• The truth about trauma and the impact of terror, and how I learned resilience

    Mom, Ann, Dad, Leisa, 1972 ______________________

    Mom, Ann, Dad, Leisa, 1972
    ______________________

    I was about seven years old when my mom first told me about the abuse she had suffered at the hand of her mom, my grandmother. I remember this vividly because I had just poured a can of grape soda over my three-year-old brother’s head in a “do you dare me, yes I dare you” game I was playing with my five-year-old sister. My brother, of course, started screaming as if he was being murdered, and my gorgeous, stay-at-home mom bolted out the front door of our early 1900s home as if she was going to kill someone.

    The look on her face was enough to scare all of us. Even my brother, who seconds earlier was wailing at the top of his lungs, turned his hysterics into mini whimpers. My mom, however, was just getting started.

    “Who did this?” she yelled.

    My brother pointed at me, my sister pointed at me… and I pointed at my sister.

    My mom said, “All of you had better make up your minds about this because the one thing I hate more than anything is being lied to.”

    And so, knowing that I was in way over my head, I said to my younger brother, “You were looking the other way, you heard Ann, she was daring me to do it, and when I wouldn’t she did it.” My brother turned his arm and pointed at my sister.

    My sister shrieked, “Why are you lying? Why are you blaming me? You always blame me.”

    By now, several of our neighbors had stepped onto to their front steps to watch.  The old lady at the house to the right was just shaking her head in disgust. It was the summer of 1976. Most of the fathers in the neighborhood worked in blue-collar jobs. Most of the neighborhood moms were home with their kids, at least in the summers. The city streets had sidewalks, and the houses were separated by narrow driveways. My mom used to tell us not to air our dirty laundry for the neighbors to see, and this was exactly what we were doing.

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  • Documentary captures how a high school in a San Francisco jail heals and reduces recidivism

    Believe it or not, although 70 percent of the adults incarcerated in our nation’s county jails lack a high school diploma, only one jail – San Francisco County Jail #5 in San Bruno, CA – offers inmates the opportunity to earn a high school diploma inside jail. Now a new feature-length documentary, The Corridor, wants to change that situation by capturing in detail how student inmates, teachers, and law enforcement staff prepare for graduation day and navigate a new paradigm of criminal justice.

    Since the Five Keys Charter school opened in 2003 in San Francisco County Jail #5 with the support of former San Francisco County Sheriff Michael Hennessy, it’s helped cut the recidivism rate of prisoners nearly in half. Designed to prepare people in jail and their communities for their release, it offers inmates the opportunity to create alternatives to the revolving door of incarceration. So far, 800 inmates have graduated from the program.

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  • Problem-solving courts dig deep to acknowledge, and, sometimes, address trauma

    Acourts2

    Photo by Tim Evanson, Flickr photos

    In a sense all courts solve problems, although traditionally, the approach is punitive – translating a crime into how many months or years a defendant owes society and warehousing him or her in a prison. While not excusing drug abuse, domestic violence, child neglect and other ills, problem-solving courts take a therapeutic solution-oriented approach to reduce recidivism and guide offenders toward productive lives.

    Problem-solving courts began about a quarter-century ago and now number more than 3,000 across the United States, housed among the nation’s approximately 16,000 state courts but on separate dockets. Even though initially uninformed by the research around the consequences of adverse childhood experiences and the trauma-informed care movement, proponents say they have always addressed ACEs and trauma without necessarily knowing they were doing so.

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  • High cost of childhood trauma in Alaska is documented, especially in Alaskan Native people

    Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 9.28.16 AMAccording to two sobering reports on the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on Alaskans and on the state’s Native people, the prevalence of all of the eight ACEs measured was higher for Native Alaskans than non-Natives. Almost half of all Native Alaskans grew up with someone who had a substance abuse problem. The rate of sexual abuse is 32% among Alaska Native women, highest of any state’s ACE results. And the prevalence of four or more ACEs in the Native Alaskan community is nearly double that of non-Alaska Natives.

    The reports give specificity to the health, economic, and social challenges that are widely recognized both in the general population and among Native Americans in the state. The data was derived from the optional ACEs module in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey conducted for the first time in Alaska in 2013.

    Because of the strong demand for the information, the Alaska Tribal Health Consortium released an “Executive Summary” of the ACEs data on Alaska Native (AN) people in advance of the broader report, “Adverse Childhood Experiences: Overcoming ACEs in Alaska,” by the Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse and the Alaska Mental Health Board (AMHB /ABADA ). Continue reading