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What a Trump presidency means for sexual assault victims

Congratulations to those of you who decided that this man who has been notorious for bullying those with disabilities, trash-talking people of other races and religions, and disrespecting women would be a better president than a woman. Now, anyone with a heart would recognize that he is wrong for our country but let’s take a look at something deeper. What does it say if our president already has many sexual assault charges against him before he enters office? During the infamous “bus” conversation with Billy Bush scandal, it was clear that he does not respect women or their right to have a say in what happens to their bodies. This is clearly evidenced by his pro-life views and comment stating that “you can do anything” to a woman and get away with it if you have some sort of high status.

I remember that week being a huge trigger for every single woman who has had an experience with sexual assault. I spoke to my adolescents at work and they were all terrified of the idea of Trump as president. How are they supposed to feel safe when their own President is not punished for sexual assault? How are they supposed to flourish in a world that is constantly shutting them up and telling them to “get over it”? We already have a system that favors the rapist over the victim. Cases like Brock Turner, Anita Hill, Jameis Winston, and those in the documentary Audrie and Daisy have exposed the horror that life becomes once the victim speaks out.

I urge you to take a second and try to imagine what life must be like for anyone, man or woman, who has been sexually assaulted must be like. Having to carry on with work or school because you don’t want to let them ruin your life but at the same time feeling broken, used, and worthless. Being told to “move on” when you are constantly bombarded with flashbacks of the incident and terrified that it might happen again. Not being able to sleep because of the nightmares and not being able to trust anyone. Try to imagine what that can do to a person. They literally become a shell with nothing left inside because society has told them it is not acceptable to talk about it so they have to become numb just to walk around without breaking down.

Make no mistake, the women I work with are strong. It was never their fault. The assault led them to turn to alternative methods to numb or forget the pain. They suffer from eating disorders as well as PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder. It’s heartbreaking that they would have to turn to these methods because being open about it just isn’t acceptable in our society.

You can see the pain in their eyes, the way they carry themselves, and the fear they describe when they talk about men and the possibly of dating in the future. You can feel their despair when you sit down with them when they are breaking down and have no idea how to get the horrible experience out of their minds. Needless to say, their lives can never be the same again.

Many people still defend this man stating that they are “just words” or seem to not classify this as sexual assault. I assume the ones defending him would be other white men who have never been victims of sexual assault or women who clearly cannot empathize with a woman who has been assaulted. These are the same individuals who hold the belief that women are objects instead of people and do not deserve the same amount of respect or rights because of their gender.

But I urge you to read stories of sexual assault victims. Try to see it from their point of view. Be grateful that you were lucky enough to never have to go through anything they do. Be kind to people who feel hurt and scared after this election because you never know what they have been through or are going through.

Yes, we do have to move on eventually but give people time to grieve and make sense of things. This is a decision that affects so many different people and although it may not affect you, it may affect someone you know. And if you care about that person, please let them voice their opinion just like our 1st amendment freely allows us to do. Recognize that there are going to be populations of people who are hurting from this and allow them to feel it.

In order to move on, we need to protect our rights as people. The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Even if something may not make you happy or fit your culture, religion, or personal views, you do not have the right to control others. Just let that person be who they are. Is it really affecting you? Do you really need to fixate on what someone else is doing with their life? Stop the hate. Hate will just break you down and hurt others. Focus on making yourself happy and making yourself a better person because that is how we will actually make this nation great.

The Power of Your Story

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Throughout centuries, stories have been passed down from generations in order to teach a lesson or to show others what life was like during that time. We’ve had exceptional writers such as Dickens and Hemingway whose ideas transformed the way people thought about society in their day. Authors such as J.K. Rowling have given us hope for success if we only keep trying. They have also opened the doors to our imagination so that we can experience magical worlds and hear stories of people who may or may not have existed.

Now that we have the Internet and the world of social media, everyone has the power to write their own story. It is not just an option for the educated, wealthy, or those with popularity. Although this can be a dangerous thing, it is also a beautiful one. We can learn lessons from ordinary people and get a glimpse of what life is like from their point of view. We can learn about what life is like for someone in a war-torn state like Syria or someone who is struggling with the loss of a loved one or a physical or mental illness.

Whether we choose to write it, tell it, publish it, or keep it to ourselves, each and everyone of us has a unique story that only we can tell. We can choose the words we put into it and whether it’s going to be a comedy or tragedy. This may seem odd because we cannot actually control what happens in our story or who is in it, but we can control the way the main character reacts and behaves throughout the story.

Our main character can be a protagonist or antagonist. They could also be the narrator explaining how others live their lives and placing judgement on how they do so. They could be observers or doers and can choose to let certain people into their lives or push them out.

It is up to you. Do you want to be the hero, the victim, or the villain? Sometimes we can play more than one role or all three if we are having an internal crisis with who we are. What truly makes the difference is not only which one you decide to be but how you write the story as well. Do you write it as if you had no control over your own life and blame others for your unhappiness? Do you write it with definitive labels that will never change and negative feelings that will never get better? Do you complain and whine or do you belittle others to make you feel better or more accomplished? You may even be your own worst enemy fighting yourself and stopping yourself from completing the task or making the journey that you’ve always dreamed of.

Or do you take a different approach? Do you accept that you have flaws but that you ultimately are the one who is going to be in charge of your fate and your happiness? Do you write with positive words and give yourself credit when it is due? Do you express gratitude to those in your life that may not be here forever?

The point is that you have the power to create the person who you want to be around every moment of every day. If there are things you want to make better, you have the power to do that. You can transform yourself from a victim or villain into a hero. There is no point within your story where you cannot make it better unless you give up. Sometimes it takes choosing to be the hero everyday of your life and writing thousands of positive words to combat the millions of negative ones. But it can be done. You just have to realize that the power is always within you and no one else.

National Suicide Prevention Week

You may or may not already know but Sept 5th-11th is National Suicide Prevention Week.

Sept. 10th is Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day

Why does this matter?

The national suicide rate is rising (it has increased from 10.5 in 1999 to 13.0 in 2016).

It’s the 2nd leading cause of death for college students and those from ages 15-34.

It’s the 3rd cause of death for ages 10-14 (the suicide rate has been rising for middle schoolers, especially females. Bullying is associated with suicide.)

Every 13 minutes, someone dies by suicide

There are about 117 suicides per day

Over 40,000 Americans die by suicide each year

Native Americans are almost twice as likely to die by suicide

17.7% of high school students have seriously considered attempting suicide within the past year.

8% of high school students have made a suicide attempt within the past year.

It is an issue that affects people regardless of socioeconomic status, race, and other demographic factors.

(CDC, 2016)

How do I know if someone needs help?

If you see someone that seems upset or is just not acting like themselves lately, don’t be afraid to ask them how they are feeling. If you are still concerned, ask if they are thinking about suicide, if they have a plan, and if they have intent or the means to do it (such as pills or a gun).

Use the mnemonic “IS PATH WARM”:

I S

I Ideation

SSubstance Abuse

P A T H

P Purposelessness

A Anxiety

T Trapped

H Hopelessness

W A R M

W Withdrawal

A Anger

RRecklessness

MMood Changes

What do I do if someone needs help?

  • DO NOT leave them alone
  • If you really need to leave, call someone and wait until they can come help
  • Listen to what they have to say
  • Ask if they have intent to harm themselves
  • Ask if they have a plan
  • Ask if they have access to dangerous objects or lethal means
  • Use your judgment—just because they say no or “I’m fine”, doesn’t mean it’s true
  • Contact a mental health professional (preferably their own)
  • Help them call the Prevention hotline: 1-800-273-TALK
  • Call the mobile crisis unit in your area
  • Physically bring them to the hospital or a crisis center
  • Call 911

Why doesn’t anyone want to talk about suicide?

There are many reasons for this and the main one is that there is a stigma around mental illness and suicide that makes people feel like it’s not appropriate to talk about it because it will show weakness or make people uncomfortable.

Many schools, parents, or administrators have the belief that talking about suicide will cause more people to attempt suicide; however, research overwhelmingly shows that the opposite is true (Gould et al., 2005; Robinson et al., 2013).

Not talking about suicide will lead to more suicide attempts and completed suicides. 

Suicide isn’t an idea that comes out of thin air. It comes from an overwhelming amount of stress, helplessness, burdensomeness, and many other factors.

Some suicide threats are not taken seriously because people say they just “want attention”. If they are seeking attention by threatening suicide, there is clearly something wrong and they need to get help. There is still a possibility that they could attempt.

People who battle suicidal thoughts have most likely battled mental illness like depression, or even significant trauma and PTSD.

People who have been struggling with suicidal thoughts can look happy, have jobs, and blend in with society. There isn’t a way to “look” for someone who may be suicidal.

People with suicidal thoughts have had to be strong and hold in their feelings for years. They may have the idea that keeping those feelings in means they are strong, but in reality, it takes much more strength to get help.

What can I do to raise awareness?

It starts at the core of being kind to everyone. You never know what silent battle someone may be struggling with, so always keep that in mind. Think of ways throughout the day that you can make life just a little bit better for someone else.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to tell people how you feel about them. There are too many times when people end up saying nice things at someone’s funeral or on their Facebook page when they are gone. What if they were able to see those things while they were still alive? What kind of impact could that have made on their life?

Let people know you appreciate them and tell them what you specifically like about them.

Remember, suicide is preventable. We just need to work together in order to help them get help.

Share the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website, facts, videos and change your profile picture banner to support suicide prevention this week.

Participate in an Out of the Darkness walk to support the cause

Resources

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

National Suicide Prevention Week 2016

http://www.sprc.org/

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtml

http://www.itgetsbetter.org/pages/about-it-gets-better-project/?gclid=CKuwoNDM_s4CFcQehgodGg0FnQ

http://www.samhsa.gov/tribal-ttac/resources/suicide-prevention

http://www.nova.edu/suicideprevention/resources.html

http://www.suicidology.org/

References

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db241.pdf

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/suicide-datasheet-a.PDF

Suicide Statistics

http://dmh.mo.gov/docs/mentalillness/joinerpresentation.pdf

Gould, M.S., Marrocco, F.A., & Kleinman, M. (2005). Evaluating iatrogenic risk of youth suicide screening programs: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of American Medical Association, 293(13), 1635-43.

Muehlenkamp, J.J., Marrone, S., Gray, J.S., Brown, D. L. (2009) A college suicide prevention model for American Indian students. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 40(2),  134-140. doi: 10.1037/a0013253

Robinson, J., Cox, G., Malone, A., Williamson, M., Baldwin, G., Fletcher, K., O’Brien, M. (2013). A systematic review of school-based interventions aimed at preventing, treating, and responding to suicide-related behavior in young people. Crisis, 34(3), 164–182.

The Truth Behind Wanderlust

If you know me a little bit, even at all, you know that I am always busy dreaming about my next trip or places I want to go in the future. There are many wonderful reasons to travel, but there are some things you need to be aware of as well.

Don’t use travel to escape from your problems at home

I’m sure we are all guilty of going away on vacation and just completely forgetting about responsibilities at home. This will start to creep up on you fast and make things much worse for you when you come back.

The post-trip depression will hit you like a brick

You will want to be back on your trip as soon as you come back home and you will notice every single thing you hate about your hometown. Don’t let the negativity get to you. Instead, try to appreciate the fact that you got to get away and look for little things to appreciate about where you live.

Don’t spend your life just waiting for the next time you’ll get away

Unless you are getting paid to travel, you will have to spend time in the same place for a while. Learn to enjoy being where you are, instead of just thinking about how great other places are. Explore new places in your area and make that new place your getaway or sanctuary.

You’re not always going to have the time or the money to travel

This is true in so many instances. We have to pay for school, rent, food and eventually a wedding, kids and a house. We will have to work hard and save up to have these things, so traveling may not happen as often as we want it to. This needs to be okay.

It’s better to save up for a dream trip rather than taking a bunch of mediocre trips

It’s tempting to try to get away as soon as possible, but it’s a lot better to wait to go somewhere you can really enjoy and do it right.

Confessions of a Pinterest Queen

Pinterest is a beautiful thing. It’s basically a drug for all who like to plan and it’s so easy to use. I routinely use Pinterest and have a couple of confessions other serious users can relate to…

You wish your real life was as fun as your Pinterest life

Through Pinterest, I can escape to New Zealand, Paris, or even Antarctica. I can get lost in fantasies of skydiving, or even plan my own wedding. There is no limit to what I can accomplish.

You pin a bunch of recipes you will never make and exercises you will never do

Yes, yes and yes. This is why having your mother on Pinterest is the best, since she might even surprise you with a recipe you pinned but were too lazy to make.

You think you’ve found the most creative DIY craft ever

Chances are that thousands of people are thinking the same thing. You will most likely all end up being the same thing for Halloween or making the same decoration for Thanksgiving.

Your boards are more organized than anything else in your life

You’d rather spend time organizing your pins and boards than organizing your actual room!

You’ve learned to recognize who is pinning what before you even read their name at the bottom

“That is just so her style!” “That’s definitely Rachelle’s sense of humor”

You think it’s perfectly okay to plan your wedding years in advance and your future children’s outfits

Because you know there are so many ideas! They are some of the most important events in your life, so why not start early to make them the best, right? (But then seeing your mother’s “future grandkids” board totally freaks you out! Too soon!)

It’s your go-to source for anything you need to find out how to do, make, create or dress for

It’s just a simple search away…

You’ve had to add the Toolbar to your Internet browser

God forbid you can’t pin a recipe you see outside of Pinterest that you don’t want to lose!

You get really upset when you accidentally put a pin in the wrong board

It takes forever to find the board and delete the post!

You try to convince all your friends to become active on Pinterest

They need to know how great it is!

You know that it has boosted your creativity and made you see life in a whole new way

Let’s face it, exposure to that many pins will definitely make you more creative than non-Pinterest users! You’ve also learned how to find the best, most unique gifts for people. In all, you know it has made you a better person.

I Stand with Ahmed

On Monday, September 14th, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed from Irving, Texas was eager to show his teacher that he had made a clock all on his own. Ahmed always had an interest in building things and figuring out how to make them work. He plans to continue this interest in the future by pursuing engineering.

However, instead of his teacher commending his hard work, he was suspected of creating and bringing a bomb to school. It is believed that the main reason why Ahmed was suspected of this was because he was Muslim. Ever since 9/11, Islamophobia has been an issue in the United States. For this oblivious school in Texas, it was unfortunately their first instinct to think that Ahmed had intended to create a bomb, or a “fake bomb” to scare other children or faculty members. This belief held strong within the school, despite Ahmed’s clean disciplinary record, good grades and his insisting that the invention was nothing other than a clock.

The young man says that the police were worried about the “briefcase” the clock was in, which was simply a cheap box that could be found at Target or Walmart to keep the clock protected from damage.

Ahmed was arrested, humiliated in front of the school, and interrogated. He reported feeling as if he wasn’t “human” and as if he was a “criminal”. It is horrible to think that such a talented young man could be singled out in such a way, just because of his ethnicity, religion, and interest in engineering.

On the bright side, many people have spoken out to support this young man and attempt to alleviate some of the misfortune he has experienced. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg invited him to visit the Facebook headquarters, President Obama invited him to the White House and Google invited him to visit their campus. Basically, Ahmed is going to be able to be known by many important people and he may even land a scholarship and acceptance to a top university!

Although it is terrible that Ahmed had to experience this, it is amazing how many people are reaching out and how many opportunities he will receive to hone his talent and advance his future. Keep following your dream, Ahmed!

“I don’t want to go to school!”

Whether you are in pre-school or Grad school, this is a common phrase that either you or someone you know has probably said within the past week. It’s so hard waking up in the morning, trying to find time to eat breakfast AND make lunch, and getting there on time while looking good. It can be downright exhausting, right? I have to admit that I have been a repeat offender when it comes to this phrase. It just seems like so much work when you could be having fun. But my perspective changed when I heard about a young woman named Malala.

As a resident of the United States, I have limited knowledge of just how terrible the situation in the Middle East is. I try to keep up-to-date on the happenings in places like Syria, Iraq and Pakistan, but I will never really know just how horrible it is because I haven’t experienced it for myself. I consider myself to be highly empathetic, so I can imagine it, but I can never really know what it is like.

In case you don’t know who Malala is, let me introduce her:

Now 18, Malala has accomplished so much in so little time, despite so many challenges. The first, living in an area of Pakistan ruled by the Taliban, who banned girls from going to school. Malala and her friends knew that they were risking their lives everyday by going to school, but they were brave enough to take that risk because education was that important to them.

Malala started to write anonymous stories about her life under Taliban rule. The stories gave insight to the struggles she went through and allowed people to understand just how bad the situation was. Eventually, the Taliban discovered that the true author behind the diary was Malala, so they set out to kill her.

When she was only 15, Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban. Luckily, the bullet ended up in her shoulder, so she was able to survive and work past the injuries. It did not do any damage to her brain. Although she survived, she knew the Taliban would just keep coming after her until she was dead, so she fled to the United Kingdom.

She became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and spoke at the United Nations on her 16th birthday. She also got to meet Queen Elizabeth II, Obama and many other important people. She wrote and published a book about how she was shot by the Taliban and how she was adjusting to her new life in a new place. On her 18th birthday, she opened an all-girls school for Syrian refugees.

Needless to say, I know that I am grateful for having the opportunity to get such a great education, but I know that I need to express it more. I could definitely benefit from less complaining and thinking from another perspective. There are so many women in the world who cannot get an education due to circumstances beyond their control. I am so lucky to be able to receive any degree I want. There is no limit to the amount of knowledge I am allowed to consume. Money is not even an issue because I live in a country that allows students to receive loans for their education. Although it is something I will have to pay back later, it will be worth it because I got the education I needed for my desired profession.

This isn’t just going on in the Swat Valley in Pakistan, where Malala is from. This is happening in many war-torn countries such as Syria and places in Africa. Children and women are being robbed of their education because they fear for their lives. Education shouldn’t be something that has to be fought for—it should be an inherent right for everyone.

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