Conversations with myself: I’m in turmoil

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The conversation with myself I planned to share with you this week was supposed to be about the importance of community paralegals. However, I am currently in such turmoil about desperately being in need of a career change that I thought I better get this off my chest first.

The job I have currently (which I am extremely grateful for because it enables me to put food on the table) is no longer challenging. I have been in the same position for the last 10 years and have become bored and stifled with no room for growth or upward (or sideways) movement. I feel like a goldfish in a goldfish bowl going round and round in circles and getting absolutely no where. I’ve exhausted all the avenues via the hierarchal structures for movement within the organisation which has all fallen on deaf ears and, quite frankly, I’m now tired of asking, talking, begging, pleading etc.

I am currently working as a Communications Officer for a national Government department specialising in Internal Communications – managing website content, internal publications (newsletters etc), printed resources, promotional material etc

I’m being trained as a workshop facilitator (Train-the-Trainer programme)by Disabled People SA which is a 3-year voluntary programme I signed up for and which is one avenue I could pursue (to offer my services as a Workshop Facilitator). I would be able to provide advocacy type training as opposed to certified courses for which I am sure there is a need out there somewhere?

I have a Paralegal Diploma and am currently studying towards a BA Criminology degree so a Community Paralegal is also an option.

I have more than 30 years working experience as an Administrator so I’m very seriously considering starting a Virtual Assistant business from home, but, like any business run from home, the risk and financial insecurity is high and as sole breadwinner in my household, I’m not sure I’m ready to take the plunge. I am extremely diligent in the execution of tasks, excellent time management skills and “organised” is my middle name. I am a firm believer in “To Do” lists and have a “To Do” list for a “To Do” list (if you know what I mean?). Setting up database systems, bookkeeping to Trial Balance stage are all duties which formed part of my portfolio over the years.

The other gift/passion I have is event planning and organising. I absolutely loved organising surprise birthday parties and celebrations for my family – coming up with a unique concept, planning, implementing the plan and watching the reaction on the day is priceless to me but, do I want to do this for a living? Will doing this for a living take the fun and pleasure out of it for me? Will this then become “just a job”?

If I have all these options available to me, why is it so difficult to make a decision? I know the perfect career is out there somewhere just waiting for me, I just have not found it yet.

My biggest fear of walking away from what I have right now is the job security. Where I am now, the chances of being fired are almost non-existent (unless I do something terribly outrageous which is not part of my nature to do) and with the unemployment rate in South Africa being what it is at the moment, job security is what you need to hold on to as long as possible.

So what do I do? Do I walk away from the security blanket or do I stick it out? What do I do in the meantime while I stick it out? I’ve exhausted all the possible ways I could make my current job more interesting and exciting and have run out of options.

What do I do? Mmmmmm??

Conversations with myself: Has the world gone mad?

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Depression and trauma are disconnective disorders. They do not improve in isolation. To fix them you have to be connected to others. Anonymous.

Since the brutal rape and disembowelment of a teenager recently and subsequent incidents of rape that have come to light, what have I been thinking? While most people have had knee-jerk reactions to finding solutions to rape i.e. castration, death penalty, to educate young men about sex, review childhood socialisation, anger management and conflict resolution skills for young people etc.

 I have done some more thinking around trying to understand the reasons behind the behaviour of the perpetrator. Can a rapist’s behaviour be explained – especially those who brutally disembowel or maim the victim? If so, what could be the possible reasons for such violent behaviour?

 Some people have suggested that:

  • Men felt emasculated because they could not fulfil the traditional role of breadwinner due to extreme poverty
  • Men are angry about the empowerment of women – angry that their jobs are being taken away by women
  • There a no male role models – most rapists are raised by single mothers or by their grandmothers
  • Substance abuse (drugs or alcohol) would not make a man rape but would make him more violent
  • Own childhood abuse

 Last weekend I attended a Trauma and Recovery workshop hosted by Families SA (Famsa) Western Cape, facilitated by the Transactional Analysis Association (TA Association) and presented by Joanna Beazley Richards – a registered trauma specialist from the Wealdon Insistute in the U.K. A profound statement made by Joanna has stuck in my head – she said: when it comes to trauma “the body remembers”. Joanna said it does not matter what the source or cause of the trauma is “the body remembers.” She also made reference to a book called “The Body Remembers” by Babette Rothschild which she encouraged us to read. This book speaks of how your body remembers trauma no matter how long ago it experienced the trauma or what the source or cause of the trauma was.

This got me thinking about the perpetrators of these extremely violent and brutal rapes. I started to wonder whether there could possibly be a connection between childhood trauma (such as detachment by parents) and adult psychopathology.

Now why would I think this? Allow me to generalise throughout this blog post. In most of the cases involving brutal, violent rape, the perpetrator would usually have come from very poor socio-economic circumstances, usually raised by a single mother or grandparent mostly because of an absent father who disappeared the minute he heard the mother was pregnant. Or maybe the father stayed but resented the fact the mother got pregnant and beat her everyday of her life since finding out that she was pregnant. Very often these children would have been subjected to neglect and/or sexual abuse (childhood trauma) which could cause them to develop deep-rooted feelings of helplessness escaping into a world of sexual fantasy which can provide refuge from reality. This fantasy could be fuelled by the child’s own experience of early (premature) exposure to sexual activity, combined with pornographic material (magazines and/or movies), and assuming these children have been exposed to deviant sexuality probably since infancy, it is through modelling and conditioning that they develop their own deviant sexual fantasies. Themes such as power and anger – rather than sexual gratification are central to these fantasies and are believed to be the underlying motivation for rapists to commit their crimes (Groth, Burgess and Holmstrom, 1977). 

Sexual sadism and other paraphilia can cause rapists to engage in bizarre sexual behaviour, such as mutilation, bondage etc. There is even a rapist type (anger-excitation) dedicated to the sadistic rapist in Hazelwood and Burgess’ Rapist- Typology (1987). This means that there COULD be a connection between childhood trauma and psychopathology, however, a closer examination of the facts would be necessary to reach a definite conclusion.  [Thanks to Alexander Becker (Psychologist) for the references and some of the wording used here.]

So how do we deal with correcting this deviant behaviour in a pro-active way rather than being reactive?

Our department of Basic Education has a wonderful curriculum on Sex Education for children from grade 3 to grade 12. The problem here is, those who rape have either dropped out of school or have not gone to school at all. Also, the department curriculum focuses on teaching girls and boys to keep their bodies safe, not to trust strangers, to avoid peer pressure and how peer pressure and the choices they make could affect their lives. What protection does this offer me from being brutally raped and murdered and how does it stop boys from becoming brutal rapists?

Some people have come up with wonderful solutions of what various sectors of society (including Government) can do about the scourge of rape but these are, again, reactive as opposed to proactive solutions. It also still does not stop brutal rapes and murders taking place.

How then do we stop the scourge sweeping through our country? We need to look at the parenting skills and socialising of our children but how do we do this when (again I’m going to generalise), most of these rapists and murderers come from single parent homes where the primary caregiver is usually using alcohol or drugs (or both), mostly unemployed or living off a social grant of some kind or earning so little money they can barely afford the necessities. They often live in squalor (overcrowded houses), sometimes even homeless. How do we teach them parenting skills (new ways of parenting)? Their way of parenting is the way they were raised and because it is the only way they know, they don’t see what the problem is.

Also, how do we approach these parents? We cannot just knock on their door or walk up to them and say “please come to our parenting classes or parenting workshop”. Can you just imagine what sort of reaction we would get? I’m sure the first knee-jerk reaction would be to get defensive (with a few superlatives thrown in for good measure).

 We could also start with those who have just started school and offer parenting skills classes from around grade 8 onwards but that excludes a whole bunch of children growing up and becoming parents in the meantime.

So what do we do? Mmmmmm . . . ???

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In pursuit of my African Dream – please tell me why?

Today my post is going to be based on an article I read in one of our morning newspapers: The Cape Times, Thursday July 5, 2012 (page 9). The headline of this particular article was:  “A raped child is devastated and suffers unimaginable mental torment”: by Carmel Rickard

A few points in this article struck a cord or two in me . . .

I quote: The two high court judges saw fit to scrap the life sentence imposed on the attacker and reduced the punishment to 22 years on the grounds that . . .

  • The 30 year old rapist was a “first offender”
  • The 7 year old girl who “suffered serious mental anxiety” was not “physically harmed” other than the signs of “forced vaginal penetration” noted by a doctor”.

Mmmm  . . .”suffered serious mental anxiety” and was “not physically injured” other than the signs of “forced vaginal penetration” noted by a doctor. What could “serious mental anxiety” mean for a 7 year old?  The 7 year old could possibly:

 

  • Behave out of character? Not want to eat or sleep? Not speak to anybody (be withdrawn most of the time), at times be aggressive?
  • Walk about restlessly or aimlessly, constantly looking over her shoulder as if waiting for someone to come?
  • Be unable to sleep – refusing to answer when asked what’s the matter?
  • Fearful of all strangers (especially men)?
  • Wetting the bed and possibly even soiling herself – not wanting to be left alone (not even to go to the bathroom)?
  • Might insist that all doors and windows be kept closed at all times?
  • Be intensely distressed and deeply frightened?
  • Experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Be “hyper vigilant”, constantly monitoring her environment because of feeling afraid and unsafe?
  • Experience deep emotional pain manifested by “uncontrollable crying”?
  • Feel overwhelmed by fears and anxiety – could suffer from “severe insomnia and nightmares”?

I don’t know about you, but I cannot even begin to imagine what it must feel like to live like this as an adult, let alone as a 7 year old child. Just reading this article has made my stomach churn. Your childhood is supposed to be the best time of your life. You are supposed to be happy and carefree. Children should be able to trust ALL adults they come into contact with, no matter where they are.

I have a 4 year old niece and a 7 year old nephew.  I often sit and watch them while they are playing and try to imagine how I would react if anyone dared to violate either one of them in any way. I will probably have to be locked away in a mental institution for the rest of my life.

I must say that having a physical disability makes me feel as vulnerable as a child because it does not take much force to make me lose my balance which leaves me vulnerable to a whole myriad of possible violations. I could so easily be raped, sodomised, or violated in any other way and I would have very little chance of coming away unscathed physically. All this being said, I avoid going anywhere I’ve never been to before, I avoid clubs and any other “social” places, I avoid going out at night if at all possible and on the rare occasions that I do, I make sure I get home as early as I can. I don’t go to church at night anymore and I don’t even walk around my own neighbourhood for fear of being identified as a “soft target” by some unscrupulous opportunist out there.

I am “hyper vigilant” even when driving my own car. I am suspicious of anyone coming towards me, no matter where I am. Even when at home, doors and security gates are always closed and locked. I keep the curtains shut so nobody can monitor my movements inside the house. My house is so well burglar guarded that the only way in would be through the roof and through the trap-door. When I get up during the night to go to the bathroom I always glance up to make sure the trap-door is still shut and that there is no evidence of anyone trying to get into the house.

This is what it is like for me – a “nearly 50 year old “ adult with a disability, so what must it be like for a 7 year old child? Then again, 7 years of age is not the youngest to be targeted. Here in sunnySouth Africa, even babies of a few months are raped and sodomised by adult men. Babies, who have even less control over their bodies and environments.

My mind boggles at how an adult male can attach himself to a baby a few months old and yet it has happened – not once or twice but too often to mention.

Please tell me why? What happens inside the brain to make any male capable of something like this . . .  I cannot even find a word strong enough in my vocabulary to describe this act/deed.

What has gone wrong with the human race? Even dogs and animals in the wild nurture and protect their own. Have you watched a lioness with her cubs? The lion who provides for his family and protects them at all costs?

 When will this scourge of violence against women and children in our country end? Please tell me when?

Some of the perpetrators of violence will tell you they need help but cannot specify exactly what it is they need you to do in order to help them. I know poverty, hunger, overcrowded homes (in some cases no homes) have a part to play in all this but violence against women and children will not make this go away. After raping a woman or child you will still be hungry, homeless, unemployed etc. So what is the point?

Why do this at all?

 Please tell me why?

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In pursuit of my African Dream – my heart is breaking . . .

With reference to my blog yesterday (In pursuit of my African Dream – my heart aches) and an article in the Cape Argus tonight “Answering for Injustice” – DA demands an explanation for courts turning away women in need of protection (page 6).

I would like to say thank you to the DA spokesperson for women and children for:-

• Slamming the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities for her response to the matter, saying it was inadequate.

• Questions she (the DA spokesperson) will be submitting to the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities in Parliament to determine what interventions her department has made to ensure the protection of all women.

• Questions she (the DA spokesperson) will be submitting to the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development in Parliament asking what steps the Minister will be taking to ensure that all women who go to court will receive the assistance they need. I agree that the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities must take “personal responsibility” for ensuring that women are protected and that the Minister is also responsible for ensuring that the activities of various government departments are co-ordinated to protect and promote the rights of vulnerable groups. For the Minister not to do so, would undermine her department’s very reason for being in existence.

As I continue to read the very same newspaper, I turn the page and see the following headline: “US man abused SA children” – Peace Corps volunteer used his position to prey on young girls. Can you believe this? The article goes on to say the following:-

• He (the man from the US) has admitted he sexually abused four young girls while serving in South Africa.

• He faces up to 30 years in prison for sexually abusing the girls while serving at Umvoti Aids Centre in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

• He pleaded guilty in the US District Court to travelling from the US to ENGAGE IN ILLICIT SEXUAL CONDUCT WITH CHILDREN. Can you believe this? Was this his intention when he came or did he just suddenly “get the urge”?

• Authorities say the victims (I call them survivors) were three and six years old at the time.

• He was supposed to be helping young children in need, many of whom were orphans but preyed on them instead.

I really don’t want to sound like someone who hates men (because I don’t) – I know there are some good men left in the world (they are just getting more and more difficult to find, these days), but because it is mostly men who prey on females (children and adults) I must ask this question: “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?”

Please help me to understand what is going on inside your head to make you want to do something like this to A CHILD!!!!!!! If you really have to rape, molest, sodomise, sexually assault etc, why not pick on an adult?

I am definitely not condoning violence against women of any age, but to do this to a child? WHY??????

I really need to understand what goes on in the mind of a man who does this – I hope someone reading this blog can explain this to me, please?

I have done 2 years of Psychology, been part of a rehabilitation group for sexual offenders, have resumed my studies, and still I have not found one person (male) who can give me a logical explanation for abusing a child. What goes on in the mind for a man to cross the line?

As mentioned earlier, I have resumed my studies to become a Criminologist because I seriously need to understand this phenomenon. What causes a man to see a child as an object merely there to satisfy his need for power and control? Let’s face it – sexual abuse has got very little to do with sex itself – it is all about having power and control over the one being abused.

A child? A precious child who needs to be nurtured, loved and protected? A child who loves unconditionally and only asks to be loved and accepted in return? Once a child has been violated, he/she is never the same again.

The innocence and unconditional trust of those known and unknown is lost forever. The child looks at all males older than him/her and wonders “Can I trust you or will you also hurt me?”

The child (Psychologically) will live forever behind closed doors – physically, the bedroom door which was always open and unlocked will now be kept closed permanently (the child might become obsessive about this, resulting in all the doors in the house always being kept closed), the child will have experience great difficulty and anxiety in being alone in a room with a male (whether a peer or an adult), even cousins, uncles, fathers and grandfathers will be looked on suspiciously – the child will always wonder “can I trust you or will you also hurt me?”.

Whenever a male speaks the child will wonder “what do you want from me – do you also want to do XXXX to me?”

The child becomes a teenager, then an adult – but through all these life stages, the child carries the trauma of what happened when still a child . . .

What are we doing to our women and children?

If you have any insights to my questions, please leave a comment to this blog, alternatively . . .

E-mail: womendemanddignity5@gmail.com

Website: http://www.womendemanddignity.co.za

Justice delayed is justice denied!