But For The Grace Of God, Go I

“As long as I had my hands up, they’re not going to shoot me.  This is what I was thinking.  They’re not going to shoot me. Wow, was I wrong.”

-Charles Kinsey, Behavioral Health Therapist (from his hospital bed where he was recovering from a gunshot wound to his leg)

“’Sir, why did you shoot me?’ Kinsey recalled asking the officer.  ‘He said, ‘I don’t know.’”

-Charles Kinsey

 

“Our officers responded to the scene with that threat in mind.  I want to make it clear that: There was no gun recovered.”

-Gary Eugene,  North Miami Police Dept. Police Chief

 

Dear Dr. Kane:

Being arrested and harassed by the police has left me very distrustful of law enforcement.

I was pulled over recently in Gridley.  As the officer got out of his car, my thoughts raced: Did I log out at work?  Did I put my appointment in my calendar at the office so that my team will know where I was headed?  I am in the middle of nowhere.  Who will look for me if something happens?

I read your blog The Blues All Round: How We Heal recently, and I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about it.  I think that the black man’s experience with the police has left us with a deep, emotional trauma.  Is there such a thing as genetic PTSD?

-Alert & Alone, occupation mental health therapist.

P.S: I live in Oroville, CA., a small town.  Amazon hired more people last year in Seattle than populates my entire town.

—————————————–

My Dear Readers,

If you can, imagine that what happened to Charles Kinsey happened to you, and was replayed constantly in your mind, never to be forgotten.  What would you see?

  • A black man lying on the ground with his arms up and his hand, palms open, pleading to the officer not to shoot him
  • Despite his pleadings and no sign of a weapon, he is shot in the leg anyway
  • After the shooting, he is handcuffed, bleeding from his injury for 20 minutes while waiting for EMTs to arrive
  • When he questions the officer as to why he shot him, the officer replies “I don’t know.”

The incident is being investigated by local, state and federal authorities. The country is in uproar.  There are demands from society that the police officer be held accountable, and indeed, during all of this, the police officer involved has been placed on administrative leave.

Following the shooting in North Miami, a video of police misconduct towards a black female motorist in Austin, Texas surfaced.  The video depicted the black motorist being body slammed into the concrete by the police officer, following a traffic stop for driving 15 mph over the speed limit.

The incident is being investigated by local, state and federal authorities. The country is in uproar.  There are demands from society that the police officer be held accountable, and indeed, that officer is now receiving “supervisory counseling.”

These incidents are not new, but the advent of technology and the ability to quickly capture and share video evidence of them results in these images being constantly imprinted in the hearts and minds of those who witness these scenes in the media.  The recent incidents of police brutality against African-Americans and the shootings of police officers across the country have left, at the minimum, two communities, African-Americans and law enforcement, in positions of suspicion, tension, hyper-vigilance and hyper-alertness.

In the Austin TX incident, a white police officer is videotaped telling the handcuffed teacher that:

“Police officers are wary of blacks because of their violent tendencies, and intimidating appearances.”

The officer goes further by adding,

“Ninety-nine percent of the time…it is the black community being violent.  That’s why a lot of white people are afraid… And I don’t blame them.”

In response, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo stated he found the video to be “disturbing.”  He added,

“For those that think life is perfect for people of color, I want you to listen to that conversation and tell me we don’t have issues of social issues in this nation.  Issues of bias.  Issues of racism.  Issues of people being looked at different because of their color.”

Racially influenced killings of blacks and police officers have created a society that is, with good reason, fearful of racial war and that wants the violence to stop.  This alarmed society wants police officers held accountable for bad conduct or negligent actions, but this is the same society that refuses to look at itself and take responsibility for the structural racism that has infected all levels of institutions and core values throughout this nation.

How can changes in societal attitudes impact the actions of law enforcement and its policies and procedures?

Utilizing the theoretical concept of RACE (responsibility, accountability, consequences and empowerment)

  • Responsibility– Cease blaming the police for taking actions that are being called upon by the suspicious and fearful society. Understand the police are only supporting the biases; projections of suspicions/ fears and hate that are infected in the society they are sworn to protect and serve.
  • Accountability– Cease assuming that punishing individual acts of police misconduct will resolve the national problem of police misconduct. Understand that society as a whole and not just the individual police officer must want to hold themselves accountable not only for change, but more importantly, for the transformation of policing in communities of color.
  • Consequences– Cease viewing this as punishment but rather as reactions or responses for actions taken (or not taken). Understand that society as a whole and the individual can benefit more from taking action, which is proactive and reflective of response rather than working from reactions based on fear and suspicion.
  • Empowerment- Cease living in fear. Understand fear is a necessary emotion.  Society must want to work towards living with the fear and not as it currently is now, living in fear (and suspicion) of others.

 

Concluding Words

As I write here, I am fully aware that what happened to Charles Kinsey could very well have happened to me.

Charles Kinsey is a behavioral therapist.  He was attempting to calm an autistic patient when he was shot.  Fear of Kinsey’s blackness and the perception that police officer had based on that blackness was the basis that led to his shooting.  His hands were up in a position of surrender.  He was never a threat…And still he was shot.

Is there such a thing as genetic PTSD?

No. However there is ingrained fear as one lives, waiting alertly and vigilant for the negative and possible life ending act to happen.  As black adults we do this.  The shooting into the vehicle of Philando Castile by a police officer with a four-year-old child in the back seat weighs heavily on my heart.  It is evident that our children and adolescents must are now forced to endure the same.

John Rivera, president, Miami-Dade County Police Benevolent Association is correct when he made the following assessment involving the North Miami police officer,

“Sometimes police officers make mistakes.  They are not computers.  They are not robots. They are God’s creation.”

Ms. Breaion King, the 26-year old black teacher in Austin who was body slammed into the concrete by the police officer stated:

“I have become fearful to live my life.  I would rather stay at home.  I’ve become fearful of the people who are supposed to protect and take care of me.”

A fine point that is often forgotten is that the black citizens who the police are sworn to protect and serve are God’s creation as well.

Until the next crossroads… the journey continues.

 

 

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The Blues All Round: How We Heal

 

“I swear to God I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me.  In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat.  I have experienced so much in my short life and these last 3 days have tested me to the core.

When people you know begin to question your integrity, you realize they don’t really know you at all… These are trying times.  Please don’t let hate infect your heart.”

-Montrell Jackson, Baton Rouge Police Officer killed in the line of duty 7.17.2016

“We don’t call for no bloodshed.  That’s how this all this started.  We don’t want no more bloodshed… This is our house. You can’t come in our house, killing us.  That’s what you doing.  This is our house. You can’t come in our house, killing us.  That’s what you doing.

At the end of the day, these people call these families. They tell them their daddies and mommas not coming home no more.  I know how they feel, because I got the same phone call.  No justice, no justice no peace. That’s what we are calling for.

Stop this killing! Stop this killing! Stop this killing!”

-Alton Sterling’s aunt, following the killing of 3 Baton Rouge police officers

“We, as a nation, have to be loud and clear that nothing justifies violence against law enforcement.  Attacks on police are an attack on all of us and the rule of law that makes society possible.”

-President Barack Obama

My Dear Readers,

On 7.16.16, I celebrated my 63rd birthday in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, while attending the first annual Aboriginal Focusing-Oriented Therapy Conference.  As I spent two days among my white, black, brown Canadian and First Nation brothers and sisters, I felt thankful for the well wishes of family and friends around the world and for the blessings I had before me.

I was alive.  I was not beaten by the police and neither was I in jail.  And most important, my son was also alive and well.  With all of the tension occurring at home in the States, my birthday in Canada passed quietly and most importantly, with good memories.

I returned home that same evening. I take training at the Justice Institute in British Columbia pretty often, so I have made this trip numerous times.  However, being a black   man traveling alone, I have had my share of tense moments at the US border with law enforcement officials.  This time, however, it went well.  I remember thanking the officer for her service and asking that she be careful.  We both smiled and nodded, and I went on my way.

I had a peaceful, relaxing drive back to Seattle, enjoying the blue sky and jazz music all the way home…  and then the very next day all hell broke out. 

Blue Lives Matter!!

Three police officers are shot and killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Another three are wounded, one critically fighting for his life.

Is there open warfare by African-Americans on the police?  Consider the following:

  • Five Dallas police officers (2016) killed by a black man while escorting a peaceful demonstration. (The assailant is killed by police)
  • Two New York City police officers (2014) killed by a black man in while they sat in their patrol vehicle (the assailant committed suicide)
  • Four Lakewood police officers killed (2009) by a black man while eating a meal during their break. (The assailant is killed by police)
  • A police officer in Seattle WA (2009) is shot and killed and his partner wounded while sitting in their patrol vehicle. (The assailant is convicted, serving life in prison)

 

Black Lives Matter!!

I always feel tense when I interact with the police. I feel my fear of them, and I feel their fear of me.  I feel it when I am in my own community or visiting other communities where there is no one else around with dark skin like mine.  Maybe it’s hyper-awareness, but when I see the police in my vicinity, I reflect on the black males I know of who have died after interactions with police officers, such as Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, and the most recent ones, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

A common theme in these police killings of black males is the police officer feared for his safety, even when the person is unarmed and subdued, so I realize that pretty much anything I do may cause an officer to fear for his safety—enough to cause him to shoot me.

Recently, I pulled into a gas station to fill up, and I was just behind a police car as I pulled in. I found myself having the same fear that I would have when a police vehicle pulled up behind me, regardless of whether the lights were on, and the pit in my stomach, the racing thoughts and sense of powerlessness all returned.

As I pulled into the gas station, I wondered what was going on in that police officer’s mind.  Did he now see me in the same way that I saw him? Or was there no difference for him at all—was I always something or someone to be feared, so this was just more of the same?

As I parked my vehicle, I saw him turn around and zoom past me, checking me out.  It was clear he had not turned into the station for gas; rather he had been checking me out to see if I was following him.

I shared the experience with several other black men I know.  The responses I received were that of laughter and comments such as “good, now the cop knows how we feel when gets behind one of us.”  One of the men asked me, “did you feel the power?’

Did I feel the power?  No, I didn’t.  People, this is not a good thing. What I felt was the police officer’s fear.   He feared me and I had done nothing to him.   My goal was simply to get gas, not kill or injure a police officer.

The problem between the law enforcement and the African-American community is not fear itself but rather, our decision to live in fear of each other.

How do we rid ourselves of fear?

We do not rid ourselves of fear.  Fear is merely an emotion.  Instead, we must seek to heal the traumatic wounds.  We can do this by embracing our fear.  Fear is a necessary emotion that must be balanced with other emotions.  When unchecked or unbalanced, we are left to exist in our fear.

How do we heal the wound between the community and the police?

We must want to respect those who serve and protect the community, upholding law and order and in return, those who uphold law and order must want to respect the members of the community they are sworn to serve and protect. 

What steps can be taken?

Police officers must want to get out of their patrol vehicles and be more involved within the communities they serve.  Members of the communities must want to extend themselves to police officers.  Trust is built and strengthens in relationships and communications.

The POST model below can be used by both police and communities of color to build and reinforce these incredibly important relationships:

P (Partnership)

O (Open communications)

S (Strategies for Success)

T (Teamwork Approach)

Concluding Words

“These are trying times.  Please don’t let hate infect your heart.”

-Montrell Jackson, Baton Rouge Police Officer killed in the line of duty 7.17.2016

“We need to temper our words and open our hearts.”

-President Barack Obama

The current political climate in this country is not helping to guide us out of these dark and turbulent waters. However, I take warmth and solace in the calming wisdom and words from President Obama:

“It remains up to us that our best selves are reflective across America, not our worse.  We have had our divisions and they are not new.

A bullet need only happen once but for peace to work we need to be reminded of its existence again and again and again.”

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues.

 

 

Reflection: Stopping The Cycle of Complex Trauma

 

“As a clinical traumatologist I am committed to bringing light to those forced into darkness, and offering acknowledgement and acceptance to those feeling disavowed and rejected.”

-Dr. Micheal Kane

“Everyone knows that a man ain’t supposed to cry.

But listen, I got to cry, cause crying eases the pain.”

-The Temptations, “I Wish It Would Rain”

My Dear Readers,

Last week, I attended the National Association of Black Social Workers 48th Annual Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.  While I was there, I found myself struggling one night to write a response to a reader who responded to last week’s blog, “Censorship and The Survivalist Mentality.”  The writer states:

Dr. Kane,

I’ve been reading your blog posts and have enjoyed them and the thought provoking positions that you take. While I disagree with some parts, I value them on the whole as they help me reconcile complex issues.

I haven’t read anything that I thought would be worthy of censorship or rejection so this news surprises me. I agree that the silence of the community on these incidents can reinforce isolation, however sometimes the community doesn’t hear about the censorship.

I was unaware of this incident possibly because I don’t subscribe to the listserv in question, but I wouldn’t be surprised if other listserv members didn’t know about the rejection either. Neither I nor they will know for sure thought because you didn’t name the listserv. I’m guessing that you didn’t call it out by name on purpose, but without a name it makes it tough to encourage them to set and keep a standard for rejecting posts.

The writer was correct. I specifically decided not to name the listserv.  I wanted to make a point regarding the trauma of censorship, but I felt that naming the listserv directly would be derisive and be seen as an attempt to shame or humiliate the moderators instead of my true intent, which is and was to educate my readership and obtain ABC (advocacy, balance and calmness) for myself.

Yesterday, I led a workshop on complex trauma identifying the 13 types of traumas, which can cumulatively impact African-Americans at any time.  During the conference, I participated in a workshop led by Dr. Shawneladee C. Cole focused on the complex trauma of intra-racism and skin color among African-Americans.  Tears rolled down my face as the workshop attendees spoke of their internalized pain suffered at the hands of African-Americans, their own people.

My traumatization of being silenced via censorship did not begin with the listserv.  It began when I was eight years old. I can still recall one of my first traumatic experiences—I was a “colored” boy integrating a “for whites only school” in the third grade, being the only “colored” kid in the class, being directed to stand in front of the class and recite the alphabet.

Even today, I can still the sea of whiteness, blond/brown hair and bluest of eyes staring as I counted down to the last letter.   I can still taste the flavors of shame and humiliation as I return to my desk with the tears rolling down my cheeks.  I will never forget that day.  It was the first day of my invisibility, censorship.  For the next 18 months no would play or talk to the colored boy hidden in the back of the class.

At twelve years old, being the only negro boy (got promoted from colored to black) on the baseball team, when someone farted in the dugout, I was the one forced to stand outside so the room could be aired out.   Similar to my black peers in the workshop, I went on to experience other forms of being traumatized by my community.  Like standing at the doorstep, with a box of candy to pick up my first date and then to be told by the girl’s mother that “I was too dark to go out with her daughter.  The mother kept the candy.

However, the most consistent painful memories came from not being able to get into “black only” dances because of the inability to pass the brown paper bag test (my skin was darker than the bag).  The dance, I learned, was for the “best” black people—the light skinned ones.

As stated earlier in previous blogs, the African-American community is a closed system.  Generally, closed systems are isolated and economically unsustainable.  Such a system relies on a small middle class and a labor force that is dependent on the dominant majority.   As a result, closed systems are particularly susceptible to psychological wounds arising from experiences of complex trauma.

The attendees of the workshop expressed feelings of complex trauma being forced upon then by a closed system practicing intra-racism.  The symptoms of Complex Trauma PTSD that many either displayed or verbalized included:

  • Difficulty with managing impulses such as anger
  • Feelings of self-destructiveness
  • A chronic sense of guilt or responsibility
  • Difficulty trusting people
  • Isolation or being emotionally distant
  • Difficulty establishing and/or maintaining intimate relationships
  • Feelings of hopelessness or despair
  • Focus on somatic or medical problems

It was clear that these folks experienced a sense of disempowerment by being victimized by people who are their reflection—people of the same complexion.  There was the clear description of the deliberate, planned and premeditated violation and exploitation they experienced from someone who looks just like them, who imposed pain on them and benefited from their suffering.   

As I looked around the room, and saw the nodding heads and tears streaming down the faces of the tormented and suffering, those words were truly hard to hear.

Concluding Words-Dr. Kane 

I will not name the listserv that censored me.  In reality, the listserv is serving the desires of its community.   It is a non-activist instrument.  Its community is focused on job announcements, legislative briefing, and research posting.  It is not an instrument of empowerment.

For example, that listserv, although focused on black social workers and mental health providers in Washington state, never published any information regarding the current conference of the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW,) which 3,000 black social workers from the US and around the world attended.  Nor have they provided any information regarding the NABSW 2017 conference in San Diego, or the 50th Annual NABSW Conference slated to be held in Washington DC in 2018.

For those of us who have suffered complex trauma from the actions of our closed system i.e. the African-American community, I would recommend focusing on self-empowerment by extolling the therapeutic model of ABC:

  • A-Advocacy– for self; be reflective, respond to the abusive acts or behavior.
  • B-Balance-seek to heal the psychological wound; take a respite and own your reaction.
  • C-Calmness-maintain calm in your external environment; re-evaluation of actions that were taken

In the end, I will continue to submit my truths for publication to all media platforms, including the one that has silenced me.  I will allow my actions, rather than the acceptance of silence, to speak on my behalf.  I encourage those who disagree or have different perspectives to voice them for all to listen.  This is the benefit of residing within an open system and democratic society.

 Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…

Bobbi’s Saga: Healing From Complex Trauma

 

“Outside, the sun shines. Inside, there’s only darkness. The blackness is hard to describe, as it’s more than symptoms. It’s a nothing that becomes everything there is. And what one sees is only a fraction of the trauma inflicted.”

-Justin Ordonez, Sykosa

“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.”

Laurell K. Hamilton, Mistral’s Kiss

Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”

Fred Rogers

My Dear Readers,

In the last few blog entries, we have defined complex trauma as repeated psychological injury over a period of years within specific settings and scenarios.  People in general who have experienced complex trauma continue to remain vulnerable to the uncontrollable lashings of these emotional struggles, but children who have experienced complex trauma such as sexual and physical abuse are even more prone to carry these memories into adulthood, further traumatizing themselves and impacting the lives of those around them.

As a clinical traumatologist, I am committed to bringing light to those forced into darkness, and offering acknowledgment and acceptance to those feeling disavowed and rejected.  One of the ways that I am doing this is to share Bobbi’s Saga, the journey of a woman who suffered sexual abuse at age 4, and between the ages of 9 and 12 by family members and associates.  Now in her early 60s, and having carried the shame and humiliation of these memories all that time, Bobbi reached out to me in desperation.

Bobbi is not her real name—we have changed it in order to preserve her confidentiality.   In her quest for her own strength and her desire for empowerment, she wants the readership to know her story…to know that she is no longer a “survivor” of sexual abuse.  Instead, she is a striver and as a result, she, not the memories of her horrendous assaults, will determine how she lives and the direction of her life.

We begin by reposting her first blog written in March 2015.  The following episodes can be found at the Loving Me More website at www.lovingmemore.com on the page The Journey: Bobbi’s Saga.

PLEASE NOTE: FOR AUTHENTICITY’S SAKE, THESE WRITINGS ARE GRAPHIC AND MAY CREATE DISTRESS FOR SOME READERS DURING AND FOLLOWING READING. PLEASE USE DISCRETION WHEN SHARING WITH THOSE OF YOUNG AGE OR LACKING EMOTIONAL MATURITY.


 At the beginning of therapy, Bobbi was adamant that she could never share the depths of her feelings with her mother.  That was six years ago.  However, those feelings changed in 2013 when she received a holiday greeting card from her mother, along with the gift of a blanket.  Inside the card read:

“Dear Bobbi,

This is a special snuggle for you from your mom.  I am sorry for what you had to go through as a child.  Had I known this, I would have done a lot of snuggling with you.  You are grown, but this snuggle blanket is sent to you with much love and when you don’t feel good or you feel sad, please know that my heart is snuggling in the blanket with you!

I love you,

Mom”

 These words represent the first words in 48 years uttered by Bobbi’s mother regarding Bobbi’s horrendous experiences. Following several years and hundreds of hours invested in therapy sessions, sometimes 2-3 hours per week, Bobbi became empowered enough to be able to respond to her mother’s message. The response from Bobbi is provided below in its entirety.  The response is indicative of a little girl who has suffered in silence to being an adult, focused on self-discovery.  She will no longer be silent. 

“Dear Mom,

Thank you for the letter.  I was surprised to receive it.  Your letter is the closest thing to an apology I have ever received.  I would like to let you know how I felt as a child. 

The landlord locked Billy in the bathroom.  Billy screamed and cried until he was sobbing.  I could hear Billy screaming while the landlord took off my clothing. 

He then pushed his penis at me.  He tried again and again to push it in over and over again.  

He also used his hand and fingers forcefully.  I was terrified and in pain.  I remember screaming.  I thought he was going to kill me.  I kicked and wiggled as much as I could, but it didn’t stop him.  There was nothing I could do. 

He laid on me and forcefully kissed me.  When I continued to scream, he put his hand over my mouth and told me to shut up.  He told me that no one could hear me or help me.  I remember the glaring look in his eyes when he was on top of me. 

I remember my private parts being sore and burning when I went to the bathroom afterwards.  When he got through, he told me he would come back and kill you and Billy if I told. 

I love you so much.  There is nothing I would not have done or endured for you.  I know you asked multiple times what happened. 

By not telling you, I thought I was protecting Billy and you.  I believed he would return and kill you.  Later, when you asked me in front of him to tell what happened, I could only think about what he had done and what he said he would do.  I was terrified.  Terrified not only for myself, but also for you.  I would have done and endured anything for you. 

I kept the secret because of my love for you and wanting to protect you.  The secret made me feel ashamed as a child.  I felt others could look at me and tell I was a bad person.  I felt I was dirty and a bad person.  I never had friends. 

I felt different from other children and alone.  I cried easily.  I have now learned through therapy it wasn’t my fault.  The responsibility of being left alone and what happened was not my fault.  The shame and guilt I felt for so many years was not mine to bear. 

You left for work and left your four-year old daughter, me, with the responsibility of watching my two-year old brother, when we were too young to be left alone.   

I know you were a single mother but there must have been another way besides leaving us alone with the landlord in the yard.  The burden of carrying the secret of my abuse changed who I am.  It stole my self-esteem, joy, and sense of who I was. 

When I started being sexually abused by Fred, at the age of 9 years old, I questioned if I deserved it.  He started by saying things to me.  Then he used his hands and then his penis.  He had the same dark glaring look in his eyes as the landlord when he was doing it. 

In therapy I have learned that it was the look of power and control.  Power that the abuser yields over a child.  Control, because I felt I was a bad person.  How could two men sexually abuse me if I was not a bad person or there wasn’t something wrong with me? 

He convinced me at first that you knew and wanted me to do what he wanted me to do but not talk about it.  He then told me you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.  He convinced me that you would be unhappy if I did not do what he wanted.  I was a child and I believed what he said.  I loved you so much.  Again, there was nothing I wouldn’t have done for you.  

On the day when I told you Fred had repeatedly raped me, you began beating me.  I don’t why or what I was being beat for when I swung at you and missed.   I also told the people at the Youth Center.  I always felt you should have known what was going on and protected me.  I was angry with him, but I was also angry with you.  

In foster care, I felt abandoned and unloved.  I knew our relationship would never be the same again.  I received no therapy.  Again, I different from the other kids my age.  I was severely depressed, cried all the time and wanted to die.  I felt I had on one who cared if I lived or died. 

I had no money to do the things other kids were doing.  My experiences were different.  I had no joy.  I made my own set of rules to survive by.  The foster care parents were doing it just for the money.  I had $25.00 per month to buy clothing, personal items and meds that were not covered by welfare.  The feelings of abandonment, lack of love and caring were always with me.  

I am now going to therapy.  I realize now that what happened to me was not my fault.  There was nothing wrong with me.  Young girls are often abused by more than one man.   Being abused by one man makes it more likely that it will happen again.

I have let go of the shame and guilt.  I have nothing to be ashamed of or guilty about.  I know that the abuse has changed who I am.  It stole the joy of my life for forty plus years before I went to therapy. 

I now look forward to living the rest of my life without guilt and shame.   There will always be pain, but it does not have to influence or control my life decisions and enjoyment of my family. 

I don’t remember much of my childhood.  I do remember some good things.  The bad things I remember far outweigh the good things.  I still have flashbacks of what happened to me in childhood.  I have learned to live with them. 

I responded to your note because I wanted you to know the depths of my pain and how it changed me.  I have tried to say what happened to me as gently as possible.  I wondered what I could what I could have accomplished without such a traumatic childhood. 

This letter is not intended to hurt you.  I have always loved you.

Bobbi (12/31/2013)

 

Concluding Remarks- Dr. Kane

Following Bobbi’s horrendous experiences in childhood and adolescence, she went on to engineering school, has been married for 35 years and has co-parented three children who are successful in their careers as a lawyer, a physician and a career military officer.

So what is the problem?  The problem is unwillingness of the African-American community, in this case, symbolized by Bobbi’s mother, to move from looking good (imagery) to examining the substance that lies under the imagery of success.   We are taught by our elders to hold on to “family secrets” regardless of the psychological and emotional costs.

Yes, Bobbi looks good, but she has spent the last forty years of her life in psychological and emotional hell holding on to her shame, blame, and guilt.  She has lived in fear all of her life that her “secret” could be discovered, simply by looking at her.   The fear she has associated with sex as a result of the abuse has also had an impact on her marriage as she felt that any man could be a possible abuser.

It was only after her children reached adulthood that she could psychologically let go.  However the age of maturity for her childhood proved to be her downfall.   In using her resources to protect her children from external abuse, she had been able hold back the flood of emotions regarding her sexual assaults, abandonment and self-loathing.   Now with the children gone, she no longer had the psychological resources to hold back the torrents of suffering.

Bobbi is one of the few fortunate ones to be able to hold on emotionally, and in doing so, move forward psychologically.   She is reclaiming her life.  She understands that the flashbacks and traumatic memories from the complex trauma she suffered will never go away.  However, she can empower herself and learn to balance these memories so she can set the direction in her life.

In closing, we are often taught that we must forgive our transgressors.  I strongly disagree.  Forgiveness is a gift and not an obligation.  It is time for us to reclaim our children.  There are many of us who may look normal and yet suffer in silence.  Those who are traumatically psychologically wounded and do not seek treatment and support will often create havoc in their intimate relationships and relationships with their children.

We here at Loving Me More encourage anyone who has been impacted by psychological trauma, sexual assault, domestic violence or emotional abuse to find and respond to the voice that lies within the psychological self and seek assistance.  Stop the bleeding, heal the wound and empower the self to live a more enhanced and emotionally satisfying life.

The psychological self is of substance.  It can and will advocate, seeking balance and calmness in a hostile world.  The physical body will hold onto the traumas, abuses and the violence, while the intellectual mind struggles through imagery i.e. looking good in order to forget”

 –Dr. Micheal Kane

 Until next time….the journey continues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Complex PTSD and the African-American Community

 

There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.” – Laurell K. Hamilton, Author

 

We have come over a way that with tears has

                             been watered,

We have come, treading our path through the

                              blood of the slaughtered.

James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) Lift Every Voice and Sing, stanza 2 (1900)

          

My Dear Readers,

This week, we return to the first weekly blog after my hiatus with a posting from At The Crossroads, where we focus on the emotional realities facing the African-American community.

Each year, we pick a specific area of interest, and this year, we will focus on Complex Trauma Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and its impact on the African-American community.  As a clinical traumatologist with over 30 years of clinical and forensic practice, I’ve found that complex trauma is one of the major common, but not well-studied, obstacles for communities of color, impacting everything from economic stability to political power to violence and social stability.

Complex Trauma is a form of psychological trauma.

Being psychological and not physical, complex trauma quietly destroys one’s emotional and mental functioning. It is often hidden and denied, so it, and the person who suffers from it, is increasingly misunderstood as the wounds continue to compound and the symptoms displayed become more noticeable.  Complex trauma’s ability to hide itself allows those impacted, as well as those around them, to deny its presence and pretend that they are not wounded and traumatized, thereby adding damage to the individual and eventually, the crippling of communities.

Complex Trauma PTSD results from events and experiences that are:

  • repetitive, prolonged or cumulative,
  • most often interpersonal, involving direct harm, exploitation, and mistreatment, including neglect/abandonment/antipathy by primary caregivers or other ostensibly responsible adults, and
  • often occur at developmentally vulnerable times in the victim’s life and in conditions of vulnerability associated with disability, disempowerment, dependency, age and/or infirmity

Complex Trauma PTSD can be difficult to detect. The person experiencing complex trauma may seek to minimize it by passing it off as anxious feelings or minor depression. Its nature is insidious, meaning it can proceed in a gradual, subtle way, but with harmful effects.  Complex Trauma PTSD may be initially seen as harmless, but in addition to psychological damage, it can also lead to high blood pressure, stroke, and increases in alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and domestic violence.

Complex Trauma PTSD can be difficult to detect. The person experiencing complex trauma may seek to minimize it by passing it off as anxious feelings or minor depression. Its nature is insidious, meaning it can proceed in a gradual, subtle way, but with harmful effects.  Complex Trauma PTSD may be initially seen as harmless, but in addition to psychological damage, it can also lead to high blood pressure, stroke, and increases in alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and domestic violence.

What are the symptoms of Complex Trauma PTSD? 

 Symptoms of Complex Trauma PTSD can include the following:

  • difficulty with managing impulses such as anger
  • feelings of self-destructiveness
  • dissociative episodes
  • a chronic sense of guilt or responsibility
  • difficulty trusting people
  • isolation, being emotionally distant
  • difficulty establishing and/or maintaining intimate relationships
  • feelings of hopelessness or despair
  • focus on somatic or medical problems

 What makes Complex Trauma PTSD different from other forms of trauma? 

 Psychological traumas are grouped in three distinctive areas:  interpersonal, impersonal and crossover.  Generally speaking, interpersonal trauma creates more severe trauma in people than impersonal trauma does, because the former is deliberate, versus the latter, which is accidental.

  • Interpersonal (deliberate)-are traumatic stressors are premeditated, planned or implemented by other human, such as the violation and/or exploitation of another person.
  • Impersonal (accidental)-are events which may occur randomly or an “act of God,” such as a natural disaster (earthquake, tornado) or an accident (automobile)
  • Crossover-are a result of combination of both, referring to accidents that have a human cause or factor (transportation accident caused by human error or neglect). Crossover traumas are more severe than impersonal and less severe than interpersonal as it lacks deliberation, premeditation or planning.

What are the specific forms of Complex Trauma PTSD that can impact the African-American community?

 There are twelve forms of complex traumas that can individually, or in combination, impact the African-American community.  These include the following:

  • Historical
  • Intergenerational
  • Insidious
  • Racial Profiling
  • Micro-aggression (assaults)
  • Macro-aggression (assaults)
  • Betrayal
  • Invisibility Syndrome
  • Just World Trauma
  • Race-Related Stress
  • Vicarious
  • Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome

Why is Complex Trauma PTSD viewed as being impactful within the African-American community?

The African-American community are descendants of Africans who were enslaved, chained, taken from their families and transported thousands of miles in what is known as the Middle Passage.  During the Middle Passage, the enslaved African was treated as cargo, and millions did not survive the journey.

For a period of 250 years, black people were slaves.  They were prevented by acts of extreme punishment from speaking their native languages or following their cultural/religious traditions, which destroyed potential coping mechanisms for the trauma they experienced. The slave family as a unit was neither recognized nor respected.  Slave marriages and families were broken up repeatedly at slave auctions.  It was not uncommon to for a family member to be ripped away, never to be seen again.  The institutions of religion and marriage, although recognized within the slave community, were not recognized by the American legal system.

Following the ending of the American Civil War towards the end of the Civil Rights Movement, a period of 125 years, African Americans have lived under various sets of laws known as the Black Codes, and Jim Crow laws, which denied them the “full citizenship” given to white Americans.  During this time, state and local governments either denied or ignored their demands for equality in education, housing, employment and medical treatment until the federal government intervened.

Following the achievement of integration, as African-Americans attempt forward, they have been met have been met with staunch resistance.  There remains those within the dominant majority who continue to follow historical trends by continue to maintain strife and seek to impede the hard-fought legal rights of African-Americans.  Such resistance has created various forms of racism, some subtle and passive, others overt and intimidating through fear, threats and outright violence.

To summarize, since being taken as slaves to North America in 1619 to up to today in 2016, African-Americans have endured continuous acts of racism, oppression, and discrimination. These experiences meet the standard diagnosis for Complex PTSD.

Complex Trauma PTSD sounds intense, painful and scary. Is complex PTSD treatable?  Can a person identified with complex PTSD live a normal life?

Yes, complex PTSD as with any major illness or injury is intense, painful and scary.   Whether it is treatable is dependent on the willingness of impacted individuals to let go of belief systems that reinforce the view of mental illness, traumatic experiences and psychotherapy as weaknesses, framed as badges of shame, humiliation, and disgrace.

Can a person identified with Complex Trauma PTSD live a normal life?

Individuals who have been traumatized repeatedly, over a period of time or within in specific settings, are often vulnerable to emotional and psychological struggles. The individual responding to complex trauma must define what may constitute living a normal life for themselves, and then pursue it through processing it through therapy.

Concluding Words-Dr. Kane 

It is essential to understand that Complex Trauma PTSD differs from other forms of PTSD. Where other forms require only a one-time experience or episode, those responding to complex PTSD have experienced prolonged trauma such as child abuse, domestic violence, threats of assault, or death.

We are moving into this direction understanding there are numerous blogs, media outlets, which comment on current events, but very few of them adequately explore the clinical or psychological impacts these events have on the community.   For example, during this month i.e. February we will be exploring from a clinical perspective the psychological and emotional impact of

  • Using the month of February each year as Black History Month to acknowledge or celebrate black history.
  • The Academy Awards 2016 and the need for approval or acceptance.

The focus of my inquiry will be the adverse impact of these events as it relates to complex trauma within the African-American community.   In doing so, it is my aim to create a model of empowerment for the psychological, emotional and mental wellness of our community.

Complex Trauma PTSD has severely wounded the African-American individual.  The psychological impacts are magnified due to community taboos and cultural beliefs against the acknowledgment and willingness to seek treatment.  This illness has driven many into states of hopelessness, despair, dependency and a survival mentality. There is an opportunity here, however: we must be willing to understand what ails us, acknowledge the pain and end the suffering in silence.  Only then will the traumatized be empowered to balance the weight of the experience and live the lives they seek.   Let us focus on the journey and not the destination.

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues…

 

 

 

Micro-Aggression and the Giving Away of Trust

 

“Traumatic events are extraordinary, not because they occur rarely, but rather because they overwhelm the ordinary human adaption to life.”

-Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery

My Dear Readers:

What is betrayal?  When is a betrayal not a betrayal?  And why do betrayals result in traumatic impacts in our lives?

Betrayal is the result of disloyalty.  To be betrayed is to be attacked by someone with whom you have shared your vulnerability and to whom you have exposed the psychological self.  Betrayal can be intentional (treacherous) or unintentional (unconsciously or due to ignorance).  For a betrayal to occur, however,  there must be a relationship. If no relationship of any kind exists, there cannot be a betrayal.  As a result, in some cases, what feels like betrayal is not actually what it is.

Regardless of what the act is called, the end result is that someone feels betrayed.  In my piece Ten Flashes of Light in the Journey of Life, one “flash” speaks to understanding betrayal by others or in some situations, the betrayal of the self by the self.

“Respect all, love all, yet remember that trust, is earned, not given away to the undeserving.”

Below is such a story………

————————————————————————–

Dear Dr. Kane:

I am a physician, and over the years, I have learned not to take insults personally, but I was surprised at the level of anger I experienced regarding a recent incident.

I was having trouble with an old injury I sustained in college, so I sought medical treatment in the hospital I work for.  While responding to questions about my history, the attending physician asked me if I used drugs.  Thinking he was being a wise ass with the question, I said yes, once in a while I take an aspirin.   He replied, “No, I meant street drugs.” I reminded him that I was a physician, just like he was, before I told him no.

As I left his office, I wasn’t just angry, I was furious.   How dare he ask me, a fellow physician, whether I was using street drugs!  I was especially angry at the fact that he actually waited for the answer, and then, had the audacity to be surprised by my reaction!

I feel so betrayed. He is a fellow colleague, a member of the same medical fraternity I’ve sworn myself to.  When I attended medical school, I thought I would be accepted by my peers for my intellect, but I still have to deal with racism, which still lurks below the surface.  In an indirect way, they made it clear that they did not accept me.

I am currently in my residency. I have paid my dues in this profession, yet I am being treated as if I was a street thug.  Had I been white, I’m sure that he would have delivered a higher quality of care.  I feel betrayed, angry, stressed and on edge, waiting to be racially insulted again by another colleague.

This incident occurred several weeks ago, and I still can’t seem to get past it. I have had to deal with racism all of my life, but I thought that once I made it through school, life would be different.  Do you have any suggestions on how to forget this even happened so I can move with my life?

Sizzling in Spokane, WA

————————————————————————

Dear Sizzling,

This story is an example of the micro-aggressions that African-Americans and other ethnic minority individuals may face on a daily basis.  Such actions, which constitute group rejection of the individual’s identity, can have long-term impact on the individual’s emotional state, such as trauma and severe psychological wounds.

That being said, we as individuals can benefit from these events by understanding the true nature of what has occurred and what possible role we may have in reinforcing this traumatization.

What we want to do here is to understand the perception of the attending physician, and the basis of that perception, which may be that he is viewing you, a black male, not as an individual and member of the medical profession but rather, through the lens of his own membership of a privileged group, being white and male.

I want to honor your feelings here. You obviously feel disrespected by your white colleague. Such feelings may warrant an emotional response such as anger, the action of betrayal as I have defined it previously is not indicated within this incident.

In order for you to have been betrayed, there must first be a relationship between the two of you. Other than sharing the same gender (male) and profession (medicine), there is no relationship here.  Since there is no relationship, there can be no betrayal.

However, an emotional response due to lack of respect is warranted.  The offending behavior of the white colleague can be attributed to privilege, which can be defined as a specific right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to individuals as a class due to their institutional power.

Privilege in the dominant culture is extended into two areas: male privilege and white privilege.  In male privilege, the institutional power is in relation to gender, i.e. male vs. female.  In white privilege, the institutional power is in belonging to the white racial group, and that power is used in relation to other racial groups.

Every male, regardless of race or ethnic origin, experiences privilege.  Such privilege may be different due to one’s own individual position in the social hierarchy, but every male, simply by being born male in this society, benefits from privilege.  In contrast, being members of the same profession does not automatically confer membership in the group.

In this situation, your error is the assumption that being a member of the same profession means that your colleague will perceive you as being in the same group (and having the same privilege) as he does.  However, his reaction to you shows that this particular privilege cannot be assumed; it must be authorized and validated by members of the group holding the privilege.

The variable that sets the two of you apart, of course, is race.   Your privilege as a black male is limited to the boundaries of the black community;    for your white male colleague, being a member of the dominant societal group, his privilege is limitless and therefore has no boundaries.

One may argue that such questions about illegal drug use are standard during a medical examination.  If this is true, then:

  • Why are you upset at being asked such standardized questions?
  • What courtesies and assumptions do you perceive are granted to your white colleagues that you, as a black male, do not receive?

This may be where you went wrong.  Take some time to accept responsibility for allowing yourself to be emotionally and psychological vulnerable to someone who may not have deserved such openness.

  • You assumed that your colleague does not possess stereotypical assumptions, thoughts or images of black males.
  • You didn’t realize that as a member of a privileged group, the white colleague might have viewed you as a member of a group (black males) stereotypically known for involvement in the usage of street drugs.
  • You assumed that since the two of you share the same profession, that your colleague would be able to view you as an individual, and not subject you to the stereotypes he may harbor of black males as a group.

Feelings of anger, stress and hypervigilance are natural in such situations, but over time, can be emotionally destabilizing.  However, due to a misconception of your relationship with your colleague, this feels like a betrayal to you, even though it doesn’t meet the criteria for betrayal.  So, what is it?

There are two phenomena which appear to be occurring simultaneously.  These are identified as micro-aggression and insidious trauma.

Micro-aggression is a form of insidious trauma.  Micro-aggressive assaults are often described as brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative racial slights and insults towards ethnic minority people.

Insidious trauma arises when there is a culmination of negative experiences affecting members of stigmatized group of actions that are directly traumatic.  Racism operates as a form of insidious trauma by constantly denigrating the value of the lives and intelligence/skills capacities of people of African-American descent and other ethnic and racial backgrounds.

From all appearances, you believe that the actions of your colleague were intentional.  However, even if it was unintentional, does this mitigate or lessen the impact of insidious trauma?

The response is no.  A micro-aggressive assault, regardless of its intent, remains assaultive and the wound it creates is imprinted permanently upon the psyche of the individual who suffered the assault.   It remains the responsibility of the aggressor to step outside of his group privilege to educate himself, especially as he continues to encounter black males.

——————————————————————————-

Concluding Words

This incident occurred several weeks ago and I can’t seem to get past it. 

When we are impacted by psychological attacks, we seek to move past the experience as quickly as possible.  Although this may be a normal human reaction, the actual psychological response will be to store the incident in our memories, and draw on that pain and suffering from time to time.

I have had to deal with racism all of my life. 

In your letter, you shared how you learned not to take insults personally in the healthcare profession and was surprised at how angry you were about this incident.  In this situation, however, you are not the healthcare provider, so the anger that surprises you is actually about your vulnerability as a patient, not in your capacity as a healthcare professional.

I had thought that once I made it through school, life would be different. 

By now, you already realize the error you made—believing that your status as a physician would be your protection and thus, elevate you from the racism you have endured all of your life.  The intense anger you feel about the experience may just as much be an acknowledgement of your own error as it is about what you can expect in the future.

Do you have any suggestions on how to forget this even happened so I can move with my life?

Despite your accomplishments and status as a physician, you cannot control or alter the ways in which others view you.   Although you have the ability to hide behind your career, you are still in severe psychological and emotional pain and now you want to “forget” and go on as if nothing happened.

I believe that specific events happen to us in order to wake us up to reality. In seeking to forget, you are seeking to run away from the traumatic experience, but it will be there forever as a permanent imprint within the psychological self. At this point, what you want to do is to find balance—to know that the trauma is potentially out there, but to live your life with that knowledge and prepare for it, instead of ignoring it and hoping that it will go away.

The body holds onto and remembers what the mind struggles to forget.

Until the next crossroad…the journey continues.

Standing Firm: Gatekeepers or Gate Blockers?

I was standing at one of many crossroads of my “journey of self-discovery” when I realized that I was truly blessed.  There are those who grumble as they go to what appears to be just another day at the office, but I can truly say that I love the “work” I do.

I am a psychotherapist.  Patients come in and tell me their stories, sharing their psychological selves with me.  I never have a boring day.  Each day brings me the privilege of listening to what is being revealed.

Most recently, I had the opportunity to listen to the truths being revealed by an individual, who for the purposes of confidentiality, I have named Gilda.

Gilda is a 15-year-old patient of biracial heritage (African-American & Caucasian) who is a student at one of the local public high schools. She recently gave me quite the tongue lashing when I made the error of referring to her as a “adolescent.”

Gilda was quick to assert that she was a “young woman” and not a child.   Understanding the importance of clarity when working with young people, I went further on this journey with her, and what I found was quite revealing.

To my surprise (and ignorance), Gilda stated that in being called an “adolescent” that I had defined her as being a child.   I began explaining the “clinical” stages of adolescent development and where she may fit in, but Gilda was having none of it.  Regardless of what we “old people” saw, she said, she was a woman.

I was curious about whether most of her fellow adolescents felt this way, so I asked Gilda to conduct a survey (nonscientific, of course) with her friends, focusing on the following questions:

  •      How do you define yourself, as an adolescent or young adult?
  •           What is the basis or foundation of your definition?

The agreement was that Gilda would return to our next session with feedback from her selected population.

At the next session, I was barely settled in my therapist’s chair (this is one stereotype that I will admit to: I do have a special chair) when Gilda shouted out, in a strong clear voice,

“I talked to all my girlfriends and we want to be called young adults and not adolescents!”

I can’t say that I was shocked.  The first question is almost like being asked if you want ground chuck or steak & lobster.  My real interest was the second question; that is, understanding the how they define adulthood and what makes them think they have achieved it.

Gilda shared with me that there is a group of people that she described as the “generation gate keepers.” She characterized them as “haters” and felt that they seek to prevent young people like she and her friends from crossing over and becoming young adults. There were some (very) specific points she made:

  •   Stop the “adolescent” crap and recognize that we are young adults
  •  Open up the generation gate, stop blocking us from crossing over the bridge into adulthood
  • Realize that, as young adults we can do everything that older adults can do, including having sex.  (Gilda went on to say that she has friends who have already had sexual intercourse).

I suggested that what she said, particularly about sex, could actually be a reason why the gate keepers would view her age group as immature, and thus continue to block the gate, but that didn’t go over well.

“There you go stereotyping me; just because I am a young adult does not mean I am immature!”

What is most important to people of her generation, according to Gilda, is:

  • The thought of gaining more freedom
  • Getting physically older
  •  The desire to explore and experience new things

Gilda acknowledges that “peer pressure” is a strong factor, but people must make their own decisions as to what actions they take.

“My generation is misunderstood, blocked and not taken seriously.   Because we are young, we are automatically defined as immature.”

Gilda has raised some interesting points.  She views her generation as not being taken seriously, as being stereotyped or being blocked by the gatekeepers preventing access to adulthood.  When questioned about what age these gatekeepers were, Gilda responded that they were primarily women over the age of 25 years old.

I suggested that perhaps when she becomes 25 years old, she may also want to block other young people of the age of teens from accessing the bridge leading to adulthood.  With a quick smirk, Gilda replied:

“No, I want to serve as a mentor to girls in the same situation.”

Serving as a mentor?  Interesting.  I wondered, who is currently mentoring Gilda and her generation?

While sitting in session, Gilda has her “lifeline” in her lap.  The lifeline is her cell phone.   As we are talking she is intermittently texting. In traditional therapy sessions, the cell phone would be banned due to its interference or distraction.  I’ve learned, however, that that strategy would prove not only ineffective, but defeating within the modern therapy process.

In other words, the cell phone is a lifeline, it is the comfort zone.  As long as the young adult is involved or invested in the therapy session, I will allow for it to remain, understanding that texting may be taking place during the session.  Now and then I gently, and in good humor redirect the individual to our process.

My point is that this young group lives in a culture of their own.  A culture that is focused through the cell phone and the opportunity for communication and connection that it provides.  These young people spend countless hours in their bedrooms, hiding away in privacy, communicating to others outside of parental or adult supervision.

And this is universal—it exists across color, class, and income lines.  Gilda comes from a two parent middle class family with both parents who are actively involved.   Academically, Gilda has a solid B+ GPA.  She is actively involved in sports and her church community.  She states proudly that she is not sexually active.

In terms of the life model I’ve written about often, Gilda is neither just “existing” nor is she just “surviving.”  She views herself being empowered and wants a seat at the adult table.    She, like her age cohorts, are merely speaking of their frustrations of being denied what they truly feel being their right to “self-determination.”

I must admit I am struggling.  I am a 60-year-old dude who is being told by a 15 year old, “I want to define myself.”  She is telling me to stop stereotyping her.  She is demanding to be free. Ignorance is really about “lack of knowledge,” and in this situation, I’m the one who is being schooled. Now that knowledge has been provided, it is for me to work with and seek to “balance” the information that has been presented to me, within me.

In balancing this, I will be reflective as I remember my youth in which others attempted to define me.  I was told to learn to work with my hands because that was my strength; once, a well-meaning, polite and smiling teacher told me that “your people” did not do well with “book work.”

In my youth, those were the gatekeepers who sought to, as they sought to define me, and, intentionally or not, blocking my access to the life I wanted and leaving behind the life they wanted for me.  In my youth, I struggled to deal with stereotypes and misconceptions that were placed upon me.

As I look to the present I see that not much has changed.  Today, the gatekeepers continue to seek block the way as I continue to purse the bridges that lay in my chosen path along the journey of self-discovery.

Today, I continue to respond with assertiveness—the same assertiveness I see in Gilda—as they attempt to define me.  I proceed, knowing that despite my academic, professional, martial and family successes, I must continue to respond to the stereotypes and misconceptions that confront me.

In closing, I want to say, “Thank you, Gilda.”  You have shown though your words and affirmation that “the young can teach the old,” the caveat being that the old must want to learn from the young. As we who are older learn from the younger generation, it is my hope that these young people will do the same for subsequent generations.  It is not enough to want something so precious as self-determination, freedom and the right to live without interference from others—we must pursue it and allow others to pursue as well.

I have learned that achieving this also comes with the responsibility of utilizing these rights wisely.  There will always be the struggle to maintain such gifts and resist those who seek to dis-empower you, remove or minimize what you have worked so diligently to achieve.

As much as I respect the words and wisdom of Gilda, I will admit that I am not there yet.  It is hard for me to let go of the notions I’ve grown up with and learn to work towards accepting Gilda as a young adult.  However, I respect her right of self-determination.

So, to Gilda and others out there who share her goals, regardless of what may be said by others, stay true to your beliefs, even if you find that others do not share the same.

Be aware that others will seek to define you.  It is for you and not others to define the self—that is, who you are and what you want in your life.

It is my hope that when Gilda become 25 years old that she will remember her pledge to serve as a mentor to “young adults.”  Young adults hunger for it now.  When that time comes again, they will want it again.

“I know what I am.  I am a young strong black woman.”

-Gilda

The journey continues…

-Dr. Kane

At the Crossroads: See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Speak No Evil: The Invisibles

The story of the Three Wise Monkeys is a Japanese proverb focusing on associations of good mind, speech and action. The three monkeys are Mizaru, covering his eyes, who sees no evil; Kikazaru, covering his ears, who hears no evil; and Iwazaru, covering his mouth, who speaks no evil.  In the telling of the story sometimes there is a fourth monkey depicted with the other three.  This one Shizaru, symbolizes the principle of “do no evil.” He is often shown crossing his arms.

     In the Western world the ideology of the Three Wise Monkeys is often used to refer to those who deal with impropriety by turning a blind eye.  So returning to “The Invisibles,” understanding that our children having been sexually abused by a member of the clergy within the African-American community, what does this have to do with the Three Wise Monkeys?
     We of the African-American community of Seattle have become the embodiment of the Three Wise Monkeys.   We have knowledge and awareness of the following information:
1) In October 2012, a former member of the clergy of Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church   pled guilty to 22 counts of sex abuse i.e. rape of child, child molestation, sexual exploitation of a minor and possession of child pornography; and:
2) The former minister confessed to sexually abusing 10 boys from 1997 to 2011; and
3) The children and adolescents were unwittingly delivered to him as they came into contact with him while he was holding various “positions of trust” i.e. foster parent, Boys & Girls Club youth supervisor and ministering in various churches activates and youth programs.
      We have the capability through social action to ensure that those victimized individuals and families receive validation and (if desired) mental health treatment.  We can hold our clergy accountable not only in the judicial system but in our community as well.  We can ensure that our children will be protected while being placed in the trust and guidance of those who are ordained and committed to our salvation.
      And yet we choose to remain silent.  Recently in reviewing The Facts, the newspaper of the Seattle African American community, I read articles regarding community & church preparations for the upcoming holidays, pastoral celebrations and obituaries of the recently deceased.
      And yet, there was not one word regarding “The Invisibles” i.e. the sexually abused boys and adolescents.   There are several questions to be asked:
  • Why call these children the Invisibles?

  • Why not refer to them as the 10 i.e. ten victims?

  • Why are we i.e. the African-American community holding onto silence?

      One, the children are referred to as the Invisibles because they are silent and thus unseen.  However the focus is on us, the adults who by our status as parents and adults are in the mentorship and modeling roles for our children.  We want them to be silent.  In their silence they merely “exist.”   In their existence, we hope that they in time will simply fade away.
      As long as they are invisible, WE do not have to raise our heads.  We can continue tithing and seeking salvation.  We can go on pretending that all is well.  We can continue to lure ourselves into the fantasy that the sexual abuse by those to whom we have entrusted our children was an “aberration.”  An aberration that is never to occur again.
      The Invisibles are not referred to as the “10” because there is a STRONG probability that more than ten children were sexually abused by the former minister.  The ten boys and adolescents he admitted to abusing were the ones that the legal system can prove he actually abused.  It is highly likely that in 11 years of having open access to young males, this individual sexually abused more children than he has confessed to.
      If indeed more than ten boys and adolescents have been abused then why have they not come forward?  Why are they silent?  Why indeed?
      It could be that they are mirroring or reflecting what is being felt within their community.  It could be that they are silent due to the concern of being labeled.  Finally it could be that they are silent due to fear.  Fear? Fear of what?
      Fear of what others may think of them.  Fear of what they may question or think about themselves.  Guilt.  Shame. Humiliation.  The Invisibles may be silent for the very same reasons that the community is silent.  Guilt.  Shame. Humiliation.
      One of my favorite television shows is “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”  I recall in one episode portraying an African-American NBA figure publicly coming forward on national media acknowledging that his high school coach had repeatedly sexually abused him.
      In coming forward the star basketball player stated that he was utilizing this as an opportunity for other boys  & adolescents who were similarly abused to come forward.  Behind him stood his team of all African-American adult males with their hands on his shoulders, supporting him.  The embrace, love and support that they showed him brought tears to my eyes.
      Yeah…. I know. It was “just” a television episode.  However it can be a model for the reality that is now occurring in our community. We can make a stand for these children.  We can embrace them.  We can advocate for them.  We can do what we can to ensure these children know that they are indeed visible and more specifically, they exist and they are alive!
      However to achieve this, the ending of “suffering in silence” we must first bring down the “wall of silence” that currently is a living, breathing thing lurking at will in our community.  We must want to respond to our own fear.  We must want to learn to “live with fear” and cease the current behaviors of “living in fear.”
      Today our community is drowning in fear.  The fear has resulted in “nonfeasance.”  Nonfeasance can be defined as the willingness to ignore and take no indicated action.  Specifically, it’s having knowledge and awareness of a specific occurrence and the deliberate choice of “taking no action.”
      As I stated in my last writing of At the Crossroads,
      “It would be easy to point the finger at someone or some organization to cast fault or blame.  However both blame and fault are poor motivators. Out of their ashes only guilt and shame will arise.  Rather it is our responsibility to our children that they be protected and safe.           We want them to understand that they are valued and will be validated and cared for.  They need not suffer in silence any longer.”
      I would encourage the reader to take the following action(s):
1)             Contact Reverend Robert Lee Manaway, Pastor, Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church 2801 South Jackson Street, Seattle, WA 98144  (206) 329-9794
Inquire as to what actions are being taken to respond to and/or alleviate the suffering of those abused by a member of his staff.
2)             Contact the United Black Clergy Association of Seattle.  (Contact can be initiated via the local African-American churches of Seattle.
Inquire as to what the organization is doing to assist Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church to respond to this situation. Furthermore, inquire as to what the organization is doing to prevent and respond to sexual abuse within the African-American church.
3)             Contact your spiritual leader and inquire what your religious or spiritual organization, church, mosque, temple, or synagogue can do to assist the victims of clergy sexual abuse.
4)             Share this writing of At the Crossroads and the previous ones with others.  Ask that they also make inquiries into the issues that have been addressed.
      Returning to the ideology of the “Three Wise Monkeys,” as stated earlier, in the telling of the story there is a fourth monkey, Shizaru, who is shown crossing his arms symbolizing “do no evil.”   In our community evil has already been done.  We can become Shizaru and work to create wellness in our community, beginning with those who “suffer in silence.”
 “I Believe I’ve Been Blue Too Long”
All around me there’s a solid wall.
A wall of trouble and confusion, I done tired of it all.
I believe, I believe I’ve been blue too long.
                                    B.B. King & David Clark
                                    (1971) Universal Duchess Music
      At the next crossroads: Betrayal Trauma: The Impact of Living in Fear
      Until the next crossroads.  The journey continues…

At The Crossroads: Suffering In Silence

In September, 2012, a former minister and church musician of Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church pleaded guilty to 22 charges of sexual molestation of boys.  The Seattle Times reported that the minister admitted to sexually abusing 10 boys from 1997 to 2011.

     According to the article, he pled guilty to charges that included rape of a child, child molestation, sexual exploitation of a minor and possession of child pornography.  At the time of writing Crossroads, the minister had not received sentencing for his criminal acts.
     The focus of this writing is not about the minister.  Rather, the focus is on the boys and young men who were victimized by his criminal behavior.  The minister cannot be type -casted as a pedophile lurking around the school playground.  Rather, the children and adolescents were unwittingly delivered to him.  He came into contact with his victims through holding “positions of trust” in various roles, such as foster parent, Boys & Girls Club youth supervisor and participation in various church activities and youth programs.
     Although the minister will no doubt be held accountable by the judicial system for his criminal acts, my concern lies with what will become of his victims.  After reviewing numerous articles, I was unable to find any mention or discussion of clinical/mental health services being provided to the group that I will simply refer to as the Invisibles.
     One may ask, “Why are they being referred to as the Invisibles?  Why indeed?  Where are they?  What has become of them?  What are their stories?  What can we learn so this terrible, terrible suffering can be prevented from occurring to a child/adolescent again?
     There are organizations such as SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) that advocate on behalf of those victimized by the Roman Catholic Clergy.  Such organizations have websites, blogs and are able to call upon national and local media attention to the sufferings of this group.  However, when similar tragedies occur within the African-American community, there appears to be token media coverage and silence among other African-American clergy.  Perhaps the other clergy is thanking the Lord that it didn’t happen in their churches.
     There is the silence that permeates throughout the community; rumors, gossip and inadequate information are afoot.  Whose child was it?  Sadly, it may be that the community has joined the clergy in thanking the Lord that it didn’t happen to their children.
     Well folks, guess what?  It did happen in a church in “our” community.  It did happen to “our” children.  Our sons have suffered from sexual assault, violence and betrayal.  In our “silence” the suffering of our children continues.
To those who may ask, “Well Dr. Kane, what do you plan on doing about it?  Why don’t you get involved?”  To that question, my reply is I am involved!  I have not been nor will I be silent on this issue.
In October I wrote the Pastor of Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church about my concerns. Here are some excerpts from the correspondence:
·      “It has been my experience that males may have difficulty responding to or processing feelings related to sexual abuse.  I am also aware of the lack of certified/licensed clinicians who respond to this issue within the African-American community.”
·      I would like the opportunity to meet with you and your church leadership to discuss the possibility of providing services to members of your congregation.
·      I encourage you to visit my websites:  lovingtheself.com and/or mkaneassoc.com, which may address preliminary questions you and others may have about my services.
     Today, I have yet to receive a response.  In early November, I followed-up with an email and was told by an executive staff assistant that I could send my brochures and business cards, which would be placed in view of the church congregation.
     “Placed in view” on a table?  Doesn’t sound like an acknowledgement that serious problems exists or being addressed.  The message, which may comes across, is “be quiet”, “don’t talk about it” and/or “it will die down or go away.”
It won’t die down and it most certainly won’t go away.  Remember the Invisibles?  They are alive.  They suffer in silence.  It is in our silence that they “exist.”
     They can be likened to lambs being led to slaughter.  They were sent to a person that they were told could be trusted.  Instead he betrayed them.  He violated them.  He stole their innocence and now, if the church is not dealing directly with the victims, the lack of validation and recognition by their clergy and community violates them further.  It is not their silence.  It is our silence.  It is not their shame.  It is our shame.  Our silence is a cold shoulder/backside. They are our children and they have done nothing wrong.
     We can do right by them and for them.  We can ensure that they (if wanting) receive mental health treatment.  We can acknowledge them.  We can validate them.  We can embrace them.
I belong to a professional organization, i.e. the Washington State Society of Clinical Social Workers.  These are wonderful people who are committed to providing services in the local communities.  It is possible that my colleagues could provide assistance and respond to these tragic occurrences.
     I reach out to them.  However, this will be extremely difficult if we continue to allow silence to speak for us.
     I would encourage the reader to take the following action(s):
1)   Contact Reverend Robert Lee Manaway, Pastor, Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church 2801 South Jackson Street, Seattle, WA 98144, (206) 329-9794. Inquire about actions being taken to alleviate the suffering of those abused.
2)   Contact the United Black Clergy Association of Seattle (contact can be initiated via the local African-American churches of Seattle).  Ask what the organization is doing to assist Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church with the situation.  Inquire as to what the organization is doing to prevent and respond to sexual abuse within the African-American church.
3)   Contact your spiritual leader and inquire what your religious or spiritual organization, church, mosque, temple or synagogue can do to assist the victims of clergy sexual abuse.
It would be easy to point the finger at someone or some organization to cast fault or blame, but blame and fault are poor motivators.  Out of their ashes only guilt and shame arise.  It is our responsibility to our children that they be protected and safe.  We want them to understand that they are valued and will be validated and cared for.  They need not suffer in silence any longer.
We can learn to empower the self through vocal advocacy and expression
and in doing so, bring an end to the traumatic pain of “suffering in silence.”
I will not be silent!
Dr. Micheal Kane
Until the next crossroad, the journey continues……….