Photo by Tony Cece

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mental Health Professional Training Take 2

 Today we led a conference for mental health professionals working as community health workers, counselors, and administrators. The workers came to Into Abba’s Arms for three presentations on drugs, alcohol, and human trafficking presented by Dr. Benjamin Keyes and some of his students. After each presentation the professionals were divided into three groups for discussions about what they had just learned. 

During the first small group about drugs and alcohol group members discussed personal experiences. Each group member seemed to have a member from his or her immediate family who struggled with substance abuse, primarily alcohol abuse. One woman even shared her current struggle related to her husband’s alcohol abuse. This substance abuse started prior to their marriage, however he promised to stop abusing alcohol. To this day he has not kept his promise. She shared that he started physically abusing her when she was pregnant with their daughter. He has not abused his baby girl but continues to physically abuse his wife. Recently she went to her pastor and shared about her husband’s alcohol addiction; she did not share about her husband’s physical abuse. Having the opportunity to talk to the group as well as talking to some members from our team seemed to be beneficial since she has not shared this trauma with many people.  Other groups during the first group session discussed the alcohol abuse prevalence and how it has negatively affected entire families and the community. Many professionals mentioned how death, loss of relationships, broken families, theft, and robbery have been the result of the use of alcohol among the population.

The second group discussion was focused on relating the information they had learned about substance abuse, primarily alcohol, to their professions.  During this group’s session the question arose “Does alcohol use make someone become a rapist?” Discussion followed about the high prevalence of raping babies and bestiality. The overwhelming pain was evident in the faces of the group members. Their countenance completely changed to that of sorrow and shame. During this group session, another group was made aware of the relationship between alcohol use and the initiation into adulthood. Clarity was given by the group members to our team about the initiation process. The cultural initiation process into adulthood includes the exposure to drugs, alcohol, and deviant sexual behaviors. This occurs over a 10-day ceremony where the older men in the community give the boy who is being initiated an excessive amount of drugs and alcohol. Also, the older men may perform sexual acts upon the boy or bring him a prostitute. Parents often say that their child returns as a different person with substance addiction. The group members shared that they believe educating children about substance abuse prior to this initiation would help prevent a majority of substance abuse problems. Some Christian parents do not allow their children to participate in this type of initiation. There are some churches that provide another type of initiation into adulthood; however these Christian initiations are not as popular. The group discussed ways to educate people about the negative effects of the cultural initiation ceremonies as well as other healthy ways to initiate children into adulthood. The third group mentioned ideas for ways to educate the people about substance abuse through the use of concerts. During their conversation, the group facilitators were made aware that many of the male professionals believe that any alcoholic abuse was because of the females. Many of the men stated that if women did not make their lives so difficult then they would not have a reason to drink.

The third group session was to be a reflection upon the human trafficking presentation. Walking into this group, there was a heavy feeling. During this group time it seemed like many of the members of one group were particularly stunned and overwhelmed by the information that they had learned. One woman asked “What is it that makes a full grown man want to have sex with a little baby? What parent would sell their child into the sex industry?” It became apparent that many in the group have known people who have taken “good jobs” in Saudi Arabia and have not returned nor been in contact. They seemed absolutely devastated when learning that human trafficking is a worldwide issue and that even the “great” United States suffers from this problem. Another group discussed ways to prevent human trafficking through the use of educating young women on ways that they can avoid trafficking. It was also apparent in this group that the men view the women as the cause to human trafficking. They believe that the women sell themselves and their children on purpose and it would not be an issue if they did not sell themselves. Within another group during the session it was evident that some of the people had personal experience with threats of human trafficking. One woman in particularly recalled a time when she was almost trafficked and she was very thankful that her mother intervened. This topic seemed to weigh heavy everyone’s heart.

During debriefing we had a lot to discuss. The members of our team experienced a variety of emotions throughout the day, ranging from sadness, irritation, anger, and a desire to see God heal and transform the people and the culture. It seemed like today has been the hardest day yet because there is so much change that needs to happen and this change will take time. Women are still seen as second or less than men and with this perspective; many women are abused without anywhere to go for help. One change that has occurred over the past year (since the previous Regent Trauma Team was here) is that churches are less likely to excommunicate a woman for leaving her abusive husband. Now, a woman needs to communicate her situation with her husband to her pastor prior to leaving so that she may remain a member of the church. It is encouraging to hear about this change; however, we are continuing to pray for more change to occur. We greatly appreciate you joining us in this prayer. Please continue to pray for us as we continue to fight against cultural norms and minister to these people. We’ve been told that today is a foretaste to what we will be doing this coming week with the pastor’s, women’s, and men’s conferences. Thanks for praying…we are now going to eat chocolate and listen to worship music. J

- Kelly and Sarah

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