healing begins with understanding…

Teen Dating Violence

The Functionality of Sin


ducttapeTraditional youth ministry training didn’t really prepare me for the acute problems my kids were showing up with at our youth ministry. I got into to youth ministry because the first time I walked into a youth ministry gathering I felt a connection, a calling to speak into their lives. I wanted desperately to impact their lives for the Kindgom. The typical fare in most youth ministry training programs is maybe a psych 110 class or an adolescent development overview but very little in the way of preparing me to minister effectively to them. Take Whitney, a 15 year old high school sophomore who had recently been hospitalized for depression, self-injury and suicidal ideation. When she was brought to our youth group by one of our “professional evangelism daters” we just weren’t sure what to do in order to walk with her and her family through the next couple of years. This started us on a journey of seeking to understand these fringe issues (which really aren’t fringe any longer), to be better equipped to love these kids that God was sending us. We believed we were called to be good stewards of the kids He sent us and that meant pulling our head out of the sand, rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty.
Sin is such a complex issue, everything from understanding what it is to what it isn’t, to what are the systemic causes of it, to how we deal with the fallout of sin, to how we put programs in place to create an environment that not only discourages sin but fosters the belief that everyone, EVERYONE, is a child of God and treated accordingly.

Dr. Brene` Brown, in her book I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Telling the Truth about Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power explains her research on the subject of shame as a study on the power of connection and the dangers of disconnection. When one considers the process to the product that is a sinful individual we must first understand that our primary drive is to be connected. God first existed in community and we are created in Their image, aren’t we? The longing to belong serves many purposes; survival, fulfillment, success, and procreation. Growing up as blank slates our families, environments, and culture shape how we “learn” to connect. We are taught skills and styles of connecting to others. Sometimes these means are healthy and affirming, and God honoring, placing God at the helm and others accordingly. Other times we are not taught healthy ways of connecting. We are taught that violence, aggression, manipulation and other illegitimate means are what are necessary to get what you need and want.

When we are not affirmed as worthy of being connected to others we learn to see ourselves as deficient, broken, not valuable, insignificant, etc., but our need for connection doesn’t leave us, we simply learn other ways to get what we need.

If this is done well, as God first intended, then it significantly increases the likelihood of having generations of people who choose to enter into a relationship with Him, just as He ordained from the beginning of time.
When this doesn’t go as God intended the opposite result is the outcome. Brokenness in God’s creation exists. God’s children all fighting and pining instead of cooperating to satisfy the deepest longings of their heart. Longings placed in them to direct them to God and each other, in that order. We experience sin and its collateral damage when we invert that order, placing me and others before our relationship with God the Father.

This is where sin becomes functional. Sin becomes a means to an end. For a long time we have demonized our sinful youth as just giving in to their hedonic nature. What if there was more going on than just simple pleasure seeking? What is we began to ask the question, “What purpose does sin have?”. Would this change the way we approach our youth and their sinful behaviors? What if we started having conversations about other ways, more God-honoring ways, to meet the deepest longings of their hearts? What if we spoke the language of their heart and longings? What if we told them of a God who can satisfy these longings in real ways, so that it is God’s love that draws them not the fear of Him. What if we created space in our homes and gathering places where youth felt they belonged and mattered? If we could do this, with the help of the Spirit, would they drop their cheap substitute (sin) for the real deal (God)? What do we have to lose?


The Three R’s of Bullying Interventions


The issue of bullying just doesn’t seem to be going away so today let’s talk about strategies to fix what bullying does.  The following would be a great resource to put in the hands of parents of your students.  It is also good kindling for discussion on reconciliation.

Restitution, Resolution, and Reconciliation 

If student was a follower/supporter of the bully: 

  1. Intervene immediately
  2. Provide a system of graceful accountability while allow natural consequences to occur
  3. Create opportunities to “do good”
  4. Nurture empathy
  5. Teach friendship skills – assertive, respectful, and peaceful ways to relate to others
  6. Monitor/Criticize/Converse about TV shows, movies, music, and video games that reinforce violence against others
  7. Engage in more constructive, entertaining, and energizing activities 

If your student hurt others through gossip: 

  1. apologize to the child who was harmed by the rumor
  2. go to everyone she told it to and tell them it wasn’t true
  3. ask them to stop spreading it
  4. ask them to let everyone they told that she was a part of spreading the rumor and that she wants to correct it
  5. to the best of her ability, repair any damage done to the target by the act of spreading the rumor
  6. take the next step of building a new and healthier relationship 

Three principles that foster moral independence: 

  1. Teach your student that he and only he is responsible for the consequences of his actions (kids who accept responsibility for their own actions are more likely to live up to their own moral code) 
  2. Build your student’s confidence in his or her ability to make good decisions (Kids who have confidence in their own judgments are not easily manipulated by others) 
  3. Teach your student how to evaluate reasons on his or her own (Kids who have confidence in their own ability to reason are more questioning and more resistant to passive acceptance of orders.)

reference: Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystanders by Barbara Coloroso


Creating Caring Communities that Challenge Bullying


The following is a brief outline for creating an environment that leaves little room for bullying.  Whether your group is in a classroom, youth group room, large group meeting room, or small group this following principles will be helpful for the leader to cultivate a safe environment.  This can also be used in training volunteers as there is a Powerpoint Presentation that goes with it at the bottom of this post.

Four Key Principles 

  1. warmth, positive interest, and involvement from adults
  2. firm limits as to unacceptable behavior
  3. in case of violations of limits and rules, consistent application of non-hostile, non-physical sanctions (discipline as opposed to punishment)
  4. behavior by adults at home and in community organizations that creates an authoritative (not authoritarian) adult – child interaction

 Elements to Effective Anti-Bullying Policies 

  1. A strong, positive statement of the organizations desire to promote positive peer relations and especially to oppose bullying and harassment in any form it may take by all members of the community
  2. A succinct definition of bullying or peer victimization, with specific examples
  3. A declaration of the rights of individuals and groups in the community – students, teachers, clergy, LGBTQ, minorities, etc – to be free of victimization by others
  4. A statement of the responsibility of those who witness peer victimization to seek to stop it
  5. Encouragement of students and parents with concerns about victimization to speak with school/church/community leaders about it
  6. A general description of how the community organization proposes to deal with the bully/victim problem
  7. A plan to evaluate the policy in the near future

 Prevention Strategy 

  1. Gathering information about bullying in community directly from students
  2. Establishing clear organizational rules about bullying
  3. Training all willing adults in the community to respond sensitively and consistently to bullying
  4. Providing adequate adults supervision, particularly in less structured areas, such as playgrounds, parks, swimming pools, etc.
  5. Improving parental awareness of and involvement in working on the problem.

Bullying Training


Four Markers of Bullying


With every person we talk to about bullying we get a different definition of what it is.  There seems to be some difficulty defining what bullying is and what it isn’t.  Norwegian researcher Dan Olweus defines bullying as when the person is

“exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons.”

He defines negative actions as “when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words or in other ways.”

The following are markers that may help determine if an act of aggression is actually bullying or simply the result of conflict between two parties.

1. Imbalance of Power

The bully can be older, bigger, stronger, more verbally adapt, higher up on the social ladder, of a difference race, or of the opposite sex. Sheer numbers of kids banded together to bully can create this imbalance. Bullying is not sibling rivalry, nor is it fighting that involves two equally matched kids who have conflict.

2. Intent to Harm
 
The bully means to inflict emotional and/or physical pain, expects the action to hurt, and takes pleasure in witnessing the hurt. This is no accident or mistake, no slip of the tongue, no playful teasing, no misplaced foot, no inadvertent exclusion.
 
3. Threat of Further Aggression
 
Both the bully and the bullied know that the bullying can and probably will occur again. This is not meant to be a one time event. When bullying escalates unabated, a fourth element is added:
 
4. Terror
 
Bullying is systematic violence used to intimidate and maintain dominance. Terror struck in the heart of the child targeted is not only a means to an end, it is an end in itself. This is not a one time act of aggression elicited by anger about a specific issue, nor is it an impulsive response to a rebuke.

Guiding Your Students Through A Traumatic Event


As a youthworker you may be struggling with how to talk with your students about a shooting rampage. It may be difficult to talk to your students about the devastation of an F4 tornado that wipes out a small town. It is important to remember that children look to the adults in their life to make them feel safe. This is true no matter what age the children are, be they toddlers, adolescents, or even young adults.

Consider the following tips for helping your students manage their distress.

Talk with your students. Talking to your students about their worries and concerns is the first step to help them feel safe and begin to cope with the events occurring around them. What you talk about and how you say it does depend on their age, but all students need to be able to know you are there listening to them.

  • Find times when they are most likely to talk: such as when riding in the car, while dinner, with peers, or at coffee shop.
  • Start the conversation; let them know you are interested in them and how they are coping with the information they are getting.
  • Listen to their thoughts and point of view; don’t interrupt–allow them to express their ideas and understanding before you respond.
  • Express your own opinions and ideas without putting down theirs; acknowledge that it is okay to disagree.
  • Remind them you are there for them to provide safety, comfort and support. Give them a hug.

Keep your ministry settings a safe place. Youth, regardless of age, often find home to be a safe haven when the world around them becomes overwhelming. But sometimes home is the environment in which the crisis lives. During times of crisis, it is important to remember that your students may come to youth group seeking the safe feeling they denied at home. Help make it a place where your students find the solitude or comfort they need.

Watch for signs of stress, fear or anxiety. After a traumatic event, it is typical for teens (and adults) to experience a wide range of emotions, including fearfulness, shock, anger, grief and anxiety. Your student’s behaviors may change because of their response to the event. They may experience trouble sleeping, difficulty with concentrating on school work, or changes in appetite. This is normal for everyone and should begin to disappear in a few months. Encourage your students and their parents to create space where they can convert feelings into words by talking about them or journaling. Some youth may find it helpful to express their feelings through art. Make concession for artistic expression during your gatherings. Many student lack a broad emotional vocabulary to accurately reflect what’s going on inside their head.

Take “news breaks”. Your students may want to keep informed by gathering information about the event from the internet, television, or newspapers. It is important to limit the amount of time spent watching the news because constant exposure may actually heighten their anxiety and fears. Also, scheduling some breaks for yourself is important; allow yourself time to engage in activities you enjoy.

Take care of yourself. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your students and their families. Be a model for others on how to manage traumatic events. Keep regular schedules for activities such as family meals and exercise to help restore a sense of security and normalcy.

These tips and strategies can help you guide you’re your students and their families through the current crisis. If you are feeling stuck or overwhelmed, you may want to consider talking to someone who could help. A licensed mental health professional or counselor can assist you in developing an appropriate strategy for moving forward. It is important to get professional help if you feel like you are unable to function or perform basic activities of daily living.


The Art of Connecting with Kids on the Fringe


After a workshop I facilitated on working with kids who have been abused, an elderly woman approached me to ask me a question.  She shocked me with the simplicity and depth of the question.  Here’s what she said,

“I love the kids in my community but I don’t know how to connect with the.  I want to reach out but don’t know where to start.  How do you do it?”

I can’t really remember what I told her, probably an overly simplified answer.  I never thought about it to be honest.  I just did what felt natural when reaching out to others.  Plus, I have the added benefit of being pretty simple, if I didn’t know someone I would just introduce myself and talk to them.  It wasn’t until I talked to my wife that she opened my eyes to the idea that for some this comes easy.  For others though it is an anxiety inducing event.  Imaging, you long to reach out to this generation, a generation that is slipping through the cracks right before your very eyes, but the words escape you when needed.  You don’t know how to connect beyond a simple “Hello, how are you today?”

My wife and I talked about this for several hours over the next few days.  We explored what is involved in connecting with these kids that seemed so different from us.  Asking me how I connect with fringe kids is like asking a fish to describe water.  I spend so much time out there on the fringe that it has become normal.   I have developed, over the years, skills to navigate those waters.  But many others haven’t and don’t know where to start.  That’s what this series in aimed at doing, equipping willing adults to connect with a generation where the gap is ever increasing.  Our thoughts are not exhaustive and it is my hope that other voices will chime in with their experience, wisdom, and insight.

We will cover the following over the next several weeks:

  • Bridge Building – How to make that initial contact in a meaningful way?
  • Cultivating a spirit of learning – Curiosity is key in connecting with others.  How do we foster a spirit of curiosity?
  • Law of the Lid – We will explore our preconceived expectations of these fringe kids and how they impede our interactions with them.
  • The Culture of an Individual – Each student is a culture unto themselves.  We will discuss how to explore that culture as it relates to effectively ministering to them.
  • Doing away with my Agenda – How my agenda actually breeds a distrust that is nearly impossible to overcome.
  • What is our Purpose of our Interactions – Moving from meaningless to Meaningful interactions.
  • Checking our Personal Bias at the Door – Often our personal biases impact how well we connect with others, especially those different than us.
  • Finding Common Ground – Discovering shared experiences, dreams, fear, and failures.
  • What is being said without Words – What story are they telling with their clothes, hairstyle, and nonverbal communication.

I hope you will contribute to this discussion because at the end of the day it will close the gap between us and the adolescents that reside in the world beneath…


Sex and Violence in Youth Ministry


In today’s urban dating culture many express how frustrating and unsatisfied they are because dating patterns encourage young men to be aggressive and young women to be accommodating.

Unfortunately, sex and violence are so intertwined for men that an easy separation is impossible.  Violence is constantly glamorized and sexualized in the urban culture.  The multibillion-dollar pornography industry is the clearest example of how we learn that power and control are tied to sexual arousal.  Even in children’s comic books, popular music and videos, and magazine advertisements, we are constantly reminded that dominating and subduing women is sexy and arousing.  The primary message young men receive is that having sexual access to women and having someone sexually vulnerable to you are the quintessential signs of male power, the epitome of success.  Women are constantly shown accompanying other signs of male power and success, such as fast cars, fancy stereos, money, and guns.

Some of these images portray the women as protesting vigorously at first, then finally giving up and enjoying sex.  In this way young men are taught that women are somehow turned on by the aggression displayed by men.  They may protest or say no at first to protect their reputation, but when they relax and enjoy it, they will grow aroused by the man’s aggression.  If they don’t, then there is something wrong with them.

The result of this training is that men are given permission to use sexual aggression to control women, to deny what they’re doing and then assert that it’s no big deal anyway.  If this goes on long enough it soon becomes the norm.  Young men assume this is the way relations between men and women are naturally.  If there is any guilt or remorse, the young women gets the blame.

  • She’s a tease
  • She’s frigid
  • She’s too emotional
  • She shouldn’t have said that
  • She knew that would make me angry
  • She asked for it
  • She said no but she meant yes
  • If she didn’t want it she wouldn’t dress like that

There are so many layers of aggression, blame, and denial that there is no way for young men to see the impact their thoughts and behaviors have on the women around them.  We can even use the Scriptures to reinforce these ideas that women are inferior, further damaging the inherent dignity and value each young woman has, leading to a fractured image of who she was created to be by God.

  • What role does the church/your ministry have in (inadvertently) reinforcing these false beliefs?
  • When was the last time you had a conversation about male gender training with the young men in your ministry?
  • What are new values/beliefs that need to be taught from Scripture to replace old, harmful beliefs?
  • How can we affirm young males without encouraging male privilege?

Violence Is A Male Problem (part 1 of 2)


According to United States Department of Justice statistics – Uniform Crime Report and Bureau Statistic

  • 89.0% of those arrested for all violent crimes were men.
  • 87.5% of those arrested for murder were men.
  • 98.8% of forcible rapes we committed by men.
  • 91.9% of robberies were committed by men.
  • 86.7% of those arrested for aggravated assaults were men.
  • 92.2% of those arrested for sex offenses (not rape or prostitution) were men.
  • Wars are instigated and generally carried out by men (although this number has changed significantly in the last decade).

Training to be a man = Training to be violent

Virtually every man has experienced violence in his life and is trained to use violence for resolving conflict if he deems it necessary.  Most men has engaged in fist fights, verbal threats, pushing, shoving, grabbing, or intimidation.  For almost all men the use of physical force to resolve conflict is an option that they have experienced in at least one of three ways: (1) they have used physical force to win something, (2) they have been victims of physical force, or (3) they have seen someone use physical force.  Violence for men is a common experience and under many circumstances some men view violence as an acceptable response to a threat from either men or women.  The threat need not be physical harm; it could be a threat to self-worth, self-esteem, security, or person ambitions.  Acknowledging violence as “normal” male behavior is important for the understanding of dating/domestic violence.

Two reasons for male violence

The process of molding violent men begins very early and is a pattern of development our society considers normal.  First, almost all societies want men to have the potential to use physical force as a legitimate means to resolve conflict.  Societies sanction violence in specific circumstances such as war, police activities, defense of family and self, and sports.  Historically men have trained to wage war in order to protect family, clan, city and state or to expand the domain that each family, clan, city or state controls.  Whether it is used for protection or expansion, violence helps ensure the survival of the culture for which men fight.  And for thousands of years, men have been willing to to risk death or dismemberment to protect their cultures.  several conditions enable men to go to war and kill or be killed (We’ll explore these conditions in another post).  Training for violence starts within the family and with the games of adulthood.

The second reason for male violence is that many men have been given neither the means to determine acceptable boundaries for violence nor have they been given the tools to resolve conflict without resorting to coercion.  Many men come from families that injure rather than protect.   These men are left with a pervasive sense of alienation, loneliness, inadequacy, mistrust, and fear, and they have no adequate means of coping with these feelings.

Men who were abuse as children, i.e. were victims of violence inflicted by their families, are unable to establish acceptable personal boundaries for themselves or others and frequently feel threats to their self-worth as threats to their survival.  When abusive men perceive themselves as threatened, hence endangered by emotional conflict, they do all they can to win and survive.   If they cannot assure emotional survival by lesser means, they will use violence.


The Anatomy Of Honesty


We encourage students to explore the role of honesty and confession as a discipline in the Way of Jesus.  Issues relevant to this topic include: What is the cost of dishonesty?  When is it safe to confess?  What if the other person doesn’t accept honesty?

“I haven’t told my parents that I use pot.  I don’t want them to be mad at me.”

“My abuse can’t be as bad as I’ve made it out to be; I must be making things up.”

“If I tell my family about the abuse, I’ll be the black sheep.”

“I don’t want to date that person, but I can’t say ‘no’.”

Honesty, with God, oneself and others, is a central principle of the Way of Jesus.  Secrecy, lies, and avoidance are hallmarks of sin as well as abuse.  In cases of abuse, young people may have been punished or ignored if they spoke out regarding their abuse, and thus learned to suppress their truths.  When the consequence of telling the truth is greater than that of telling lies it makes sense that one would choose the latter of the two.

Students are therefore encouraged to recognize the cost of dishonesty: It alienates them from others and perpetuates the idea that something about them is unacceptable and must be hidden. (Think Adam and Eve)  In contrast honesty is liberating. 

The term “honesty” conveys an ideal that goes beyond just expressing one’s views.  It is meant to convey integrity, the notion of “owning” one’s experiences, and a spiritual sense of acceptance. 

Honesty is a complicated subject, however, as real risks are on the line for the abused student.  Honesty needs to be selective.  It may not be safe, for example, for a young person to confront their abuser. 

One particularly difficult situation is when a student asks the youth worker to hide information from parents or other adults, such as substance abuse.  In such scenarios, it is strongly recommended that the youth worker not keep secrets that would further place the student at risk of hurting themselves or others.  It usually helps to suggest to the student to try talking honestly with the parents, setting a date by which it would happen (such as a few days).  After the specified date, the youth worker then talks with the parents directly to confirm that the information has been shared.  Although there may be a risk of the student dropping out of our program, the greater risk is keeping substance abuse secrets on behalf of the student.  Not only would this reinforce lying about substance abuse, but it puts the youth worker in the position of being an “enabler” and may at times put other people in jeopardy (i.e., driving while under the influence). 

In encouraging students to be honest, a key issue is helping them cope with others’ negative reactions.  It helps to view honesty as a positive goal in and of itself, regardless of how the other person feels.  This is the Way of Jesus.  He routinely spoke truth for the sake of truth and not because He was concerned with how the others would react to it.  There will be growth either way: If the person has a positive reaction, the relationship has increased in closeness; if the person has a negative reaction, the student has learned more about the other person and can proceed accordingly.  Unfortunately, young people too often take a negative reaction to truth not as information about the other person, but as condemnation of themselves.  Preparing for negative reactions is then very important because when we can see that often dishonesty is nothing more than a functional protective skill, developed to keep someone safe from threats, we can move from a place of compassion into the messiness of their world.

Because it can be so difficult for students to be honest, respecting their defenses and locating areas where they are able to make some disclosure is more helpful than trying to convince them reveal when they resist.  Thus, if a student cannot be honest in a particular situation we should use this defensive posture as a thermostat for our relationship with that student.  Resistance can sometimes, often time, be a gift.  It lets us know there is still work to be done to develop a trusting relationship with a hurt and scared student. 

If we are fortunate enough to gain their trust, we dare not do anything to lose it.  It is a sacred thing when a person allows you entrance into their innermost hurt.  We must tread carefully.  Take off your shoes because you are walking on holy ground.  It is here that we have the opportunity to witness the miracle of Jesus making someone whole again.


PTSD and the Youth Worker


Suicide, sexual abuse, drive by shootings, car accidents, date rape.  These events and many other traumatic events occur on a seemingly regular basis and can impact the surviving student(s), families, or youth workers more deeply than imagined.  If you work with kids long enough then you will experience a traumatic event and it will serve you well to understand the phenomenon of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome that is often left in the wake of a horrible event. 

The following is an overview of what PTSD might look like in your youth, their families, and those that serve them. 

Many triggers in the present environment can activate traumatic memory material and stimulate intrusions.  Triggers are cues – often harmless – that have become associated with the original trauma.  In some way, they remind us of the trauma or recall traumatic memories.  The association may be obvious or subtle.  They may trigger most of the memory or just certain fragments of it.  Often, they trigger intrusions against our will.  Recognizing triggers, and realizing that their power to elicit intrusions is understandable, are steps towards controlling its effects on our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Some people find it helpful to understand triggers by their twelve categories:

  1. Visual: seeing blood or road kill reminds one of wounded bodies; black garbage bags can remind us of body bags; a secretary sees her boss standing over her and is reminded of her abusive father.
  2. Sound (auditory): a backfiring car sounds like gunshot to a veteran or inner city youth exposed to street violence; sounds during lovemaking remind one of sexual abuse.
  3. Smell (olfactory): the smell of semen or another’s body during intercourse, or the smell of cologne or aftershave reminds one of sexual assault.
  4. Taste (gustatory): eating a hamburger reminds one of an automobile accident that occurred as one drove away from a fast food restaurant.
  5. Physical or Body
  • Kinesthetic means the sensation of movement, tension, or body position.  Thus, running when tense might be reminiscent of trying to flee a beating; trying to do progressive muscle relaxation (tensing muscles, lying on one’s back with eyes closed) might trigger memories of sexual abuse.
  • Tactile or touch: pressure around wrists or waist, being gripped, held, or otherwise restrained (perhaps even a hug) reminds one of torture or rape; feeling someone on top of you; a man accidentally kicked in bed by his wife while sleeping recalls a midnight attack while in prison; being touch during sexual relations with a loved one in the same place or in the same way as occurred during abuse will likely trigger traumatic memories.
  • Pain or other internal sensations; surgical pain, nausea, headaches, or back pain might trigger memories of torture or rape.  Elevated heart rate from exercising at night might remind one of a similar sensation during a high stress encounter such as a drive by shooting.

      6.  Significant Dates or Seasons

  • Anniversary dates of the trauma
  • Seasons of the year with their accompanying stimuli (temperature, lighting, colors, sounds)
  • Other dates (e.g., a mother becomes distressed on the date of her murdered son would have graduated)

      7.  Stressful Events/Arousal: Sometimes changes in the brain due to the trauma cause it to interpret any stress signals as a recurrence of the original trauma.  At other times, seemingly unrelated events are actually triggers.  Examples include:

  • A woman visits her spouse in the hospital which triggers a flashback of grief and loss.  As a young woman she has a late term miscarriage in the same hospital.
  • An argument with a significant other triggers memories of parents arguing violently.
  • Criticism from a teacher reminds a person of being abused by his father.
  • A frightening dream with no apparent related theme activates the fear of a traumatic memory.  (Of course, a nightmare of the trauma would understandably elicit strong feelings of distress.)
  • Athletic competition reminds an athlete of a previous traumatic injury or of a being abused when she performed poorly in the past.

      8.  Strong Emotions: feeling lonely reminds one of abandonment; feeling happy reminds a woman of a rape that occurred after having dinner with her best friend; anything that makes one anxious, out of control, or generally stressed, such as PMS.  Some memories are state-dependent, meaning that the brain activates them only when the emotional state is the same as the original memory.  Thus, if one was drunk when raped, she may feel symptoms only when drinking; if raped when sober, then drinking might provide an escape from the symptoms.

      9.  Thoughts: rejection by a lover leads to the thought “I am worthless,” which triggers the same thoughts that occurred when one was abused as a child.

    10.  Behaviors: driving reminds a person of a serious accident.

     11.  Out of the Blue: Sometimes intrusions occur when you are tired, relaxing, or your defenses are down.  Often a thought or something you’re not aware of will elicit symptoms; so might the habitual act of dissociating during stressful times.

     12.  Combinations: often triggers contain several memory aspects at once.  For example:

  • Walking to the parking lot on a dark summer’s night (visual+kinesthetic+seasons) triggers a memory of a violent crime.
  • Fireworks (sound+flarelike sight) triggers combat memories.
  • Intercourse (weight+touch+sounds+relaxing+the smell of aftershave+the pressure of a hug or a squeezing sensation or the wrists) trigger memories of rape.

 

This list is by no means exhaustive but hopefully it will shed some light on the problems some of your students face.  There are some implications for our ministries too.  If we know a student has been sexually assaulted then we should be cognizant to the fact that some games we play where there is physical contact (human knot) or close proximity to others (passing a Life Saver on a toothpick) may trigger a response to that stimulus.  We can simply pull them aside and prep them ahead of time as to what the game will entail and give them an option to participate or not. 

Students who suffer from trauma need therapeutic interventions.  Often we operate outside of our expertise and we must realize that we are not trained counselor.  A referral for the student and their family is often the best thing we can do for them.  Be honest with yourself about your limitations and seek outside support if necessary.


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