April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Sexual violence can lead to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use disorder, depression, and other trauma-related problems. What I know now: if you have to ask yourself whether sex was consensual, it wasn’t. By definition, the idea of consent means that you would know.
This is a message many of my friends and I desperately needed to hear. If I had, when I experienced sexual assault with a boyfriend in my late twenties, I might have known to call it what it was. I believe that we should take the “date” off “date rape” because it seems to minimize the assault. I’d later develop PTSD as a result.
The Meadows specializes in treating trauma. Abuse is one form of trauma. Often times, childhood trauma that occurred because of child abuse is overlooked as a core issue when people enter treatment for addictions or other mental health disorders. Sometimes people minimize what they experienced as children, deny that they were abused, or believe that it happened so long ago that they are (or that they should be) “over it” or it is no longer relevant.
It is estimated that each year three million cases of child abuse are reported to authorities in the United States (source: Childhelp.org). Childhood abuse comes in many forms and can be anything from physical abuse, sexual boundary violations, neglect of medical and physical needs, to emotional and social maltreatment and injustices.
I remember as a twelve year old, sitting alone in our living room after one of our by then typical family meltdowns …….trying to make sense of the pain and general devastation of our once very happy family……trying to understand how kind, decent and loving people could cause each other such unrelenting pain, how we could say the things we were saying, hurl insults, act out in anger and rage……I recall saying to myself “wars do these things to people, separate loved ones, wound hearts, tear families apart. But somehow we’re doing this to ourselves.”
Chances are if you’re under any stress you don’t want someone to make you even more aware. Most people are already experiencing stress but may not know how to keep it under control. Research from The American Institute of Stress indicates that 90% of visits to primary care physicians are stress-related, from stomach trouble to heart disease. These stress-related illnesses cost businesses a whopping $150 billion every year. Since 1992, Stress Awareness Month has been helping people understand what stress is, and how it can impact them. From the smallest worry to big things like divorce, depression and job-related issues, unchecked stress can cause physical symptoms if you don’t manage it well.
The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD) is promoting their 32nd Annual Alcohol Awareness month this April. The theme for this year encompasses the idea of drinking as a rite of passage. This immediately makes me think of a case that I have been following regarding a fraternity at Penn State and the alcohol-induced death of one of its pledges. While there are many issues in this case that can be picked apart and examined, I feel that alcohol, as a rite of passage is central to what occurred.
Last month, I celebrated National Nutrition Month by asking each of you to dedicate more than just the 31 days to get your diet back on the right track. To truly fuel, and feel better, the focus needs to be year round. This month, we continue the journey by adding more color to the diet. That’s right; color! Americans are seriously lacking in the fruit and vegetable department, and efforts from public health campaigns to boost consumption have failed. That’s why you won’t hear me tell my patients to eat more fruits and vegetables. Instead, I’ll hopefully achieve the same goal by asking you to focus on eating at least five or more colors a day (none can be artificial by the way).
As humans, some of the most shameful experiences we have are those that involve our sexual selves. A single sexual event can bring such shame that it holds a person captive for a lifetime. It can deliver a devastating blow to a person’s sense of value and evoke tremendous pain and fear that results in isolation from others.
Dr. Jerry Law, senior fellow at The Meadows, discusses the dangers of this addiction and how it can slowly take over your life on Dr. Connie Mariano’s show House Calls on an episode titled Beware the Ides of March.