I suppose you could consider this an expansion of my previous post about where I come from, and the experiences that led me to HGSE.
My experiences have shaped who I am and drive a lot of the work I do. They are what propel me to continue moving toward the future.
It really hits home when I read or hear about the low college completion rates for minorities. According to a report by Excelencia in Education, only 20% of Latino adults in the US have attained an Associate’s degree or higher in 2011-2012. Furthermore, in most states, there is a huge gap between the number of Latinos who have a degree compared to the rest of the population. Below is a screenshot but I highly recommend you check out the report to interact with the map to learn about specific states.
In my home state, California, only 16% of Latinos had an Associate’s degree or higher, compared to 38% of all adults.
This really gets to me because I could have very easily fallen into the percentage of those Latinos who didn’t attain a degree at all. It’s very easy for statistics to make certain behaviors or actions acceptable. Not everyone does this, and I don’t mean to generalize, but I know from experience that some people don’t have as high expectations from minorities. We lower the bar for our minority students because we don’t always believe they can be academically successful. There was a recent article about this in the Huffington Post about a study that suggested teachers expect less from Black and Latino students.
A quote from the article:
Teachers thought a college degree was 47 percent less likely for African-American students than for white peers, and 53 percent less likely for low-income students than for students from more affluent families. Teachers thought Hispanic students were 42 percent less likely than white students to graduate from college, the study found.
What can make a difference? Challenging the statistics. When I think back to my schooling experience, I realize that the best teachers I had were those who had high expectations for all students, regardless of race or background. The teachers who pushed their students even when they failed, and told students they could do better even if they were doing okay.
- Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18.
- Not all sexually abused children exhibit symptoms—some estimate that up to 40% of sexually abused children are asymptomatic; however, others experience serious and long-standing consequences.
- Disclosure of sexual abuse is often delayed; children often avoid telling because they are either afraid of a negative reaction from their parents or of being harmed by the abuser. As such, they often delay disclosure until adulthood.
- An estimated 60% of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child but are not family members, e.g., family friends, babysitters, child care providers, neighbors.
- About 30% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are family members.
- Children who experience child abuse & neglect are about 9 times more likely to become involved in criminal activity.
- In one study, children whose parents abuse alcohol and other drugs were three times more likely to be abused and more than four times more likely to be neglected than children from non-abusing families.
- As many as two-thirds of the people in treatment for drug abuse reported being abused or neglected as children.
This hits home because I could have easily fallen into drugs. The opportunities were certainly there. Yet, I didn’t. Perhaps part of it was seeing what that path had done for my stepdad, and I was extremely determined to alienate myself from him. I didn’t want to be anything like him. Or maybe it was because I received more education about the dangers of drugs than I did about the circumstances that could lead someone to trying them.
Here are some statistics from the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network about Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse. These are challenges I myself have had to overcome, and some which I still deal with to this day:
- Survivors may have trouble sleeping because of the trauma, anxiety or may directly be related to the experience they had as a child; children may be sexually abused in their own beds.
- Many survivors were betrayed by the very people they are dependent upon (family, teachers etc.) who cared for them, who insisted they loved them even while abusing them; learning to trust can be extremely difficult under these circumstances.
- Many survivors re-experience the sexual abuse as if it were occurring at that moment, usually accompanied by visual images of the abuse. These flashes of images are often triggered by an event, action, or even a smell that is reminiscent of the sexual abuse of the abuser.
- Many survivors go through a process where the mind distances itself from the experience because it is too much for the psyche to process at the time. This loss of connection with thoughts, memories, feelings, actions or sense of identity, is a coping mechanism and may affect aspects of a survivor’s functioning.
- Many things were — childhood experiences, trust, innocence, relationships with family members. The survivor may feel a deep sadness, jealousy, anger or longing for something never had.
So why am I writing this? My intent isn’t to write a sob story or depress anyone. If anything, it’s to educate about very important issues. I also want to inspire others who have gone through similar experiences, or who work with those who have.
It’s very easy to look at these statistics and feel like there’s no hope for children who have been in these situations. It’s very easy to make excuses or assumptions about a child’s lack of interest/care in school – “oh, he/she has a really rough home life. His/her parents are just not that involved. There’s no way they will make it in life.”
And that’s assuming one does know about a child’s home life and situation. Most of the time, childhood sexual abuse cases go unreported and children suffer in silence, just as I did. Sometimes this leads to other issues later in life, when it is much harder to do something about it.
What can change this? More discussion and education around these issues. It’s a hard fact to swallow, but 90% of the attackers is someone the child KNOWS. Yet, in my experience, this isn’t something that children are educated about. Even in my high school health class, this isn’t something I learned about. We learn so much about the dangers of drugs, gangs, violence, strangers, and yet almost nothing about what to do when you’re sexually abused as a child. We should be educating children from an early age about these things – obviously in an age appropriate way. Parents should also feel comfortable talking with their children about these issues. This is a resource for those who work with young children.
Even though these horrible situations occur, that doesn’t mean it has to continue being horrible.
I am living proof that there is hope. I don’t like to believe that I was just “lucky” or that I am “one in a million” as I’ve often been told, because that implies that no one else will be able to overcome these situations. I refuse to believe or accept that.
I know it’s possible to fight against the odds.