These articles discuss issues in the community from my point of view.
How Poverty Influences Development in American Youth
Children under the age of 18 are the largest group of poor people in America. In 2014, over 15 million children lived in families with incomes below the federal poverty line. Female-headed households make up the vast majority of these low-income families. Poverty is a major influencer in the lives of American youth impacting them mentally, physically, and academically.
How Poverty Influences Development in American Youth
Food insecurity and inadequate nutrition
Children are able to function at their best when they are not concerned about food. However, food is often the greatest concern of children. Nearly 39 percent of children live in low-income households making their access to quality nutrition limited or non-existent. Grocery stores and supermarkets lack quality food options in impoverished neighborhoods. Gardens and fresh foods are scarce due to the limited resources in low-income areas. When children are focused on food they cannot focus on things like making wise choices and completing school assignments. As a result, many schools now provide free meals to children who attend. Some schools have also partnered with organizations who provide additional food assistance to needy families.
Substandard housing and unsafe neighborhoods
7 in 10 children who live with a single mother are poor or low-income. Single mothers are more susceptible to living in unsafe neighborhoods and substandard housing because it is what they can afford. Women are paid substantially less than their male counterparts in most professions. As a result, women have to work twice as hard to receive adequate pay. When single mothers are forced to work multiple jobs to earn suitable wages they are less involved in the rearing of their children. Children raised by single mothers are more likely to be involved in delinquent or risky behavior due to limited supervision. Improving community programs and increasing wages would be a great benefit and major resource to those struggling to survive poverty.
Lower academic performance
Children who live in high poverty areas are more likely to attend schools with limited funding and opportunities for expansion. As a result, the children are receiving a subpar educational experience. They are unable to concentrate and perform as well due to the stress associated with living in poverty. In some cases, children are forced to work and help with household income which in turn increases drop-out rates. Increased funding sources and community based programs would greatly reduce lower academic performance in low-income areas. It would also improve self-esteem and reduce stress for the impacted children.
Understanding how poverty influences the development of American youth can shed light on what steps need to be taken to fix the problem. Poverty is controllable. Pouring back into the communities that need the help will change the quality of life for all who reside there. American youth suffer more than any other group and they are helpless. They depend on the parents, guardians, and other figures to provide what they need. The more resources that are available, the more opportunity there is for growth.
5 Things I Learned From Sexual Abuse
I can remember it vividly. He took me downstairs and put down a towel on the concrete floor of the basement. I trusted him. I thought that he would never hurt me, but protect me always. I thought that was his role. I learned about sex in that moment without even knowing what it was. I didn’t know this at the time, but none of this was about me. I was simply being used to fulfill a need. A need that he possibly didn’t understand. For every minute he was inside of me I wasn’t a person, but an object. I can recall the inner part of my thighs becoming wet and sticky as I laid there waiting to see what would happen next. At the time I was still clueless to the fact that this was my introduction to intimacy and intercourse. After a few moments, he cleaned me off and I went upstairs to my mother. I was extremely calm. I reenacted the scene and explained to her what I just experienced. She didn’t respond with much shock or reaction. She simply said, “Go play. I’ll take care of it” and that was that. I followed her instructions with the thought that it would be handled. I went to my room and played as instructed. I was 5 and my abuser was a family member.
Unfortunately, I am not unique or special in this sense. This is the story for many girls across the country. In America, sexual abuse is common. The American Society for the Positive Care of Children (American SPCC) shared some of the statistics surrounding this unhealthy occurrence.
1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old
34% of people who sexually abuse a child are family members
12.3% of girls were age 10 or younger at the time of their first rape/victimization and 30% of girls were between the ages of 11 and 17
There have been a lot of people speaking out about their experience as a sexual abuse victim. There is an entire movement that has sparked more conversations about sexual abuse and sexual assault than ever before. Now more than ever, I feel that it is time to share 5 lessons that I have learned from sexual abuse with the hopes of helping others who are attempting to make it through their journey.
1. Telling someone about your abuse does not mean that you will receive the help you need.
I know, this sounds extremely harsh and disheartening. Nevertheless this is the truth. When victims speak out, many times they are ridiculed, ignored, and shamed for what was done to them. They are looked at as second class citizens and treated as criminals when they share their story. Just because a victim shares their story does not mean that someone will believe them or take action to help them. However, there are times when victims are embraced, comforted, and supported but it tends to follow a massive outcry or movement. For example, the #MeToo movement brought out a lot of victims and survivors of sexual abuse. Many people who where afraid to share their story before came out and revealed the gory details of their abuse or assault. After those stories were released, some of them were exploited and many of them were dismissed. Victims watching this on the other side are more afraid than ever to share their story because they feel they will not be heard. I can relate to this. After the first time it happened to me, I told and nothing was done as far as I knew. As a result, I began to create an escape in my mind so that I didn’t have to deal with the pain of being abused and being left to deal with it on my own.
2. If the abuser has access to the victim, the abuse will continue.
In my case, as with over 30% of sexual abuse cases, my abuser was a family member. Family members and close friends of the family are usually the ones to commit acts of sexual abuse or assault. This means that the victim is easily accessible and the prey is always within reach of the predator. The abuser has the option to chose when to strike and when to torture or torment. I had to live within reach of my abuser. There was only one incident of sexual abuse. As the years went on, my abuser switched to physical abuse. There were times when I was strangled within inches of life. I had to fight constantly to defend myself and protect myself from the abuse. I felt alone, rejected, and unwanted mostly because it was allowed to continue. No matter how many times I spoke up about it, nothing changed. When a victim is reporting abuse and the issue is not addressed, they are placed in situations which increase the chances of them being abused again. When victims are ignored they are subjected to the consistent struggle to escape their abuser and their thoughts. This is when depression and suicidal thoughts come into play. The rejection affects everyone differently but proximity plays a large role in the abuse, coping, and healing process.
3. Parents do not know how to deal with sexual abuse properly.
It is one of the most difficult things for a parent to hear and deal with. Although many families have histories of sexual abuse, it is something that no parent wants to go through. Despite the fact that the parents may have experienced the same type of abuse or something similar, they are unprepared to deal with it happening to their child. To hear that someone has touched your child in a way that is inappropriate and violates their safe zones is infuriating. In most cases, parents initially think to react with rage and anger. That will not solve the issue at hand nor will it help heal the child. This type of reaction will only cause more damage to the victim. There has to be some victim advocacy at some point to help rebuild the victim and assist them in transitioning to a survivor. If parents do not know how to properly deal with abuse, they are unequipped to teach or assist their children who experience this. In order for healing to begin there has to be honest and transparent communication. Parents have to be willing to act on what they hear instead of ignore what they are told.
4. It is easier to ignore the problem than to deal with the pain.
Most times the healing process comes with pain so intense that victims and families feel it is better to act as if the abuse never happened than to relive the incident. In most cases of trauma, victims learn to mentally block out events, details, and memories. When someone has to share the secrets of a past hurt, they are forced to go back to that moment and feel the pain all over again. Abuse heavily bruises the spirit, interrupts healthy mental growth, and severely damages relationships. Discussing what happened can trigger memories of the abuse and pain for the victim and those who are involved however, pain is the first step of the healing process. No one talked to me about what I went through. No one explained that it wasn’t my fault. No one told me that I didn’t deserve that to happen to me. I was not asked questions about the incident and over time it felt that no one cared about me. I felt like I was the problem. I felt ignored. Sadly, victims are often forced to forget about it and move on without proper help, support, and guidance.
5. You may never get an apology from your abuser.
As we grow up and go through life, we are often taught that you apologize when you have wronged someone. This is not the case for people who are abusers. They are not always held responsible for their actions which in turn means they are not held accountable for an apology. The healing process tends to go smoother when there is full accountability, responsibility, and disclosure. However, the healing process may never include an abuser saying “I’m sorry for what I did to you”. Most times, abusers were abused and an apology was not likely issued to them either. Learning how to move past the pain, hurt, disappointment, and turmoil takes a lot. All in all it’s worth going through to regain your power. For years I was silent about what happened to me and it controlled me in a sense. When I started to talk about it more often, I noticed that I was helping others and myself heal from such a horrible experience. I noticed that it became easier to tell my story and I began to learn from what I went through.
I wouldn’t wish sexual abuse or assault onto anyone. I will continue to share my story and help others who have felt as if they were alone. I will continue to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. I will not give that situation nor my abuser that much power over me. I have overcome the pain and I am constantly healing from the aftermath of it all. Most importantly, I will tell my daughters and my son why it is important to respect themselves and others. My journey is not over and my fight is not easy, but I’m here for it all.