What Teens Really Need from Us

By Amy Torchia, Children’s Advocacy Coordinator, Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

My personal lesson this month has been about adolescent development and the responsibilities that adults have in the lives of teens.

At a training this week, I heard a scenario of a middle school relationship.  The boy sent abusive accusing jealous texts to his girlfriend.  The boy had lots of unhealthy relationships to watch and model, transition and trauma to contend with – not to mention the experience of racism and a culture dominated by male privilege telling him that he had the right to exert this kind of control over his partner.  The girl was from a home with lots of healthy models but nonetheless a girl hearing from the larger world to be strong and stand up for herself and, at the same time, take care of her boyfriend’s needs and watch the length of her shorts.  How confusing is all that to figure out?  We adults want them both to succeed, be safe and happy, and learn about and engage in healthy relationships.  But, they can’t do it without us.  They are only 14.

We lost a teen boy in our community last night.  He was swimming with friends in the pond, went under and didn’t resurface.  We don’t know what happened yet.  Most likely he was dehydrated or had a cramp.  This beautiful young man’s life was cut short and his family, friends and community are devastated.  He was only 17.

I have been watching his friends on facebook.  They are sharing stories, expressing their love for him, their love for each other and offering to spend time together and talk.  They have created a beautiful safe forum to grieve together and support one another.  I have a worry, though.  I have seen a few invitations to go out and get blasted together in honor of him and a few stories of reckless and unsafe behavior.  In the wake of the death of a friend, Continue reading

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Survivors as Caregivers

By Brittany Lafirira, Youth Advocate, H.O.P.E. Works

Being a survivor of sexual violence is hard. You go through times where your assault or abuse doesn’t cross your mind and then, suddenly something happens and it’s all you think about. Becoming a parent or caregiver is sometimes the thing that triggers past thoughts or feelings. While we often hear that being pregnant and starting a family is the best thing that can happen to someone, there isn’t a lot of talk about how scary and harmful that process can be.

A lot of research has been done on how becoming pregnant can impact survivors. It changes your hormone levels and can be a painful feeling like you have less control over your body. Once the baby is born the risk of post-partum depression increases with being a survivor. If you are a survivor and are thinking about starting a family there are many resources available. Often times Midwives will be more trauma informed and can help make check-ups and the birthing process as comfortable as possible for you. Talking to them about your past trauma will help you get the care you need. For some reading and other resources check out:

For resources on pregnancy and surviving trauma see here and here.

Something that isn’t often talked about is what happens once the baby is born. How trauma can manifest in different ways. Adoptive and Step-Parents are also often left out Continue reading

Great video on how kids’ brains are built!

Hi Friends – taking a minute to connect you to Let’s Grow Kids!

Let’s Grow Kids, a Vermont statewide public education campaign, aims to raise understanding of the importance of the earliest years in the lives of Vermont’s children. Funded by a collaboration of private foundations, Let’s Grow Kids is working with Vermont communities, organizations, businesses and individuals to create positive lasting change that will allow all of our children to succeed in life.

Did you know that our children’s earliest experiences literally shape how their brains are built? Science tells us that during the earliest years, when the brain is developing most rapidly, children need nurturing relationships with adults and stimulating learning opportunities, like reading, singing, talking and playing, for healthy development.

Watch this excellent 4-minute video by The Alberta Family Wellness Initiative explaining the brain science of early development—and the factors that contribute to preparing our children for success:

How Brains are Built: The Core Story of Brain 

To learn more about early childhood development, check out Let’s Grow Kids, a statewide public education campaign about the first years, at letsgrowkids.org.

Remembering Teens Living With Domestic Violence

By: Judy Szeg, Advocate at Safeline in Chelsea, Vermont

We hear a lot about children who are exposed to domestic violence (also known as IPV – Intimate Partner Violence).  Unfortunately, we don’t hear or talk nearly enough about teens who are living in homes where one of their parents or caretakers is hurting the other. It is as if kids in homes with IPV become invisible when they become middle school age. Continue reading

How Childhood Trauma Could Be Mistaken for ADHD

By: Amy Torchia, Children’s Program Coordinator, Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

It feels like Advocates have been talking about this for years.  We know that a good number of the kids with whom we work – children and teens who have experienced domestic violence, child sexual abuse, and sexual assault – are diagnosed with ADHD.  We have had infinite conversations with caretakers about situations where their children have been prescribed stimulants for ADHD to help increase neurotransmitter levels (connected to pleasure, movement, and attention) with no apparent positive impact on their behavior or emotional well-being.

Children who have experienced trauma often behave in ways that resemble those associated with ADHD.  They may have difficulty controlling their behavior and may quickly shift from one mood to the next. They might periodically ‘relive’ a terrifying memory and lose focus or become hyper-vigilant anticipating a threat to their safety.

For this group of children, could it be that it isn’t ADHD that is driving their seemingly inattentive, hyperactive and impulsive behavior?  Could it instead be Continue reading

Survey Says: Start Early!

By: Bethany Pombar, Prevention Specialist, Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

This week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new report on intimate partner violence analyzing data from the groundbreaking 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS). With this new report comes some support for what advocates already knew- victims’ first experience of violence at the hands of a partner happens early.   The survey tells us: Continue reading