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Psychology Research...Unraveled

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10 Years of Torture, What's Next?

Posted on May 8, 2013 at 9:50 PM Comments comments (51)
For the last 48 hours the country has been fascinated by the story of three women and one child who were held captive as sex slaves for over 10 years in Cleveland, Ohio. The story broke on Monday night (May 6, 2013) after Amanda Berry, 27, had the courage and tenacity to escape and get help.  Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, also escaped shortly after Berry.

According to one of  the women, they were kidnapped and raped for over a decade by three  brothers, Ariel, Pedro and Onil Castro. Aside from a number of miscarriages and extremely rare access to the outside world, the women were subjected to psychological abuse, according to City Councilman Brian Cummins. 

It is unclear right now exactly what type of psychological abuse the women suffered; however, it would be surprising to hear that the abuse was anything less than severe and intense. Keep in mind that when these women were kidnapped, two of them were minors. Being in captivity for 10 years puts Berry and DeJesus at 17 and 13 years old, respectively. Even though Knight was 22 at the time of her kidnapping, she was still relatively young.

For all intents and purposes, these women were impressionable babies when they were first kidnapped. It is traumatizing enough to be taken from your family, but to be raped repeated FOR 10 YEARS is extreme trauma. Additionally, for some of these women, this terrible ordeal may have been their first sexual experience. 

Just think back...while you were carelessly going to the grocery store or laughing with your children on a playground, three women were being held against their wills wondering if they would ever see their families again. Think of all of birthdays (theirs and family members'), holidays and special days that they missed. Did Amanda Berry even know that her mother passed away a year after she was kidnapped from heart failure?

They have a lot of psychological work ahead of them. Berry, DeJesus and Knight had been roommates, friends and each others' protectors for a decade. It is highly probable that these women bonded over their experience and had a hard time leaving each other, even if it meant freedom. Psychologically speaking, being protective of each other was probably one of the factors that contributed to them not being able to escape sooner. If one escaped, what would happen to the other two when the kidnappers found out? What if the escapee couldn't get back in time?

Now, the women are going to have to create a new normal. They are going to have to learn how the world works and where they fit in. They are going to have to learn how to relate to others and trust again, which may prove to be incredibly difficult.

The only thing that won't be difficult in this entire situation is a jury figuring out what to do with those three brothers.

Psychology Is Everywhere!

The Tragic End of a Beautiful Life...And There's More Pain To Come

Posted on April 17, 2013 at 5:02 PM Comments comments (3966)
When it rains, it pours, and I looks like Audrie Pott's parents may be pouring tears in the days and months to come. Their 15 year-old daughter went to a friend's party and was forever changed. 

She woke up in a friend's bedroom, after having drunk too much the night before, to find that she had been sexually assaulted. Not only had he violated her sexually, but he had taken the liberty of writing and drawing on her body parts. In the following days Potts learned that there wasn't one attacker, but three, and all of them attended her school. 

Unfortunately, her nightmare doesn't end there. At school she later found out that there were photos of her from that night when she was too drunk to coherently understand what was happening to her. Eight days later, she hung herself. What a tragic end to a beautiful life.

This family has obviously lost a lot. It would have been tough enough to help Pott through the emotional turmoil that comes with being raped. As a psychologist who has only researched rape throughout her career, I know this trauma is a very difficult one to overcome. Pott's situation was compounded by being gang raped, defaced and humiliated. And, before her parents could even attempt to clean this up (i.e., get her some psychological help), she was gone. 

Unfortunately, the family may be further victimized by California law. Even though the perpetrators were charged with sexual battery and possession and distribution of child pornography, California law is less strict when the victim is unconscious. The "rationale" behind the law is that, if a victim can't say "no," then there is a question of whether the intercourse was consensual. 

What a load of crap! Audrie may not have said, "no," but how can you assume that she said "yes?" Should we ask the three losers who behaved in such vile ways at the party? I am sure that they would have an honest answer. Doesn't consent require a yes? 

When you walk into any treatment provider's office, you have to sign a consent form. If you fill out the form and don't sign it, you will be asked to sign it. Furthermore, you wouldn't receive any treatment until you said, "yes." It's quite possible that Pott didn't refuse or consent, which means that there was no consent.

Even if Pott did consent, weren't these 16 year-old boys old enough to understand when someone is in a compromised position? OK, she shouldn't have been drunk; that goes without saying. Raise your hand if you have ever put yourself in an extremely unsafe situation because you were a stupid teenager (my proverbial hand is raised). 

This California law, and others like it, is the exact reason that more of our sexual assault survivors aren't reporting their attacks. They know that they will be scruntized for what they should or shouldn't have done, instead of the focus being on the individuals who broke the law. 

When will we, as a society, learn that rape occurs any time someone says anything but "yes?"

Psychology IEverywhere!

You Could Get Fired For This

Posted on April 9, 2013 at 10:22 PM Comments comments (11)
This may come as a surprise, so hold onto your seats. Hooters, the restaurant, may be slightly superficial in their hiring practices. It’s quite possible that you are blown away by that news so, if you are, don’t read the rest of this story.   

Sandra Lupo, who worked at Hooters as a Hooters girl, was putting herself through nursing school when she was pushed out of a job. The 27 year-old is suing her former employer, Hooters, which boasts over 430 restaurants in 28 different countries, reduced her hours to nearly nothing after she returned to work from brain surgery. According to Lupo, the surgery to remove a mass on her brain left her head shaved and a scar that would have been agitated by wearing a wig.   

This incident is an obvious unfortunate one at multiple levels. We are talking brain surgery here! This is major surgery that involves a lot of prep and post work and probably an intense amount of psychological stress on the part of the patient and her family. Additionally, it may have been difficult for Lupo to go back to a job where part of the experience is looking at attractive women who are barely clothed. Of course, all of this is complicated when your regional manager asks you to engage in any behavior that doesn’t support the healing process of your wound, even if it is just wearing a wig.   

Presumably, the most hurtful part of the experience is that she had a relationship with this company and her co-workers. She wasn’t a new employee her even someone who had been employed for a few months. Lupo and been working at Hooters, a business that supports activities associated with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, for the last eight years! Most people would expect loyalty from their place of employment.   

We can’t overlook that THIS IS HOOTERS we are talking about here. This is a company that provides hair and make-up tips for future Hooters girls on their website. This is a company that has a Miss Hooters International Pageant every year. Despite having raised over $2 million for cancer research in the name of a Hooters girl who passed away from the disease in 2006, this company parades women around with their rear ends peeking out of the bottom of their shorts and their boobs hiked up and pushed together.   

Did we really think that they would take the moral high ground and realize that there were bigger issues in the world besides “wear[ing] the right hair color for your skin tone” because “not everyone should be a blonde?” Unfortunately, the only surprising thing about this story is that Lupo expected more. It is totally unsurprising that, instead of rising to the occasion and supporting a long-time employee, Hooters sunk to a new low.    

Psychology IEverywhere!

Punishment for Sex Offenders

Posted on April 3, 2013 at 12:23 PM Comments comments (22)

What is the proper punishment for a sex offender after being released from prison? Most people think that the punishment is prison...and a permanent listing on the National Sex Offender Registry. Apparently, that's not all. It turns out that some believe that there should be further punishment for these types of crimes--death.

In June 2012, Patrick Drum, a Washington man, shot and killed two registered sex offenders despite the fact that they had been imprisoned and paroled for their crimes and listed on the National Sex Offender Registry. Drum killed his housemate, 28 year-old Gary Lee Blanton, on June 2nd and then killed Jerry Wayne Ray, 57, the next day.

During Drum's sentencing, Blanton's wife gave a tearful statement about the loss of her husband and children's father that included shaming Drum for "sit[ting] here smiling." According to her, Blanton was registered as a sex offender after having sex with a high school freshmen when he was a high school senior. She added that, since the incident, she has been harassed by Drum's supporters. The father of Ray, who was convicted for a child rape, was also there to give a weepy testimony.

Just before his sentencing, Drum gave a statement were he apologized for the "collateral damage" that his actions caused. However, he was unapologetic and quite smug about the direct impact of his actions stating, "As far as the men themselves, actions speak louder than words." 

He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for two counts of first degree murder. However, it is clear that his actions have divided people. As he left the courtroom, one unseen courtroom member yelled, "Good bless you," while another shouted, "See you in hell, f*****."

The psychology of punishment is quite involved. Currently, we only have one method for punishing sex offenders; however, this method isn't punishment for some. With that being said, is our next move to individually decide how criminals with these types of pasts should be further punished? Isn't that what our legal system is for?

What do you think about Drum's actions?

Psychology Is Everywhere!

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