el camino que la acercara al principio del placer y del complacer desde ella misma, no de lo que las demás personas esperan. Y que en otras palabras se llaman Derechos Sexuales y  Derechos Reproductivos.

Los principios de los derechos sexuales y reproductivos, que son la concreción de los derechos humanos en el marco de la sexualidad entendida de una manera amplia, se traducen en la posibilidad de que cada persona defina y construya su identidad individual y sexual así como las formas de vivir su sexualidad de manera autónoma.

En resumen al hablar de Sexualidad Femenina,  pongo como eje principal a las mujeres, porque son éstas en sus diferentes etapas de ciclos vitales, a las que no se les educa de manera autónoma, ya sea por cuestiones culturales, religiosas, sociales, económicas y de género. Y al hablar de género, no es exclusión de la masculinidad, sino que los roles asignados socialmente construidos paras llegar a ser mujeres y hombres, que son diferentes para cada uno.  A las mujeres, les toca ser educadas en una sociedad patriarcal, en que son puestas en la servidumbre e ignorancia. Por lo que expuse al inicio, en el sentido, que se les va educando en las diferentes etapas de vida, desde el miedo, con mitos, tabúes, desinformadas, vulnerables a la violencia de género (Sexual y Domestica), sin conocer el cuerpo en que habitan y a reconocer las emociones que es provoca ese cuerpo sexuado de mujer.

Es por todo esto que la Sexualidad femenina es un mundo por reconocer y redescubrir, si las personas que luchamos por los derechos humanos,  apoyamos este reto de romper con una sociedad que aún no está informando, esclareciendo, orientando, para terminar de una vez por todas con los prejuicios, con las mentiras, los mitos construidos de que es una educación sexual integral que cruce todos los ámbitos de las vida de los seres humanos, es especial las mujeres que son las dadoras de vida.

Leslie Moncada (Consejera Latina en RCASA)

Breakfast at Preventiony’s

In Sexual Assault Awareness on March 23, 2011 at 7:59 am

This Friday RCASA will be hosting a breakfast for the Rappahannock Area Pinwheel Partnership for Child Abuse Prevention Month Coalition (PPCAP), formerly the April Blue Ribbon Month Coalition.The breakfast will be held at the Rappahannock Area Office on Youth, 405 Chatham Office Park. RCASA will also be conducting a presentation about Bullying and its link to Teen Dating Violence at the breakfast.

 

To RSVP please call RCASA at (540) 371-5581.

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