Tag Archives: childhood trauma

Dear Grandpa . . .

Girl holding teddy

Today when I come home from school I don’t want you to call me to your bedroom pretending to want to ask me something when all you want to do is push your hands up my dress and into my panty.

When I try to “run away” from you, by going into the kitchen (which I think is a safe space), I don’t want you to push me against the fridge and kiss me so hard my teeth hurt and then still force your tongue into my mouth. It is so disgusting.

While using your body to keep me stuck between the fridge and your body with your mouth covering mine, I am powerless to stop you from pushing your other hand under my dress and into my panty and forcefully pushing your finger into my vagina. That really hurts. I usually hurt for days afterwards.

Forgiveness doesnt excuse behaviourpg

While grandma is cooking in the kitchen and you lure me into your bedroom, please don’t try to force me to lie on the bed so you can take pleasure in sticking your hand into my panty and your finger into my vagina – forcefully stopping me from screaming by keeping my mouth closed.

I really wish I did not have to look over my shoulder all the time when I’m at your house. I really wish I did not have to fear being left alone with you at any time.

You know that my disability makes it physically difficult to fight you because you are so much stronger than I am.

You know that your secret is safe with me because I’m too scared to tell my mom and dad because they would never believe me (especially my dad because you are his dad). They would probably just say I must have done something to make you do this to me.

All I want is for you to love me like a grandpa should love his grand-daughter.

From: Your loving 9-year old grand-daughter
True story

Emotional Trauma: Ten healthy ways to self-soothe


Have you noticed how violence transforms people and re-defines their sense of identity and how violence causes people to lose their sense of individuality (they don’t feel part of the “in” crowd)?

Have you been subjected to violent trauma at some stage of your life that has left you feeling like your identity has been re-defined? Have you lost your sense of individuality?

Traumatic experiences often leave us struggling with upsetting emotions, frightening memories and a sense of constant danger. You could possibly feel numb, disconnected and unable to trust other people.

No matter how long ago the traumatic event happened, it could take a while for you to get over the pain and feel safe again but with the right treatment, self-help strategies and support you can speed up your recovery, heal and move on.

Traumatic experiences usually involve a threat to life or safety, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and alone can be traumatic, even if it does not involve physical harm. It is not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic or not, it is your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightening and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatised.


• It happens unexpectedly
• You were not prepared for it (came as a shock/surprise)
• You were powerless to prevent it
• It happened repeatedly
• Someone was intentionally cruel
• It happened in childhood

Emotional trauma can be caused by single-blow, one-time events, such as a terrible accident, natural disaster, or a violent attack. Trauma can also be experienced from ongoing, relentless stress such as living in a crime-ridden neighbourhood or struggling with a terminal illness like cancer.

Recovering from emotional and psychological trauma takes time. Give yourself time to heal and to mourn the losses you have experienced. Don’t try to rush or force the healing process. Be patient! Allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling without judgement or guilt.

Here are a few self-soothing strategies you could use to help you along your journey to healing:-

Woman in Bubble Bath Animation

1) Meditate – Medication helps you live in the moment rather than anticipating fearful events. Meditation also increases self awareness and promotes mental clarity.

2) Exercise- Physical activity causes physiological changes such as increased blood flow to the brain and can elevate mood.

3) Taking a bath-Taking a nice hot bath can be a way to nurture and self-soothe.

4) Breathing exercises- Relieves tension and increases oxygen intake.

5) Listen to music- Listening to upbeat music can cheer you up and distract you from negative thoughts. Listening to music on the way to work or coming home is a great way help you unwind during your commute.

6) Journaling – Journaling helps you get in touch with your thoughts and feelings. Writing helps you to process your thoughts and problem solve.

7) Organize something or clean- Cleaning and organizing is a great stress reliever. It can provide you with a distraction and also gives you a sense of control.

8) Work on a puzzle – Working on crosswords, word find puzzles, jigsaw puzzles or Sudoku puzzles can be a diversion from negative thoughts and is entertaining.

9) Reading – Can prevent you from obsessing over negative thoughts

10) Watch TV – Watching a comedy may induce laughter and elevate your mood.

Ocean Wave Animation

Despite the simplicity of the above list, these ten healthy self soothers can give you just the boost you need to decrease anxious feelings.

The next time you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed try one of these activities for at least half an hour and you should notice an improvement in mood and stress level.

Disorganised Attachment (Insecure Attachment)

Turtle Relaxing

What can you tell me about Disorganised Attachment? This is what I’ve managed to find out . . .

Disorganised Attachment is characterised by confused and inconsistent attachment behaviour. It arises when the child experiences insufficient support and safety and, at times actual abuse.

The core characteristics of Attachment experience are:
THE SECURE BASE: being safe is the basis of survival
EMPATHIC ATTUNEMENT: by becoming known and understood by someone, over time, we come to know ourselves and so have the capacity to understand others – empathy
COPING WITH ADVERSITY: contained anxiety can facilitate thinking and learning. Excessive uncertainty can inhibit thinking and learning. In order to learn, you have to tolerate not knowing
INTERNAL WORKING MODEL OF SELF AND THE WORLD: the infant feeling valued and so valuing himself, as well as learning to trust the outside world is safe enough to explore – and to turn to others for support and protection when challenged by uncertainty – the basis of engaging and learning with the teacher
INSECURE ATTACHMENT EXPERIENCE: when the carer has experienced a less than secure enough attachment and even adversity, in their own attachment relationships
INSECURE AVOIDANT ATTACHMENT BEHAVIOUR: fears and uncertainties are not understood and contained and the secure base is experienced as unreliable. Rejection is feared so approaching the carer for support and help is avoided

Disorganised Attachment and Dissociation:
Dissociation is something most people have the capacity to experience. It is a coping mechanism used to manage stressors as minors, as over-stimulation or as severe as sexual abuse.

As a way of coping, dissociation takes place when the brain compartmentalises traumatic experiences to stop them from feeling too much pain, be it physical, emotional or both. When experiencing dissociation, you experience a detachment from reality, like “spacing out”.

Children with dissociative disorders are prone to trance states or “black outs”, where the child is unresponsive or has a lapse in attention. They may also:
• Stare at nothing
• Forget parts of their life or what they were doing a minute ago, or
• Act as if they just woke up

Coupled with sudden changes in activity levels (lethargic one minute and hyper active the next), these symptoms are often misinterpreted as Attention Deficit Disorder or Bipolar Disorder.

Suggested reading: “Understanding Disorganized Attachment” from David and Yvonne Shemmings.

Worth reading whether you work with children or with adults with borderline personality organisation. It brings together the many complex ideas and research around disorganized attachment, the most extreme form of insecure attachment, and gives accessible explanations on what it is, what causes it, and how to help.

An important book for helping some of the most vulnerable young people overcome early trauma.

To learn more about the book, read reviews and order your copy, click here:


Also available as an e-book

Domestic Violence – Enough!


How does domestic violence affect the woman?

How does domestic violence affect children?

Have you watched the movie called “Enough”?

Do yourself a favour and watch this movie – it will change your life.

Have you heard about Beth?


Have you ever considered the effects of abuse on a child? Have you ever thought about what it’s like for them?

To see the effects of abuse on a child, you need to watch this.

This is only part one. Please go on to YouTube to get the rest of the interview.

Do yourself a favour and get the DVD called Child of Rage and see exactly what this child had to endure to understand this interview.

Not for the faint hearted!

Do you know that we also have a Facebook page? Why don’t you “like” our Facebook page and chat to us sometime?

You can find us at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/womendemanddignity/

Gender and Crime

Red Book with Pen

The questions I have been asking are:

1) Are more crimes committed by men than women? If so, why?
2) Are crimes committed by men more violent than those committed by women? Is violent crime gendered? If so, why?
3) How does gender affect specific types of criminality (eg rape, domestic violence, theft)?

Is it just my perception or have females always committed less crime than men? Do gender roles impact on the difference in crime rates between males and females?

Can certain characteristics like aggressiveness, physical strength and competitiveness be closely aligned with masculinity and criminal behaviour?

A few responses to my questions from various sources raised the following issues:

• Traditional female roles have been closely linked to submissiveness, weakness and passivity. This can be seen as contradictory to male behaviour and can also be seen as being incompatible with the qualities required for criminal behaviour, which makes it more difficult for women to gain access to criminal behaviour.

• What about other factors such as opportunity to commit crime, social controls and differential associations – can this be used to explain why females commit less crime than men?

• Do boys have more opportunities than men because they are allowed more autonomy and freedom to make choices for themselves which increases their preference for risk i.e. they are subjected to more informal social control growing up and because women are rejected access to the public sphere more than males?

• What about the fact that girls experience more social control from the family than boys do, and have stronger familial bonds. These familial bonds create stronger informal social controls which decreases the risk to commit crime. Girls are kept busy inside the home ie. They have to help with housework, cooking and taking care of siblings, which leaves them with less time in the day to even think of committing crime.

So, do boys/men commit more crime purely because they have more time available to them and don’t have as many social controls placed on them?

Do men commit crime as a means of constructing their masculinity to express to others and to themselves?
What about women in prostitution – are they there because they choose to be there or because they are compelled by circumstances?

How can we explain why females engage in crime?

• Females have always committed less crime than men – research has shown that gender roles have some impact on the disparity in crime rates between males and females.

• The gender gap is greatest for serious crime and at least for other petty forms of crime

• Several types of crime may lead to females committing crime under the proper circumstances

• Female crime is usually explained in terms of oppression

Gender differences and criminal thinking
Research done to date on gender and criminal thinking errors indicates that there are differences between men and women. As this is a very recent area of research, results are still emerging. This is what we know so far:

1. Risky interpersonal relationships are often connected with criminal behaviour for women. Social relationships shape women’s thinking patterns and influence their behaviour (Havens, et al 2009)

2. Incarcerated women may develop distorted thinking about behaviour that puts them at increased risk for entering risky relationships (Havens, et al 2009)

3. Women tend to have more psychological distress, depression and anxiety when compared with men, as well as self-reported lower self-esteem and lower confidence in decision-making (Staton-Tindall, et al 2007)

4. Co-occuring disorders such as substance abuse and mental health issues are also common for women in the criminal justice system ((Staton-Tindall et al 2007)

5. Females have been shown to score higher than males on problem avoidance on the PICTS (Critical Thinking Test) (Staton-Tindall, et al 2007)

6. Males have been shown to score more highly for cold heartedness than females (Staton-Tindall, et al 2007)
Source: NICRO Participant Manual 2013©: Criminal Behaviour Foundations: Understanding Criminal Thinking

What do you think about all this information? Do share your views/comments. I look forward to hearing what you have to say regarding these questions.

Rape statistics in South Africa – what do you think?

Crying Baby Animation

What do you think of the rape statistics in South Africa?

Can you believe that the latest statistics available in South Africa was compiled in the year 2000?

Rape Stats in SA by Stats SA 2000

Isn’t it just a crying shame?


Animated Cat holding red roses

Fact sheet courtesy of: http://www.genderlinks.org.za
Femicide is the killing or murder of women that occurs because the victim is a woman. However, the gender related aspect of this crime is often ignored by the media and the judiciary and is categorised as murder or homicide.
Intimate femicide – the killing of a woman by her partner. It is the most common form of femicide, and the most reported on by the media.

Racist femicide- the killing of black women by white men.
Homophobic femicide- the killing of lesbians by heterosexual men,
Sexual murder- where the rape of a woman or women is followed by murder. This is also reflected in serial killings. For example, in 1994, 11 women were raped and killed by a serial killer in South Africa,
“Witch killing”-the killing of women who are accused of being witches. They occur mainly in rural areas, and may be caused by burning or stoning of women.

Gender issues
Femicide is a gender issue because the killing of a woman is based purely on her sex, or on the fact that she is a woman. Intimate femicide could be the end result of a relationship characterised by domestic violence. In this case a.woman is abused either physically or emotionally or psychologically for a long period of time by her partner, and eventually ends up being killed by him.
Other cases of femicide may result from other forms of violence such as rape. As mentioned above racism and homophobia can also result in the killing of women, based on their race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. The nature of “witch killing” is such that only women can be accused of it.

Patriarchy and the continued oppression of women in society has resulted in men exercising considerable power over women. This power is evidenced through for example, women’s inferior status in the workplace and in the home, and through the high levels of violence against women. Gender based inequalities are therefore at the root of violence against women.

Legal issues
The law is seen as a tool of redress where crimes are committed. However, the success of the law in addressing violence against women has been brought into question by gender activists. Secondary victimisation, or discrimination against women by the criminal justice system, is influenced by societal stereotypes of women. Ultimately, this results in lesser convictions for men who perpetrate violence against women. A study conducted by Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF) in 1995 has revealed that where the initial charge was murder, most , if not all are reduced to a lesser charge of culpable homicide, or even common assault on the basis of provocation as an extenuating circumstance. For example, in Botswana, 65% of perpetrators were convicted of manslaughter or homicide, while 24% of charges were either withdrawn or the accused was acquitted.

Intimate femicide is the end result of a relationship characterised by domestic violence, which escalates in severity over time. Yet this is rarely, if ever, acknowledge by the criminal justice system. Ultimately, many women are murdered at the hands of their partners, often after enduring years of physical and emotional abuse. The extent of the violence in the relationship is seldom explored by the court and the case is treated as a straightforward murder or homicide.

The inefficiency of law enforcement agents has also ensured that many cases of femicide are dismissed, or result in acquittals based on lack of evidence. A study on intimate femicide conducted South Africa has revealed that police investigation techniques leave a good deal to be desired. Instances occurred where there were no fingerprints or other evidence hove been obtained from the murder scene.

Presiding officers are also not entirely blameless, and this is reflected in the kinds of convictions handed down. It is also reflected in what they consider to be mitigating circumstonces¬ of provocation, that the accused had “high moral standards” or that the accused was called a “weakling” by his wife.

Stereotypes about women influences the manner in which femicide is dealt with by the law or reported on by the media. The perpetuation of these stereotypes by such leading institutions have a bearing on the perceptions of the public, and may lead to the perpetuation of these stereotypes in all avenues of life including education, the workplace and the home.
Media stereotypes
Location- articles on the death of women killed or murdered are often not seen as newsworthy and are found towards the end af the newspaper. This is supported by studies conducted by WILDAF and POWA.
Headlines-these may highlight the way in which the media serves to perpetuate the common stereotypes that the women murdered in some way provoked the violence. Far example: “Nagging wife killer freed after custody” (Rude and Kadunga. 1995).
Vocabulary- more subtle forms of stereotyping are evident in the types of descriptions and forms of vocabulary used to describe events and circumstances behind femicide cases. In Zambia, killings that occur within the home are described as “domestic disputes”, which trivialises the issue and makes it seem much smaller than it really is. The fact that it has lead to the death of a woman does not appear to be a serious consideration for the relevant journalist.
Sensationalism- sensation sells and the media will publish a report, which is newsworthy, even if it perpetuates stereotypes. Intimate femicide does not only fulfil the criterion of negativity, it also increases its new value by the fact that it happens unexpectedly and fulfils the general expectation about the bleak state of the world. The sensationalism is enhanced by the presentation and reporting of such stories in an entertaining way.

Legal stereotypes
The manner in which judges or magistrates hand dawn sentences is influenced by their own attitudes and prejudices. This may lead to extremes in sentencing patterns and pepetrators literally get away with murder. For instance:
 “He could not reasonably be expected to be in control of his mental facilities…The husband did what any reasonable man would have done in the circumstances”. (Case of Kasuba, 1993, whose husband got a two year sentence far killing her).
 “The provocation offered by your wife was such that any self-respecting person would lose control. The facts reveal that you did not use a lethal weapon, you only used your fists. I feel this case calls for maximum leniency”. (Case of Mulampa, 1986, whose husband got a three-year suspended sentence).

Fact Box
 In Botswana, 68% of perpetrators received a sentence of less than 6 years far killing their partner.
 Suicide is 12 times as likely to have been attempted by a woman who is subject to abuse than by one who is not

This section has drawn an the following sources of information:
 Facts and Figures on Violence Against Women, Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations Inter-agency Global Video Conference, March 1999.
 “Man Shoots Wife~ A pilot study detailing intimate femicide in Gauteng, South Africa, POWA.
 The Private is the Public: A study of violence against women in Southern Africa, WlLDAF, 1995.