New Trauma Checklist for Lawyers and Legal Advocates

Court youth toolkit

By Lisa Conradi

According to the National Survey on Children’s Exposure to Violence, most of our society’s children are exposed to violence and trauma in their daily lives. Each year, millions of children and adolescents in the United States are exposed to violence in their homes, schools, and communities. Researchers have labeled children who have experienced seven or more types of victimization as “polyvictims.” For many of these children, this exposure can have both short- and long-term effects. Short-term effects include difficulty regulating emotions, challenges in cognitive development, behavior problems and attachment difficulties. Long-term effects include a higher likelihood of adverse health outcomes, such as obesity, heart disease, and cancer (Felitti et al., 1998).

In order to address this critical need, multiple efforts are underway to increase awareness, early identification, and intervention efforts related to children’s exposure to violence and trauma. One of the critical areas in need of training on the impact of violence on children is the legal system. Recently, the Safe Start Center, the American Bar Association (ABA) Center on Children and the Law, and Child & Family Policy Associates developed the “Polyvictimization and Trauma Identification Checklist and Resource Guide” (Checklist). This Checklist was designed to help lawyers and other legal advocates for children recognize the prevalence and impact of polyvictimization and perform more trauma-informed legal and judicial system advocacy. The Checklist, along with the Flowchart on Trauma-Informed Actions (Flowchart), can be used by children’s attorneys, juvenile defenders, court-appointed special advocates, and other advocates in both the dependency (child welfare) and delinquency (juvenile justice) systems.

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In Search Of: Domestic Violence Awareness Month bloggers!

We’re gearing up for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October and we’re once again looking for some new voices for our blog – your voices.

We’re looking for anyone with a story to tell, about domestic violence and children, to write a brief blog post. Parents, have you experienced domestic violence, and if so, how did it affect your children? What did you do about it? Practitioners, what have you experienced in relation to domestic violence and children or what tips do you have for others? Do you have a program for children who have been exposed to domestic violence? Tell us about it!

Please send your blog post – with your full name, contact information and a picture of yourself, if you have one – to info@safestartcenter.org. We will run guest posts through the entire month of October.

Before you get started, take a cruise around the blog or visit www.safestartcenter.org to see what we’re all about.

We look forward to reading your posts!

London blogger gets survivors talking with #ididnotreport

By London Feminist blogger Julian
Julian is a London blogger who describes herself as a “lawyer, an armchair politician, activist, wannabe writer… [and] a member of London Feminist Network [and] the UK Legal Feminist Group.”

Last month, I began an impromptu campaign on Twitter using the hashtag #ididnotreport.  It arose after I blogged about the Mumsnet campaign “We Believe You,” which focuses on the response of blanket disbelief to reports of rape and sexual assault.  I’d also seen a recent opinion piece in a newspaper about street harassment, which also touched on lack of belief as a reason not to report assaults.

There have been over 20,000 tweets using that hashtag.  I had imagined a few women joining in to share experiences of street harassment, but what I saw instead was an outpouring of accounts ranging from low-level harassment to vicious rapes, from a huge variety of people – female, male, old, young, of all backgrounds.  Perhaps the most striking, and certainly the most shocking, were those which detailed child sexual abuse:

#ididnotreport being sexually assaulted as a 12year old because I didn’t know it was an option. A year later, he raped my friend.

[Same poster] That was reported. She was blamed & social workers told her she’d be sent away to a children’s home if she prosecuted. #ididnotreport

#ididnotreport because I was a child and I didn’t understand that I had no reason to be ashamed.

#ididnotreport because who would I report to? It’s hard when you’re 11 and you know you’ll never escape and no one is on your side.

#ididnotreport because I wanted to protect my family. The ones who shouldve been protecting me. I was a child.

#ididnotreport because I didn’t know it was rape. And because I was 14.

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Guest post: Will it ever end?

By David Washington
Washington is a survivor of sexual abuse and has spoken about his experience on Capitol Hill

I was looking through the articles on MSN.com today and again I see another article about a young man being sexually abused.  This time the article talks about foreign exchange students being abused by their host family.  My head spins when I read these stories and I’ve seen them, it seems, on an almost weekly basis over the course of the past year. 

My heart and head have these mixed messages.  Part of me is glad that we – survivors of childhood sexual abuse – are no longer being silent about the pain we endured, and angry that it continues to happen. 

Then there is this voice that is deep in the back of my head saying, “Ssssssh, they will find out about you too!”  It’s a lot quieter then it use to be.  I then ask my spiritual, loving self if it will ever end…that part of me that feels guilt, remorse, less than and shame when it comes to the abuse I went through as a young child, starting in the second grade.

In the second grade, I remember watching The Wizard of Oz and wishing that a tornado would come and carry me away somewhere.  I would spin around in the backyard with the hopes that I would shoot off into space to that place where I would be safe, not picked on.  I wouldn’t be scared of the weather, that if it snowed the predator would have access to me and would be able to come over whenever he wanted to.  I could not understand why The Wizard – God – would not grant me this one wish.

After a few years I decided that I could take the trip on my own, just take this bottle of pills. It’s got to be better than what I’m going through here and better then the eighth grade.  But I woke up that next day, and no one ever knew what I had done and the shame became even greater.

The next year, ninth grade, I turned to alcohol as a way out. No escape there either. Fast forward four years and I’m being asked to leave college and end up homeless on the street of Washington DC.  No one has figured out to ask me what happened. They – my teachers, fellow students, and my father – were more concerned with why I was acting the way I was.  I had no answer. My mind didn’t have the ability to produce the words to express what was occurring in my head. Also, in my mind, it couldn’t be the abuse. I’m a man and men don’t get abused, right?  I have to “man up.”

Then it happened. The tornado arrived and I didn’t even see it coming.  I had to stop using substances.  Faced with medical consequences, the doctors agreed I would fare better if I stayed off substances, and alcohol is a substance.  I could say a lot about that statement, but I’ll move on.

Once off substances and after six months clean with a sponsor, working the steps, having a homegroup and being of service (just about everything that is suggested to a newcomer in a 12-Step program)  my conscious mind went to battle with the suppressed memories.  It seemed I could no longer attempt to escape my feelings or my thoughts about what had happened in my childhood.  Those old suicidal thoughts started to come up again on a daily basis, but this time there was also anger, a need for restorative justice! Something in me was ready for the fight. 

I threatened to leave my job at this point and my supervisor suggested I look at getting some professional help before I leave employment. Somebody was looking out for me.  I often wonder what would have happened if my supervisor would have just said, “then just give me your written notice.”

Once in treatment for what I thought was going to be substance abuse, the treatment center wondered why I was seeking treatment if I had six months clean. However, the staff found out I was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. The secret I didn’t what anyone to know -and to this day, I don’t know how they knew – was out!

I’m now in the belly of the storm.  I fought accepting that I was, in fact, a male survivor of childhood rape and sexual abuse and that it had affected my spirit.  I see now that the tornado was setting me down in a very safe place – my soul.

That storm carried me to a safe place and took me on a  journey beyond my wildest dreams. I could never have imaged living past the age of 25, but I’ll be 47 in a couple of weeks…that I could have people in my life that don’t ask anything of me but to live my life and enjoy it…to have had the opportunity to travel to foreign countries to share the message of recovery from active addiction…and to have the opportunity to be free of attachments.  

One day there may be a headline on MSN.com about boys and men recovering from childhood violence 5, 10, 15 years post incident.  That will be the day. Until then, I’m going to keep asking, “Will it ever end?” I am going to talk about recovery from abuse to anyone that is willing to listen.

That inner child voice is screaming, “Can you hear me?” And it seems the world is now saying, “Yes, we can.”

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