Sexual Assault: You’re not safe even when you think you are by R.M.

You wake up in your dorm room, not remembering how you got back into bed. You look down at your appearance and notice your dress hiked up to your hips, and see your underwear in the middle of your dorm, ripped. You try and get out of bed and feel soreness below your abdomen as well as on your hips. You stand up and notice the blood on your sheets, but you look at them with a puzzled expression; you got your period over a week ago. You don’t know what is going on and walk towards your dresser where you see your own reflection. Your hair is disheveled, your makeup resembles a raccoon, yet you still appear normal.

You’re not.

Your roommate knocks on your door and ask if you remember anything; you only remember bits and pieces. She tells you that He carried you back to your room again because you were just so out of it last night. You know what happened but you’re being in denial about it. You muster up the rest of your dignity and barely whisper, “I was raped.” Your roommate stares at you for what seems to be an eternity. Her only response is, “Yeah, right..then why did you let him take you to your room then…again?”

But that’s the thing. You don’t know.

The only thing you do know, though, is that if your roommate doesn’t even believe you,

then who will?

*

Kacey Pomeroy* was just within her first months of her freshman year at the University of Denver when she was sexually assaulted. “He was a close friend who lived close to me,” she stated, “but it happened on many occasions. And it just kept worsening in severity.” When the assaults occurred, both parties were intoxicated. However, that didn’t factor in as much when Pomeroy reported the acts due to the fact that the assailant provided the alcohol. A drug-facilitated assault consists of the use of drugs and/or alcohol to perform the assault. When these substances come into play with the assault, it creates a blurry line due to the reliability of the victim’s claims. According to Pomeroy, in her situation, her friend described her rape as a “gray area” only because of the substances used by the assailant. “My friend told me that he [my attacker] was cross-faded so he didn’t know what he was doing.” To Pomeroy, she thought that “for some reason, it did not seem to matter that this was something that had happened on multiple occasions, or that I was incapacitated to the point that my attacker literally had to support me so that I was able to walk.” This created a blurry line to see who was more believable. Although Pomeroy’s case went through, the involvement of mainly alcohol made the process more difficult because the assailant did not tell his side. Pomeroy was repeatedly questioned if she was “drunk enough”.

Pomeroy’s own attorney in her civil rights protection case consistently told Pomeroy that she did not believe her. “Open door, open invitation… I can see where he was coming from… To be honest, I don’t think he raped you.” Pomeroy said that she tried not to say anything; and despite the fact that she had friends that believed her, the lack of faith her attorney had in Pomeroy in denial of what happened which made it more difficult for her to accept it as an assault.

Title IX is a Federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. This includes sexual harassment or violence, as well as sexual assault, battery, and coercion in any educational program or activity that receives federal funding. Most schools, private institutions, and grades K-12 fall under Title IX. Reports can be made anonymously and have options explained, including receiving a no-contact order or going through the Title IX investigation process. At any time, survivors of the assaults can change their mind and decide to go through and investigation or have a no-contact order instated, etc.

According to Pomeroy, a no-contact order was produced which as Pomeroy described, relates to a restraining order but not as harsh. Those that are filed against it must stay a certain amount of feet away and is forbidden to contact the other party. It is, however, only effective on campus, and to her dismay, Pomeroy does not know what will happen when the order expires.

*

Guilt: a feeling of responsibility or repentance from a crime or a form of wrongdoing.

You would not like to spend your freshman year of college talking to law enforcement and hiding in your room instead of being a normal student. You will have no motivation for accusing someone that you had once called your friend and considered family. You know that people will said you are lying, and you know that rumors have already gone around, but you won’t feel like listening. Part of what is harmful about victim blaming is that survivors already feel guilty. You will feel beyond guilty, and you will probably cry more for your attacker than you will for yourself.

*

According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) 1 out of every 6 American women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. As far as the male gender, a stigma surrounds the rape culture among males. There is this common misconception that males cannot be raped by females, but that’s wrong. RAINN’s statistics state that males ages 18-24 are five times more likely than those that are non-students of the same age to be a victim of rape or sexual assault. Just because a male has an erection does not mean he wants to have sex. This is also a common misconception with females: just because a female has an orgasm does not mean she wanted it. There are misrepresentations on rape where pronouns are generally centered around “she/her” for the victim, and “he/him” for the attacker. Yes, there are more assaults involving male-female violence, but we underestimate the number of males that are assaulted.

We have a culture of toxic masculinity which makes it hard for men to admit their vulnerabilities. Men are supposed to want sex and if they don’t, then they are seen as less of a man. Changing this culture gives a chance for men to feel more comfortable admitting that they were assaulted. Victims blame themselves for the assault most of the time. Kacey Pomeroy blames herself, and she knows her friends that are survivors blame themselves.

“I tried to write down what happened. I wrote journal entries. I wrote a letter to my lawyer, to the friends who abandoned me, to my attacker’s roommate. Not all of these were negative letters. Half of them were apologies, but it took me a while to realize that I should not apologize, so I didn’t send any of these.” – Kacey Pomeroy

For those that have never experienced sexual assault, speak out. Your silence won’t keep it from happening to you. Not only that, but teaching children personal boundaries, respect, and what consent is will empower children and respect their own decision of saying, “No.” Consent needs to be taught in terms of sharing toys and pulling hair early in life. Children need to know that yes means yes, and that their bodies belong to them.

Other resources that can help, also, are End Rape on Campus, Know Your IX, and any other victim resources in your area.

*

The emotional effects that sexual assault causes vary within each victim. A cycle of guilt, anger, and sadness may take place. Dissociation will occur, and Your isolation will be Your own depression’s new best friend. Anxiety attacks may occur after what happened, and after a while, Your body will succumb to the numbness.  

But remember:

You are not alone. You may not control what others say or think, but You can decide not to allow their words to affect You.

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PTSD in Soldiers by C.T.

Imagine waking up in the middle of every night from a nightmare, or flinching every time someone slams a door or the toaster goes off. Imagine listening to the ceiling fan and seeing it as a helicopter. Or hearing fireworks on the 4th of july and thinking them as bombs. Or being afraid to go to sleep so you have to have a gun under your pillow. Imagine locking yourself inside your home because you have a new view of the outside world. Imagine your shadow, it follows you constantly and can’t be taken away, PTSD is like a shadow, once you see and experience the reality of combat and war it will follow you like a shadow.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not only the most common disorder a soldier has after seeing and being apart of combat, but is also one of the most dangerous disorders. Dr. Dorothy Farris who has treated more than 1000 patients with PTSD, says that symptoms include reexperiencing the trauma with nightmares, flashbacks, haunting memories, avoidance, social withdrawal, avoiding situations that remind him/her of trauma, and emotional behavioral changes such as anxiety, nightmares, hyperactive startle response, insomnia, irritability, survivor guilt. The symptoms have to be bad enough to affect the person’s ability to function. Sometimes the symptoms come up right after the trauma, or they can be delayed for many years. The symptoms are thought to be due to an overactive defense strategy of the brain. The brain wants to protect the trauma victim, so it stays on high alert even after the danger has passed.The worst thing in my opinion about PTSD is that it is not an illness you can prevent, and one that any individual can be effected by. Another scary fact about PTSD is that typically when an individual experiences it they don’t talk about it. Most don’t talk about it because they think it makes them weak, and others because the details of the event  are to horrific to talk about. As a result sadly the people who have PTSD but aren’t diagnosed with it or don’t talk about it live in a long state of depression before eventually committing suicide. Dr. Farris also explains using a diagnostic interview and watching someone’s behavior. There are no blood tests or other medical tests for the disorder. The person had to experience or witness a traumatic event at some point. A trauma is when someone’s life or safety is threatened. Sexual or emotional abuse can also be traumatic. The most studied trauma is that suffered by soldiers in combat. Secondly, the person has to experience symptoms as a result of the trauma. These symptoms have to persist for at least a month after the trauma.

Even though there is no specific cures for PTSD, patients have experienced help through psychotherapy and medications in order to ease the pain and manage their depression and anxiety. Most patients are directed to help from loved ones who notice changes in their behavior and daily activities, on account of most patients who have PTSD will not admit it. Therapy is the main source to curing PTSD even though it is a long and slow process. Most doctors such as Dorothy Farris talk to the individual about the event and attempt to modify their negative thoughts, behaviors, and emotional responses associated with the patience psychological distress. Another process is to reduce stress from eye movements or putting the individual in a safe environment where they can talk about and handle the event that took place. In certain cases doctors will prescribe the individual with medication such as Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) in order to help them ease symptoms of depression and anxiety.

PTSD is a lot more common in people then an average person thinks. For example, an estimated 24.4 million americans (8%) have had PTSD at a given time. Studies have also shown that women are twice as likely to have PTSD than men with an estimated 1 out of every 10 women, and with any person who experiences a traumatic or terrifying event, they have a 60-80% chance of developing PTSD. Typically PTSD is most commonly seen in veterans because they are filled with combat and near death experiences which they cannot forget, and over the last year the amount of diagnosed cases in the military jumped 50% showing that every 1 in 5 veterans returning from deployment will have PTSD. All in all PTSD is a very common and dangerous illness that will follow anyone until treated properly. In order to understand more about PTSD.

In conclusion, PTSD is one of the most major mental illnesses. It causes your mind  to replay horrific events that you have experienced. The way it is diagnosed is by noticing changes in the individual’s behavior, and once it is diagnosed the only cure for it is intensive therapy and medication. This illness causes severe depression and anxiety more often than not causing the individual to commit suicide. All in all PTSD has affected and taken numerous veterans lives and needs to be researched more in order to help those who put their lives on the line for us.

Psycho by I.S.

“Bipolar disorder is one of the most common mental illnesses. It is characterized by mania and severe depression.” My psychology teacher goes on about odd behavior such as excessive purchases and belief in one’s ability to fly caused by severe cases of bipolar, eliciting laughter from the class. I felt sick to my stomach, hearing that a disorder I have no control over was an object of ridicule and fear. I could not bring myself to tell my classmates how it affected me so I just allowed the anger and hurt to simmer beneath the surface. 28 other faces continued to stare at the powerpoint, oblivious to the gravity of the situation. I walked 15 minutes out later feeling defeated, unable to muster up the courage to confront the teacher. Bipolar is not like having a physical illness because it carries far more stigma. It is something that is extremely taxing and others will make you ashamed of it.

Bipolar disorder affects roughly 2% of the population. That means roughly 40 students in our school suffer from this disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health characterizes manic episodes as feeling very elated, agitated, and irritable. People experiencing this often display little need for sleep and are likely to make impulsive or risky decisions. Depressive episodes are marked by feeling tired, unfocused, slow, and hopeless. There are a range of symptoms associated with bipolar disorder, which psychiatrists try to diagnose as one of two categories: bipolar I or bipolar II. It runs in families, but often only one identical twin will have bipolar even though they have the same genes. This proves that there are other causes, possibly abnormalities in brain structure or brain chemicals. Medical knowledge has come far, but no matter how much you or any MD learns about bipolar, you aren’t any closer to knowing the struggles people with bipolar face every day.

According to Mind Race, back in the 1800’s people could pay admission to mental hospitals so they could bang on the glass and taunt the residents like zoo animals. Though this obviously doesn’t occur currently, that sentiment remains in the public conscience to this day. There have been times when I informed someone of my diagnosis and saw their face contort with visible discomfort. To them I was no longer a person, I was a circus freak. It was clear in the coldness with which they addressed me after hearing. I avoid telling most people about my diagnosis for fear of being labeled “psycho” or “crazy”. Why should I tell someone who only knows about bipolar what they learned in school and risk them thinking worse of me because of it?

A friend of mine who struggles with bipolar said “it’s [bipolar] different for everyone, but for me, a manic state is when after the down swing, I tell myself that I’m alright and that everything isn’t just okay, it’s great. The reason that it doesn’t always last is that if your parade gets rained on, there’s a good chance you’ll come out drenched so to speak. It’s not necessarily a strong feeling of euphoria, but more a state of denial that anythings wrong. You feel good while it’s happening though. Being in a depressed state for me doesn’t last long, but when I am depressed, I have no motivation to do anything, I tell myself that it’s never going to get better and that I should just stop trying to make my life good. It varies in severity as it can be a feeling of ultimate despair, or just being melancholy.”

A huge part of the life many people with bipolar is medications. Mind Race says that the main categories of bipolar meds are mood stabilizers, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and antipsychotics. The most common medication given for bipolar is the mood stabilizer lithium. People react differently to the same medications, and it often takes years of trial and error for a psychiatrist to prescribe the right set. I have had to visit a psychiatrist every three months for the past and have been prescribed my fair share of meds. There is also the very real possibility of experiencing adverse side effects. One medication I took caused severe muscle weakness, insomnia, and nausea. Another made me so drowsy I could rarely get through a day without taking an afternoon nap. The ever changing array of pills I had to take made me feel like a lab rat in a drug company’s test. My meds have been adjusted and work better now, but I still wish I didn’t have to take them.

Medication can be a blessing and a welcome relief, but it is a serious commitment that can feel enslaving. Once my family saw how much more even tempered I was on medication, I knew they no longer tolerated me as I used to be, they accepted a different version of myself on the medications. I wasn’t feeling as high or low anymore: I felt nothing. At the same time I dread feeling like I did before I started taking them. If I stopped taking the medications I may have more difficulty functioning “normally”. My friend told me “I Can’t live without my medication. If I stopped taking it, I would have to transition which would be incredibly tough, but I would act worse and be a different person altogether. I have no problem with taking medication. There were times where I was put on the wrong medication and I got put instantly into depression, or gained a lot of weight in a short time. Medication also has side effects, which are something you have to weigh when you’re decide if you want to stay on a certain prescription, or try something new.” Meds are a crutch and a burden that I and many others with bipolar will most likely bear for life.

I have certainly been hard to be around for my family, people with the best intentions but little understanding of the disorder. They have no way of knowing what I go through everyday. I used to be forbidden from spending alone time with my siblings for fear I would hurt them. I had never done so before, it was just a precaution based out of their fear of mental illness. When I was in 8th grade, my younger sister wasn’t allowed to stay home with me and she called from the balcony, “Your stupid bipolar disease ruined our family.” my mom corrected her, saying that it was a disorder. My sister just spat, “No, it’s a disease.” To this day I recall that and how I’ve been called scary by my mom and she has told me that I belong in a mental hospital. Hearing this just added to the damage bullies and rumors at the school had done. I already had all that turmoil in my brain; it was just too much for my family to turn on me. I thought that they were supposed to have my back.

Even when I was alone, I was tormented by self hatred and insecurity. I would spend hours in my room wasting time. I was too afraid to initiate spending time with people. After being crushed by rejection so many times, I did not have the courage to make myself vulnerable. I didn’t want them to call me crazy too. It took years of support from my friends and family for me to realize that I don’t have to be defined by negativity and I gradually built back my confidence and self image.

Having bipolar has also hindered me in other ways: there are times when I feel so glum I can barely find the will to get out of bed, much less carry out the tasks I have to do. My body feels leaden and my mind trudges along at the pace of a sloth. I cannot even focus on the conversations I have, much less difficult mathematical equations. At other times, thoughts flood my head, faster than I can express. I’m at the top of the world, unaware of my surroundings, talking a mile a minute about random topics that I freely associate but others can’t understand. Other people I know who have bipolar describe it similarly.

Either extreme makes it difficult to function in society, but I don’t let that hold me back. Bipolar disorder has been the biggest challenge I have faced, and while it has and continues to bring me pain and difficulty, I know that I am stronger because of it. I’ve been higher than high and lower than low, more than most people could ever know. I’ve learned to never back down in the face of adversity. I now know that I am good enough just as I am, and nothing anyone says or thinks can change that.

We Don’t Understand Teen Mental Health by L.W.

I am surrounded by mental illness.

It sounds extreme, I know. But many of my friends are affected by some sort of depression. As a high schooler, the thing you are always told is that you should let an adult know. But here’s the problem. Many adults don’t actually believe that mental illness is a real problem. One of my friends has continued to tell her parents that she wants to go to therapy and get better. And all they tell her is to suck it up. Even though there are available counselors at the school, the only people she feels comfortable telling are her closest friends. She barely was able to tell her parents.

Can you imagine telling your parents that you want to go see a psychiatrist and being yelled at? What about telling them that you’re borderline suicidal and being told that you’re just being dramatic? Probably not. But these kinds of experiences are common occurrences for kids and teenageers with mental illnesses. Mental health is a serious issue, but a lot of people don’t treat it as such. These kids are told and convinced that they’re making it up or exaggerating their problems.

Mental health issues are especially prominent in teenagers and young adults. According to youngminds.org, about 20% of youth in the US are affected by some kind mental illness that prevents them from functioning in day to day life. At this point, the percentage of youth being affected by mental illness is higher than the percentage with health conditions like asthma or diabetes. Even though so many people have mental health issues, they are not treated as a serious problem.

Much of the disbelief of mental illness in teenagers and young adults comes from parents and other adults in their lives. It isn’t treated as a serious problem and the affected youth are unable to get the help they need. Part of the problem comes from the fact that the number of people aged 15-16 who have depression came close to doubling from 1980 to 2000, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Mental illness wasn’t as much of a known problem when many of today’s adults were growing up. It’s a seemingly new issue that we have to learn how to understand and we haven’t quite figured it out yet.

The signs are surrounding us, we just need to see them and listen to those who are telling us that they need help.

When I talked to my friend, she told me that she feels she really needs to go see a psychiatrist because her mental health is tanking. “I’m getting really bad and I know it, but I can’t go do anything without my parents. They won’t let me go and they actually yelled at me for wanting to go.” Her parents don’t believe it’s an issue. They believe she can work through it. She, however, disagrees. “I know my mental health a lot better than they do. I legit have more days where I’m sad than where I’m even remotely happy.”

I know people who are borderline suicidal and their parents won’t let them go to a therapist or anything. It’s terrifying. According to healthychildren.org, suicide is one of the leading causes of death for people aged 15 to 24. Studies have shown that more than 90% of teens who commit suicide have depression or some other mental health issue.

Many adults don’t understand what that truly means. “I think that we really need the adults around us to understand what’s going on,” my friend said. “It kind of sucks, but they run the world. If we get them to understand, things are going to be a whole lot easier for kids with depression.”

Students are Getting Anxiety More Than Ever by D.K.

Imagine hyperventilating on a daily bases. On top of that you have chest pains and an increased heart rate. Your body starts trembling, and you won’t be able to get in control. “It’s hard right before you have something that’s a big part of your grade and not knowing if your gonna do good or not,” Ariana Garcia a senior at Fairview said.

Panic attacks are a normal part of having anxiety disorder. It is caused by stress and traumatic events. Today many students start experiencing anxiety in school from pressure and stress. Schools now put more work on students than it was years ago and with the added pressure of colleges, tests, and stress outside it has affected students. Over the years this is happening more and more. According to the Elements of Behavioral Health it is found that 25% students from ages 13-18 have anxiety while only 18% of adults also experience it. A survey by the American Psychological Association said 45% of high school students are stressed by the pressure. The fear of not doing well can also be a cause.

According to WebMD ever since kindergarten we learn that succeeding is very important that it turned competitive. The pressure of school is going to the “right” college, getting the “right” grades, and getting the “right” job that if it doesn’t happen it can be personal. By succeeding at this it’s stressful. There is also pressure of others around you who want that best. Sophia Simoncic a student at Fairview said, “I don’t get that stressed out with deadlines but when I do it’s my parents pressuring me to get high grades. The pressure of needing A’s can make it more stressful.”

I asked Lili Cushing another senior at Fairview when she gets stressed how does it make her feel. She said, “I get stressed during deadlines. I get anxiety, more energy, get louder, complain more, and start freaking out. I don’t get panic attacks or anything I can feel that I can’t handle.”

College can have high expectations. Looking at extracurricular activities, GPA, what class have been taken, and test scores adds to the pressure of doing the best. The cost of college has gone up and figuring out how to pay for it can have an impact on stress.  

Outside of school can add to the stress of school. There are many students who do extracurricular activities, have jobs, take class that it can be hard to balance. Social media and family issues can also be a cause to stress and can affect how well students do in school. According to an article in The Atlantic six out of ten students are involved in extracurricular activities. 72% of them feel pressured to quit in order to exceed in school. I asked weather they have activities outside of school and does it have an affect. “Yes,” Ariana Garcia said. “I am going to many meeting for different clubs and organizations that I don’t have as much time to study as I would like. I am in one advanced class and it is very time consuming .I don’t have much time to do everything I need to do.”

Managing stress is important when it comes to school. WebMD said, “a little stress is good but too much of it can backfire.” “What I do to manage stress is watch videos. I try to get most of my work done in school so I don’t have to worry about it later. It helps a lot,” Lili Cushing said. According to an article in the Huffington Post some solutions for helping anxiety is managing time and keeping things in a positive perspective can help lower stress. Anxiety is treatable and can be managed over time, but it’s when it happens all the time it can be hard to handle.

Eye to Eye by C.W.

Eye to Eye is a program which just started this year, had it been going throughout all of my high school years I would’ve done it each and every one of them. Eye to Eye is where High School students with learning disabilities go to Middle Schools and help students who also have learning disabilities all over the country. All the High School students are mentors for each Middle School students, mentee.  The mentors and mentees were paired up based on our learning disabilities, for me ADHD, for other dyslexia, ADD etc. This program is amazing in so many ways, and has meant so much to me personally.

My goal as a mentor to my 8th grader Alexandra, is to help her learn how to get through Highschool with ADHD. I remember my first two years of high school; I really struggled with my organization, and keeping up with so many tasks that at one point I felt I was drowning in them. My goal is to help Alexandra so she won’t ever have to feel this way. I finally got the jist of things my junior year, and achieved getting a 4.0 GPA. My other job as being a mentor include teaching Alex about the accommodations she has available to her, and to teach her that it’s okay to ask for them. I know that extra time on Math and French tests always made a huge difference to my grades. She will be going to Fairview next year, and my hope for her is to come to peace and to be proud of her LD rather than keeping it from her friends and not telling them she is in the program. She told me she was embarrassed, and I want her to feel like it’s cool, simply because she is. I want her to see how ADHD can truly be a gift, we are so open to our imaginations making us extremely creative and a bunch of other things. I think that by going to eye to eye every week that I make a difference.

The way Eye to Eye works is every week we have a new project, which we either help the mentees work on their goals and to come up with ways to achieve them, doing art projects that help them decide on the best study environment for them, helping them learn about what accommodations they are entitled to, and teaching them to be, “LD/ADHD proud to be!”