To the muslim sisters in abusive relationships.,

Domestic violence does not discriminate – victims span all races, ages, ethnicities and religions.

1 in 4 women are victims of severe domestic abuse, and that includes Muslim women. Islamophobia — hate crimes, bigoted policies and daily incidents of harassment towards the Muslim community has made confronting domestic violence more difficult for these women.

The prophet Muhammed(saw) forbids abuse of any kind. Islam prohibits all forms of oppression and injustice (Qur’an 5:8; 4:135; 42:42-43).

So to be clear,  No! Islam does not encourage or allow men to abuse their wives. Women & Men in Islam are supposed to be equal. Unfortunately, Muslim clerics translate Islamic teachings of arabic text incorrectly, sometimes in an effort to fit their own narratives, which is why our faith is in such turmoil.

I implore those who are interested, to truly learn more about Islam with an open heart & mind so that we can fight the misguided notions and wrong information being circulated.

Educate yourself so that you can be sensible enough to pick sense from nonsense.

No one deserves to be ill-treated based on their sex, the way they look, lifestyles or beliefs.

No one has the right to physically, emotionally, mentally or financially abuse or manipulate someone, and using culture or religion to justify it does not make it right or acceptable.

While Islam teaches that God dislikes divorce, it is not prohibited. When we say

bi-smi llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīmⁱ, we are saying “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. God is merciful – The Qur’an clearly prohibits injustice and oppression and has provided divorce as a peaceful solution (See Qur’an 2:227-242; 4:19 -21; 65: 1-8). The Prophet Muhammad married a woman who had been divorced, reinforcing the acceptability of divorce within the Muslim community.

Children are greatly impacted by witnessing abuse between their parents, be it physical, verbal or emotional abuse.  Growing up in an abusive home does long term damage to children and can affect their personality, their ability to study, and their future relationships.

It is more important for children to live with a healthy parent who can be a good role model than to grow up in a climate of fear and anxiety when one or both parents are abusive.

Abusers only do so because they are the powerless. In reality targets of abuse are more powerful than the person who abuses them. It may not be easy to leave, but nothing worthy in life is ever easy.

If you are a Muslim woman in an abusive relationship I want you to know that you have more help and support than you may know.  Please reach out to resources below to get the help, assistance and information you need.

There is no need to be ashamed. It is not your fault. You are beautiful, You are smart, & You are strong.

tpny.org Turning Point’s Helpline for Women 718.262.8722 or 718-262-8744

Turning Point is committed to helping Muslim women empower themselves and live a life with dignity,  free of violence.

How Trump is as destructive as a nuclear bomb.

Under the Trump administration the world has been plagued by ignorant, offensive and obnoxious things he has said out loud, tweeted, or otherwise. Each one at some degree of incredulousness in its own way.

Like it or not, the fact remains that Donald Trump, his family and his fellow republican colleagues has indeed made America Great again. With the exception of a few sensible & decent human beings who’ve recently had to re-think & choose between their political party or principle, America became Great Again for: the Racists, Bigots, Liars, Tax Cheaters, Women & LGBTQ abusers, Muslim haters, Homophobes, Narcissists, Vile, Ignorants, Iliterates, Hatefuls, Dishonests, Sexists, Hypocrites, Bullies & Entitled wealthy white & brown privilege. Yes, all of them together, one big basket of Deplorables. With a deeply disturbing sense of renewed brazen assurance, confidence & lack of shame that America’s 45th president is only too happy to encourage without any regard for the destructive and divisive nature of his words. But while Trump may not seem to care of what the people’s opinions are of hi, he does understand the level of influence the oval office has afforded him.

Setting aside the republican political agenda of LGBTQ rights, Immigration reform & Abortion rights, his unconventional third world country style of leading, dismantling of the US Pandemic response theme resulting in the USA winning at having the most Corona virus cases in the world!, not to mention the entire mask nay sayer debacle in what seems as poetic justice with many republicans including Trump and those closest to him falling victim to said virus.

Donald Trump’s antics incites feelings of anger, hate and violence on both sides of the ethical aisle- one side is outraged at the incomprehensible behavior by Trump & the other is in all legitimizing systematic racist & social injustices that America has been working to overcome & eradicate for over 100 years. A scar on our democracy.

The fact that despite everything Trump has done, half of the United States of America are quick to buy whatever he is selling is both frightening and telling. Donald Trumps America, which is sadly half of the American population seems to share in dangerous rhetoric which threatens our democracy- Political polarization, Conflict over who should belong as a member of the political community, High and growing economic inequality, and Excessive executive power-

What bothers me even more is having to question whether half of America has a beating heart, and whether she can survive without it. Whether this half of America is capable of having empathy, or just basic human decency for their fellow Americans. Where is the logic & common sense?

What’s probably worse is that shockingly Trumps’ base is not limited to uneducated whites, but it includes educated blacks, browns, Asians, Indians and latino folks. Many of whom are here because they too fled dictatorship, communism or third world country politics and economies in search of betterment in America.

Every shade of brown, with a myriad of immigrant ancestry stories account for a high percentage of Trump supporters. Sadly, these supporters are willing to overlook Trumps attacks on their own communities because their political views are influenced by religious and cultural beliefs pertaining to LGBTQ & Abortion policies. All of the Trump supporters I spoke with were not shy to confirm this. Not only that, but did you know that a majority of race issues are within our own communities and families of color? For instance within my Indo- Caribbean community- local & abroad- it is frowned upon if an Indian whose skin color is brown/black were to marry another brown/black person of a different race. Yes, let that sink in! even within communities of color Trumps’ divisiveness is at play.

How unfortunate that despite 4years of a Trump presidency, republicans are still blind to the deeply disturbing pattern & rhetoric by the world’s most powerful leader. In my opinion that speaks so much more about them than anything which could be said about him. Had they held him accountable from the start, our present state of affairs would not be where it is today.

With an election so consequential, its’ importance had the world watching us,…because of republicans America became a spectacle, another Trump reality show where in this one Trump is the one getting FIRED! Not only our allies & adversaries of foreign governments were tuned in but their citizens were also tuning in and they were not shy to make their opinions known! Some of them reasonable & logical, while others were downright atrocious influenced by fake, edited information circulating on social media., a result of which led to some deep, eye opening conversations with friends from both sides of the political aisle.

Any sensible human being can appreciate the exchanging of ideas, with a rational and pragmatic openness & understanding that looking at things through different lenses helps us to have informed views. However, there will always be the few on both sides of the political isle who are arrogant, stubborn, set in their ways and have no room for accommodating a different angle or perspective from what they believe in.

A few weeks before the US2020Election a dear friend of mine for 15 years or more, a foreign national, on a Monday night, decided to share her views on the American election via WhatsApp. My first thought was “ Oh Crap! this is exactly why I left FaceBook in the first place, but somehow trouble always knows where to find you” – I politely bantered a bit but it wasn’t long before I realized her intent was clear- she wanted to drum up unnecessary political drama by sharing republican propaganda, questioning Biden’s mental capability, and accusing Kamala Harris of authorizing underage sex in the form of the SB145 California bill. Completely denying, defending & refusing to acknowledge any of Trump’s indiscretions, especially the one about refusing to concede should he loose the election.

At that point I had to make it clear that I was not interested in engaging her further. Allow me to explain to you that this is a woman who while not college educated, is well travelled, has worked in the US, and enjoys being in a very high – income bracket. By Caribbean standards she is RICH! But while the country she lives in may be 1st class in oil wealth with a bubbling economy, they are still very much 3rd world when it comes to infrastructure, medical, education, government and social issues. So much so that even though she resides in another country, and a citizen of that particular foreign land, with no voting rights or power in America, she made sure that each of children were born on American soil.Essentially she had anchor babies! Even if you are living under a rock, you know & understand where Trump stands on immigration, chain immigration & yes! anchor babies.. So as one can imagine I was surprised that she was not only such a Trump fanatic but determined to spread his hogwash.

After pointing out that the information she was spreading was not only untrue, out of context, & baseless, I directed her to the factual side of the information she was forwarding, which of course was not received well. I also questioned the trigger for her needing to spew unwanted, unsolicited and spiteful drama based on misguided information, what was her interest in this election especially because she could not vote here …& this is where things took a turn for the worse- I was then falsely accused of insulting her, being incapable of discussing politics, & of shoving that politics down her throat. I found it interesting that the person who started the nonsense in the first place, dragging it on & off for about 2 weeks, despite my pleading to simply agree to disagree in effort to stop the foolery, was accusing me of imposing my views on her.

I explained to this friend that I was not going to allow anyone to needle me into losing my cool just to give them the satisfaction of an unbecoming reaction. It was not worth it. Preserving my mental & emotional health is of importance to me & I refused to let it be affected by the political views of someone who was googling, copy & pasting articles to fit their narrative because they couldn’t justify the irrational themselves. Every try of reasoning with this woman was met with backlash.

Trump Politics was causing a dear friend to put her need to “win” & be right over my feelings. But was Trump Politics truly responsible here or was it a revelation into who this person truly was?

At that moment I decided to take a step back from the friendship … and to take a deep long breath. I felt like a small child questioning the validity that friends are supposed to care about us & help us, not hurt us.

I respect every human being’s right to support whomever they choose, for whatever cause they find important to them. However, I choose to believe those choices should be made by accurate, informed and educated information. Not misguided opinions circulating on social media. No matter which political affiliation one agrees with, common sense and basic human decency should prioritize the front seat of our thinking, not googled, copied and pasted articles which seem to justify the amoral narratives we are so determined to share just for the sake of being right.

If Trump or anyone with his degree of incompetence belonged to the Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Green or Constitution Parties, they would not be getting my vote!

No political figure should be expected to be perfect, yes they all have faults, but should at least hold a high level of principles & morals. None have ever been at this level of polarizing.

I can’t say what the future holds for my friendship, but what I do know for now is that this friendship is on hold because this election was not just about a difference of opinion, it was about human decency & basic human rights which it seems affects everyone differently depending on their ethnicity, economic & social status. I expect there are other Americans in similar circumstances contemplating and re-evaluating family ties & friendships after this election, but in the end the only thing that matters is this:

In American Elections the only voices to be heard will be that of American Citizens! In 2020 more American Votes than ever echoed what we had to say when the BIDENHARRIS team won.

– a man who was bullied as a boy because of his disability, who has dealt with loss & grief many times over, and a black woman, the Jamaican Indian daughter of immigrants who broke the glass ceiling for colored women & girls past present & future-

it sends the message that a record number of Americans banded together far & wide, in the middle of a pandemic to oppose the persistence of diminishing our democracy. And that is powerful!

The link between DomesticViolence SexualAbuse,Addiction, Mental health & Race

This year as part of my work in spreading awareness on Domestic violence and the impact of Covid19 on survivors of abuse, I acquired insight on another contributor to the abuse pandemic- one which has been around long before the Covid19 and sadly will linger on long afterward.

Substance abuse refers to the harmful or hazardous use of psychoactive substances, including alcohol and illicit drugs. Psychoactive substance use can lead to dependence syndrome – a behavioral, cognitive, and physiological phenomena which develops after repeated substance use due to a strong desire to take a drug.

Difficulties in controlling use, persisting in usage despite harmful consequences, a higher priority given to drug use than to other activities and obligations, increased tolerance, and sometimes a physical withdrawal state are some of the effects of substance abuse.

Most of us probably know of someone struggling with some type of substance abuse. Usually we connect substance abuse with celebrities and the homeless.

Substance abuse is a disease, and diseases don’t discriminate, instead it transcends gender, age, social and economic backgrounds.

People get addicted to drugs for a number of reasons many of which have underlying issues such as trauma, living in a negative environment, inheriting addiction genes or undergoing great deals of stress. But did you know that substance abuse is prevalent among victims of domestic and sexual abuse? Victims of domestic & sexual abuse turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism to hide their mental & emotional pain, as a result they are more likely to have a substance abuse problem than those who are in non – violent relationships. Furthermore, many individuals who develop substance abuse are also diagnosed with mental disorders, and vice versa. Any kind of frequent and extremely high level of mistreatment towards an individual is quite stressful, something which can be the culprit for the development of addiction as traumatic experiences significantly increase one’s likelihood of abusing alcohol or drugs.

Covid19 has emphasized the crossroad of domestic & sexual abuse, substance abuse, mental illness, suicide and the cycle created from trauma by racism and violence. We all know of the barriers which prevents victims of domestic & sexual abuse from speaking out- Shame, Stigma, Guilt, Fear of not being believed and its repercussions. Barriers which also hold true for Substance abuse victims & those needing mental health aid.

The recent reckoning of police violence and systematic racism in our country makes the decision to seek help even more difficult –

Law enforcement agencies, brazen & shameless enough, are blatantly threatening to or have already severed ties with domestic violence programs who openly display support for

the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement. Seeing it as a political statement instead of what it was meant to be- a showing of support and safety for communities of color. The disheartening part of this behavior is that while these law enforcement agencies are focusing on sticking it to the DVPrograms, they have now become abusers & bullies themselves- by cutting their funding, they neglect to realize that they are also affecting the very people who need the promise of the oath law enforcements agencies took – To protect and serve.., putting those who are in the most need of resources, safety and shelter without the help they need. Sometimes it is a matter of life and death.

it baffles me that in our present climate be it Politically, Medically, Socially – our core values reflect the level of selfishness, and lack of regard for our fellow human life. Have we really lost our sense of humanity & human decency? It’s important to be knowledgeable on abuse & afflictions like substance abuse and their relationship to mental illnesses. This can afford the ability to help those who are victims of such conditions find quality treatment and achieve better quality of life.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse & domestic violence please use the resources listed below. There is no need to feel shame or guilt, & always remember you are not alone on your journey. Wishing you Health & Happiness.

https://www.ridgefieldrecovery.com/resources/domestic-violence-addiction/

https://www.drugrehab.com/addiction/hotlines/

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

Reflections of Love & Unity this Fathers Day.

One of the things I am most proud of when I talk about growing up in Trinidad is the sense of love I felt as child. My parents were not financially rich, or had an expensive education.

They were limited in the opportunities they were able to afford their children compared to many of the people in their extended social circles. Yet I don’t remember feeling lesser than or inadequate.

Now that I am in my adult years and a parent, when I reflect on the things they were able pass on to me, what stands out most is not of material composition, but instead endowed a wealth of street smarts, open mindedness, curiosity of the world, its’ many cultures and peoples, which back then seemed unattainable, and now resonates more than ever given the world’s present political & social climate.

If my parents had any racial biases, I wasn’t aware of them, because they treated everyone with equal fairness and respect no matter their race or religion. Maybe they were what some would refer to being as a bit ahead of their time. …

One of the most treasured opportunities my parents afforded me was that of spending time at our neighbors’ home.

Oh how I revel in the memories of the looks on the faces of bewildered strangers when they would hear me, then, a little “Indian girl” affectionately calling out to her strong, handsome, Negro neighbor as “Daddy!”.

“Daddy” was not only polite, educated, respectful & well respected in our community, he was present to answer to the local hospital officials at the time of my birth!

He ran the local youth camp with which I was lucky enough to sometimes attend, he taught me to play the piano, helped me with mathematics. He introduced me & the other little non Christian children to Sunday school. He welcomed us into his Methodist church where I fondly remember taking part in the Christmas play about Jesus’s birth. He was one of my Daddys.

He also had a wonderful friendship with my actual dad, a white bearded, black Indian Islamic priest, also well respected within the community.

Both men would routinely congregate at an adjacent neighbor’s front patio with a few other men of the village to discuss politics, religion & current world affairs. The heated banter & debates echoed houses away, laughter in the distance that even now I can still hear, it is a childhood memory which will forever be stamped in my brain.

Theirs was a comradeship I don’t expect can ever be duplicated. These were men from different backgrounds, social , financial and economic statuses, who highly regarded and respected each other’s culture and differences. Where else would you find an Imam who smoked Du Maurier cigarettes comfortable enough to be at the same table with men who might be drinking the local Carib & Stag beer, among vices different from his own?.

I mention these things because these are aspects of two very different men, who inadvertently played a major role in parenting me, whose spirits are still living through me. It is a legacy and a chapter of my truth that I am grateful to be able talk about and share with others.

It truly does take a village to raise a child. Who would have imagined that elements of the progressive and unified aspects of my upbringing would have most relevance thirty something years into the future. To today.

I think the irony for me is that these two men — one Indian Muslim, one negro Christian — handed down to me many subtle life lessons. Despite opposing views on many topics, they shared the same values on humanity and compassion.

Different dimensions and elements of one love and unity.

To my daddy’s, two men of class & culture in their own right, their love & nurturing forever cemented in my heart, I hope they are pleased & proud looking down at me because I am ever pleased & proud to always have them to look up to.

Racism in America –

How we identify with race is powerful. It influences our experiences and shapes our lives.

The unfair treatment and oppression of people of color have always been justified and fueled by Racism.

Racism is not only about individual mindsets and actions, but racist policies also contribute to the daily persecutions of black & brown people in America. Racist ideas in policy threaten the equity of our systems and the fairness of our institutions.

To create an equal society, we must commit to making unbiased choices and being antiracist in all aspects of our lives.

“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist”.- Angela Davis.

Being racist or antiracist is not about who you are; it is about what you do. We all know right from wrong, good from the bad. No one is born a Racist, Racism is learned –

Racism is not just cruel it is unjust. We all have a duty in creating change. Change comes from education & education starts from home. Knowledge of the history and the impact of racism is essential for understanding and change. It can be the spark that ignites action against racism.

At home and school lies a critical role in developing young minds, building relationships between people of different backgrounds, and creating a socially just civil society.

Racism goes beyond color, it transcends gender, religion, status and cultural differences & as with other types of abuse, by speaking up when we witness Racism we can all help to ensure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

When we speak up to anything it is a strong sign of support and it can be effective in making a perpetrator think twice about their actions.

All members of our community deserve to be treated fairly and to feel safe and respected.

I ask for us to reflect on our attitudes, to overcome our own prejudices and to challenge discrimination and racism in all forms with the belief the end result will be greater understanding and commitment to ending the evil of racism individually, within our families, communities in America and worldwide.

“Tolerance is an act of humanity, which we must nurture and enact each in our own lives every day, to rejoice in the diversity that makes us strong and the values that bring us together.” —

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.

In light of the racial unrest our country is experiencing I ask you to take one step more than just post about it. It goes beyond words, but deeds. Please join me in the “Say something” initiative by making a pledge in leaving your name and comment in an effort to demonstrate your support to the goal and principles of eliminating racism in American society.

The Say something initiative is a powerful expression of the impact of racism and the importance of speaking up. Whether it is Domestic Abuse, Sexual Abuse, or Racism, Speaking up makes a difference!

By collecting the comments of supporters, I aim to demonstrate the strength of this initiative.
Pledge your support by entering your name and comment on the Pledge page.

** Comments will only be published on this website & offensive or racist comments will Not be published.

Below is a list of resources to help educate and raise awareness about Racism so that we can gain knowledge, understanding, and tolerance.

Anti Racism Resources

http://www.racialequityresourceguide.org/orgs/the-anti-racist-alliance

https://www.naswnyc.org/page/47

http://www.antiracistalliance.com/index.html

Some definitions and descriptions of Racism courtesy the Simmons University Library

Racism is prejudice plus power; anyone of any race can have/exhibit racial prejudice, but in North America, white people have the institutional power, therefore Racism is a systematized discrimination or antagonism directed against people of color based on the belief that whiteness is superior. It is insidious, systemic, devastating, and integral to understanding both the history of the United States and the everyday experiences of those of us living in this country.

Anti-Racism is strategies, theories, actions, and practices that challenge and counter racism, inequalities, prejudices, and discrimination based on race.

Racial Microaggressions are commonplace verbal or behavioral indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults in relation to race. They are structurally based and invoke oppressive systems of racial hierarchy. Racial Microinvalidations, Microinsults, Microassaults are specific types of microaggressions.

White Privilege

In the U.S., white privilege is the lived experience of greater social/political access, representation and entitlement, and material and economic security that people considered white have as a result of white supremacy. It’s important to note that while many white people are oppressed on the basis of class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, culture, ethnicity, etc, it is still true that ALL white people benefit from white privilege in various ways.

Reverse Racism is a term created and used by white people to deny white privilege. Those in denial use the term “reverse racism” to refer to hostile behavior by people of color toward whites and to affirmative action policies that allegedly give ‘preferential treatment’ to people of color over whites. However, while people of color can certainly exhibit prejudice against white people, in North America that prejudice is not supported by a system of institutional power. And despite some public opinion to the contrary, studies show the largest group to benefit from affirmative action policies is white women.

White Fragility

White fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as tears, argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.

White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress. This insulated environment of racial protection builds white expectations for racial comfort while at the same time lowering the ability to tolerate racial stress, leading to…White Fragility.

Pandemic Alert!

Protecting your Mental health and families during Covid19.

As we all struggle to adapt to this new reality of social distancing, face masks, and the uncertainty of what the Covid19 pandemic brings with it, we are also faced with a pandemic all its own- the struggles, duties, and commitments of caring for our loved ones-

On any regular day child care, elder care, and raising a family is already demanding, having to do so in isolation adds an extra layer of intensity to those demands, bringing with it its’ own sets of difficulties both mentally and emotionally.

It is expected that cases of abuse will surge during the shelter in place orders which many states

(and countries) are observing due to the rapid spread of Covid19. Volatility or impatience towards those we love and care about can be triggered due to many circumstances such as lack of personal social connectedness, different forms of economic strife, or mental health challenges.

Being the best parent and care-giver we can involve taking steps to strengthen our family and finding support when we need it. Parenting isn’t something we have to do alone. When we have the knowledge, skills, and resources we need, only then we can offer the proper, healthy, and safe care our loved ones need.

As adults we have the power to end abuse on all fronts- Physically, Mentally, Verbally, Financially, and Emotionally. Let’s take stock of our mental state as it relates to the loved ones in our lives, especially our children. Abuse is not about a short temper but a desire to be in control and hold power over someone.

How can we find power together instead?

Working together with our friends, families, and using resources to create a nourishing environment for the children in our lives while we are at home can play a part in building communities and hope in children and families.

If you or someone you know feels vulnerable that they may pose a risk to hurt themselves or their loved ones during these uncertain times, please know you are not alone! Help is available!

Here are some Guidelines & Tips I collaborated on with Sakhi.org to help navigate what so many are going through silently and to understand the effects of childhood emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and what you can do to stop this abuse pandemic.

  • Self Care- On an airplane, the suggestion is that in case of emergency you put your mask on first before helping anyone else. In our daily lives the same concept applies. We are all figuring this out and getting anxious is normal, but if you are feeling overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths, a walk outside if you can, sometimes even a good crying session helps. We cannot take control of any situation or take care of anyone else if we are unable to do so for ourselves first.
  • Try to keep routines in place by following a schedule. Whether it is our children’s school schedule or our own, time management during the day helps with feeling more productive gives a sense of accomplishment, and maintains some sense of order.
  • Stay connected to family and friends even if it has to be Virtual – Keeping our support network strong during these times are even more important in regulating our mood and staying grounded. It helps with keeping the family bond and feeling less stressed.
  • Understand that children may be having tantrums can be doing so because of nervousness about what’s happening around them. Be patient and spend time calming them and address their concerns in a comforting way.

Ask for Help! If there are other adults in the home who can share responsibilities, a spouse or grandparent have them pitch in. If not, reach out to a relative or friend who can, even if it is just to chat when you feel overwhelmed or to have a chat with your child while you take a break. The goal is to stay sane and safe.

Know something? See something?…. Then say something! If you suspect any kind of abuse, please use the resources below:

Healing for survivors

healinghonestly.com

An invisible Stigma

During a chat with some of my mom friends, I was surprised to learn that our cultures shared the same issue of Stigma & Taboo when it came to the topic of reproductive health and sex education with young adolescents/adults (10-19yrs). Immigrants from parts of Africa, Latin America and the Middle east now residing in America, like so many other immigrant parents, they shared in the search of navigating, preparing and explaining to their tweens and teens about relationships of adulthood. If one thing is for certain, youths of today are definitely not the youths of yesteryear, it seems they are more adventurous, outspoken and encompass a sense of social liberty that we as young children only acquired in our young adult years. Today the social & celebrity influence of sexual relationships and dating makes an engaged, involved and concerned parents’ work and responsibility even more challenging.

I am from the Caribbean, my family’s customs and traditions stem from India where my great grandparents were born but brought as indentured laborers to the Caribbean islands. It was never explained to me about how babies were made, I was one of the slower learners and a bit clueless,… we can safely say I blossomed quite late in life. Most of the knowledge about the birds and the bees I got were from other classmates who had older siblings.

Many of us went on to have good first sexual experiences, some of us, not…and that is mainly because we had no knowledge of what to expect or fully understood the power of consent, it was most likely a word not in our vocabulary, so if “doing it” did happen when you snuck out on a “date” with the older boy you were forbidden to see, then you found consolation by telling yourself “well it had to happen sometime”. There was no option of talking it over with any trusted adult because you would be ostracized, criticized and quite possibly physically & verbally abused for bringing shame to yourself and even worse, to the family’s good name.

( I won’t be surprised if this is still the result I get for writing this post ) The only attempt at any

“sex talk” & “selflove” speech I remember were my grandma’s stern warning in her West Indian accent with her finger pointing at me- “ don’t let no man spoil yuh and bring shame on yuh eh, yuh hear? Yuh body is a temple and yuh have to take care of it, don’t make people laugh at yuh for you to walk with yuh head down in shame” – Simple and few words which echoed truth and its’ meaning understood.

I was also never forewarned about what a period was. This had been another topic one was not encouraged to question or express interest about. One most likely heard about it from the PE teacher in Junior high, at which time one either pretended to be interested as if they understood what was being said in an attempt to look intelligent, became flushed with mortifying embarassment, or giggled at the sound of the word ”penis”, “vagina” and even “period”.. you came away from the class with a sense of juvenile discomfort a toddler feels for the first time they become aware all the attention is on them, grateful to leave the new found knowledge right within those classroom walls. Maybe one would whisper about it with their girlfriends after, but any prodding inquisitions were not to be brought at home.

  • Did you know that :-
  • · 21 million adolescent girls, aged 15- 19, get pregnant annually (WHO).
  • · 49% of pregnancies among adolescents are unintended (Guttmacher).
  • · Pregnancy and birth-related complications are a leading cause of death among girls ages 15-19 (WHO).
  • · 777,000 very young adolescents, aged 10-14, gave birth in 2016 (Guttmacher).

Menstruation is still misunderstood in many places such as South Asia, parts of Africa and the Middle east, causing girls to be shunned and excluded from everyday activities? On the other hand, it is not limited to developing countries and “outside” cultures, but right here in the USA and UK there is something called “Period Poverty. Besides the stigma around menstruation there exists the additional problem of a high number of girls who cannot attend school due to the lack of access to feminine hygiene products.

When lack of knowledge, shame and fear create a sense of belonging within communities because of stigma’s, myths and taboos the result inadvertently leads to young adults making poor choices and reactions when it comes to Pregnancies, STD’s, HIV & even understanding, tolerance or acceptance of LGBTQ identities.

It is important that we overcome barriers created from stigmas, taboos and myths and instead offer support and positive attitudes towards the discussion of reproductive health and sex with our young adolescents. We have access to so many resources full of information on these topics for our children to learn about their bodies and their reproductive health, something that is important for both boys and girls.

Adolescence is the timeframe when young people form their own attitudes and beliefs, thus equipping them with the understanding of their bodies, sex and sexuality education and contraception are the skills which can give them the ability to navigate the challenges and opportunities during their transition through puberty and adulthood as well as make better decisions when it comes to sexual activity.

Society has changed and there is so much to keep up with in the Western Hemisphere when it comes to our growing children, changing norms and lifestyles. It is not only family planning and body knowledge but also a health issue. No matter what our ethnic background, culture, beliefs, faiths or social norms, one thing remains true- nurturing these taboos

& stigmas only continue the cycle of ignorance to bleed into other generations, but young people, when educated, encouraged and supported, can become empowered to thrive and contribute to their communities, families and most importantly to themselves towards healthier and happier futures.

These websites provide insurance information and resources for parents of young adults and children including coverage flowcharts for each state, a free App, and FAQs on relationships, pregnancy and contraceptive coverage so you can start the discussion in a safe, nurturing environment with your child.

Protecting our children from sex abuse.

From my own personal experience with childhood sex abuse and as a target of severe workplace harassment had I been taught at an early age what inappropriate touching, personal space and boundaries were I might have been better equipped to navigate the different circumstances of the sexual abuse and harassment I encountered.

I have made it one of my missions to help raise awareness and educate others about sexual abuse among children. I advocate for the importance of parents and other trusted adults who care for young children on a daily basis to be alert and educated on some very simple things we may overlook which can be signs of or lead to inappropriate sexual behavior towards young children.

Teaching our children about Consent, Personal space, Boundaries and Inappropriate behavior so that they know what to look for is key & it is never too early to show them that their words are powerful tools in safe guarding or protecting themselves.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in four girls experience sexual abuse before they turn 18, however the fact is all genders are at risk. Some may find it sensitive or uncomfortable and may even question my “expertise” on the topic, which is where I would respond that living it is expertise enough! In our daily lives there are so many seemingly innocent behaviors and body language queues that go unnoticed or dismissed that are actual telltale signs that something is amiss. We choose to overlook it either by feeling of guilt, shame or awkwardness if we strike up the confrontation and ask questions. I can assure you that as a parents I never apologize for being too vigilant or careful and if another adult cannot see the value in that then it speaks more about them than you. My motto is “when in doubt, dont!” I tend to trust my gut and usually I am right.

Conversations should start at an early age, appropriate for the child & often. Approaching the topic does not have to be more difficult than it seems. We get so excited in the first few years of our children’s lives about mommy and me classes, ballet, soccer, gymnastics etc, why aren’t we getting excited about giving them the tools to protect themselves not only physically, but emotionally and mentally too. We should want them to grasp the concept of personal space, respect for others and themselves early on as this also helps with maintaining healthy relationships in the future.

When your child begins discovering their bodies and asking questions is the perfect time to have age appropriate conversations pointing out what private body parts are and the correct words to describe their body parts – your child has a Penis or a Vagina- use the right words! Explain that it is not appropriate for anyone to touch them there or for them to touch another person there and understanding that their bodies belong to them.

We can teach awareness and still be clear that no one is allowed to touch our Private Parts. Period! There is no good touch, bad touch because this can be confusing. Exploration of your child’s body by other children or adults can result in unintentional sexual behavior.

I explain to my child that “I show you mine, you show me yours” when it comes to her body isn’t allowed. Private parts are just that PRIVATE!

Every family is made up differently, with that in mind, creating a network of safe adults that your child can trust, who they know will listen and believe them if something should happen or if they feel sad, uncomfortable, scared or worried is very important. This encourages them to share their thoughts and feelings much more willingly. Patiently ask questions if your child suddenly becomes withdrawn, sad, depressed or show any abnormal behaviors.

Assure your children that if something were to happen that you will not be angry, reassure them that they are loved and will be believed. This is a very crucial element, and it is always better to be safe than sorry. Children should be confident that they can trust their trusted caring adults enough to tell them when something is wrong without shame, blame or guilt.

It is important that children understand they have the right to say NO! Their Bodies, Their Rules. We want our children to understand they are in charge of their own bodies, which means they get to choose whether they give a hug, a high five or a hand shake and if they don’t feel up to it, then it is okay. It is important that they recognize they are brave, courageous and strong enough to use their words and voices to protect themselves.

Pay attention to your child’s emotional queues- if they are uncomfortable or resistant to a specific person(s) or place, find out why and don’t assume they are being rude or having a bad day. Don’t force your child to visit with any person they are not comfortable with. However, also be observant if your child becomes too fond of any particular person- adult or child, family or friends.

You know the environment you provide for your child’s safety, however, you may not necessarily know another person’s environment. Make a point of knowing what kind of play or activities your child is involved in when they are spending time with friends and family and any circumstances that can put them at risk. This includes concerns if you have any about the parental control, type of conversations and entertainment allowed by those friends and family.

Teach children that they should not keep secrets. No adult or child should ask your child to keep a secret from you, in addition talk to them about what a bribe is and to not take any candy or gifts in exchange for doing something that makes them uncomfortable.

If you need to keep certain people, activities, or anything that can threaten your child physically or mentally then do so and don’t feel guilty or apologize for it. Your child’s safety comes first.

Maintain parental control of electronic devices and use of the internet within the home. Pay attention to the websites and people your children are communicating with when online and monitor their usage.

When electronics with cameras are not in use, put tape over the camera lens, turn them down or shut them off to prevent the possibility of someone gaining unwanted access to your device camera. Teach children to not give out addresses, phone numbers, emails, or tell anyone the whereabouts of their parents or families. Even over the internet

Teach them that taking pictures of their private parts is not okay.

Create secret code words for if they are ever in a dangerous situation. Either by text or phone call that they have a safe and unsuspecting way of letting you know they need help.

Knowledge is Power and our goal is give our boys and girls the power to be safe.

Have conversations often, when the time feels natural and comfortable because we just cannot say it enough. If there is reason to suspect that there is abuse to a child remember to react responsibly. Don’t keep quiet, take up the issue, ask lots of questions and connect to the appropriate authorities. Prevention is always better than Cure. Having your children understand the value of and enjoy standing out of the crowd is rewarding, because many times the ones who are able to defend themselves and even others are the ones who stand out. They are indeed unique!

Here is an awesome, fun and informative video to help get the conversation started easily.

Questions or comments connect with me via twitter or email. Thanks for reading, Rehanna.

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Rising Up

Before there was a #MeToo or #TimesUp movement,.. like so many others, there was me. I remember vividly the first time I was sexually harassed. It was in Trinidad, where I was born and raised until moving to the USA in my teens.

I was only 12 or 13 years old when my mother sent me to the supermarket just a short walk from our home. A man who must have been in his 20’s whistled at me to gain my attention. When that did not work, he turned to making the all-too-familiar sound that every woman in was subjected to and knew only too well: “pssssst!”-

That simple, yet seemingly harmless sound used by men to command a woman’s attention on the street, that for them is supposed to be a compliment, was (and still is) a sound that causes a sinking feeling in my stomach, and a sense of shame. It is Dehumanizing.

Being the brave young girl I was, I wanted to put that man in his place. So I shouted at him: “What happen, something stick in yuh teeth?”

Well, can I just tell you, I was unprepared for the response he belted out:

“Yes! Salt fish!” – one of the many island synonyms for a woman’s genitalia.

The shame I felt across my being was enough to make me hide for days. I scurried along speedily hoping no one else witnessed my humiliation.

Years and years of catcalls, lewd comments and outright blatant harassment later, spanning from Trinidad across the ocean to America’s workplace, I still share that heat of shame and disgust one feels whenever the eyes of strange men are undressing them, or even worse saying profane things in their native languages to each other when they are in a group.

Unfortunately, catcalls turned into my worst, most recent experience with harassment, which in some ways echoed similar allegations the world has recently come to know of by other powerful and famous men. Harassment that I had to endure because I had bills to pay. Then I did not have a job anymore, because one day I became a mother and I guess along with gaining a precious little girl I also grew some serious courage. I knew I had to finally take a stand. A stand not only for myself, but for my daughter. After all, our children’s first role models are us, the parents.

Channeling Maya Angelou, I decided to rise up for any other person who would suffer the narcissistic audacity of those who seem to believe a person’s body is an invitation to be sexually inappropriate,.. either physically or verbally. Be it through lewd comments or violent molestation, to then be robbed of their livelihood and thrown out on the street like a diseased animal when they protest and fight against the unwanted and illegal behavior. Yes! Sexual Harassment is illegal.

Sexual Harassment is a form of Sexual Violence and assault. Depending on the severity of the harassment, the toll on its victims can be similar to those who are physically violated. It carries the physical, emotional, mental, and financial burdens of having to face the insult, shame, and uncertainties along with the psychological issues being a perpetrator’s target brings. I know for me it did and there are still lingering effects of it.

No one asks to be harassed, abused, or discriminated against. No one deserves that or should have to experience it. To insinuate that because someone is free-spirited, looks a certain way, dresses in a particular style, identifies with a certain group, or chooses to express themselves differently than what is considered “normal,” is somehow an invitation to be imposed upon is wrong.

Where has the humane in humanity gone? Where is the simple common decency of respect for others? Where is the tolerance, and what gives someone the idea that acting sexually inappropriate towards another person is okay? What makes a man believe that an unassuming woman who has no idea he even exists wants to be in bed with him?

Society assumes that women are responsible for ensuring that men don’t get out of control with their sexual emotions. Well, why the hell aren’t men responsible for their own actions and behavior? We cannot control how other people choose to react or behave towards a situation, but we should all know right from wrong.

If we are going to give validity to this notion, then explain why, in other societies and cultures, where women are fully clothed from head to toe, that they are also raped and abused on a daily basis. Young girls, little children, fall victims as well.

Women, and even men should not have to be modest in order to be respected. We live in a society where beauty is considered being free and confident, and being confident is to be strong. Today, being strong is speaking ones truth. I know I spoke mine and while it resulted in loosing my job to console the “good ol’ boys club”– the truth would always be the truth which is on my side.

Every day is a challenge because there are days when I feel powerful and empowered, but then there are days when I just feel angry and frustrated. Nothing worth fighting for has ever been easy or without sacrifice. Every day can be a struggle, and some of us end up paying the ultimate sacrifice. Empowerment comes with expenses—financial, psychological, and social—but it is well worth the price. Standing up for ones’ self, standing up for others, and standing up for what is right, can change your life.

Our silence is finally broken, not because we did not have a voice, but because we were frightened into not using it. Today we demand the respect we always deserved and should have received without a fight. Now our voices are echoing off every corner of the earth, thanks to organized movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, which have inspired and created one of the most important conversations necessary in our society, and even the world. They have shamed accusers and culprits out of hiding who will hopefully be brought to justice and hopefully this revolution of sorts is not a topical one.

In my story, my future is still uncertain and might be for some time, but what is certain, is that I am determined to make every day better than the last, not just for me, but for my daughter, and for anyone who is going through their own struggles as a result of sexual harassment and sexual violence. In so doing, I have dedicated my efforts to working with organizations and campaigns to help spread awareness, education, and support for victims of sexual and domestic violence.

I encourage anyone who is a target of sexual assault to know they have everything they need inside them: the strength and courage to stand up to that perpetrator. It does not matter how powerful and intimidating your abuser is. No one has the right to violate your personal space or you. And you are powerful enough to do something about it.