Hashtag #Molestation On Instagram Reveals Disturbing Trend

Recently, I went to the #fostercare hash-tag on Instagram to look at the most current foster-care related photos. At the top of the list of images, I saw a very inappropriate nude photo of an attractive young woman. Initially, I was very frustrated that someone would post nude photos in the #fostercare hashtag in which I use to inspire foster care youth and advocates.

Then, I read what she posted and noticed the other hash tags she used: # orphan# liar, and # molestation. This girl was molested most of her younger years and is deeply scarred. Posting nude photos appears to be her way of expressing and fighting back.

ChildMolestationIt is understandable she is trying to take control of what was taken from her for many years, and I can’t really blame her for no longer wanting to be silenced. However, do you know what was the most shocking? When I clicked on the hashtag #molestation, I found something even more disturbing. Almost every other photo that I saw was of someone joking and inappropriately touching someone else. A mockery of what is both a sad reality and the cause of a life-time of guilt, shame and a lack of self-esteem for many.

The 2003 National Institute of Justice report states that 3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well (page 5). VictimsOfCrime.org lists that 1 in 5 girls is a victim of child sexual abuse while 1in6.org reports that studies show 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 18.

It is no surprise that “as many as 75% of those in #fostercare have been sexually abused.” That makes them a prime target for repeat abuse and more horrendous statistics. According to the website 1 and 6, they report studies in two east coast states indicating that 21 and 28 percent of child sexual abuse cases, respectively, involved reports that originated in a foster home.

Although these statistics reference children, I would like to place emphasis on how one’s traumatic experiences impact adulthood. Anyone who experiences any type of trauma, regardless of socioeconomic status, lives with it forever. AceStudy.org reports that “studies reveal staggering proof of the health, social, and economic risks that result from childhood trauma.”

The above stats are a harsh reality to swallow. Maybe that is why so many joke about it on social media, but never allow the subject to be talked about in public. In our society, it is so easy to joke about some pretty messed up things, yet when someone has something real to talk about people clam up and don’t know what to say.

Well, sometimes you don’t have to say anything. Sometimes you just need to not be scared of the truth, open your heart and ears, and listen. Allowing someone to hurt and express their hurt might be all they need to feel reassured and start to heal; even if it is something as taboo as molestation. We all need healing.

The Standards of Self-Care (Part 1 of 3)

When we talk about the ethical responsibility we have to take care of ourselves as helping professionals, we don’t necessarily think about a specific set of guidelines to follow.  In this article, we will take a look at the Ethical Principles of Self-Care as well as the Standards of Humane Practice of Self-Care.

Self-CareThe Green Cross Academy of Traumatology has created the standards of self-care guidelines for their members to follow. The purpose of the guidelines are twofold: 1) do no harm to yourself while helping or treating others and 2) “attend to your physical, social, emotional, and spiritual needs as a way of ensuring high quality services…”  to those who are looking to you for support. It also states that self-care is so important for preventing a practitioner from harming clients, that it is unethical to not attend to self-care practices.

The three principles of self-care in practice are stated as:

1)   Respect for the dignity and worth of self: A violation lowers your integrity and trust.

2)   Responsibility of self-care:  Ultimately it is your responsibility to take care of yourself and no situation or person can justify neglecting it.

3)   Self-care and duty to perform:  There must be a recognition that the duty to perform as a helper cannot be fulfilled if there is not, at the same time, a duty to self-care.

The four standards for self-care are stated as:

1)   Universal Right to Wellness:  Every helper, regardless of her or his role or employer, has the right to wellness associated with self-care.

2)   Physical Rest and Nourishment:  Every helper deserves restful sleep and physical separation from work that sustains them in their work role.

3)   Emotional Rest and Nourishment: Every helper deserves emotional and spiritual renewal both in and outside the work context.

4)   Sustenance Modulation:  Every helper must utilize self-restraint with regard to what and how much they consume (eg: food, drink, drugs, stimulation) since it can compromise their competence as a helper.

Often when I give a workshop on Compassion Fatigue, I speak about the importance of helping professionals to attend to their own healing as well. This speaks to the ethical principles – we need to respect ourselves, develop our self-worth and be responsible for our own self-care. In order to be a helper, we have an ethical duty for self-care. We thrive as professionals when we come from a place of self-worth, confidence and dignity for ourselves… and yes, this means doing the tough emotional healing that we ask of our clients!

This doesn’t mean only getting help from someone when we are in a crisis, it means really taking an inventory of our own past hurts. What does our grief history look like ? Have we healed from significant losses both from death and the end of relationships?  Do we have a trauma history? Over 70% of the population has had one or more significant traumas, so have we healed from ours?

The thing about helping professionals is that many have entered the field because of a personal struggle that was overcome with the support of another helper, so naturally we wanted to do the same for others. Do we have any of our own physical or mental health struggles, and are we seeking support for them?

We will always have experiences that cause unpleasant emotions, that’s just life.  Having said that, as helpers we need to know how to deal with these in a healthy way so that we can integrate the experiences and move on, instead of being stuck in them and potentially being triggered by them when clients share similar struggles.

I recently received an email from a helper who provides support for pet loss.  She is not a counselor and wanted to know how to separate her grief from the grief of the people she is helping. In my opinion, this is a two-step response: 1) Helpers needs to heal from their own grief and 2) Helpers need to learn how to practice conscious empathy, so we don’t unconsciously catch our client’s grief.

Alright, enough of my rant on the importance of our own healing.  The standards of Self-Care are pretty basic and most helpers know these, although, the last standard “Sustenance Modulation” can be somewhat controversial for people. Sustenance modulation states that helpers are to utilize self-restraint with regard to how much they consume (food, drink, drugs, stimulation).  I don’t mean it’s controversial because it’s not true, I mean it in the sense that this is the standard that can sometimes bring up a little bit of defensiveness in people.

I would love to know your thoughts on the Principles of Self-Care and the Standards of Self-Care as they relate to your role as a Social Worker.  Please leave a comment letting me know what you think!

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