Sunday, June 15, 2014

Why Don't People Care?

When you reveal you are a victim of abuse, a survivor of war or combat, let your friends know your partner is harming you and your children, etc....why don't people care?

Once the polite 30 seconds of sympathy are over, the intrusive curious questions and blame begin.  Why is that?

But people do care, you may be saying.  People as a whole are good-hearted, generous, and protective of those who are suffering.  But people are not a whole, they are individuals, and they are individually very selective about who and what they "care" about.  If you've ever found yourself in the "not so much" column, you'll know what I mean.  And you will have asked yourself "why don't people care?"

Judith Herman, author of Trauma and Recovery has some answers in the first few pages of her classic book about violence.  If you have been on the receiving end of the invisible slap in the face that is not caring, her words may bring you some resolution and comfort:

...when traumatic events are of human design, those who bear witness are caught in the conflict between victim and perpetrator. It is morally impossible to remain neutral in this conflict. The bystander is forced to take sides.

It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.

...In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. Secrecy and silence are the perpetrator's first line of defense. if secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of the victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens. To this end, he marshals an impressive array of arguments, from the most blatant denial to the most sophisticated and elegant rationalization.
After every atrocity one can expect to hear the same predictable apologies: it never happened; the victim lies; the victim exaggerates; the victim brought it upon herself; and in any case it is time to forget the past and move on. The more powerful the perpetrator, the greater is his prerogative to name and define reality, and the more completely his arguments prevail.

The perpetrator's arguments prove irresistible when the bystander faces them in isolation. Without a supportive social environment, the bystander usually succumbs to the temptation to look the other way. This is true even when the victim is an idealized and valued member of society. Soldiers in every war, even those who have been regarded as heroes, complain bitterly that no one wants to know the real truth about war. When the victim is already devalued (a woman, a child), she may find that the most traumatic events of her life take place outside the realm of socially validated reality. Her experience becomes unspeakable.
Asking a friend, partner, or parent to support you turns out to be a much bigger deal than you might think because of the burden of joining you in your pain and shame to stand with you.  Herman goes on to say the answer lies in forming a responsive social alliance to counteract the automatic advantage that goes to abusers:
...To hold traumatic reality in consciousness requires a social context that affirms and protects the victim and that joins victim and witness in a common alliance. For the individual victim, this social context is created by relationships with friends, lovers, and family. For the larger society, the social context is created by political movements that give voice to the disempowered.
The systematic study of psychological trauma therefore depends on the support of a political movement. Indeed, whether such study can be pursued or discussed in public is itself a political question. The study of war trauma becomes legitimate only in a context that challenges the sacrifice of young men in war. The study of trauma in sexual and domestic life becomes legitimate only in a context that challenges the subordination of women and children.
Advances in the field occur only when they are supported by a political movement powerful enough to legitimatize an alliance between investigators and [victims] and to counteract the ordinary social processes of silencing and denial. In the absence of strong political movements for human rights, the active process of bearing witness inevitably gives way to the active process of forgetting. Repression, dissociation, and denial are phenomena of social as well as individual consciousness. (p 9)

WNL:  If you've been assaulted, abused, stalked, or any of a number of bad things that can happen, you have not only been changed by the situation, but also by the response of those around you to that situation.  Your best bet is to connect with hotlines and resource organizations specializing in what happened to you and take full advantage of their expertise.  Family and friends can be your supplemental source of support.  They can't be what you need on their own.  

When you are secure and in recovery, you can be one of those people that builds a political movement that changes things for people like you. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Cell Phone Self Defense

You probably already think of your cell phone as a safety device.  How about taking fuller advantage of its possibilities with some of the specially designed apps you could put on it, most of them completely free.

Among the list below are some first-generation safety programs, aimed at girls who go out in a dangerous world.  A bit damsel-in-distress oriented, but still useful.  Others are for people of any gender who go to remote or dangerous places, and could use a lifeline.  Suggestion:  Take a look at several before you decide, maybe even download and try out a few.  Most are free and the most expensive has a 30-day free trial.

Circle of  6 is an award-winning app for iPhone and Android.  It sends SOS alerts from your phone, using GPS, to notify your selected circle of 6 about your situation, to call you or come get you.  Preprogrammed hotline numbers and a local emergency number of your choice.

Red Panic Button ($2.99) is an iPhone and Android app that, when set up by an adult, looks perfect for a child or older adult who might need rescuing - like missing a bus connection - or even safely staying home alone.

MyForce  puts a live security guard in your pocket for $15.00 a month.  With the slogan "Never walk alone" you send an alert and their 24/7 safety agents act instantly, pinpointing your exact location and tracking your whereabouts. There's no need to tell them where you are or what's happening.  They listen in and assess the details.  30-day free trial.  For Android, iPhone, BlackBerry.

bSafe You says "peace of mind is priceless" but they also position this app as a lifestyle assistant, which is a little weird, but in a way refreshing.  Claims to work everywhere in all countries, for iPhone and Android, the features list starts with keeping track of friends and where they are.  Next comes a "Hide" feature when you don't want to share your location.  Then, a map feature and a flashlight.

BSafe Fake Call to get you out of meetings or dates.  Make the phone ring with a tap so you can answer and make a getaway.   Easy private check-in and meet-up features.

Help is one tap away.  "When bSafe You is open on your screen it forces the screen to stay open for safety right at your fingertips."  Nice!  If alarm is triggered you set off an optional siren, and bSafe starts recording video and voice as well as broadcasting your location.  Video, voice, location, and time stamps are stored securely on servers to share with police. 

Set a timer to follow you while jogging or hiking.  If you have not checked in on time bSafe alarm will alert your Guardians.  Your Guardians (people you choose) will get access to your full trace from when Timer Mode was activated as well as evidence gathered by video and voice. 

WNL:  This is an interesting and creatively-featured social and safety app all in one.  And it's free for iPhone and Android.  Worth a long look.

EmergenSee personal security system is an app free for families, individuals, and college students, with additional service applications for colleges, businesses and government agencies.  Review a list of features the safety app includes here.  When you send an alert, your contacts are notified along with 911 if you wish, and video and audio are activated on your phone.  There is also a stealth recording feature where the phone appears to be off yet is still recording video and audio.  I believe this may be unique to EmergenSee.

This company offering the free app is geared towards all sort of business, university, and international applications.  Talk to them about your needs and they may have some ideas.  

Wickr Leave No Trace is an app for one of your other security needs - the ability to communicate securely.  From the website:   
The Internet is forever.  Your private communications don´t need to be. Wickr is a free app that provides: military-grade encryption of text, picture, audio and video messages, sender-based control over who can read messages, where and for how long, best available privacy, anonymity and secure file shredding features, security that is simple to use.
For Android and iPhone, and its Free.

WNL:  This is an amazing and expanding side of personal technology that has the potential to change women's lives.  Indian women are creating apps and the YWCA of Singapore has one for the Android OS as well.  Amnesty International is building an app for journalists and activists in danger, which turns out to be more complicated than you might think.  Community RED, a woman-run startup in Washington, D.C., is interfacing with journalists in danger to come up with hacks and applications to keep news flowing and people safe.