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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Victoria's Secret Bright Young Things

One might immediately wonder what the economic enterprise of the Bright Young Things line of clothing has to do with child protection. Before answering that, in case you missed it, Victoria's Secret has introduced a line of underwear for pre teen girls. This is not a dumb company so I am sure they have ascertained that there is a market for these products that sexualize this pre adolescent market.

The question of course, is why is there a market to begin with?

We know that girls who become highly sexualized earlier have a tendency to engage in a variety of higher risk behaviours as they move into and through their teen years. This relates to sexual activity, poorer academic performance, alcohol and drug use as well as risk for earlier pregnancy. These problems have a tendency to be of concern to child protection as such youth come to their attention.

Will the promotion by Victoria's Secret be responsible for this? Clearly not although they add a powerful name to endorsing such early sexuality. They add momentum!

A more important question is to ask what parents will do with this initiative. A wise parent just won't allow it but will instead focus on family, educational, social and community endeavours that lead to successful, lower risk adolescent experiences. That will also help to reduce risks that lead to child protection involvement.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Apparently not all trauma is created equal

I am fascinated by a new study just published by Hickman et al., in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence. As the abstract notes, the research set out to look at how lifetime vioklence exposure is realted to a set of negative symtpoms in children. Those included child internalizing and externalizing behavior, child trauma symptoms and parenting stress. In essence, these are core questions in child protection. A high number of children involved with CPS have been exposed to various forms of trauma. The research had a good sample size meaning that the data was robust. The children were under 5 years of age.

The research spoke about poly-violence as being more dangerous in its long term effects. They defined this as being exposure to multiple violence categories. Intuitively, this makes sense. If there are few, if any, safe environments in your life, it is quite hard to ever settle down. The alarm system of the body is heightened on a continuous basis. Such individuals will tend towards hypersensitivity and hyper alertness.

As the researchers note on p. 1339 of their article. "...exposure to violence has been linked in numerous studies to various developmental and mental health consequences...."

A child who has been exposed to a single form of violence may have resiliency options elsewhere in their lives. In other words, they may have safe havens. One exception seems to be sexual abuse which has a special meaning which was the least common (likely the most damaging) whereas witnessing violence was the most common.

Discussions about broad safety in our society need to consider this type of research. It is perhaps quite relevant given the discussions in the USA about gun violence which can be pervasive in some areas and the high profile issues of rape and the safety of women in India. Perhaps what we have not been focusing on is the creation of true safety for people.


Hickman, L.J., Jaycox, L.H., Setodji, C.M., Kofner, A., Schilt, D. & Harris, R. (2013). How much does "How much" matter? Assessing the relationship between children's lifetime exposure to violence and trauma symptoms, behaviour problems and parenting stress. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 28 (6), 1338-1362. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Rape from two powerful perspectives

Friends in India at the Tulir Centre for Prevention and Healing of Sexual Abuse brought two stories to my attention. In the first one, American filmmaker Sandi Higgins tells the story of being raped at an ashram in Mumbai.

The video can be seen here. It is a powerful, first person account.

In the second story, Ruben Rosario tells the very personal story of being a victim of sexual abuse. It too is a very powerful first person account published in the New York Daily Record.

These stories need to be told as inter personal violence remains an epidemic throughout the world. It comes in many forms - bullying, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, pornography - to name a few. This is a child protection issue as many victims are children, as Rosario describes. Many children will be exposed.

I hope that you take a few moments to review these two first person accounts.