‘Responding to abuse’ — 4-part series opens

| November 4, 2015 | 0 Comments
A panel discussion Nov. 1 at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis launched a four-part series "Responding to Abuse." The series continues on the Sundays in November from 1-2:30 p.m. Bob Zyskowski / The Catholic Spirit

A panel discussion Nov. 1 at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis launched a four-part series “Responding to Abuse.” The series continues on the Sundays in November from 1-2:30 p.m. Bob Zyskowski / The Catholic Spirit

The impact of abuse of all varieties.

The ripple effect abuse has on families and communities.

The potential for victims’ recovery, and how churches and individuals can support that recovery.

All the above were touched upon in the opening segment of “Responding to Abuse,” a four-part series being held Sunday afternoons during November at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.

Mental health professionals Amanda Richards (left) and Niloufer Merchant answer frequently asked questions during the first segment of a four-part series on responding to abuse at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.

Mental health professionals Amanda Richards (left) and Niloufer Merchant answer frequently asked questions during the first segment of a four-part series on responding to abuse at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.

The first session on Nov. 1 laid the series’ foundation by defining abuse and outlining different types of abuse, abuse’s impact on the brain, cycles of abuse and how to respond to victims. From 1-2:30 p.m., a panel of mental health professionals answered common questions about abuse before taking audience questions.

Basilica parishioner Dr. Patty Griffith, a licensed clinical psychologist, moderated the panel that included Dr. Amanda Richards, Dr. Niloufer Merchant and Dr. Tina Sacin, also a Basilica parishioner.

Among the points panelists made:

  • Those who are abused often think the abuse is their fault. “It’s never the fault of the victim,” Richards emphasized.
  • Family members of those abused may share the victim’s shame and often need counseling, too.
  • Children who are abused have a higher incidence of chronic health issues later in life, but not always.
  • Childhood abuse may lead to developmental, emotional and cognitive “pauses” that directly impact their adult relationships. Pauses in development might lead to behavior that Richards described as “what 7-year-olds do when they don’t get their way.”

Fifty percent of men incarcerated for child sexual abuse said they began their abusive behavior after viewing child pornography.

As with other addictions, the brain “gets used to” porn when it is exposed to it over and over, Sacin explained, “and continually needs to be fed at a different level” to provide the “reward” of excitement.

  • In the pornography industry, Sacin added, “the degradation of females has become measurably more dramatic and harmful as viewers of pornography want more intense experiences.”
  • For healing to happen, it is not necessary for abuse victims — some of whom prefer to be called “survivors” — to tell their story, Sacin said.

But, she added, for those who wish to support the victim, “It is necessary to say ‘I’m sorry that happened to you’ and to ask, ‘What can I do to help?’”

  • Many people recover from abuse and go on to live happy and productive lives, Sacin said, but, for some abuse victims, treatment can take years.“

Some people are resilient,” Merchant said. “A lot of growth takes place from traumatic experiences, and a lot of times people who are abused go on to help other people recover.”

  • Those working with immigrants who have had horrifying experiences and first responders who witness traumatic events may be secondary victims of abuse. To assist both abuse survivors and secondary victims of abuse, Merchant said, “a community needs to provide a circle of love and support.”

She said research has shown that the significantly lower than expected incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder after the 9/11 attacks has been attributed to the circle of support and healing that happened so quickly.

  • It takes just one caring adult to make a difference in the life of a child, Richards said. “That’s the piece to pay attention to as to what we can do as churches and communities.

The series is a response to the child protection protocols set in place in October 2014 by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, said Paula Kaempffer, the Basilica’s director of learning.

“I read in the protocols the suggestion to offer continuing education about abuse, and that’s what gave me the idea for the series,” Kaempffer said. “We need to educate people about abuse. Education is power in trying to end this.”

She said initially what she had in mind was a response to the crisis of sexual abuse by clergy, but she said she realized that people are victimized by abusive behavior in other settings, including in family, workplace and personal relationships.

The series continues with panels Nov. 8 and 15 and a presentation Nov. 22. Nov. 15 panelists are to include Tim O’Malley, the archdiocese’s director of the Office of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment, and attorney Michael Finnegan, counsel with the firm that represents a group of sexual abuse claimants in the archdiocese’s Chapter 11 Reorganization.

 

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