Category Archives: Social Issues

Finding ‘Fine’ Again

 

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I saw an old friend yesterday. We met for a drink at a bar in Korea town where we always liked to frequent.

“How are you doing?” she asked with that slightly condescending tone stinking just enough of pity.

“I’m fine,” I replied casually, tossing back a shot of soju—Korean rice whiskey. It’s smooth, so very dangerous.

“You’re so strong.” She shook her head in wonder. Eyes wide with what I suppose was sympathy.

“I can’t even imagine what it must have been like…”

I had no response. All the words I’d planned to say had dried on my tongue.

I’m fine.

I’m fine.

Don’t worry. I’m fine

And yet—on the inside, nothing was “fine.” Sometimes it felt like it never would be ever again.

In November of 2015, three days before my 28th birthday, while on my way home from that same Korean bar, stumbling from too many shots of soju, I was intercepted by a group of men, taken to the basement of a house a few blocks from my Crown Heights apartment and violently raped by one, and then another, and then another…

“Girl, you’re so fine—” They’d said to me on the street trying to get my attention.

But everything that was, died in that basement bedroom… or so it seemed.

Everyone said it was a miracle, a blessing that I survived and got out of that situation alive. How did I do it, you ask? I’m about to get real. (Trigger warning)

I got out by pretending—by getting aggressive. For a brief moment I took my power back, pure survival instinct kicked in. Because looking back on it—I can’t really believe I did what I did.

“So is anyone else going to fuck me?” I snapped, challenging them, throwing them off their guards. “Because if not, I’m going home.”

As steadily as I could, I stood from the mattress, adjusting my clothes and grabbing my bag.

“I’m going home.” I stated, and moved past the men who had been tormenting me the past hour.

It was like they didn’t even know what to do—my behavior had completely confused them. Were they expecting tears? Was I supposed to beg? I will never know why it happened the way it did, but I walked out of that basement of nightmares on my own two feet.

It wasn’t until I was out on the street, walking at a fast pace through the crisp November night, that shock and terror set it. I was intensively frightened and disoriented, and I just took off, not even paying attention to where I was going. I remember walking and walking, and feeling like I’d never get home.

This all took place within a three-block radius of where I’d lived for three years, mind you. That’s how out of my head I was—I was lost in my own neighborhood, the place I thought I knew like the back of my hand. It was at this time I also discovered they had taken my phone, my wallet and my keys (including my car key, which led to my adorable VW Beetle getting stolen and burnt to a crisp after a high speed chase through Long Island—but that’s a story for another day).

I didn’t know how I was going to get home. When I momentarily came out of my shock, I realized I’d wandered so far in the wrong direction, I was on a street I’d never even heard of. I saw a cab and begged him to help me out. Luckily he got me back to my place and with incessant buzzing I was able to wake my roommate from the downstairs lobby.

“Hello? Who is it?” A groggy voice came over the speaker—at this point it was past 3am.

“Kelly let me in, let me in! Let me in! Please!”

A savior. A blessing. I’d never wanted a roommate in my 1 bedroom apartment (necessity had led to that) but at this moment I’d never been happier. If she hadn’t been there, I would have been in a lot more trouble.

Inside I was able to call the police and my mom who lives in Dallas Fort Worth, and that set off a whirlwind of gritty, miserable events and experiences.

The attack itself had been surreal; it was like I’d stepped outside myself. But now harsh reality had hit and I was dealing with the fallout under the biting neon lights of the emergency room and the SVU detective’s office. The whole experience left me reeling, shaken to the core—in shock and struggling with the early signs of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

I was not fine. I couldn’t event fathom feeling stable or normal again; like the person I’d been before was completely and utterly lost to me.

But I suppose… somehow, through all of it there was something guiding me—some positive energy or “bigger reason” why this had happened. I’m not a particularly religious person, but I had to believe it was more than just chaos. It also helped that I have wonderful friends and family who supported me and showed their love in many ways, from helping out with expenses, to just making me laugh, to even tweeting out about my cause when I was fighting with the banks (another story for another day that involved checks getting re-cashed and money stolen).

Anyway—through this intense darkness, there was this thin ray of light, almost invisible at first but getting slightly bigger week to week. As corny as it probably is, I literally visualized it as a light at the end of a tunnel, and I just moved towards it step by step, sometimes even less then that, sometimes tiny centimeter by centimeter. Sometimes I even moved backwards, but that light was always there. In the distance.

I cocooned myself, leaving the cruel city to stay with my mom in Texas for a few months. I was surrounded by family, but mostly I just liked being by myself. When I was with others I had to put on a mask and pretend like I was ok. Not that they all expected me to be ok, but I’m the type who doesn’t express her more intense emotions very well. And my family, though very supportive, are not of the “lovey-dovey, talk about feelings” variety.

Still, this break was good for me—the demons seemed farther behind me than before, and at last I felt that I had come to the end of the tunnel, ready to step out into the sun. I decided it was time to come back to New York.

I was returning to a better situation, many friends who were eager to see me, and a new apartment far enough from my old place that I’d never have to return to that area—never have to walk down those streets littered with bad memories ever again.

But I can’t say it’s been easy.

After the whirlwind of moving, my mom flew back to Fort Worth and again I was on my own, for the first time since the night I had been attacked. Every day is a struggle and the Post Traumatic Stress has reared its ugly head more intensely than before. I get scared and startled easily—something I’d never experienced before—and my anxiety is off the charts. I have intrusive thoughts, visual flashbacks, every day.

But the nightmares have stopped. And I do feel like I stepped out into the daylight. That darkness is still right behind me, just over my shoulder, and sometimes (more often than I’d like) it reaches out a slippery tendril and coils its way around me.

Regardless…it is behind me. And every breath I take, every waking moment, propels me away from it and into that light.

Since this trauma happened, I’ve been determined to make something of it, to turn it around, to find a way to channel it and maybe—possibly—help others who have experienced something similar.

For a long time I wasn’t ready. I still may not be; I don’t really know. But I’m a big believer of “Fake it till you make it.” So for now, I’m going to keep pretending I’m Fine, and wait for the day I finally am.

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Confucianism, Parenting and Abuse

I am not familiar with the term “child abuse”. When I think about my childhood, my parents did spank me, yell at me, criticized my actions, and other behaviors that hurt me. Do these actions count as abuse? Maybe.

Confucius

Confucianism had been the moral standard in China for more than two thousands years. Although contemporary Chinese people no longer emphasize and treat Confucius ethics and philosophy as the only standard, his teaching and ideologies have been rooted deeply in Chinese society. Confucianism highly values the importance of filial piety, and believes obedience is the way to show filial piety to parents. In terms of family hierarchy and roles, parents are in more superior positions than their children. Based on such family construction, parents and children are not very close to each other. On one hand, children love and rely on their parents, and on the other hand, since parents are more superior, children must respect and obey them. Disobedience was traditionally viewed unethical and un-filial.

Filial Piety

I barely remembered why my parents beat me, yelled at me or criticized me, but I just remembered they did. When I talked to my friends about childhood abuse, we shared about the same experience. We remembered the tools that parents used to beat us, but we all forgot the reason why the conflicts started. And usually, the fights between my parent and I ended up with either seeking for help from my grandparents, and the other parent if my father and my mother were not at the same battle line, or I apologizing for whatever I did, though I did not admit in my heart. December 29th, 2007, it was my 17th birthday. I went back to my hometown and planned to celebrate with relatives and friends (I was in Christmas holiday, but my cousin wasn’t). My cousin came back from school during lunchtime, and my grandparents insisted him to take a nap, but my cousin wanted to play computer games with me. My grandparents were angry with him. To resolve the problem, my father slapped my face, blamed me for distracting my cousin’s nap and disobeying my grandparents. I felt humiliated and ran away from home for couple hours. In the end, my mother and aunt pacified me on the phone and asked me to come back to the party to protect everyone’s face, and my father never apologized to me. That was the worst birthday I’ve ever had. I wasn’t in the mood for party at all. Every time I think about this moment, I still felt angry with my father and hurtful. My father owed me an apology, but I cannot ask it back.

When I was little, every time my parents criticized me or beat me, I thought it might be my fault. When I grew up, I realized that my parents were not always right; it was just they were afraid to lose face in front of me. Most of conflicts between my parents and I ended up in silence, and we both chose to not mention them. This is usually how Chinese parenting looks like. Confucianism filial piety rooted in the culture so deeply, so individuals hardly change. I believe my parents were raised in the same way, or even worse. Right now, I do communicate with my parents often and we sometimes talked about my childhood, starting to understand each other. However, from my observation, my parents barely communicated with their parents. I think that’s how society evolves from generation to generation. Individual’s abilities are limited, but through education and acquiring more new information, deeply rooted ideologies can change.

Most of my friends and I are the first generation of one-child since the One Child Policy has been implemented in early 80s. We attracted the full attention from family. As the only child of my family, I know my parents love me and I was born in the right family. However, their behaviors in my childhood were still considered abusive. I shared the story of Look At Us Now, Mother! with my friends, the story ensembles ours. As Sigmund Freud says, “unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” All conflicts must be resolved, otherwise accumulating the unpleasant emotions inside will lead to explosion in the future. I like the way that Gayle Kirschenbaum chooses in the movie to remember and examine the past, and then forgives her mother. However, for me, the situation is different and more complicated. It is the culture. I experienced my parents’ love and criticism at the same time. Therefore, I choose to forget and forgive. Comparing to the love that they gave me, the abuse and harm are negligible. I don’t attempt to change the culture, but one day if I were parent, I would not treat my children in the same way as my parents did.

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A New Way to Put a Stop to Bullying

I previously mentioned some tips on how to stop bullying. What I failed to suggest was to deliver video messages to prevent and end bullying. That’s what the students in the Fox Valley in Wisconsin are going to accomplish. The teens are asked to hand in a 3-minute video portraying the message “Be a Hero and Report a Bully.”

According to Winnebego Countywide Crime Stoppers, up to a quarter of students are bullying victims at school, but only a third of them report it.

KimCentral Credit Union and the Winnebago Countywide Crime Stoppers will put middle and high school students in Outagamie, Winnebago, and Calumet counties to the test on bullying. The winning team with the winning video will get a $1,500 scholarship and their school will earn $3,500. The challenge will be an incentive for the participants to report happenings of bullying. The contest starts September 1st and students have until November 30th to hand in their video, which will eventually be posted online.

Judging happens in December and winners should be determined sometime in January. More details on the challenge can be seen here.

What better way to prevent bullying than to get schools involved in a great project. The same way television delivers ideas and messages with its hundreds of commercials and advertisements, creating anti-bullying videos for the public to see is a great way to spread the word of bullying prevention and abolition. Also, the process of creating the videos will make the students more aware of bullying and put an end to the abuse. This sounds like an initiative for more school districts. Say no to bullying!

Reference

Ullrich, Tony. “Anti-Bullying Video Challenge in the Fox Valley – WBAY.” Wbay.com. N.p., 23 Aug. 2013. Web. 26 Aug. 2013. <http://www.wbay.com/story/23243063/2013/08/23/fox-valley-students-to-create-anti-bullying-videos-this-fall>.

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Watch What You Say

This morning, as I was looking through my Facebook newsfeed, I stumbled upon a Huffington Post article titled The Day I Stopped Saying ‘Hurry Up.’  I was more intrigued by the title of the article than anything else, so I clicked it and began reading.  This article was not what I was expecting, and it fits in perfectly with what LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER! is trying to shine a light on: parental abuse towards children.

This mother, in short, talks about how she likes to stick to a schedule and be timely.  Her young daughter, however, is not like that at all.  She likes to take her time, and never seems to be in a rush.  Time was never of the essence for this little girl, who was trying to enjoy the simplicity of what we like to call life.

So the beginning of the article is going through how the mother was living her life vs. how the daughter was.  She then brings up the day that she stopped saying “hurry up.”  She was picking her daughters up from school, and all of a sudden, she saw a reflection of herself in her older daughter…and realized that she had been bullying the younger daughter into rushing through life so that she could keep to her schedules.  In the article, this was a powerful moment to read.  After the incident, the mother ultimately realized that this was no way to raise her daughters, and changed her outlook on life.  Readers, I highly encourage that you read the article.

So, what’s the lesson behind all of this?  Watch what you say to your kids and how you say it.  Even though you think your approach is the logical one, you won’t know how your child is reacting to it, unless it’s evident.  Luckily for this mother, she was able to see a reflection of herself in her older daughter and was able to fix the solution.  Kids are impressionable, and rely on their parents to be their role models.  Parents, set good examples for your kids, and treat them the way that you would like to be treated in return.

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How to Deal with Bullies

Bullies are everywhere. Well not exactly everywhere, but they can exist in several places as we have learned from this blog. For example, bullying can exist in the house from your own siblings and in the schoolyard from peers. Bullying even exists at the workplace. No matter where bullying occurs, it must come to an end. But how?

 

When I was younger, in about the second grade, I was bullied by two classmates during lunchtime. I remember not liking it so I told my parents and teachers. The classmates soon stopped bullying me.

 

As you can see, even if bullying does occur, it can come to an end. So what should your child do if a bully confronts him or her?

 

  1. First thing is, if possible, don’t give the bully a chance. You can’t hide all the time, but if you can walk around and avoid the bully, it is best to do so.
  2. Stand tall and be brave. This might be enough to stop a bully.
  3. Work in numbers. The more people and friends you have with you, the less likely the bully will confront you. If someone else is having bully trouble, offer to be with him or her when the bully is around.
  4. Stand up for yourself. Say no loudly then run or walk away.
  5. Don’t bully back by kicking, pushing, or hitting the bully.
  6. Tell an adult. You can tell teachers, principals, parents, and/or lunchroom helpers at school. Sometimes bullies stop when an adult finds out because they’re afraid they’ll get in trouble.

 

Whether bullying happens in the house, at school, or even in the workplace, these are suggestions to stop bullying in its tracks. Bullying is very wrong and must come to an end once it starts.

 

Reference

 

“Dealing with Bullies.” KidsHealth. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 July 2013. <http://kidshealth.org/kid/grow/school_stuff/bullies.html>.

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Learn, Forgive, and Let Go

Learn, forgive, and let go… such short words, yet so powerful at the same time.  While working for Gayle and promoting LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER!, I’ve been able to learn the true strength behind these words.  Everyone has overcome certain obstacles in life, and these words hold true to helping someone move forward in their lives.

For example, Gayle’s relationship with her mother, which Gayle has highlighted in LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER!, did not start off on the right foot at first.  When Gayle was younger, her mother treated her poorly, along with her siblings.  Over the years, Gayle and her mother Mildred have worked hard to rekindle the failed relationship.  Although they are still working out issues, they’re best friends.  Learn, forgive, and now let go. In my opinion, this is exactly what Gayle and her mother went through.

While working for Gayle and managing her social media platforms, I’ve done my fair share of research about various topics, which Gayle covers in her new documentary.  I previously wrote a blog about sibling bullying and different types of relationships.  Tying everything together now, I realize that when we are kids, emotional traumas will always be something that we will hold close to us.  If we don’t heal properly, we will have a burden on our shoulders for the rest of our lives.  It’s best to cope with whatever pain we have as soon as we are ready, that way we can understand what happened and know what to do to make it better. Although series of unfortunate events will still occurred in life, we can view them as a learning experience and let them travel further into the past.  This is what Gayle and her mother did through therapy and healing, and their relationship is now stronger than ever.

Back to learn, forgive, and let go.  Situations, incidences, etc. will happen to us throughout life, it’s not meant to be simple.  The best thing to do is cope with what life throws our way, find inner peace with yourself, find it in your heart to forgive, and let go of the poison that caused the incident in the first place.  Imagine if we hung onto every little or big bad thing that has happened to us…where would we be and what would happen?  Learn from events, forgive whoever inflicted the pain, and let go.  Simply move on.  It will be hard at first, that’s expected.  Life isn’t easy, and we must accept that.  Everything, in the end, will be alright and you’ll feel like this guy, below.

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A Cry for Help

I can’t believe that anyone would keep someone captive for any period of time, let alone years. However, that was the case with Amanda Berry, now 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, who were all abused physically, sexually, and psychologically for a decade in a house with boarded up windows. The three women were finally freed after two neighbors responded to Amanda Berry’s call for help by kicking in the front door. Ariel Castro, who police say held these women captive at first by tying them up in chains and rope in the basement and sexually assaulting them repeatedly, has been charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape.

According to David A. Wolfe, a senior scientist and psychologist at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health at the University of Toronto, the relationship between abuser and victim can get complicated because the victims develop complicated and mixed emotions toward the abuser in order to survive.

The good news is that it is possible to turn around from the damage with the help of friends and family, specific therapies, and privacy, safety and time to come to terms with the traumatic experience. However, there will be negative effects from the abuse such as depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder. Once again, the positive side is that about 80 percent of abuse victims who receive weekly therapy show significant improvement after three to four months.

Terri L. Weaver, a professor of psychology at St. Louis University, said that the presence of other captives in the house may have helped the women cope better.

Amanda Berry’s daughter, now 6, who was born during captivity, has an equal chance of overcoming the challenge of her early life. Dr. Weaver said, “There are all types of children in this world that were conceived in violent and traumatic circumstances who come to an understanding of those circumstances and go on to have very happy lives.”

It is a horrible shame that these three women had to endure prolonged abuse, but it is good news that now they are safe and able to turn their lives around. Good thing Amanda Berry called for help.

Reference

Goode, Erica. “Emotional Recovery Seen Possible for Victims of Prolonged Abuse.” The New York Times. N.p., 09 May 2013. Web. 15 July 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/10/us/emotional-recovery-seen-possible-in-cleveland-case.html?_r=0>.

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Yelling!

yelling2When your children do something wrong, what do you do? You yell at them, right? Then they know they did wrong and won’t do it again. Well some researchers say that yelling can be a form of emotional abuse. Children may even suffer from depression or a decrease in self-esteem when parents frequently raise their voices or mix yelling with criticism, insult, ridicule, or humiliation.

A parent educator from New Hampshire, Bonnie Harris, said that it is not good to yell if blaming is involved, however, parents have every right to vent and let go of emotions.

A study found that emotional abuse is the most significant indicator of mental illness, more so than sexual and physical abuse.

Dr. Murray A. Straus, director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, said that yelling can set a bad example for children and how they handle social situations later on. On the other hand, Dr. Bennett Leventhal, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Chicago, said that children have to understand that parents and people in general are not perfect and sometimes lose it and it’s better that they learn that at home than from someone else.

Dr. Myrna B. Shure, professor of psychology at Drexel University, said that children can become immune to screaming and tune it out and it no longer becomes effective.

In a study of 991 families, 88 percent have reported screaming at their children in the previous year.

There seems to be gray area of whether or not yelling can be labeled as abuse since screaming can take many forms such as ridicule, humiliation, or blaming. However, now it may make you wonder whether or not yelling is effective or healthy.

Reference

Morris, Bonnie R. “Scream at Your Own Risk (and Your Children’s).” The New York Times. N.p., 9 Nov. 2004. Web. 1 July 2013. <www.nytimes.com/2004/11/09/health/09yell.html?_r=1&>.

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All in the Family?

While doing some research for Gayle, she directed me towards looking into sibling bullying, and how it’s shockingly just as damaging as bullying in schools.  Sure, we always had that one sibling that would pick on you as a kid, or that you would pick on.  But we never knew just how much emotional damage we were doing to one another.  After reading numerous articles from The Guardian Express, CBS News, NBC News, and The New York Times, I learned more about the case at hand.  We all, at some point, have fallen into the wrath of a bully, but did we ever think it would be from our own family in the comfort of our own home?

Why do bullies do what they do?  Ever since I was in elementary school, I’ve wondered this because I was the victim of numerous bullies.  I’ve been wearing glasses since I was three or four years old, and got my first pair of contacts in fifth grade so that people would stop bullying me.  However, bullying didn’t stop at the playground.  It carried over into my household amongst three siblings.

Bullying is more detrimental inside the family than outside the family, according to the research done by Dr. Corrina Jenkins-Tucker from the University of New Hampshire.  She conducted surveys and interviewed households that had at least two children in the family.  The results, to me, were shocking.  Sibling bullies hurt us more emotionally than the bully on the playground during recess.

So why am I so fascinated with this breakthrough research?  For one, I was a victim of not just bullies, but sibling bullies, also.  I dealt with the bullies on the bus calling me a four-eyed freak with awful hair and tomboy clothes.  I was a kid, why would I worry about what I looked like?  I wanted to be comfortable and do my own thing.  Unfortunately, that came with the price of being bullied and running home from the bus stop crying.  While my mom was telling me how to deal with bullies, I didn’t realize that my own siblings, for saying stupid things, were bullying me.

I’ve always been someone that marches to the beat of my own drum.  Individuality is one thing that sets us all apart from each other.  From personal experience, I think that my siblings and bullies in school were jealous of the fact that I embrace the fact that I am who I am.  I achieved so much athletically, for example, and I was made fun of by my siblings for it.  Why, do you ask? Jealousy.  Bullies are always jealous of their target, so they make fun of you and hurt your feelings to make them feel better. Don’t let it get you down, reader. You keep doing you!

And here I am, back to my original question: why do bullies do what they do?  I kind of answered this already, but in my opinion they want to feel better about himself or herself as an individual.  This essentially means that they put others down.  To everyone out there struggling with bullies, here’s my piece of advice: keep being yourself and stay true to who you are.  You will be let down along the way, but power through.  No one else will ever be like you; you are unique and you should embrace it.  If you can learn to love yourself, you’ve come a long way, congratulations! I promise, every caterpillar blossoms into a butterfly.

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Sibling Bullying

bullyingBullying just happens in schools, right? Or can bullying happen at home too?

A new study from the journal Pediatrics says that bullying from siblings at home can be just as damaging as the bullying that occurs at schools and can leave lasting scars throughout life.

In homes, we may consider fighting among siblings or siblings picking on each other to be sibling rivalry or just petty quarreling. However, what may seem minor can be hurtful bullying. This bullying can range from physical assault to psychological attacks such as humiliation or name-calling.

With this new study out, bullying takes a new light. One must reassess the home situation because bullying doesn’t just happen in schools, although you would normally only associate bullying with schools.

Reference

Sibling Bullying Can Leave Lasting Scars, Study Says. Perf. Brian Williams. www.nbcnews.com. N.p., 17 June 2013. Web. 18 June 2013. <http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nightly-news/52234850/#52234850>.

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