Reflections from inside Rape Culture

A few weeks ago I started, and never quite finished, a post of a few of the more amusing moments I’ve had in therapy.   Those ridiculous things that I deal with that are so obviously answered, yet depressed people can’t even form into questions.  But then on my drive home today I was musing about a few more of these and I remembered a less-than-funny bit of my therapy in high school.

Throughout high school I was in theater.  I was a kickass techie, propmaster, and all around killer crew kid.  Up until I got a job and had to cut back, I spent pretty much all of my after school hours in tech, or waiting around for tech to start.

Some days we would wait around the school for an hour or more waiting for things to start up.  Or there would be nothing for us to do, so we would just hang around outside the actual theater.  Of course, there were all kinds of other kids doing this as well, or waiting for other things, rides, sports. whatever.  All things were good.

Except this one kid…

During my freshman year in high school, we would hang around, waiting for the backstage area to open, waiting to be told what to do, waiting for rides, etc.  There was this one kid who wasn’t in theater or anything.  I never had any idea what he was always doing around after school got out, but he gave me the creeps.  He had some distant acquaintanceship with one of my friends, so he would hang around us.  But, ugh, he gave me the creeps.  He was always standing too close.  Make too personal of jokes at me.  Asking other people weird things about me.  Offering me and no one else rides home.  To the point that he was following me around the school.  If I left to talk to a teacher or use the computer lab away from my friends, he would be right around the corner.  When I told him to stop or leave me alone, he would laugh.  If a friend told him to back off, he would laugh.  It got to the point that I didn’t want to leave the green room or stage area.  I knew the director always had a fit if non-tech or non-actors were back there, so I always made up a reason to be back there or took a friend if I had another errand to run.

I was 15.  I had no idea what else to do at this point.  I was in therapy, so I told my therapist what was going on.  I told him that this was making me not want to go to tech crew.  Well, rather than figuring out what action to take and what to do, my therapist decides to tell me “Oh he’s just interested and doesn’t know how to show it.”  He tried to convince me I was being insecure because of depression.  That this was just a kid with a crush.  When I continued to tell him that it made me REALLY FREAKED OUT and HIDE IN THE GREENROOM, he advised me “Well if you’re not interested, just don’t pay attention.  He’ll eventually move on.”

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Well, let’s just talk about how much better that all made me feel.  I should apparently be flattered that this guy is following me around and being super inappropriate in all ways.  But it’s only because he has a crush.  I shouldn’t be scared or creeped out at all.  I’m just insecure.  Great.

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I feel 100% positive I’m not the only person who has gone through something like this and gotten this type of advice.  And I wish I could even say something about how this therapist was a horrible, sexist, asshole.  But, truth is, he was wonderful in many ways.  He helped me through that first episode of depression and get my head back on track.  The horrible thing is that this is such a natural response to the issue I brought forward for so many people.  What should I have expected?  What could he have said?  Shit, I would have been fine with “I’m sorry, that sucks and it sucks that people like that exist.”  Just to know that this wasn’t something I should expect or something that is okay for people to have to deal with or something that is somehow a positive because it means I’m attractive.

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This is just one day-to-day example of rape culture.  Luckily in my case, nothing horrible happened.  I made it through the show season by hiding and using the buddy system.  The school year ended and I actually never saw the kid again.  Never asked what happened and never wanted to know.  It was nice, after that, to be able to stay after school and walk around freely, not worrying if someone was following me.  Not feeling uncomfortable, hiding, or pulling another friend away from their business so I could pee.

I’m sure someone out there can tell me I was/am overreacting or making something out of nothing.  But here is the truth:  I was freaked out and uncomfortable.  I felt unsafe.  The adult I trusted enough to say something to diminished and even normalized it.  It’s not normal.  It shouldn’t be normal to feel like that.

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The State of Mental Healthcare


I currently work in the community mental health setting.  A setting that is primarily funded by state and federal dollars and primarily serves low income, high need clients.   Clients that seek community mental health are usually those that are ill to the point their disorders and symptoms interfere with their ability to function in a work or school setting, many with a history of incarceration or hospitalization (in my experience there is little difference between these two, both revolving doors of shitting care and overmedication), but with regular care and appropriate support would be able to live like “normal” people.  Unfortunately, rarely is this care ever provided consistently or appropriately.

Since I started working in my field, I’ve pretty much rotated between working in schools (alternative and traditional) and community care.  But my disgust at how the system fucks some of, not only the most needy clients, but some that could have massive potential if they were given proper care.  Children with learning, behavior, and sensory integration disorders are routinely put on the back burner in schools, not receiving proper assessments or interventions.  They fall behind a little bit more every year until they are failing, their sense of self and identity become defined by failure.  The risk factors add up, one after another until they become absorbed by the mental health and education systems that failed them in the first place.

For individuals with chronic mental illness, thought disorders, personality disorders, severe emotional disorders, or developmental disabilities the bureaucracy  that is mental health is worse.  Wait lists of many community mental health centers number in the hundreds.  Social workers, whose caseloads should be no larger than about 20 in order for them to actually help the individuals they serve, are usually closer to 50-60.  Psychiatric hospitals deal with overcrowding by over-dosing clients on sedatives.  Hospitals rarely provide treatment, instead the have settled for assessment, stabilization, and providing guardians/family with a list of recommendations so vague they can hardly be followed.  That list usually includes a recommendation for individual therapy, psychiatric medication consultation, and case management….at those community mental health centers with the hundred person wait list.  This leaves a 3-6 month gap in treatment in which clients are left to their own devices.  Some, depending on the severity of their symptoms and the level of dedication of their support systems, can manage to go back to some semblance of a life, perhaps a job or school.  Others, however, cannot.  They will cycle in and out of crisis care and hospitalization, most end up in prison.  Millions self-medicate with street drugs, leading to addictions and worsening of the core symptoms.

Then you get to the systemic problems caused by this failed system.  Families are effected, parents, children, siblings, grandparents.  Because lack of treatment leaves them so ill they cannot hold a job, they are forced to go on disability.  Not only does that have an economic impact, but it leads to boredom and decreased motivation to get better.  Mentally ill individuals are viewed by others as lazy, dangerous, or stupid, which has an impact on their own self-image and sense that they can do something more with their lives.  Constant failed attempts at getting help lead many to give up.  Institutions and psychiatric hospitals that could have provided treatment (the level and kind of treatment provided is a completely separate issue) have been replaced by prisons.  Most mentally ill are still placed in general population, provided little to no treatment outside of medication, and eventually released with no resources.    Again, we cycle back to economic and family impacts.  The cycle repeats year after year.

Our culture likes to put mental health on the back burner.  As a society, we think the mentally ill are mentally ill.  They cannot be helped.  We think this because it is what we see.  Chronic mental illness equates to stupidity, laziness, and criminality.  But this comes from what the system has done to mental health care.  And it is also self-perpetuating.  If we think about the mentally ill as dirty, stupid, homeless criminals, we can accept their lack of care.  They are the “other.”  They’re not like us and they don’t deserve our federal dollars because they will always be that stupid, gross, crazy person.  So, it become easier for us to ignore or be okay with the lack of mental health care.  The media’s portayal of the shooter from the Colorado spree is perfect.  He was crazy, therefore he was dangerous and must be locked up.  This must also apply to all other crazy people.

There are thousands of trained therapists and social workers dying for work.  People go into this field wanting to help.  They have ideas and dedication, they just need the funding.  Every time I see a mental health center or service be closed down, funding cut, etc, I go a little crazy inside.  Where do politicians think this will save money?  They are leaving high need adults and children without care and vulnerable to everything I already talked about.  Funding cuts for mental health will lead to an increase in crime and dependence on federal disability money.  Many of the clients they put out want to work and want to contribute to society, but they need continuous support to be able to function.  With that support, they can do amazing things.

So, fuck you bureaucracy.  And shitty run around that causes crime and death.