Each week our experts and will offer their opinion each week on the status, shifts, and other movements across the continuum of Black sexuality and relationships. In addition, our experts “weigh in” on hot topics and serve as thought leaders for our community. Should you have any topics or issues that you would like our experts to chime in on, please feel free to send an email to The community wants to hear from you!

December 20, 2015
The Black Bisexual Men’s Moment
By H. Sharif Williams aka Dr. Herukhuti

Miles Brock and Yusaf Mack. Where do I begin to speak my part of the conversation about these two Black bisexual men? I asked myself that question as I struggled for a week to write this article. It was a new sense of discursive constipation for me—someone who can crank out an article or well-developed response email in a matter of hours. But I couldn’t seem to start even the first paragraph as the days came and went, which is a problem in the age of social media public intellectual work. Gotta get the story out quick. No more than 800 words. Get in and get out. Move on to the next trending topic.

My only comfort has been that I know something that most people don’t. This moment of reflection on Black bisexual masculinities is going to be with us for a while (however long a while lasts at this time in human history when the public’s attention span seems to be shrinking by the hashtag). In mathematics, three or more points on the same line suggest a pattern. Meaning, if something happens once it can be an isolated incident; twice and it still may not be predictive of anything, but three or more times and you start to have reason to believe something like a movement or a series of related re-occurrences may be happening. That’s what I see happening now with the emergence of a continuing conversation at the intersection of Blackness, bisexuality and maleness.

In 2012, R&B/Hip Hop music artist Frank Ocean published a letter of love on his social media account to share with the world his capacity to romantically love men, thereby opening up a conversation about his sexual fluidity. Gay journalists and social media commentators rushed to label him gay. For his part, Ocean maintained an illusive posture, eschewing labeling of his sexuality and generating more ambiguity, mystery and liminality regarding his sex life than is associated with the coming out cliché of openness, transparency and definitiveness.

One year later, 2013, Mister Cee, former DJ for Big Daddy Kane, associate executive producer on Notorious B.I.G.’s debut album Ready to Die and New York Hip Hop radio personality, responds to arrests that include solicitation of sex workers some of whom are transgender women. Resisting gay as an identity, he discusses the challenge of living with desires that cut across genders while being Black and male.

The fall of 2014, New York Times columnist Charles Blow publishes his memoir Fire Shut Up in My Bones and publicly declares himself to be bisexual and launches a nationwide book tour in which he discusses his experience of living at the intersections of Blackness, bisexuality and manhood. For the first time in its history, the oldest and largest LGBT pride celebration, NYC Pride, in June of this year 2015 had its first bisexual grand marshal, J Christopher Neal, a Black bisexual man. Neal is the founder of FluidBiDesign, an organization that provides programming and support for bisexual and sexually fluid people of African descent.

The fall of 2014, New York Times columnist Charles Blow publishes his memoir Fire Shut Up in My Bones and publicly declares himself to be bisexual and launches a nationwide book tour in which he discusses his experience of living at the intersections of Blackness, bisexuality and manhood. For the first time in its history, the oldest and largest LGBT pride celebration, NYC Pride, in June of this year 2015 had its first bisexual grand marshal, J Christopher Neal, a Black bisexual man. Neal is the founder of FluidBiDesign, an organization that provides programming and support for bisexual and sexually fluid people of African descent.

Miles Brock aka Siir Brock and Yusaf Mack aka Philly

On October 19th, 2015, VH1 aired episode twenty-one titled “Truth” in season two of their reality TV show Love and Hip Hop Hollywood and a companion special Out in Hip Hop immediately following the episode. The central drama of “Truth” as it related to cast member Miles Brock aka Siir Brock, a rapper/songwriter, was sharing the knowledge of his same-sex desires with his family and a woman he has had a complex emotional and sexual relationship. This was Brock’s story although the woman in his life, Amber Laura, and his boyfriend, Milan Christopher, are also cast members. The show was taped months ago and at this moment Brock and Christopher are not in a relationship but in fact feuding. But again, the storyline was produced with Brock as the protagonist.

The companion special was promoted as a vehicle to have a very important and provocative conversation about being LGBT in Hip Hop by, in part, unpacking for viewers the themes that emerged during the episode and Brock’s storyline overall. In Brock’s initial comments, he identifies himself as bisexual. This identification should provide a framework for the discussion of what being out in Hip Hop looks like but instead with the exception of one other panelist no one, including the moderator TJ Holmes, a man many would suspect to be familiar with the word, discusses bisexuality. The producers of the show booked heterosexual, gay/lesbian and transgender/gender non-conforming guests and panelists. Not one bisexual advocate, community leader, religious leader, etc.

The conversation centered on being gay in Hip Hop despite the fact that Brock’s story is about coming to a sense of personal understanding and wellbeing being Black, bisexual and male in a world that renders sexuality as a binary between straight and gay, Blackness as a homogeneity that requires conformity and maleness as a fragility constantly under scrutiny, challenge and threat. On VH1’s website and in social media, Brock is continuously subjected to a one-drop rule to sexuality by people who wish to make him gay because in their worldview any same-sex experience by a man makes him gay no matter what he says he is.

As if Black bisexual ancestors were conspiring to give social media another opportunity to get it right, ten days later, news broke of a story of Philadelphia-based former professional boxer, Yusaf Mack, who alleged he had been drugged on what he thought was an adult film set to shoot heterosexual sex but later found out was a homosexual sex-themed film in which he took part—engaging in oral and anal sex as a receptive partner. His narrative included blacking out after taking an unidentified pill and vodka, walking up hours later on a train back to Philly with $4,500 and being notified by friends some months later that he, under the performer name Philly, was in a guy-on-guy adult film by the company DawgPoundUSA.

Social media went hard classifying Mack as a liar, poor fabricator and, in a painfully predictable manner, gay. This last characterization was made despite Mack being identified as the father of ten children, engaged to a woman, and being quoted problematically identifying himself as a “whoremonger”—a slut-shaming word I haven’t heard anyone under the age of 70 use unless they were a devote Christian. Seriously, who’s using whoremonger these days outside of church? But that’s another discussion.

After the film company threatened to sue and a week of the firestorm blazing, Mack issued a combined recantation of his earlier allegation, apology for lying and declaration of his bisexuality. Despite the fact that Mack is seen using a condom when he’s being anally penetrated on the video and there is no evidence of him having any sexually transmittable infections or diseases, some folks on social media are not only characterizing him as a liar-scoundrel but also a sexual terrorist who has been putting women—the mothers of his ten children—at risk for STIs.

When people wonder why more Black bisexual men don’t publicly identify as such, they need look no further than the public responses to Frank Ocean, Mister Cee, Siir Brock and Yusaf Mack. Fed on coming-out narratives that were processed and homogenized by white gay elites for public consumption in a society that is imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist and heteropatriarchal, the public expects straight, linear stories of emergence from chrysalis to big bright rainbow-colored gay butterflies. It does not expect stories of funky complexities, murky admissions, and dirty deeds behind closed doors (or in front of open cameras).

Bisexuality, Black bisexuality in particular, is not neat, tidy or blemish-free. How could it be in monosexist, binary societies that requires conformity to rigid sexual and gender roles? Black bisexuality has stretch marks from all the growing and contorting one has to do to fit in, around, over, or through the boundaries set for us by others. Living as a Black bisexual person means you’re making the road by walking it because everyone around you tells you that all the LGBTs are gay, all the gays are white and all the whites are enviable.

Because of the multiple layers of erasure and invisibilization, to be Black and bisexual is to live in a dark continent of no history, legacy, ancestors, and elders to be your compass or roadmap. For people who have been waiting for Will Smith, Floyd Mayweather Jr., 50 Cent, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx, Magic Johnson or any other Black man of means and/or position to publicly identify as something other than heterosexual, it would be useful to consider the social costs for doing so as well as the existential trauma of already living at the intersection of Blackness, bisexuality and maleness even if one is not publicly identifiable as bisexual. There in the kill zone of our national and community discussions of sexuality, gender and race lie the bloody, tortured bodies of many Black bisexual men, some famous and others nameless.

But We’re in a Moment

Despite those realities, I am hopeful because I believe we are in a moment—a Black bisexual men’s moment—in the public discourse. The moment doesn’t take away from our commitment to creating a world in which all Black lives matter. It doesn’t diminish the importance of addressing the conditions that make it possible for Black cisgender and transgender women to be murdered and brutalized. It doesn’t render the lives of Black bisexual women any less important and worthy of critical engagement and understanding.

The Black bisexual men’s moment makes it possible for Black bisexual men to recognize their ancestors, elders and brothers; understand that they are not alone; learn from the mistakes, missteps and lessons of others in coming to embody their complexities, fluidities and intersectional identities; and step into the power of what they can contribute to the ongoing project of making the society more just and inclusive.

It’s a moment for Black bisexual men rather than about Black bisexual men. A moment to gather the tribes and draw upon collective wisdom. A moment to heal from the multiple ways we are traumatized. A moment to bring forth missing and necessary truths forged in the crucible of living, loving and learning beyond the binaries.

November 2, 2015
Clinical Considerations for Clinicians Who Are Working With Black Women Who Are Newly Diagnosed with HIV.
Dr. TaMara Griffin

December 1st is World AIDS Day. It is an opportunity for the world to take a look at the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Given the demographics of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this country, this is a very important day to reflect on how HIV/AIDS impacts the Black community.

HIV in America has become a black disease, in particular a Black woman’s disease. Whether viewed through the lens of gender, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, education, or region of the country, black people, in particular Black women, bear the brunt of this epidemic.

The face of AIDS has changed.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, at the end of 2011, 23% of all people living with HIV in the United States were women. Black and Latina women continue to be disproportionately infected and affected by HIV, compared with women of other races/ethnicities. Approximately 84% of the new HIV infections in women are from heterosexual sexual intercourse. These alarming statistics definitely indicate the need to develop culturally relevant, gender specific treatment programs and clinical considerations when working with Black women who are living with HIV.

Assessment & Diagnosis of HIV


The rates of diagnosis among black women is 20 times higher than the rate for White women. While Black women are no more likely than other women to engage in behaviors that put them at risk, social determinants play a huge factor in increasing Black women’s risk for HIV. In order to effectively assess risk, the following direct and indirect risk factors must be taken into consideration. Direct risk factors include: anal, oral or vagina sex with an infected individual, sharing needles; of any kind, and vertical transmission; mother to child. Indirect risk factors include but are not limited too: poverty, gender, mental health, biological factors, stigma, internalized racism, institutionalized barriers, mistrust of medical system, intimate partner violence, current and past partner behaviors (i.e. substance use, MSM, incarceration, etc.) current or past substance use, lack of access to health care, cultural barriers, lack of knowledge, denial, oppressive laws and policies. The main question to ask when a client presents for HIV testing is: what specific behaviors (i.e. sharing needled, unprotected anal, oral or vaginal sex with someone who is infected with HIV) have you engaged in that may have put you at risk for transmission of HIV? Remember a person can have HIV and still look and feel perfectly healthy. The only way to know for sure whether they are infected is to have them tested.


HIV infection is diagnosed by a blood test. There are three main tests that are commonly used: (1) HIV antibody tests, (2) RNA tests, and (3) a combination test that detects both antibodies and a piece of the virus called the p24 protein. In addition, a blood test known as a Western blot is used to confirm the diagnosis. Once a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS is confirmed, there are several types of tests that can help the doctor determine the stage of HIV. These tests include:

CD4 count. CD4 cells are a type of white blood cell that is specifically targeted and destroyed by HIV.

Viral load. This test measures the amount of virus in your blood.

Drug resistance. This blood test determines whether the strain of HIV you have will be resistant to certain anti-HIV medications.

Treating HIV and AIDS

Medical Treatment and Care

Individuals infected with HIV are encouraged to immediately get into medical treatment and care with an infectious disease physician to monitor viral load and disease progression. The physician must take into account an individual’s past medical history, the length of time they have been infected with HIV, current CD4 T cell count, and current health. The individual’s viral load should be tested at the start of treatment and then every three to four months during therapy, and CD4 counts should be checked every three to six months. CD4 counts should be checked every three to six months. Most insurance, including Medicaid and Medicare cover services such as: office visits, medical tests, hospitalization, drug assistance, mental health, and some in-home services. In addition, The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act (Ryan White CARE Act), the largest federally funded program in the United States for people living with HIV/AIDS provides funds for those who do not have sufficient health care coverage or financial resources for coping with HIV disease. Ryan White fills gaps in care not covered by these other sources such as housing, transportation and oral health care.


Once a thorough physical has been conducted, the physician will prescribe a combination regime of HIV medication called high active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). This combination of medicine, referred to as a “cocktail,” has proven to be beneficial in treating HIV as long as medical adherence is maintained by the client. There are five types of drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS. They are called antiretrovirals because they act against the retrovirus HIV, and are grouped by how they interfere with steps in HIV replication. The goal of HAART is to reduce the viral load to the point that it is undetectable. Although antiretroviral therapies have renewed hope for individual’s living with HIV, they can cause many unpleasant side effects and other prescription drug interactions that clients should be informed about. For these and other reasons, many individuals have turned to integrative medicine. Integrative medicine is the use of conventional medical treatments and complementary therapies, such as yoga Reiki or acupuncture. Prior to prescribing medication the physician and patient should carefully consider all treatment options to ensure that the patient is receiving the best medical care available.

Counseling and Therapy

When working with Black women who are living with HIV/AIDS a biopsychosocial holistic approach to treatment is the most effective approach. Clinicians and providers must take into account the client’s mental health status, support systems, cultural and ethnic beliefs and attitudes, client’s living environment and client’s self-efficacy. Special consideration must also be given to secondary prevention and safer sex behavioral options. Treatment must include psychoeducation and individualized counseling and therapy. In addition treatment must be client-center and address the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social and financial dimensions of wellness.

Finally, when making the decision to work with Black women who are living with HIV, an integrated multi-level, multidisciplinary team approach is proven to be the most efficacious. A treatment plan must be a combination of HAART and intensive personal counseling and therapy. The treatment plan must be theoretically sound, evidence-based, culturally proficient, gender specific, addressing social determinants, and focusing on how to navigate structural and systematic barriers. HIV counselors must take into account the impact of cultural, gender, sexual orientation, economic and social inequality; which will require providing women and their families with the knowledge skills and tools to be able to: build self-efficacy, enhance cultural and ethnic pride, minimize gender inequalities, reduce gender related violence, secure stable housing, and access health care. Integrating a framework of cultural, gender, social and economic justice for women living with HIV is essential to increasing wellness and overall quality of life.

September 24, 2015
H. Sharif Williams, Ph.D., M.Ed. aka Dr. Herukhuti
BiWeek and Being Black

This week, September 20-26, is Bisexual Awareness Week (#BiWeek). For your edification, please enjoy the following interviews on Black male bisexuality and revolutionary sex magic:

Dr. Herukhuti is founder and chief erotics officer of Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality. His Facebook handle is RevolutionaryScholar, Twitter handle is @DrHerukhuti and email address is dr.herukhuti[@]

August 4, 2015
Dr. Herukhuti aka H. Sharif Williams, Ph.D., M.Ed.
The Collective Responsibility of Sex

Among the Bantu speaking people’s of Southern Africa, there is a concept ubuntu that we translate into interdependence—in the transliteration we say, “I am because we are.” Ubuntu conveys an African philosophical concept of communalism i.e., the belief in our interdependence and the utility in recognizing that interdependence in our decision-making and actions. Healthy, productive, sustainable systems are ones in which we recognize, honor and build upon the interconnected nature of our personhoods.

In creating the African-American cultural holiday Kwanzaa, the members of the US Organization borrowed the East African concept of ujima to highlight the importance of the principle of collective work and responsibility, which they determined meant “to build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.” Ujima in this context is another articulation of communalist ideals in Black cultural life.

When we apply these ideas to sex, sexuality and sexual pleasure, profound possibilities for the organization of sex in our communities emerge:

  • We create systems of cooperative sensuality that are accountable to the community and support equitable forms of access to sexual pleasure and fulfillment. The community clinics and breakfast programs developed by the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP) could be used as models.
  • We advocate for ending all laws that criminalize consensual sex including but not limited to laws prohibiting sex work; sex in semi-private places and outdoor venues such as beaches, parks, and restrooms; and sex between HIV serodiscordant people in which the person diagnosed HIV positive does not disclose their HIV status unprompted.
  • We encourage women to own their sexual power, be comfortable with their sexual desires and embrace their bodies’ capacity to experience and share pleasure regardless of its size, shape or difference.
  • We hold men accountable for understanding, recognizing and actively challenging street harassment, sexual assault and rape including when perpetuated by our friends, family members or celebrity heroes.
  • We establish systems of comprehensive sex education and health care for all members of our communities that are independent of the public education and health care systems because of the historical role each of those systems have played in the advancing imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy
  • We protect and defend the ability of all members of our communities to experience love, sensual fulfillment and pleasure regardless of their gender or the gender of their relational partners and we affirm that those experiences can, but don’t necessarily have to be, separate and apart from the duties people have to family planning and development.

For additional reading:

The African Philosophy Reader, Second Edition edited by P. H. Coetzee and A. P. J. Roux

Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture written by Maulana Karenga

Dr. Herukhuti is founder and chief erotics officer of Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality. His Facebook handle is RevolutionaryScholar, Twitter handle is @DrHerukhuti and email address is dr.herukhuti[@]

July 27, 2015
Tamara Griffin, DHS, MSW, MSEd
Military Sexual Trauma and PTSD Among Women

There is an ongoing problem with sexual assault in the U.S. military which has resulted in a series of scandals that have received extensive media coverage. According to a 2011 Newsweek report, women are more likely to be assaulted by a fellow soldier than killed in combat. According to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs about 1 in 5 women have reported experiencing Military Sexual Trauma (MST).

It is widely believed that the rates of sexual trauma are highly underreported in both the military and the Veterans Administration (VA). Several reasons that MST goes un-reported and underreported include concerns regarding personal safety, job security and fear of retaliation. Unfortunately, because of the structure and regulations that govern the military female soldiers are not automatically protected by many of the laws and social protections that civilian women in the larger society are afforded. Outside the military, a woman can report a crime to police without fear that colleagues at work will find out or retaliate. Additionally, outside civilian investigators and prosecutors are required to investigate the alleged crime without bias, and to file charges as appropriate. However in the military, commanders make those decisions by weighing evidence involving personnel under their supervision, which could place the female soldier at great disadvantage, especially if the alleged perpetrator is her superior officer.

What is Military Sexual Trauma (MST)

Military sexual trauma (MST) refers to both the sexual harassment and sexual assault that occurs in military settings. MST can occur on or off base, and while a Service member is on or off duty. Sexual harassment is unwelcomed verbal and/or physical conduct of a sexual nature that occurs in the workplace, or an academic or training setting. MST may include any sexual activity performed against one’s will, either through physical force, threats of negative consequences, sexual coercion (i.e. implied promotion, promises of favored treatment), or sex without consent due to intoxication, gender harassment (e.g., put down because of gender), unwanted sexual attention, and offensive remarks about sexual activities or body parts) etc.

Unique aspects of sexual trauma associated with military service?

When working with MST there are unique aspects to consider.
Sexual trauma that is associated with military service women occurs in a setting where the victim lives and works. In most cases, this means that victims must continue to live and work closely with their perpetrators, which often leads to increased feelings of helpless, powerlessness, and also places them at risk for additional victimization.

This paradigm creates a variety of concerns for female soldiers. Perpetrators are frequently other service members, peers, or superior officers that are responsible for making decisions about work-related assignments and promotions. As a result, victims are often forced to choose between their military careers during which time they are forced to have frequent contact with their perpetrators, or sacrificing their career goals in order to protect themselves from future victimization. Additionally, service members rely on the military for medical care and mental health treatment which creates opportunities for the victimization to continue because the perpetrators or the associates of the perpetrator may be providing the services. Also because organizational cohesion and loyalty among military services members is so highly valued, divulging any negative information about a fellow soldier is considered taboo and frowned upon, which could lead to further isolation or additional physical retribution.

Consequently if a female soldier reports incidents of sexual harassment and/or assault they may not be taken seriously, have their report dismissed, encouraged to keep silent, or even blamed for the experience. This type of invalidating experience following a sexual trauma is likely to have significant negative impairment on post-trauma regulation, acclimation and healing.

Women in the military are at high risk for MST during times of deployment to high combat areas. According to Cynthia LeardMann, a researcher with the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, rates of sexual harassment and assault vary by branch of service. The Air Force and Navy service members reported the lowest rates of sexual harassment and assault, and the Army and Marines service members reported the highest (LeardMann, 2013).

The authors argue that “women who experience combat while deployed are not only in more stressful and dangerous circumstances but they may also find themselves in more traditionally male-dominated environments compared with other deployed women,” “Furthermore, in these high-stress and often life-threatening environments, prioritizing the identification and prevention of sexual stressors may be more challenging, perpetrators may be less concerned with consequences of committing assault, and perpetrators may be less likely to be held accountable for their actions” (LeardMann, 2013).

Although more studies are needed to better understand the effects of women’s exposure to both combat and sexual assault, the authors suggests that “because the findings indicate that risk factors are related to the type of environment — such as combat experience and branch of service — and to “resiliency factors” such as changes in marital status, etc. the study concludes that it would be wise to develop programs and interventions that target treatment and prevention efforts in these areas” (LeardMann, 2013).

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder related to MST

Women who experience MST are very likely to experience posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other medical and health conditions such as major depressive disorder, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and sexual dysfunctions.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after experiencing a life-threatening or traumatic event. An individual that is suffering from PTSD will usually start to develop symptoms soon after the traumatic event. .(such as?) Although some individuals will show symptoms immediately, others may not develop symptoms until months or years after the traumatic event. In addition, the symptoms may come and go over many years. PTSD symptoms can cause distress and significantly interfere with work and/or home life.

Women service members are twice as likely to develop PTSD as men. There are a few reasons women might get PTSD more than men: 1) women are more likely to experience sexual assault, especially during combat, 2) sexual assault is more likely to cause PTSD than many other events, 3) continued victimization as a result of living near and/or working with their perpetrator on the military installation, 4) lack of emotional support, and 5) fear of retaliation if reported.

Although both men and women experience PTSD, and report the same symptoms of PTSD (hyperarousal, reexperiencing, avoidance, and numbing), some symptoms are more common for women. When working with women who have PTSD, it is extremely important that therapists understands that symptoms of PTSD manifest differently in women. Women are more likely to have hyperarousal, to have more trouble feeling emotions, and to avoid things that remind them of the trauma than men. Women with PTSD are more likely to feel depressed and anxious, while men with PTSD are more likely to have problems with alcohol or drugs. Both women and men who experience PTSD may develop physical health problems. Women may be more likely than men to seek help after a traumatic event.


There are a variety of PTSD screening tools that can be used to measure. PTSD. The measures include:

  • Chart – Screens for PTSD
  • Beck Anxiety Inventory – Primary Care (BAI-PC)
  • The Primary Care PTSD Screen (PC-PTSD)
  • Short Form of the PTSD Checklist – Civilian Version
  • Short Screening Scale for PTSD
  • SPAN
  • Trauma Screening Questionnaire (TSQ)
    • (United States Department of Veterans Affairs)

      A positive response to the screen does not necessarily indicate that a patient has Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. However, a positive response does indicate that a patient may have PTSD or trauma-related problems, and further investigation of trauma symptoms by a mental health professional may be warranted. If an individual receives a positive response to PTSD screening tools, additional assessments by a mental health therapist must be conducted to further investigate the trauma symptoms.

      One of the most widely used tools to measure sexual assault is the Sexual Experiences Survey by Mary Koss. This self-report measure includes a series of behaviorally specific questions that ask about a variety of unwanted sexual experiences. The Sexual Experience Survey assessment measures the types of trauma a person has been exposed to, or the degree of severity of the traumatic event someone experienced.

      When conducting and assessment and screening for MST, the therapist must approach the subject with care and sensitivity due to the nature of the subject. The therapist must also establish a confidential and trusting rapport with the client so that she will feel comfortable disclosing the details of the assault and any previous history of sexual assault. Additionally, the therapist must be non-judgmental and especially careful to avoid using terms that will further victimize or stigmatize the client.


      Effective treatment for MST involves addressing immediate health and safety concerns of the survivor, normalizing post-trauma reactions, providing psychoeducation about trauma and psychological reactions to traumatic events, providing validation, supporting existing adaptive coping strategies, cognitive restructuring and facilitating the development of new coping skills.

      It is very common to have PTSD at that same time as another mental health problem. Depression, alcohol or drug abuse problems, panic disorder, and other anxiety disorders often occur along with PTSD. In many cases, the PTSD treatments described above will also help with the other disorders. The best treatment results occur when both PTSD and the other problems are treated together rather than one after the other.

      Treatment for PTSD can last anywhere from six months to a few years depending on co-occurring disorders and on the type of treatment modality.

      Treatment modalities for MST include 1) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), 2) Prolonged Exposure Therapy (EP), 3) Brief Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, and 4) Group Therapy.

      Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

      Cognitive behavior therapy is brief and focused on helping clients deal with a very specific problem. CBT helps individuals learn how to identify and change destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior (Wells, M., 2011).

      Prolong Exposure Therapy (PE)

      Prolong exposure therapy is a type of therapy that helps the client decrease distress about the trauma, repeated exposure to these thoughts, feelings, and situations helps reduce the power they have to cause distress. PE has four main parts: 1) Psychoeducation. provides the client with information about treatment, symptoms and goals for treatment 2) Breathing teaches client to learn how to relax and mange short term distress. 3) Real world practice helps client regain control over their life by exposing them to trauma related experiences in a safe control manner. 4) Talking through trauma helps the client learn to talk through the trauma to lessen the experience and regain control over thoughts and feelings related to the trauma (Allard, C.B. and Platt, M., 2011).

      Brief psychodynamic psychotherapy

      Brief psychodynamic psychotherapy helps the client understand the connection between the past and the present. Additionally, the client identifies ways of dealing with the emotional conflicts caused by the trauma (Wells, M., 2011).

      Group therapy

      Group therapy provides the client the opportunity to share stories with other individuals who have similar experience. In addition, group therapy provides support, encouragement and a safe space for processing and healing (Wells, M., 2011).

      Complementary alternative therapy can be beneficial to treating MST and PTSD. Two additional resources that are beneficial to mental health therapist treating MST and PTSD include the National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center in Angel Fire, Inc. (NVW&HC) and Restore Warriors.

      The National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center in Angel Fire is providing week long retreats for Veterans and their significant others who have been diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Their retreats offer equine therapy, massage, yoga, acupuncture, art therapy, and reiki, along with individual couples and group counseling.

      Restore Warriors is a website that offers resources and self-help strategies for warriors living with the invisible wounds of war, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), combat and operational stress, or depression. The website offers tools and self-help strategies, including videos of other warriors sharing their personal experiences with combat and operational stress-related problems, along with the useful coping strategies they used to overcome these issues.


      Medications have also been shown to be effective. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), which are also used for depression, are effective for PTSD. SSRIs include citalopram (Celexa), fluoxetine, paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft). Other medications may be necessary including medication to regulate sleep, a necessary treatment component of all treatment for trauma (Allard & Platt, 2011).

      In conclusion, treating a woman who has experienced MST and PSTD can be very challenging. In order to provide the most effective and comprehensive treatment, a mental health clinician must offer services in a safe, non-judgmental environment. In addition, the therapist must have thorough knowledge of the unique considerations that military service members face when dealing with MST. By providing the client with multilevel treatment that incorporates traditional treatment modalities, alternative therapies and SSRIs, if needed, will help to increase the clients chances of healing.


      Allard, C.B. and Platt, M. (2011). Military Sexual Trauma: Current Knowledge and

      Future Directions. New York, NY: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group.

      Koss, M. P. and Oros, . J. (1992) Sexual Experiences Survey: A research instrument investigating sexual aggression and victimization. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 50(3) 455-57.

      LeardMann, C.A., Smith, T. C., Smith, B., Wells, T. S. & Ryan, M. A. (2009) Baseline self reported functional health and vulnerability to post-traumatic stress disorder after combat deployment: prospective US military cohort study. BMJ; 338 doi:

      LeardMann, C.M., Pietrucha, A., Magruder, K.M., Smith, B., Murdoch, M., Jacobson, I. G., Ryan, M. K., Gackstetter, G., Smith, T. C. (2013) Combat deployment is associated with sexual harassment or sexual assault in a large, female military cohort. Women’s Health Issues: 23(4) 215-223.

      Sadler, A. et al. (2003). “Factors associated with women’s risk of rape in the military environment.” American Journal of Industrial Medicine: 43(3) 262-273. doi: 10.1002/ajim.10202.

      Wells, M. (2011). Military Sexual Trauma. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace

      Independent Publishing.

June 22, 2015
Tabias Wilson
“Why “Letting” Trans* Folk Serve In The Military Isn’t Progressive or Radical

According to a “Breaking News” article on HuffPost the military is considering plans to permit Trans* people to serve in the military. In many ways, this can and should be framed as a victory for human dignity. Trans* folk, like many other citizens, love the United States and have shed blood, sweat, tears and coin for this nation. Trans* people of all political persuasions have a history a putting their nation first, in ways many agree and disagree with. One of the most visible ways this has transpired was during the Stonewall Riots when the Queer community, led by Trans* folk and Drag Queens/Kings, waged a battle for human dignity that doubled as a redemptive fight for the soul of America. They not only demanded to be seen as human, sexually autonomous and worthy of the state’s respect and protection (for all queer folks); they also presented the country with an opportunity to regain to it’s own sense of humanity, freedom and equality. Therefore, in many ways, state recognition of the inherent equality and humanity of Trans* folk is long overdue.

It is not that Trans* people have recently become a part of the fabric of America, it is instead that America is finally acting as if Trans* lives matter. Emphasis on the “acting.” Much like recent celebrations over same-sex marriage, or so-called, formal “marriage equality,” the state has given a modicum of recognition to sexual minorities in order to further entrench it’s systems as valid, relevant and the grand officiators of normalcy. By continually beckoning racial and sexual minorities closer to the systems and institutions that have historically ostracized them, these institutions are positioning themselves as evolutionary and modern; “evolving” (as politicians do) with the arch of time, toward a greater justice. However, in practice, the system is simply doing what it must do to survive and remain beyond reproach, review or r/evolution.

This has been true throughout the history of the neo-liberal, colonialist, American project. From sociolegal power and the right to vote for landless white men, to the ending of slavery, to rights of women to vote and work, racial integration of the military, to the repeal of DADT, marriage equality, modicums of immigration reform (DREAM Acts) and (Half-ass) rights to healthcare…the state has responded to threats to it’s omnipotence and de-facto necessity by first offering controlling images of the dehumanized as terroristic, violent, undeserving and non-human and–when that fails–offering access to the government largess on the condition of assimilation. This offer to the oppressed–the offer of (situational) state bestowing of humanity–is hard, if not impossible to reject. Therefore, the state offers itself as a parasite in a messiah’s clothing–depending on the (coerced) consent of the marginalized, in order to retain power to further divide, mark, maim and marginalize and other.

While allowing Trans* folk to openly serve in the military undoubtedly does a good work, by recognizing the ability of Trans* folk to participate like everyone else; we must remember what we (trans* and queer folk) are being called to participate in. Why, and for whom and what, are we being summoned to kill and die for? Do our lives only matter when positioned as a fleshy blockade between colonial thirst and the violence that quenches it? What honor is there, in participating in colonialism, genocides and unknown, state-sanctioned terrorism? We cannot simply be satisfied with recognition, if that recognition is the noting of our ability to participate and direct the repetition of the violence supporting the master’s house.

July 19, 2015
James C. Wadley, Ph.D
PTSD, ‘Survivor Guilt’ & Trauma In Black Lives: Self Care After Charleston

When I first learned about the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, I was stunned and heartbroken. I struggled to make sense out of killing innocent people in a place of worship and tried to come to some sort of understanding about how hateful and angry someone could be to plan to execute anyone. This spineless act of taking lives is despicable and hopefully the culprit(s) will be quickly apprehended so that justice can be served. What’s unfortunate about this situation is that there was nothing that anyone could have done to prevent, prepare, or deter this level of hate. Nine people’s lives were lost as a result and millions of lives across our country will be forever changed.

But what about those people who were in the church during the time of the shooting who were not killed? How might they be able to emotionally recover from this horrific experience? What resources might be available to those who have family members who were in the church?

Members and families of the congregants should seek immediate counseling in order to process their feelings about what happened as well as the meanings that are derived from what happened. A counselor (e.g., clinical or pastoral) can help families grieve in a healthy manner and try to help them try to put their lives back together. Counseling can also help families think through their anger, frustration, resentment, bitterness, sense of powerlessness, anxiety, guilt, and sadness and get them to make constructive decisions during this time of confusion and chaos.

Violence of this proportion was never intended to be understood or even accepted by the perpetrator(s). There is no rationale for anything that happened but counseling can help the families of all involved deal with the trauma and painful memories of the events. Those in attendance at the church as well as other church members should remain cognizant that they are also susceptible to “survivor’s guilt” for remaining alive while other’s died. Please know and accept that there wasn’t anything that anyone could have done to prevent this catastrophic event.

Sometimes when people are involved in profound emotional and psychological circumstances as in the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, they may be vulnerable to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The hyperstress experienced from witnessing the event or even hearing about the event from a family member who was present may produce an unprecedented hyperarousal that may be too overwhelming to emotionally handle.

Preliminary news reports have shared that there were other people in the church who were able to not be harmed physically but there is/maybe an emotional reaction to being a part of the event that warrants psychological and possibly spiritual guidance and support.

As a parent, I would also like to encourage that families seek counseling for their children as well. Oftentimes, our children our left to figure out complex/sensitive issues and they need an opportunity to process events as much as adults do. Counseling can also help parents speak strategically and constructively with their children about how to make sense out of violence and possibly help them process loss, anger, and healthy conflict resolution.

The counselors that families seek should be skilled and have experience in crisis, disaster, response, and trauma work in order to help effective emotional and behavioral navigation. Counselors should also be adept at how this circumstance impacts people at different ages as well as have an understanding of how spirituality may intersect with this tragic narrative.

Counselors should also have a grasp of the overlap of violence, race relations, bereavement, social politics, and trauma. Without this professional conceptualization of the events that have transpired, it may be difficult for the counselor to effectively meet the needs of the affected families.

Our country will mourn this day for a long time and I hope that families are able to get the emotional and mental health support needed. Families should check local listings for a counselor who can help them through this tragedy.

Dr. James Wadley is an Associate Professor and Director of the Master of Human Services Program at Lincoln University. He’s a licensed professional counselor and marriage, family, and sexuality therapist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He is also the Founder and Editor of the Journal of Black Sexuality and Relationships. Follow him on Twitter @phdjamesw

June 23, 2015
Kim S. Ramsey
My thoughts about the the AME Massacre….
As my thoughts resonate with the AME massacre on June 17, 2015, I pray for the nine victims who died in that tragedy, their families and the State of South Carolina. I contemplate that horrific situation, I think of the damaging and dehumanizing effect of systemic racism. So let me “Black Tweet” for a moment. If no one else wants to say it, I will. No, I don’t forgive Dylan Storm Roof. In actuality, #Idont’giveadamnboutDylan. I don’t dislike white people. I dislike criminals. The crime he committed was unforgiveable and part of his punishment should be that he is isolated and forgotten. So whilst I understand the general consensus in Christianity about forgiveness and permitting God to be the judge. Seventy times seven= 490 (Matthew 18 -21-22NIV) and that is more than enough forgiveness. I recognize that forgiveness in a situation where black people are repeatedly the victims is not beneficial to me or to anyone. It just reinforces the fact that my life as a black person am considered to be of less value than a white person and that I as a black person will actually thank you for committing such an atrocity against me. So the question would be, what deterrent does any white person have to not do that? Absolutely none! That to me feels very much like a slavery mindset. If a person harms someone who is close to me I will not forgive the perpetrator for what they have done. I do not forgive evil. It is not acceptable or necessary for me. My compassion lies with the victims. White people feel the same. Ask the people in Boston if they forgive Tsaernev?

#Blacklivesmatter should never exist. Why ? Because if we lived in a society of equity, this would be an absolute given. Instead white privilege has blinded so many to the many injustices, discriminations that black people and people of color face that they are more apt to blame transgressions on the black person instead of looking at the facts. #Ican’tbreathe is a tragic illustration of that. So stating the obvious has to be emphasized. But look at how many black lives have been taken from us in order for white people to understand that the life of a black person is important!!
Roof is a mass murderer. I understand that the due to the US society’s macabre preoccupation with mass murderers, Roof will actually gain criminal culture celebrity status and the general public will be fascinated by him. The media is actually humanizing him. What’s even more insulting is that the system will reward him. The media and the general public will continue to maintain interest in him.

Bonn (2014 ) in his book actually lists five reasons as to why this is the case:.

  • Rare, exotic and brutal
  • Random killings
  • Prolific and insatiable
  • Inexplicable behavior without a current motive
  • Conduit for the public’s most primal feelings such as fear, lust and anger.


This is what apparently motivates people to become obsessed with the actions of a mass murderer. I want to see justice. I want to see true justice for the wrongful deaths of the beautiful people in South Carolina. I am not consumed with hatred. I just have no forgiveness in my soul or heart for a person that callous and who would commit such an atrocity. He is someone that is adding to the damage of the black psyche. Many members of the diaspora have major psychological trauma due to the present global and societal infrastructures which I believe expose them to Current Traumatic Stress Syndrome (CTSS) and Anticipated Traumatic Stress Syndrome (ATSS) caused by the repeated killings of our people and the media continually displaying these acts of extreme violence against members of our race. Both titles are self-explanatory. So no, forgiveness is not the answer. Equitable and fair treatment is. Treat me like how you (a white person) would like to be treated. Offer me the same opportunities that are afforded to you. Value my life the same way that you value yours. Afford me the same respect that you afford yourself. Dismantle the seat of privilege and let’s remove the race card. That is I put my blackness on the table, you should be placing your whiteness on the table and we would see human. That is the basis for all interactions. Identify and remove symbols of racial subjugation and hatred towards black people such as the Confederate flag. #BreeNewsome. Minimize all information about this mass murderer by the media.

So no I don’t want to hear about Roof’s troubled childhood, his drug addiction, or mental health problems, his alleged remorse. . I don’t want to hear anything about a cowardly white man that had the nerve to wear an apartheid flag on a jacket, walk into a prayer meeting, sit down with a group of people and then shoot them one hour later. Roof felt that he was entitled to kill black people because his skin color is supposed to be superior to that of a black human being and he understands that the system that suppresses black people will honor his acts. That entitlement of white privilege is what destroys black people today. That entitlement is how Roof’s behavior will be rationalized. That entitlement is what motivated two police officers in North Carolina to feed Roof after he was captured. That entitlement is what made a South Carolina Magistrate James Gosnell Jr urged us to not view Roof as the monster that he is and I quote “We have victims — nine of them. But we also have victims on the other side,” he said. “We must find it in our heart at some point in time not only to help those that are victims but to also help his family as well.” No sir, I do not forgive him nor do I have any room in my heart for an undeserving remorseless sociopath.

I think that when we unpack white privilege, we also disassemble the righteous entitlement that many people have regarding who is human and who is not. I am a full-time human. Being black does not take away from that fact. My lack of forgiveness of a murderer is my choice. My resistance indicates a resilience that has not been crushed by white privilege. Like I said, “Roof who? “

Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd (54) Daniel Simmons (74)

Susie Jackson (87) Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (45)

Ethel Lee Lance (70) Myra Thompson (59)

Depayne Middleton-Doctor (49)

Clementa C. Pinckney (41)

Tywanza Sanders (26)


May their souls soar with their ancestors. Gone but not forgotten.

Bonn, S. (2014.). Why we love serial killers: The curious appeal of the world’s most savage murderers.

June 15, 2015
H. Sharif Williams, Ph.D. M.Ed. aka Dr. Herukhuti
Chattel No More: The Journey to Be Good to Ourselves
On Sunday, I toured the Norwegian Cruise Line’s ship The Breakaway. In October, I am organizing a group and workshop series on love, intimacy, and relationships during the ship’s New York to The Bahamas voyage (see: The tour provided an opportunity for group leaders to see the ship that will play host to our guests and events. Although I have taken boat rides, this will be my first cruise and the time to tour the ship was an important introduction to the experience. The Breakaway is an amazing vessel with so much to do and experience that I am really excited to combine its attractions with my events.During the tour, we had an interesting conversation about the reasons why so few Black people partake in cruises. Of course, we started with the common joke that the first cruises our ancestors took over here to the Americas didn’t work out too well so many of us are averse to return to another ship. After the laughter and follow-up jokes, we began to talk about the role of privilege and entitlement.

Privilege and entitlement have become hot topics of discussion in mainstream and social media lately. The case of Rachel Dolezal, the recently former head of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP, has provoked important conversation about privilege and entitlement. The degree and quality of media coverage of Caitlyn Jenner’s debut as a transgender woman has done the same.

Within social science, privilege is the stream of social benefits one receives because of their membership in one or more social identity groups that hold higher power positions in structurally inequitable societies. These benefits are like meta rights given to people who possess the right memberships.

Entitlement is the expectations that a person develops as a result of the privileges they receive. They expect, often unconsciously, to receive the benefits. That’s entitlement. People with entitlements move in the world based upon the expectation that they will receive privileges they have received all their lives. If you have worn shoes all of your life to walk outside, you will walk more confidently and assuredly than someone who has had to walk on their bare feet outside for all of their lives. It’s not just because at the moment you have shoes and they do not but it is also what life with and without shoes has taught you about what you can expect from the experience of walking outside on concrete, hot surfaces, glass covered areas, etc.

Assuming that Dolezal had access to white privilege for most of her life, she would have developed entitlements associated with that form of privilege that continued into her life as a woman who was perceived as Black. And as a woman with light skin who was perceived as Black, she would have access to light skin privilege that would also contribute to certain senses of entitlement. For someone who was apparently deeply involved in racial justice activism, countering, disrupting and challenging these entitlements would have to be a daily struggle if she were deeply committed to challenging white supremacy.

Caitlyn Jenner, perceived as male, has lived for most of her life with male privilege. Access to such privilege for sixty plus years contributes to male entitlements that are not as easily transformed as physical appearance. Caitlyn’s expectations for how the world will treat her as a white, wealth transgender woman will, we can reasonably expect, be different than the poor and working class transgender women of color whose lives are threatened on a daily basis in the United States—at risk for street violence, intimate partner violence, HIV, and economic exploitation.

Privilege and entitlement are more real, i.e., have tangible, material dimensions, than the social constructs of race and gender. It is a privilege to be able to do all the things related to taking a cruise, e.g., learning about the cruise experience, scheduling a vacation from work, paying the expenses associated with travel, etc. Perhaps, even before we take any of those actions, we have to expect to have experiences that are soothing, nurturing and restorative. We have to feel we are entitled to a vacation. Entitled to a retreat. Entitled to lounge in the sun, relaxing on the deck of a beautiful ship or beach and look at the picturesque view. Entitled to spend the day in a spa soaking in a heated pool, getting a massage or facial treatment.

As descendants of people who were physically, psychically and spiritually abused during slavery and colonization, we, Black people, have learned not to expect to have our bodies nurtured, soothed and pampered. We have learned that abuse, trauma, and daily grinding down of our bodies are more realistic expectations. To choose pleasure is to be silly, frivolous, and counter-revolutionary. But what can be more revolutionary in a society that abuses and attacks our bodies than to honor, love and comfort them?

Dr. Herukhuti is a professor of interdisciplinary studies in the undergraduate programs at Goddard College and founder and chief erotics officer of Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality. His Facebook handle is RevolutionaryScholar, Twitter handle is @DrHerukhuti and email address is dr.herukhuti[@]

June 8, 2015
Tamara Griffin, DHS, MSW, MSEd
Clinical considerations when working with survivors of sexual trauma?According to the U.S. Department of Justice, an incident of sexual abuse, resulting in sexual trauma, happens every 2.5 minutes in the United States. Over 200,000 Americans are victims of sexual abuse every year. This statistic may be less than the actual number of cases, due to the fact that often times victims not to report their abuse to authorities, especially if they know or have a personal relationship with their offenders. Additional studies and surveys show that about 20-30 percent of women and about ten percent of men have been sexually abused by the age of 18.Sexual abuse is an umbrella term that includes a wide range of sexual trauma and victimizations. It occurs when a person is forced, coerced, and/or manipulated into unwanted sexual activity. Sexual abuse is part of a range of behaviors that offenders use to take power from their victims. It can begin with words, gestures, jokes and intimidation. It can progress to coercion, threats and actions that involve sexual touching or intercourse, and may involve other forms of violence. It can include completed or attempted attacks, may or may not involve force and threats.

Sexual trauma is a profound violation of a person’s body, emotional stability, sexuality, sense of self and safety. The effects of sexual trauma can be extremely debilitating resulting in a lifetime of issues that ripple down to family members, school and work, communities and down through generations. Survivors of sexual trauma may never forget their victimization, but they can heal with support from family, friends, communities and therapy.

“The journey to sexual healing is best undertaken only after a survivor is in a stable and safe lifestyle” (Maltz, 2012). Healing from a sexual trauma is a process that occurs overtime. It can take several months to several years for an individual to acknowledge the trauma, come to terms with it, and begin the process of healing. The process of healing often includes: gaining a deeper understanding of what happened and how it influenced your sexuality, increasing your body and self-awareness, developing a positive sense of your sexuality, and learning new skills for experiencing touch and sexual sharing in safe, life-affirming ways.

There are different levels of sexual healing work that a survivor can pursue; from simply reading about recovery to engaging intense psychotherapy. While some survivors are able to progress in sexual healing on their own, others find it essential to enlist the guidance and support of a trained mental health clinician. Professional care is recommended because it is very likely that the healing process will stir up traumatic emotions and memories.

Clinical Considerations

There are clinical considerations that must be taken into account when working with survivors of sexual trauma. According to Wendy Malts, a leader in the field of sex therapy and an advanced practitioner in the treatment of sexual abuse survivors, “traditional sex therapy approaches often fall short” { because we live in a society that is over sexualized and undereducated} which may present “unique challenges when treating survivors of the various form of sexual trauma” (Maltz, 2012).

One major consideration in the treatment of sexual trauma is to understand the nature, consequences and impact that trauma has on the individual; especially if the incident(s) took place during childhood. Sexualized behavior that is early in onset, especially during adolescence, is extremely dangerous in nature and is likely to plague the trauma victims in his or her desperate search for love, acceptance, and safety throughout adolescence and into adulthood. An increased tendency toward substance and alcohol abuse is also a burden for survivors, in addition to propensity towards delinquency, antisocial behavior, and promiscuity.

When working with survivors of sexual trauma, the clinician must also take into consideration the biopsychosocial ramifications of the trauma and the significant impact it has on the to the life of the survivor. Social problems include: alcoholism, drug abuse, divorce, smoking, unintended pregnancy, criminal behavior, and prostitution. Psychological problems include: anxiety, depression, bulimia, anorexia, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, sleep disturbances, and suicide. Biological conditions associated with sexual trauma include: cancer, heart disease, obesity, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal distress, chronic pain, diabetes, arthritis, migraines/headaches, and skin disturbances.

Every community has different perspectives and responses to sexual violence and it is important to take into consideration when working with survivors. The effects of gender, race, ethnicity, culture, and sexual orientation must be incorporated into treatment. Each communities perspectives and responses are fundamentally different and vary from survivor to survivor. Additionally, understanding the multiple levels of oppression that women face can also significantly impact the healing process and treatment.

Involving parents, caregivers, partner, spouse, or family members if the survivor consents can be very beneficial to the healing process. The survivor support system will need basic information about sexual abuse and trauma, information about what to expect, and how to help the individual with healing. Family support therapy may also be helpful with the healing process, not only for the individual but for the family members and other caregivers as well.

Finally other significant elements to consider when working with survivors include: reframing thoughts and ideas about sexuality, identifying triggers, teaching appropriate touch, addressing sexual fantasy, and practicing self care.

Treating Sexual Trauma

The goal of sex therapy treatment with survivors aims higher than sexual functioning or performing. Sex therapy enables survivors to experience sex as life affirming, nurturing, and mutually pleasurable. The focus involves helping survivors change their sexual thoughts, attitudes and behaviors while learning a new approach to experiencing intimacy, touch and sexual stimulation. Effective therapy with survivors of sexual trauma is a combination of trauma work with modified versions of sex therapy. In treatment, it is extremely critical that clients deal with the secrecy, shame, guilt and emotional isolation, sense of self and sexual identity, and betrayal.

Because of the complexity in the nature of treating survivors, doing sex therapy work with survivors of sexual abuse requires therapist to think and work creatively” (Maltz, 2012). It definitely requires a sophisticated level of knowledge and experience of a veteran clinician. Special sensitivity is required of counselors to provide a safe environment in which survivors can examine the pervasive impact of the abuse on their lives, explore and ventilate their feelings, and resolve the trauma so it ceases to block their development.

Mental health clinicians must incorporate a wide array of psychodynamic, cognitive, and behavioral therapies to integrate more effective treatment. Cognitive-behavioral, trauma- focused, and present-focused based models are essential in treating survivors of sexual trauma. Efforts to promote and develop existential well-being, hardiness, and resilience should be universally implemented beginning at the time of disclosure of trauma and continued throughout treatment.

Trauma-informed treatment should also address the needs of survivors who have symptoms of mental illness, substance abuse issues, etc. Effective and meaningful treatment responses often maximize personal and shared power, focus on crisis de-escalation, and include an exploration of the survivor’s strengths. Additional treatment focuses on: developing coping strategies, encouraging the development of critical thinking skills, developing appropriate boundaries and limits, treating emotional dysregulation, and reducing anxiety and depression.

In conclusion, despite the heighten attention around sexual abuse via the media, there still seems to be a lack of discussion and available resources for those who have suffered and are suffering. In addition, sex therapist still seems to be missing the mark when it comes to treatment. These factors combined help to desensitize the issue and create more complex issues in treatment of survivors. This desensitization also makes it even more difficult for survivors to report the abuse, seek out support and/or treatment. Because sexuality affects how people think, act and even how they relate to other people, it is very important that individuals heal. Successful treatment models for survivors of sexual trauma must account for the specific impact of the various forms of abuse, the individual’s unique psychological response to the world, the impact of traditional socialization of women and men, and therapeutic relationship. These considerations can be applied in the course of a therapeutic setting that seeks to re-empower abused individuals by helping them to regain their self-esteem, reestablish healthy relationships, and reclaim a sense of control and choice in their lives.


Corcoran, J. (1998). In defense of mothers of sexual abuse victims. Families in Society, 79(4), 358-369.

Hepworth, D., Rooney, R. H., & Larsen, J. (1997). Direct social work practise theory and skills. 5th Edition. Pacific Grove: Brooks Cole Publishing.

Maltz, W. (2012). The Sexual Healing Journey. William Morrow/HaperCollins Publishing: NewYork, NY.

Osmond, M., Durham, D., Leggett, A., & Keating, J. (1998). Treating the aftermath of sexual abuse: A handbook for working with children in care. Washington, D.C.: Child Welfare League of America.

Ratican, K.L. (2011). Sexual Abuse Survivors: Identifying Symptoms and Special Treatment Considerations. Journal of Counseling & Development: 71(1) 33-38. DOI: 10.1002/j.1556-6676.1992.tb02167.x

May 18, 2015
Dr. Cynthia Chestnut
Dealing with Difficult TeensDo you feel your teenager is too aggressive or angry? Do you worry about how are they going to survive? Sometimes we are holding on to parental strategies that are not working anymore because we were taught them and we believe they have helped us. I won’t deny it has been helpful because only you know your own experience. However, for those who see that the strategies they practice, aren’t working for them, I would challenge you to consider that you might still be using the same strategies when your teens were school aged and younger. You haven’t really thought about how to transition to thinking developmentally about your teenager’s needs and that teen life is a real “Rite of Passage” developmental experience. A rite of passage is usually a ceremony and marks the transition from one phase of life to another. It is often used to describe the turbulent transition from adolescence to adulthood. It also refers to any of life’s transitions. Parents are also transitioning, which may sometimes contribute to the conflict in the parent – teen relationship.Developmentally, your teen’s intention may be appropriate as it relates to what they might be trying to accomplish such as:

  • Independent thinking
  • Problem solving by testing everything you taught them about survival in this world to see if your teachings were correct
  • More autonomy to see what they can handle
  • Establishing a successful peer network

The problem is they are not going about this the right or safe way; therefore, they CONTINUE to need direction, discipline and support. The bottom line is they are trying to be adults and they are not fully prepared or ready! As a parent, you have to accept that fact, transition to how you relate to them because you cannot continue to restrain their life, and treat them the same way you did when they were not teens. Parents, you have to transition with them to help them be prepared and successfully transition well into young adulthood.

If you can relate to any of the following symptoms regarding your troubled teen, please consider the strategies below. Remember, you MUST be consistent!

  • Your teen complains and are in constant arguments with parents and/or siblings;
  • You restrict your teen’s freedom and physical activity and they rebel against this and do what they want to do anyway;
  • Your teens complain about the excessive guilt trips they feel you put on them;
  • You threaten to abandon your teen and put them out the house because he/she is too difficult to handle;
  • They don’t come home on time and stay out all night and you don’t know where they are;
  • Your teen appears to be intense and on-edge frequently;
  1. Consistently remind them that your job is to teach them how to keep themselves safe above all and they must follow your example to do that for themselves. Tell them you need to see if they can demonstrate COMPETENCE with these skills to show you they can survive without your direction. Then, you will be able to give them more responsibility and leverage.
  2. Help your teen to develop and practice coping skills (i.e. deep breathing, exercise, family walks, etc.). Practice these skills with them.
  3. Take some time and talk to your teen about his or her behavior. This demonstrates how you respect how they feel, think and behave! Teens will challenge you because they are challenging HOW YOU RAISED THEM and they need to figure out for themselves the right and wrong in that. They need and want to make up their own minds about what they believe, what works for them and if your methods really work. That’s why IT IS SSSSOOO IMPORTANT TO TAKE QUALITY TIME AND LISTEN TO THEM TELL YOU WHAT THEY THINK THEY KNOW, WHAT THEY LEARNED AND HOW THEY ARE APPLYING THE KNOWLEDGE AND WISDOM YOU DID OR DID NOT GIVE THEM.
  4. Ask them how their behavior helps them to accomplish or solve the presenting problem. Validate them in the ways they appropriately share their problem solving strategies and also let them know where and when it is not working. Clarify any distorted ideas or messages they present in their understanding.
  5. Ask them what they think they can substitute or replace other problem solving strategies that might get the positive attention or response they are looking for. Let them know what you are willing to negotiate to help them accomplish the positive outcome they are hoping to gain.
  6. Model appropriate behavior and look for teachable moments to educate them by your example, as well as set limits and boundaries. Have them practice the solutions and reward their accomplishments to reinforce position attention for appropriate behavior so you can get more of the same.
  7. You need to figure out ways to keep them busy doing responsible things. Yes, we know there’s a limit to school and community resources that are affordable like recreation and carpentry, etc.; however, WHAT ABOUT VOLUNTEER SERVICES like mural arts program, working in community gardens, helping seniors at day centers, at hospitals like the old candy strip volunteers, assisting at youth programs, at your community religious institution, etc. You can expose them to areas of interest so they can decide what they want to be when they become adults. Make it a chant or ritual to say to them as frequent as possible, “As your parent, my job is to prepare you to be a responsible citizen so you can contribute to the development of self, family and community.” Pay attention to what they do well, praise and encourage it so they can know they please you. THAT BUILDS SELF ESTEEM AND CONFIDENCE KNOWING THEY HAVE GOOD SOCIAL SKILLS, LIKABILITY AND GOOD MORALS!
  8. I would be remiss if I didn’t say seek counseling; such as, family counseling, individual counseling for your teen and for you! Coaching, mentorship and support groups are a plus too!
  9. You MUST create, set up and use your village, your team, your blood and/or fictional family to participate in guiding them and being a safe support that your teen can turn to when they don’t turn to you! You cannot raise a troubled teen alone! You need support! Your troubled teen needs support! This strategy is not an option, it is necessary!

All of these strategies will demonstrate to your troubled teen that you care and they are worth the time as well as the effort you put in them. Don’t get discouraged when you try something that doesn’t work right away or at all. You have to stick with a plan, be consistent and use your supports to encourage you! You are not an island! You are not alone! Model to your troubled teen how you use your supports. You are teaching them how to problem solve when you do this. Especially when the going gets rough, your example will stick with them and they won’t be able to say they weren’t exposed to problem solving skills. They pay more attention to what you do than what you say, so don’t give up on yourself and your teen!

Cynthia Chestnut is an Approved Supervisor and Clinical Fellow for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. She has Ph.D. in Couple and Family Therapy, Post graduate MFT specializing in Couple and Sex Therapy, and over 20 years of leadership responsibility in human relations, personal growth and professional development. Contact Dr. Chestnut at or twitter @DrCChestnut.

May 12, 2015
Shane’a Thomas
Giving Permission to Make Mistakes: Teaching Sexuality in Learning SpacesSummer is a time where educators or presenters are either gearing up for the summer school semesters (particularly in institutes of higher learning) or revamping workshop ideas to prepare for the Fall, each to where both are learning how to make lessons more comprehensive, informative and enjoyable. Sexuality and gender continue to be intriguing and tantalizing topics in educational settings, and interestingly enough, subjects everyone has some sort of personal experience (and opinion). The good news is any experience is a place for building new knowledge! Students or other learners feel as if they are coming into a classroom or educational setting under the premise they automatically know less, or that the knowledge they have isn’t valuable to the space. Here are a few tips below to help encourage sharing and exchange of information within a space of safety, and without shame of what we don’t know, to make room to build on what we do know!We all had to start somewhere: I had a student exclaim in class, “The first time I ever saw a gay person was on RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Though in her continuing to speak about her familiarity, she connected homosexuality, drag queens and the trans*experience to one idea around sexual orientation. Yes, some of the information was incorrect, it gave a great platform to speak about what people knew, and what they did not. The ideas around gender and sex are ingrained into most of us before we are even born (and some could argue moreso these days with the emergence of “coming out” or gender reveal parties), and it’s an experience we, learners and educators, haven’t figured out how to escape from. A part of educating around sexuality may include helping the audience to understand that we all started in a very similar place and understanding around who we are supposed to be, especially in terms of sexual orientation and gender roles. Educators are always put on a pedestal when it comes to knowledge, and with that comes continuous apologies from students for getting information “wrong”. Ease anxieties by reminding your audience that we all had to start somewhere, and using the new information acquired within the setting now gives us the ability see the world in a different perspective.

Create a “No Shaming Zone”: In continuing with the previous idea, within a classroom space, people are constantly apologizing for the things they do not know, as opposed to owning the things that they do. This can seem a little backwards because that’s what a learning space is for. Not only do I assure my students or workshop participants that it is ok to not know, but showing the vulnerability that at one point in time, I did not know either. Sex, gender and sexuality are concepts that we all started off learning as very black and white, dichotomous ideas. They were reinforced by our family members, friends, school systems, childhood environments, cultures and societies. The worth of some identities are revered, others hidden. To the individual learner, that is no fault of their own. As I say to my audience, especially to other social workers and service providers who work with various age groups, “make your mistakes here, so you won’t make them out in the field”. Mistakes are a part of learning; shaming one’s lack of incorrect knowledge deters them from trying again. Build confidence through encouragement.

Safety is Non-negotiable: Make sure you as the educator in any space is vigilant enough to protect, correct and discipline with corrective action if need be. Just as much as “you are only as strong as your weakest link”, your word to keep a learning space safe is only as true as your actions again homophobic comments, rude and disruptive behavior, or persistent heckling, “trolling” or just people being inappropriate. If the learner sees that you aren’t willing to call out inappropriate behavior, they aren’t going to feel safe asking questions, or even sharing their own personal experiences within the setting in the presence of that person. In turn, our behavior or the way we present ourselves within a space speaks to safety as well. Yes, the student’s stories about their first interaction with a gay person maybe amusing, but to who’s detriment are you laughing? Learn for yourself how to gently correct behavior without deterring others from sharing, but also making it clear that everyone, even if a particular member of a population is not (openly) present, deserves respect. Calling out all behavior and making a safe space for everyone to exist are ingredients for being a good ally in sexuality education.

This is also a reminder that as educators, we have to be heedful to keep the learning space safe for ourselves as well. Knowledge doesn’t keep us from not being human, we deserve safety as well. Educators have a right to keep personal information about their sexual history and gender personal, and those who choose to share have a right to be respected within that space. Again, creating safe boundaries is key to the safety of yourself, and to others, so learning, growing and healing can continue to expand within the learning space.

May 4, 2015
Kim S. Ramsey, B.Sc., FN-CSA, CSN
Nutritionally incompetent? essay was inspired by the sheer sadness and futility of this video. If anyone was to say that black people are nutritionally incompetent, we all would dismiss that person without any hesitation. However there is a kernel of truth in that remark. The relationship with food and blacks has not been a healthy one and the nutritional deficits continue from generation to generation. The endearing term “Soul food” describes a method of food preparation that was enforced upon blacks during the period of slavery. Slaves were given the cheaper and less desirable cuts of meat, (internal entrails, or limbs or organ meats) or salted meat or fish which could sustain being perishable; some fruits, and little to no vegetables and a large intake of carbohydrates, such as yams, sweet potatoes, bread and rice. Due to the brutal and prolonged activities of work for slavery; these diets supported this cruel and enforced lifestyle.Although today there is now racism instead of pure unadulterated slavery, the black race continues to destroy their bodies with salt, sugar and fat. To be offended by the simple truth is pathetic. To take the fact that blacks do not eat well and complain is not to take accountability for the lifestyle that we currently lead. A large proportion of blacks do not manage their diet and intake accordingly. Nor do they deem exercise as essential for their survival. The driving factor behind this matter is the lower socio economic status, lack of finances, our lack of education, our loyalty to the culture and taste of our cuisine and our attitude of reluctance to make “Soul food” into “Life Food” by changing the methods in how we prepare our foods. Members of the diaspora need nourishing food that nurtures and supports the homeostasis of the body instead of shortening its lifespan. In 2015, an increased resistance to exercise and an adherence to a sedentary lifestyle which is enhanced by the fact that technology and social media is now distracting us from movement. If we are not moving, then we are stagnant.

As a nurse working in an emergency department, I consistently meet people who have very limited concept as to how their eating habits are contributing to their illnesses. So drinking two liters of soda daily and never drinking water because “water don’t have no taste!” I have nursed more heart attacks, strokes, hypertensive crises, renal failures and diabetic emergencies than I can care to mention in the past 21 years. If we know better, then we can at least try to do better. Why not bake, stew or boil instead of frying? Why not season or marinade instead of copious salting? Why not drink water instead of soda or juice?

A person cannot state that he/she is conscious if he/she continues to eat like a slave. Why? Because this lower standard of eating is supplementing the ideology of white privilege. Freedom incorporates choice. Not having the finances to buy more expensive cuts of meat, does not mean that a person cannot choose to boil, bake or stew their food, instead of frying it. Making the appropriate time constraints to serve self instead of supporting the racist infrastructure that enslaves us is imperative. Choose very wisely and carefully. There is a specific reason why pharmaceutical companies trial new medications in empoverished areas; why major teaching hospitals are built in lower socio economic areas; that is hospitals where residents, medical students can learn their profession of medicine through trial and error people who are less likely to question the quality of care being given to them. This reason is because blacks are predisposing themselves to illness through the styles of the food and the consumption of the less advantageous types of food. The even sadder part of this essay is the nutritional deserts that are imposed upon our communities which limit the quality of food that is affordable and available to us. The cheaper supermarkets that are promoting the sugars, salts, and fattier foods are often found in our neighborhoods. What better way to allow health insurance companies to profit from us. Cheaper foods or genetically modified foods also shorten our lives and adversely impact the growth and development of our children, causing obesity and other health issues. Eating well is living well.

Kim S. Ramsey, B.Sc., FN-CSA, CSN
Registered Nurse

April 12, 2015
Tamara Griffin, DHS, MSW, MSEd
It’s Time to Get Real About SEX!The mere utterance of the word SEX can spark all sorts of debates among parents, politicians, educators, advocates, religious leaders, friends etc., nevertheless it is a conversation that we must have! We talk about war, politics, religion, fashion, music, reality TV shows, celebrities, the latest gossip and so much more, but yet we do not want to talk about sex. If by chance we do, the conversation is limited to “don’t do it” and/or abstain. But even that message still fails our children because we do not teach them how to be abstinent.In a day and age where HIV is still deadly, gonorrhea has resistant strains, celebrity sex tapes are the norm, sex sells everything, and casual sex is glamorized, we cannot afford to not have the conversations about sex. We live in a time where technology makes everything accessible. With the click of a button, children can find out any and everything about sex and unfortunately oftentimes the information is inaccurate, misleading and confusing. However, the quandary here is that if we do not provide them with accurate information about sex, they will continue to get it from wherever they can. It is time to come down off our ethical high horse, and stop burying our heads in the sand and pretending that children do not have sex. Because the fact of the matter is that many of them are and according to statistics many are doing it under the influence of a sub-stance like alcohol which puts them at even greater risk. It’s time to get real about sex…..comprehensive sex education that is!

We must provide our children with comprehensive sex education! Failure to do so is like placing them behind the wheel of a car and allowing them to drive without any instruction on how to maneuver the vehicle; there is sure to be an accident! Providing children with the knowledge and skills needed regarding sexuality is not giving them a license to freely engage in having sex but rather it is providing them with some essential tools that just might save their life, and definitely protect their health should they for whatever reason decide to have sex. In addition, they are less likely to get into an “accident.”

We must get beyond the belief that comprehensive sex education equates to teaching children how to have intercourse, get into different sexual positions, take birth control, or have abortions, etc. While some of those things are certainly a part of it, that is not the focal point it. True com-prehensive sex education includes conversations about the mental, emotional, spiritual, biochem-ical, social, legal, cultural and economical unintended consequences of sex – protected and/or unprotected. It also addresses how media messages impact sexuality and so much more.

We also must educate our children on personal responsibility and what it means to be accounta-ble! We are in charge of our sexual health! We cannot rely on anyone else to make decisions re-garding our sexual health. Failure to advocate and protect ourselves is like allowing ourselves to walk blindly into harm’s way. Every time we have unprotected sex with someone whose HIV or sexually transmitted infection (STI) status we do not know, we are saying to them that I love you enough to let you kill me!

In addition to increasing knowledge, we must also increase skills! For example, it is not enough to teach that condoms prevent pregnancy and/or STIs, we must teach our children how to use a condom, the steps to putting on a condom, how to negotiate condom usage with a partner, how to communicate safer sex options and even where to purchase and how to store condoms. Skills are essential! We can have all the knowledge and wherewithal in the world but if we do not have the skills then it is still an epic failure.

Understanding how our self-esteem, self-efficacy, triggers, social determinants (i.e., income, lack of insurance, poverty, lack of access to medical care, culture, religious beliefs, race, etc.) risk factors, strength factors and protective factors impact sexuality is important as well. Gaining an understanding of this may help to determine and/or shape the impact of our choices, beliefs, be-haviors and attitudes on sexuality. In addition, it may help to reduce engaging in behaviors that puts oneself at risk for engaging in sexual behaviors that contribute, directly and indirectly, to the transmission of HIV and other STIs.

Comprehensive sex education teaches the facts, dispels myths, removes the stigma and addresses taboos. Technology makes it possible for children to learn about sex from a variety of sources, many of which are not credible and do not offer information from an accurate educational stand-point. It’s so important to provide the facts from a credible source like a credentialed sex educa-tor and not the internet or media. It is also important to teach the appropriate terminology, the body parts and functions. Knowing this information helps to inform when something is wrong with their body, reduce language barriers between patients and providers, increases treatment options and teaches them to value their body.

Finally, true comprehensive sex education approaches the entire person with a focus on healthy sexuality, not intercourse! It makes the connection on how sexuality impacts every area of our lives. It teaches the knowledge and skills needed to make safer, healthier and informed choices. Comprehensive sex education is a layer of protection that helps to empower children with infor-mation that can protect their health and save their lives!

I leave you with this thought, no education, abstinence only or comprehensive sex educa-tion….what chance are you willing to take with your child’s life? Don’t allow your child, loved one or even yourself to become a statistic!

March 30, 2015
Dr. Cynthia Chestnut
The Chemistry of LoveSpring is here and love is in the air! After a long winter of very cold and snowy weather throughout the country, love hormones are ready for excitement and adventure! The spring season is the time of year when people are ready to stimulate more excitement in their current relationship, looking for a new relationship or coming out of a relationship after experiencing the whirlwinds of the winter challenges. Some challenges include proximity conflicts, agitation in the lack of agreements, not enough sexual stimulation or satisfaction to maintain interest and many more exhausting troubling interactions.
Research shows (Emanuele & Politi; Emanuel 2006, 2011; Emanuele, et al 2006; Fisher et al 2006, 2010; Esch & Stephano 2005; Kendrick 2004), that hormones are clearly at work participating in the moods, excitement, impulsion, and driven motivators that direct your interest for newness or changing the negative patterns in your relationship. Maybe you are looking for passion, romance, lust or attraction. Maybe the consistency of these feelings are weak and you want commitment to keep the stimulation thriving! The mental chemistry of love may endure, fade or change your relationship. Your chemistry actively influences the norms that you cultivate to inspire and maintain your relationship patterns.
The expression of romance is a dance when two people are in step with each other or the synchrony is totally off! It’s like a melody that flows and when it’s off key, it doesn’t sound good. The duet needs practice to discover more harmonious melodic tones. To get a better understanding of the mental chemistry involved in this dance, let’s look at the three stages of love espoused by Helen Fisher who states it as lust, attraction, and attachment. Each stage is driven by different hormones and chemicals.
“Lust” is the first stage of love. The hormones that drive this stage are testosterone and estrogen in both men and women. Women have low concentration levels of testosterone. Men have low concentration levels of estrogen in blood but can be high in semen. It should be noted that women with high levels of estrogen may appear to stereotypically adopt relationship strategies more often associated with men who are in and out of relationships with high frequency. The behaviors associated are flirting, kissing, dating, and having sex. Other behaviors include maintaining a serious affair if in a committed relationship or having a main partner to turn to periodically. Research has shown that women who produce high levels of an estrogen hormone called estradiol perceive themselves as attractive, have a high interest in sex, and tend to mother more children than women with lower amounts.
It is believed that behavior associated with high estradiol levels could have evolved when women were more dependent on men to support them through childbirth and child-rearing. Most modern women tend to rely less on male support for food, shelter, and other resources, than previous generations.
Testosterone in men is a major contributing factor in sexual development and motivation. It is the primary hormone in sexual changes and is directly related to personality, mood, aggression and masculine development. The adrenal glands in men produce the luteinizing hormone (LH), while the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) helps produce the actual sperm. This production is at its highest when determining the sex of a fetus in reproduction and in puberty testosterone secretion resumes and it is maintained throughout a man’s life.
The decrease of testosterone in men as they age sometimes turns into estrogen by an enzyme called aromatase. Men suffering from low testosterone levels due to aging might also be suffering from low estrogen. This is to note that testosterone and estrogen are not sex specific; however, the levels of secretion are very different depending on your sex. Also, the concentrations of these hormones have an effect on your cultivated sexual behaviors!
The second stage is “Attraction” which is a time you feel all the emotions that relates to love. You find yourself thinking of that person with high frequency and duration. You want to be with or hear from that person who is always on your mind while you anticipate calls or visits. The literature shows that the main neurotransmitters involved in this stage are adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin.
Adrenaline is also known as epinephrine which is a hormone that is released into blood stream along with cortisol when strong emotions show up causing your heart rate, muscle strength, blood pressure and sugar metabolism to increase. This is the activation of the “fight or flight” response which prepares your body for strenuous activity and in this case “falling in love!” Some may run from these feelings depending on your personality, romantic social values, impulsions and cultivation of how you respond to the strong emotions and chemistry. You start to sweat, feel your heart racing or have a dry mouth at the thought of being with that person, know that your stress responses are working.
High levels of dopamine are neurotransmitters that stimulate desire, reward and pleasure! This chemical can be very intense when reinforced with high frequency in thoughts, emotions and behavior. Dopamine along with epinephrine reinforcement can
have addicting effects. The surge of dopamine in a couple’s attraction for one another is seen through one having high energy, less need for sleep or food and increased attention to the details exchanged in the relationship.
The serotonin hormone affects your mood and joins the chemical dance keeping that person on your mind. Serotonin is the chemical that influences or reinforces the idea that you are falling in love. Lust is a temporary surge that cannot sustain itself unless dopamine and serotonin collaborate and frequently support its thrill that leads adaptation to attachment. Lust and love have different brain patterns but for those partners who pursue a goal to be loved by each other move to an attachment pattern that defines their love. It is the difference in seeking a partner and staying with a partner. “Attachment” is the third stage of love. It is the bond that keeps couples together produce children and become a family. Oxytocin and vasopressin are the hormones involved in the feelings of attachment. It’s released by men and women during an orgasm which deepens the feelings of the bond and makes the couple feel closer to each other during and after sex. The attachment becomes deeper with the frequency of sex with each other. This hormone plays a very important role in bonding a mother and child during birth. It is also released while feeding a baby for it is secreted in her brain and breast milk is ready to be served when the mother hears or see her baby. The release of the vasopressin hormone contributes to sustaining commitment. High levels of vasopressin in men and high levels of oxytocin in women are hormones that reinforce commitment in monogamous relationships.The sex drive is facilitated by lust. Romantic love is the early stage of falling love with obsessing and fantasizing thoughts, feelings and attraction. The bond or attachment stage is the calm and security stage that is felt for a long term partner. Biology and evolution propose that there are several adaptation strategies for falling in love. Religion and our culture propose that humans need to commit to one person for life.

Whatever stage of love you are in as you enter this spring with excitement, know that your mental chemistry participates in how you pick a partner and how you break up. Cultivate your chemistry by examining your relational norms, beliefs, values and practices to determine the skills needed to hone a healthy relationship. Compare this to how you manage your mood, anxiety, avoidance, attention and motivation. Aim to sustain wellness and good health in your quest to keep romance stirring in your long term relationship or aim to stimulate attraction to find a partner with the same relationship goal. Happy Spring!

Cynthia Chestnut is an Approved Supervisor and Clinical Fellow for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. She has Ph.D. in Couple and Family Therapy, Post graduate MFT specializing in Couple and Sex Therapy, and over 20 years of leadership responsibility in human relations, personal growth and professional development. Contact Dr. Chestnut at or twitter @DrCChestnut.

March 23, 2015
Tamara Pommells
Loving Black; Why Black women need to step up to get the love they deserve Successful intimate relationships are part of the developmental tasks that all individuals face in their life journey. The father of developmental psychology, Erik Erikson notes that one of the most critical stages in a human being’s life is intimacy vs isolation; either we learn how to be truly intimate with someone or we find ourselves alone. With over 7 billion people on the planet and an internal drive to procreate, some people would say finding intimacy should be easy. There ARE some people who consistently find themselves in loving intimate relationships and others who consistently either cannot find someone to love or for whom love and intimacy just does not work out again and again. A superficial glance at the statistics would reveal the old rhetoric that “Black women cannot find a man because of the elevated rate of incarceration or the lack of education or the attitude of Black women or the way Black women carry themselves or…”The reasons that Black women (and increasingly Black men) cannot find a suitable life partner have less to do with the statistics that confront them and more to do with how Black women view themselves. For some Black women finding intimacy comes naturally and organically because of how they see themselves and the energy that they radiate to the world which is then given back to them. If a woman sees herself as highly desirable and valuable then she goes about her day with her goals firmly fixed in her mind and radiating a confidence that is innately attractive to those they come across. There is no chip on her shoulder, there is no thought of just accepting what scraps the world has to give, there is no integration of the negative experiences into her mindset. This Black woman sees “failure” as learning experiences, this woman knows how to communicate her thoughts, wants and needs to others in a way that they can hear and respond appropriately, this woman knows that if something in her life is not working, that she is empowered to take steps to fix it and reach out to those who can help. The confident Black woman knows how to be vulnerable and when to show strength.Being a Black woman means being a part of a group that defies conventional thought. Black women have been revered since the beginning of time as the mothers, healers, lovers and hearth protectors of their communities and until we realize our own value, we cannot expect anyone else to value us. If you love what you see when you look in the mirror, you can be sure that others are also seeing you as you see yourself. So if you love a Black woman, help her step up and remind her of who she is because she may have forgotten.
March 16, 2015
Montsho & Nwasha Edu
The Culture of Love: Influences on Our Values, Beliefs and Actions
What most of us take for granted is there is a culture to love. At the center of that culture is your value system. Our signs, symbols and rituals are a reflection of that value system and must be in harmony if we want successful relationships. Culture does not develop on its own but is always taught. What have you been taught and how are you teaching the culture of love?Our influences shape our reality and become the seeds of the legacy we pass on to the generations of tomorrow. We have a popular culture that stresses individuality over community and instant gratification over endurance. The percentage of never married African Americans over the age of 35 has doubled during the last 25 years. That’s not a new statistic, but understanding why we no longer believe there is a communal purpose to the intimate relationship is an area we as a community need to explore.We have lost contact with our cultural norms and now promote the concepts of love from those who have oppressed us. Instead of using or making words that reflect our legacy, we use words like ‘romantic’ to express the pinnacle of our love experience and practice rituals that disrupt the harmony of nature such as growing flowers for the sole purpose of uprooting them to entertain a loved one. For those of us with Black ancestry, the concept of Purpose is intrinsically linked with Existence. Our indigenous cultures teach us that all animate and inanimate objects must serve a purpose and must be useful to be aligned with the Divine. We have a purpose as an individual that when united with another’s (our complement’s) serves to benefit the community and this understanding was transferred generationally through rites of passage and the science of soulmating. The skills of communication, intimacy and caring for a household were taught in preparation for the first intimate relationship.Our modern culture teaches us we are complete alone and that a relationship is an accessory of sorts to our individual self. We can take it or leave it, and it is no longer the heart of community. The manifestations of culture (our children, entertainment and philosophy) reflect the core values of a community. We’re not really taking it or leaving it but we are experiencing the stress of cognitive dissonance in our relationships. What can we infer about the tangible aspects and practices of our current culture? What are our rituals around love? Who are our love heros and what are we promoting in the realm of love and relationships?Relationships are the perfect catalyst for character development. There is no better reflection of your beliefs, values and commitment than the feedback you receive relating to another. There is no greater level of accountability. In fact, character perfection is the purpose of any relationship from the most casual to the most intimate. But it is our intimate relationships that provide the most intense opportunities for that growth and development of character. The traits that attract us to another in the beginning are often the ones that makes us uncomfortable after a while because they cause us to move beyond the emotional response to which we’ve grown accustomed. They cause us to develop or balance that part of our personality that’s reflected in the other person.
We are drawn like moths to a flame to alien cultural concepts but the flame will burn you if you don’t understand its purpose. Similarly, in our relationships, we must operate from a Divine purpose that emanates from autochthonous culture or we’ll continue to be burned. What is the culture that your words, symbols and rituals come from and does that best reflect you? If not, critically analyse and return to the culture of your natural existence.Montsho and Nwasha Edu are relationship counselors and co-founders of Akoma House Initiative, a culturally-based counseling and consulting firm that uses the art and science of culture to create and maintain holistic relationships. Their Twitter handle is @AkomaHouse and their email address is
March 2, 2015
H. Sharif Williams, Ph.D., M.Ed., (Dr. Herukhuti)
Freedom at the Intersections: Between Black History and Bisexual Health
Awareness Months The close of Black History Month. The start of Bisexual Health Awareness Month. The space between blackness and bisexuality ceremoniously folds onto itself. This time of year, intersectionality wedges Black bisexual people into that shrinking gap—at least for the second time in as many years since the latter has existed.But everyday racialized experiences of bisexual erasure, marginalization and biphobia breach any supposed discord between those two realities—blackness and bisexuality. As many Black gay and lesbian people endeavor to become indistinguishable from European-American gay and lesbian people and other Black gay and lesbian people work at appearing to be just like Black heterosexual people—many of whom are feverishly attempting to assimilate into middle-class, European-American, heterosexual culture, to be Black and bisexual continues to have the politicizing significance that June Jordan ascribed to bisexual affirmation—to be free, unpredictable and uncontrollable in insisting upon complexity and its validity (Jordan, 2002, p.136).Biphobia is, in part, the result of hostility to certain kinds of complexities. The complexity of bisexuality disturbs and disrupts simplistic thinking and superficial approaches to life. Farajajé (2014) noted, “In cultures that prioritize either/or thinking, either/or monolithic/oppositional definitions of sexualities/genders, in an either/or world, anything that occupies a liminal, an intersectional, or an interstitial location is seen as a threat” (p. 147).Phobia InfographicMany heterosexual people may not realize how rampant biphobia is among gays and lesbians. Biphobia is a regrettable but logical outcome of the Gay Liberation Movement. Like many liberatory struggles, many radicals and progressive reformers initiated what became known as the Gay Liberation Movement. And just like others, at some point, the Gay Liberation Movement was co-opted by assimilationist, conformist and opportunist agendas. Those forces veered away from the queer politics of difference and transgression—reveling and flaunting sexual and gender complexities—to embrace normativity and homogeneity.The agents of this agenda argued for homosexuality as a circumstance of birth rather than argue that all sexuality is chosen, informed by social context and embedded in culture, which would have challenge the a priori nature of bourgeois heterosexuality in contemporary Western societies. They spent considerable more time and resources advocating for unrestricted military service and the right to marry someone of the same assigned sex compared to what they spent working to ending workplace discrimination, street violence, homelessness and poverty—issues that disproportionately affect Black bisexual and transgender people.Because of the hegemony of imperialist, white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy, the adoption of homonormativity has extended beyond the domain of European/European-American gay spaces and encroached upon spaces in Africa and her Diaspora.Sexual Imperialism InfographicMainstream European/European-American ideas about sexuality and gender have ravaged Black communities in Africa and her Diaspora. Black gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people are now hypervisible in our communities in ways that we were not pre-Gay Liberation Movement—making us more vulnerable to violence and discrimination. Within oppressed communities over-policed and surveillance-heavy, rage is often turned inward on its most vulnerable members.Transgender women of color have been murdered at alarming rates. In the last several years, the rates have reached epidemic dimensions. In a recent Human Rights Campaign report, only 1 in 10 bisexual youth (21% of whom were Black) reported feeling that they definitely fit in within their communities (Andre, Brown, Kahn, & Sherouse, 2014).We can build nurturing and supportive systems for Black people of all sexualities and genders within our communities. But to do so, we will have to move beyond the low expectations of the tolerance paradigm and social media campaigns that offer simplistic approaches to systemic realities. Such efforts are more indicative of the woundedness and sexual and gender trauma we seek to address.Instead, the project of building a world that can hold all Black people without regard to their sexuality or gender demands a more rigorous approach—the ongoing work of liberatory struggle for the decolonization of our bodies, desires, families and communities. It calls us to honor and value the liberatory potential in our historical and indigenous understandings of sexuality and gender. It requires us to divest ourselves from dominating sexual and gender paradigms. It asks us to take often referenced African concepts such as ubuntu and nguzosaba and deploy them to reconciling our feelings about the messiness of sexualityThe details of such work will necessarily be as clandestine as any successful revolutionary movement. Intimacy and proximity will be the hallmarks. Those who take on the challenge of this covert work will rightly get their hands dirtied by the messiness. They will be marked by their efforts, as those who benefit from them will be transformed. But freedom is not free.References

Andre, A., Brown, J., Delpercio, A., Kahn, E., Nicoll, A., Sherouse, B. (2014). Supporting and caring for our bisexual youth. D.C.: The Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

Farajajé, I. A. (2014).Fictions of purity. In R. Ochs and H. S. Williams (Eds.), Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men (pp. 146-151). Boston: Bisexual Resource Center.

Jordan, J. (2002). Some of us did not die: new and selected essays of June Jordan. New York: Basic Books.

Dr. Herukhuti is a professor of interdisciplinary studies at Goddard College and founder and chief erotics officer of Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality. His Twitter handle is @DrHerukhuti and email address is dr.herukhuti[@]

February 23, 2015
Embracing the taboo: Church, youth, and sex
Gregg Seaton, Ph.D (The College of New Jersey) Perhaps it is fitting to discuss the black church during Black History Month. After all, the Civil Rights Movement would not have been possible without the moral authority, organization, and funding of the black church. It may seem odd to some to discuss the black church in the context of sex and relationships. In many ways, sex, gender, and sexuality were just as present as the issue of race during the Civil Rights Movement. However, these issues were and continue to be seldom discussed. At church last week, I had a very pleasant surprise. The minister began a thoughtful commentary to the youth about the sanctity of their bodies and sex. This was a bold move and usually doesn’t happen in church- at least the ones I have attended. I left wanting more- these types of conversations are long overdue in the chuch in general and the black church specifically.Although the format was unidirectional and did not allow for a dialogue, I think it was a step in the right direction. Most notably, the minister normalized sex. Sex and sexual desire are just as natural as breathing. Sexual desire is not demonic. However, just because sex is “natural”, it does not prevent sex from being misused or abused. Sex has become a substitute for self work and self worth. Like food or drugs, sex can be a distraction or maladaptive way of coping with identity issues. When we don’t understand our current situation or purpose, we sometimes engage in pleasure seeking to distract ourselves from the pain or dissonance. When the thrill or high is gone, the problem is still there – sometimes intensified by our coping. Additionally, just because the body may be biologically ready for sex does not mean that one is adequately equipped to deal with the psychological, physical, or spiritual consequences of sex. The case of adolescent sexual development presents a wonderful opportunity for the church to minister youth around self discovery and self esteem.To be clear, my bias or preference is that sex is an act for married couples. However, I am not naive enough to believe that only married couples are having sex. There is truth in the message that we cannot and shouldn’t succumb to every urge- self control. However; there is also truth in the fact that many young people within and without the church are having sex. Although abstinence is the only full proof method to protect against pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, the church has to broaden the discussion beyond the act of sex.That is, if churches are serious about meeting the needs of youth, the question can’t just be about the act of sex. The focus has to also include why youth are engaging in sex- the purpose. The answers may surprise you. In my experience counseling youth, sexual encounters are very seldom about love or pleasure. It is typically about succumbing to social pressure or wanting to be accepted. Youth are not growing up in a vacuum. The media is constantly bombarding youth with messages regarding sex and sexuality. Culturally, masculinity has been defined by one’s sexual prowess. The general rule is the more women you sleep with, the more of a man you are. Similarly, femininity has been defined by how sexually attractive or provocative a woman is to a man. These cultural scripts are problematic at best, as they do not focus on personhood and relationship building but just the act of sex.I’ll be transparent regarding my bias. I am a Christian- just not the super spiritual type. That is, I believe that the role of the church is to minster to ALL aspects of humanity – not just the spiritual. For me, the gospel is about humanity’s redemption and limitless love. Sex is an integral part of the human experience and must be addressed explicitly by the church beyond the prototypical- don’t do it. Today’s church must engage adolescents (and adults) in meaningful strategic dialogue around sex. This dialogue should include: the discussion of the consequences of sex, one’s motivation for sex, other viable options for youth to affirm and actualize their identity/purpose and yes – healthy practices if one decides to have sex. Outside of a comprehensive approach outlined above, we will continue to use messages that fail to meet the needs of the masses. It is time for the church to speak thoughtfully about sex. Otherwise, consumerism, mysgony, conformity, and impulsivity will continue to be the dominate messages around youth sexuality.
February 9, 2015
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
Leah P. Hollis Ed.D. (Morgan State University)
February 7, 2015 is the 14th year for National Black HIV/AIDS awareness day. Though the black community is only 13% of the national population, but 44% of new HIV/AIDS cases. The community awareness focuses on “Educate, test, involve and treatment.”While there has been a decline in the number of black women who contract the infection, black men are becoming the population contracting the infection at higher rates.Hopefully with the Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act, more blacks will receive preventive care and support. As the Affordable Health Care Act prohibits insurances companies from denying care to those with previously existing conditions, those who have health care needs or more at –risk to exposurenow have access to health care.The considerable note is that black men are more likely to contract HIV/AIDS. One in three black men who have sex with men are diagnosed with HIV in comparison with 1 in ten white men who have sex with men. Therefore, in an effort to support gay black men, and other men who have sex with men (MSM), ViiV Healthcare announces $10 million initiative specifically focusing on Baltimore Maryland and Jackson, Mississippi, two cities with the highest incidents of new cases.For more information, see the Black HIV/AIDS awareness website at
January 5, 2015
STOP! The Trafficking… Hot-lanta is hotbed for sex trafficking
Leah P. Hollis Ed.D. (Morgan State University)
The Urban Institute has determined that Atlanta is the leading city in the United States for sex trafficking over Dallas, Denver, Miami, San Diego, Seattle and Washington, DC. In Atlanta, close to 40% of the young girls are African American. Similar to third world countries in which women desperate for work are lured into the sex industry then shipped to another country, the findings of this study also point to lacking employment as a compelling reason for both sex workers and pimps to enter underground sex trafficking.Unlike international sex trafficking rings, these domestic sex workers who are already serving are also major recruiting personnel, bringing in friends and family to work for the same pimp. This results in close to 300 new girls recruited to the sex industry every month in Atlanta alone. Because friends and family are used to recruit minor girls, the young girls are also lured into believing this is a typical part of life.As with many industries, the Internet is used in sex trafficking to advertise for new clients. The image of a young girl in thigh high boots and a skimpy top on the street has been replaced with Craigslist as a leading advertisement hub to traffick young girls. Many residents have yet to realize that the abuse and prostitution are literally occurring in the next town over or the local budget motel down the street. It is a twisted and quiet cottage industry, yielding millions of dollars. The trade is so profitable that former gangland rivals have left gang banging to join forces in a more lucrative underground sex trafficking industry.Over $290 million were made in Atlanta in 2007 as a result of sex trafficking, just under a third of the $975.3 million made across these seven cities. These data represent pre-recession levels before record unemployment crushed the economy. As more people faced unemployment, it is foreseeable that 2014 sex trafficking has since increased. The qualitative interviews from this study revealed that pimps could make 5,000 to close to $33,000 a week trafficking minors for sex.For more information on this report visit for a complete copy of the extension research on American sex trafficking.
December 15, 2014
Protest….by mentoring
Gregg Seaton, Ph.D
The College of New JerseyIn response to the grand jury verdicts of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, thousands of Americans across the country have engaged in peaceful protest against the mistreatment of black men by police officers (and those pretending to be police). Meanwhile, talk show pundits debate whether racism still exists in a country that elected the first black President. And yet media personalities and politicians, disingenuously chastise the black community for “no outrage” regarding black on black crime (See Given the amount of media and national attention some people are immobilized by struggle, fatigue, or simply do not get it. Maybe you are wondering what you can do.Whether you believe (like I do) that we are far from a post racial society or that the senseless loss of any life is cause for protest and outrage, one thing is clear: black males have undeniable obstacles that limit or even steal their lives. Many of these obstacles are the direct result of structural racism. And yet, others are the result of poor choices in the face of poor options. Although I understand the need for traditional protest, I have not been involved in any. Instead, I have renewed my commitment to my work––mentoring young men. I am protesting through relationships. What I have found in my own life and through my research is that relationships matter. What do I mean? Relationships are both the figurative and literal way we recognize and become our life’s possibilities. Although this is true for all humans, my research is focused on males and their relationships with the self and others. In particular, I help boys proactively deal with stress and conflict and ignore the destructive media messaging about what it means to black and male.Boys (not just black boys) need us to help them develop healthy masculinity––a sense of manhood that is not developed on the denial of emotions, the sexual exploitation of women, or the belief that violence is the cure for all interpersonal conflicts. Boys without proper guidance grow up to be men (e.g, fathers, husbands, citizens, teachers, police officers, professors etc.) who are detached from their true selves. Detached men are destructive men. Hypermasculinity is not a black male or minority male thing. It is a male thing. Exaggerated bravado for better or worse is a cultural part of being male. Add a firearm to the culture of hypermasculinity and the dynamics of racism, you have a recipe for the devaluing of life in general and black life in particular. This recipe will yield the same results regardless of who is in the kitchenTo address this problem, I invite you to join me in a protest through relationships. No matter your race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc, you are needed. The single most important protective factor for a child is being in relationship with a caring adult. How do you protest through relationships?

  1. No matter your age, you need to be mentored and you need a mentor. Become involved in mentoring efforts in your community. Many religious and civic organizations have mentoring programs. If you are unable to find one, check here
  2. Develop relationships with elected officials and public servants (i.e., teachers, policemen, firemen). That is, go to open houses/community meetings, visit the offices of local politicians and leaders. Create opportunities for them to engage and communicate with community (host a forum). Interactions with public servants cannot just be centered upon crisis.
  3. Get to know your neighbors. Put down your phones and tablets and talk to people. Be intentional in creating events to get your neighbors to connect.
  4. Meaningful relationships will require you to be uncomfortable. Relationships are give and take. You cannot remain the same. Your beliefs and actions will be rightfully questioned and challenged. Be open to change and changing.
  5. Be open to courageous conversations. We must speak truth to power no matter where the power rests.
    I invite you to join me in this protest of relationship status quo. Clearly body cameras on police officers are not the solution.
December 8, 2014
James C. Wadley, Ph.D
Lincoln University
Processing my denial and the allegations against Bill CosbyI wasn’t quite sure about what I would write, but I felt compelled to write something in order to offer some insight. As a child of the 70s and the “TV generation”, I grew up watching Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. What’s curious is that if someone were to ask me about how the opening theme song to the show goes, I could easily start signing “Nah, nah, nah, gonna have a good time! Hey! Hey! Hey!” I believe that the best lesson that I learned from watching the show as a child is that true friendship is enduring and takes patience with oneself and those whom I am connected to. Moreover, the show offered me a sense of identity seeing animated Black kids who looked like some of the kids in my neighborhood in Toledo, Ohio (well maybe not Dumb Donald).During the late 80s and early 90s when I was in college, my friends and I would not allow anything to take precedence over watching the “Cosby Show” or “A Different World” on Thursday nights. The campus at Hampton University and probably other HBCUs across the country were silent during that hour of television as the shows depicted a Black middle to upper middle class lifestyle and the characters were accessible and familiar. Issues about remaining in college, dating, racism, alcoholism/drug usage, family, and other topics took center stage on the show and kept Black students and folks around the country glued to the television to see reflections of themselves on primetime television.As a graduate student at UPenn, I felt fortunate at the time to meet Bill Cosby at the Penn Relays. My work study position was in the Center for Community Partnerships and that enabled me to have a field pass at the national track meet. I approached Dr. Cosby and asked for a picture with him and without hesitation he agreed. Almost 20 years later, I still have that picture today on the mantle in my office. many others, I am fighting through my denial about the allegations against Bill Cosby because at one time, he was “America’s Dad.” On one hand, there are so few representations of positive Black men in the media that it is easy to be enamored with his charisma, generosity, and sense of self. On the other hand, the professional side of me has a background in sex addiction and it saddens me that I assumed that there would probably be others to come forward. When the first allegation came out publicly a couple of weeks ago, I shared with some colleagues of mine that the initial reports were only the tip of the iceberg. In other words, I speculated that there would be many more women who would come out to share their story about their interaction with him. The sexual addiction cycle suggests several components to acting out behavior including faulty belief systems, impaired thinking, preoccupation, ritualization, sexual compulsivity, despair, and unmanageability (Carnes, 1992). In other words, privilege, sexism, entitlement, power, access to resources, obsession, compulsion, low self-esteem, and loss of control are intricately woven into what is turning out to be sad story.Typically, when a person acts out sexually in this manner, it is not done in a vacuum. There are usually others who advertently or inadvertently enable the behavior. This makes the situation significantly more complex because it suggests that others may have known what was going on, with whom, the surrounding circumstance, and possibly the frequency.As I continue to process these allegations against Bill Cosby, I would be remiss if I did not applaud the courage of the women who came forward. I understand that sexual coercion is emotionally, behaviorally, and socially complex and that there are a myriad of factors involved. Whether it happened yesterday, last month, last year, 10 years, or 50 years ago, rape is never okay or should be minimized, ridiculed, or dismissed. I can only hope that the truth continues to be revealed and that all parties involved receive help and support.Carnes, P. (1992). Don’t call it love: Recovery from sexual addiction. New York: Random House.Dr. James Wadley is an Associate Professor and Director of the Master of Human Services Program at Lincoln University. He’s a licensed professional counselor and marriage, family, and sexuality therapist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He is also the Founder and Editor of the Journal of Black Sexuality and Relationships. Follow him on Twitter @phdjamesw
December 1, 2014
Leah Hollis, Ed.D
Morgan State University
Bottom’s up? The historical objectification of the black woman’s physical frameThe November 12 2014 photos of Kim Kardashian “Break the Internet” photos for Paper present Ms. Kardashianwith aprovocative pose, serving a martini on her extra plumb posterior. The release prompted global attention and even morning news talk shows discussing “booty padding” underwear to achieve the same over sexualized look. Kim Kardashian and Kardashian wanna-bes don’t realize they are playing into an old racialized stereotype by photographer Jean-Paul Goude who took an old photo spread of a black woman with a glass on her behind, and updated the pose with Kim Kardashian.Jean Paul Goude, once significant other to Grace Jones, might consider his fixation with the black physique as exotic and artistic, but it smacks of older images of black women’s bodies objectified and presented for public consumption.Reflect back 200 years to Sarah Baartman, a member of the Khoisan tribe, who left her home in Africa and was reduced to a freak show image in Britain in the early 1800s. Europeans were beyond awed by her large posterior and objectified her body for financial gain. Even upon her death, Sarah’s lower region was preserved in a French museum for public spectacle.Two hundred years later, many things have changed, yet unfortunately some things haven’t changed. Sarah’s buttocks were quite the scandal in the 1800s. Some historians claim she might have been the inspiration for the large bustle attached under the petticoats of well-to -do women seeking to present herself as more sexual. Karashian’s photos too are prompting some to seek such augmentation as with sales of padded underwear or even butt enhancing plastic surgery. As Rachel Holmes reported, it took just three months for Sarah to get to Europe, but over two hundred years for her skeleton, preserved genitals and other bodily remains to return to Africa for a proper burial after Nelson Mandela urged the French return her to her homeland. Who will step up and tell Kim to go home and put to rest the constant vilification of women’s bodies.Holmes, R (2007). The Hottentot Venus: The life and death of sortie Baartman born 1978-buried 2002
November 24, 2014
Demar Chambliss
Rosemont College
Its 5:00-Do you know where your children are? A look at child abuse in the black communityThe black community faces an unsettling taboo – unfortunately to most young black parents of this, the concept of “it will never happened to my child,” OR “I would kill somebody if they were ever to do that to my child” is something parents may take very seriously in talk, but in action, many of us fall short.From my position as a psychologist, I know first hand the reality is something very different. Child abuse is the physical, sexual, emotional/psychological mistreatment of a child by a parent, caregiver or someone in the community. Often the abuse happens by someone the parents knows or even trusts with the child. Within this problem, there are 4 major categories:

  1. Physical abuse is the abuse involving physical or bodily harm towards the child. Often this may involve punching, biting, strangling, attacking with a weapon, or other means of showing the child some form of physical pain.
  2. Neglect is when the child is deprived of basic needs such as shelter, food, affection, and attention (sometimes the holding or caring touch of a mother or father). This category also includes starvation, lack of education, etc. People who go through child abuse can be affected physically, psychologically, cognitively, behaviorally and socially.
  3. Sexual abuse is when the perpetrator uses the child as a form of sexual stimulation. This may cover a wide variety of deviant actions such as sexual intercourse, indecent exposure of genitals, penetration of the child’s private areas with objects and or sexual conversation.
  4. Psychological and or emotional abuse is the when the child is a subject or exposed to ridiculing behavior causing psychological harm. These may include but not limited too name-calling, ridicule, and degradation.

Young black parents today have many issues working against them: the lack of employment, the lack of a stable home environment, educational and social inequities, and far too often the lack of education when it comes to the welfare of their own child and or children. Unfortunately young parents have a wanting to continue their own youth and often experience feeling of being trapped by having children in such an early age. Consequently, far too often, many a young black mothers or fathers make drastic mistakes when it comes to where their children are, and who they will allow to watch over their children On many occasions, parent do not know what the children are doing. Since children may suffer more than one type of abuse, simple cause-and-effect models are too limited to provide accurate predictors of child abuse. In no way does this commentary intend to paint all parents with the broad brush of neglect; yet the fractured state of the black family unfortunately allows more risk of insidious behavior directed at the children.

Grandmothers or grandparents seem to be the preferred vehicle for parenting young black children. Unfortunately more than too often grandparents just do not have the strength, mindset or the ability to keep up with the grandchildren. Sometimes young parents leave their babies with young nieces and nephews, who all too often are minors themselves. Young or under aged parents may not agree with their own parents or caregivers, creating conflict in childcare. Many times relatives, neighbors, and or friends are not considered as potential hazards concerning their child’s welfare. Many times young African American mothers and fathers will leave their children at the mercy of adults that they have no true knowledge of, they will simply take for granted that” they’re friendly, they treat my children nice, and they would never hurt my child and or children.” In desperation to regaining moments of youth, a young unsuspecting parent can leave children with predators and abusers.

All far too often the people they may leave their children in care of alcoholics, drug addicts, child abusers, abusive mates, or family members with mental issues. Unscheduled baby-sitting or last minute requests don’t typically mean that the baby sitter was vetted out. Resultingly, the child can be left in a horrible situation, and in turn robbed of innocence before young mom or dad return after a night of partying.

If a child is exposed to such abuse repeatedly, the child can grow to a young adult who engages in drug/alcohol abuse, mental problems, learning/developmental difficulties, behavioral problems, eating disorders, aggression, teenage pregnancy, youth suicide and even fatality. A child is not to blame for their own victimization, childhood trauma including abuse and neglect, is probably Americas single most important public health challenge.

Unfortunately, this cycle can continue across generations. On more than one occasion, people with a history of sexual abuse who may have been abused they, tend to take on different mindsets about their own abuse. They sometimes become the abuser, in on some occasions will become the victim or more than often they will prey on children who feel has been abandoned, they tend to feel that these children need to be loved or used in the same manner in which they were used. Thus setting these children up as very easy targets, making them very easy to sexually abuse.

Often they will use some of the same tactics that was perpetrated on them, using these tactics on the defenseless child or children. These tactics often include “if you tell anybody I will kill you” OR “if you tell your mother or father I want to kill them too” OR “you know I love you-this is yours and my little secret.” Despite the common signs and residual behavior sexual predators do not have a certain outward appearance. They simply have motivate to gratify themselves at the risk of the young child

Are we doing enough to prevent child abuse? Is the government and social services doing the right things to prevent child abuse? Children are suffering from a national epidemic of child abuse and neglected. “According to a report in May 2010 from United States Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children & Families, approximately 772,000 children were found to be victim of child maltreatment in 2008; 71.1% suffered neglect; 16.1% were physically abused; 9.1% were sexually abused, and 7.3% were psychologically maltreated. These figures only represents reported cases of abuse literally thousands more go unreported each year.” (National Child Abuse Statistics)

Parents, regardless of age, are expected to provide security and care of your children and treat them as if they are the only precious gift you may have in your entire life. Sometimes this is not always the case and children end up being abused in their home were they are supposed to feel safe and loved. Every day a child is abused and may lose his or her life. Parents need to be hyper vilgent about who cares for children. What is their background? Who visits them? Once the child is abused, this is a scar that they will carry with them the rest of their life. Prevention of abuse is the only way to stop innocent children from more dangerous and abusive maltreatments. To keep our children from being statistics, ask yourself a very simple question: “It is 5:00 do you know where your children are?”

November 17, 2014
Gregg Seaton, Ph.D
The College of New Jersey
Are You A Sexual Health Gladiator?Yes, I am a gladiator. Like millions of Americans, I have become addicted to the brilliance of Shonda Rhimes (she is a creative genius) and the beautiful yet powerful character of Olivia Pope. Very seldom do I miss an episode (DVR is a wonderful invention). For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last two years, here is a condensed description. Scandal is dramatic series that follows the life of a big time political fixer- Olivia Pope. Olivia’s firm- Pope and Associates is comprised of a number of key associates all of whom Olivia has fixed in some way. The irony is that despite Olivia’s immense power to “heal” others, she is unable to “fix” her own life. In particular, her love life is in shambles. No, Olivia is not sitting on the sofa waiting for a date. It is the exact opposite. Let’s just say she has a very active love life.
However, her love life is complicated. She is the hypotenuse of a love triangle. She is “in love” with a married man, who just happens to be the sitting President of the United States. She is also “in love” with a special agent that the married but jealous President assigned to monitor Olivia. In a nut shell, the entire show is all about relationships. Consequently, trust, power, politics, crisis, and sex are constant themes in the show. And as you can imagine, there is a lot of sex on Scandal. If it is not Olivia in a sex scene, its one of the associates in the firm. The scenes tend to be edgy but tastefully done.But make no mistake about it, this is not television for children. I think few would argue that point or suggest that children are the intended audience. What concerns me though are the adolescents that are watching Scandal (or any adult media) without thoughtful guidance. They see people engage in sex without any protection, precaution and sometimes thought. Remember when you were an adolescent? If you were like me, you knew everything and were invincible. Media shaped your world. It told us how to dress, what to wear and what to do. (I still regret the Kid & Play high top fade and the polka dot Kwame shirts.) To know it all, be invincible and lack media savvy can have the makings of a bad combination when it comes to adolescent sexual behavior (and other things).According to the CDC(, an estimated 8,300 young people aged 13–24 years in the 40 states reporting to CDC had HIV infection in 2009. Nearly half of the 19 million new STDs each year are among young people aged 15–24 years. Further, more than 400,000 teen girls aged 15–19 years gave birth in 2009. These statistics are are even worse for minority and economically disadvantaged adolescents.No. I am not saying that Shonda Rhimes is the cause of poor adolescent sexual health outcomes. However, what I am saying is that gladiators can use Scandal (and other media) as an opportunity to thoughtfully talk about sex and sexuality with teens and young adults. We can no longer pretend that adolescents are not exposed to sex in the media, thinking about sex, or having sex. Sexual maturation and desire are a normal part of being human. However, in the absence of quality information and guidance, youth attempt to figure it out on their own or emulate what they see and hear in the media. Not good. So, be a real gladiator and have conversations, with your child, nieces or nephews about the importance of safe sex practices. The “talk” is not a onetime conversation, but an ongoing dialogue. In the spirit of Olivia Pope, adolescent sexual health outcomes are something we can “fix” or at the very least make better. Let’s get to work GLADIATORS!
November 10, 2014
Treva Lindsey, Ph.D
The Ohio State University
Telling the truth about rape and victim blaming….Last week, my esteemed colleague Dr. Leah Hollis posted a pointed piece on the Journal of Black Sexuality and Relationships blog entitled, “Abuse Against Black Women: Can’t be the Dirty Little Secret Anymore.” Calling upon Black communities to invest in differing strategies for ending sexual violence perpetrated against Black women and girls, Hollis honed in on the pervasive silence of Black female survivors/victims of intra-racial sexual violence. While citing race loyalty as one of the main reasons for Black women’s and girls’ silence around sexual violence, Hollis also offered a community-based approach to creating safer and healthier spaces for Black communities to grapple with the pernicious realities of sexual violence in the lives of Black women and girls. The National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention report that nearly 1 in 5 Black women experience rape at some point in their lives. This startling and horrifying statistic demands exigent and collective attention.A significant part of ending sexual violence against Black women and girls (trans* inclusive) requires honest conversations about the ways in which institutions, cultural and social norms, and gender-based systems of oppression such as heteropartiarchy, sexism, and systemic misogyny foster a culture that at best is complicit, and at worst condones sexual violence against women and girls. On September 16th, 2014, President Robert R. Jennings of Lincoln University, a historically Black university located near Oxford, Pennsylvania, offered deeply incensing remarks at the university’s annual women-only convocation about sexual violence. His remarks included statements about women not putting themselves in particular situations, women lying about rape, and women not having sexually active lives if they want to be respected by men. >From slut-shaming to victim-blaming, the recorded footage of Jennings provides an incisive point of departure for understanding why so many women, and particularly Black women remain silent about their experiences with sexual violence.
While many students, alumni, and a diverse collection of supporters outside of the university are currently petitioning for Jennings’ termination or resignation, let us take moment to closely assess the harmful and sexual violence-enabling content of his remarks. His discussion of sexual violence pivots around victim-blaming, questions the veracity of allegations of rape on Lincoln’s campus, encourages women to alter their behavior to prevent rape, and implicitly discourages women from reporting rape by anchoring his remarks in an enthusiastic defense of the lives and well being of those accused of rape. His remarks gravely ignore that less than 6% of sexual assault allegations are false claims. Furthermore, his remarks indicate an institutional culture that will hold women responsible for the violence committed against them.In addition to his reprehensible and victim-blaming approach to rape and sexual assault at this historically Black institution, he engages in a dangerous form of slut-shaming rooted both in sexism and heteropatriarchy. Jennings informs the women students of Lincoln that respect from men is predicated upon her sexual behavior, as opposed to the respect one affords to a person simply because she is a person. Whereas his comments concede that men can be sexually active without dire consequences, he urges women to “respect” themselves with regards to their sexual practices. His framing of the sexual subjectivities of Black women students at Lincoln presumes: 1) all of the women engage in heterosexual practices; 2) all of the women are interested in being chosen as a primary partner or wife of a man with whom she has a sexual relationship; and 3) women’s sexual activities or inactivity serve as the basis by which men decide to respect particular women. These presumptions deprive women of any agency.Ultimately, Jennings’ remarks exist in a wider societal culture in which slut-shaming and victim-blaming thrive. In his framing, women can neither be real victims of sexual violence or real agents in their sexual lives. Although attitudes and perspectives such as those articulated by Jennings are widespread, it is important that we note these ideas being expressed by the head of a Black institution. The audience for his remarks were primarily Black women. Black women do not need anymore messages that work to silence, blame, shame, or further violate their voices and experiences. His subsequent non-apology apology does not address his continued trumpeting of victim-blaming and slut-shaming discourses. Ending the silence around sexual violence against Black women demands that we hold each other accountable when we explicitly or implicitly contribute to the rampant sexual violence Black women endure. Too many Black women are rape and sexual assault survivors and we all must play a role in changing this grave reality.
November 3, 2014
Abuse Against Black Women: Can’t be the Dirty Little Secret Anymore
Leah P. Hollis Ed.D. (Morgan State University)Title IX was passed in 1972 and has typically been applied to offering women opportunity in sport and also science/engineering programs. However, in 2011, the United States Department revisited the language on sexual violence and Title IX. More emphasis was given to sexual violence and unprecedented transparency by listing by 55 schools with open sexual violence investigations. In regard to education, specifically,A school should provide training to all employees likely to witness or receive reports of sexual violence, including teachers, professors, school law enforcement unit employees, school administrators, school counselors, general counsels, athletic coaches, health personnel, and resident advisors (USDCR, 2011, p. 38).Our society has been presented with nothing new in Title IX, just a new focus. The same applies to sexual violence in the black community. Whether for sports, education, science or the domestic sphere, sexual inequity and violence against women can’t be the dirty little secret anymore. According to Time Magazine, black women are three times more likely than white women to experience sexual violence. Twenty-two percent of homicides occur for black women, though black women are only 8% of the population.Typically loyal to the black community, black women are often aligning with racism without giving the warranted attention to sexism. The double bind of race and sex creates a quandary from which to emerge. This age old problem that developed from slavery leaves black women often choosing the racial self and denying the gendered self when advocating for rights. Black women often don’t want to “dime out” their men by making calls to authorities that will subject the abuser to a racist judicial system. While she protects her race, the black woman often suppresses her rights in regard to sex.Just as the racial/gendered self is trapped by community loyalty, community support can break the bonds of sexual violence. Instead of fathers saying to daughters, “As long as he brings home the check it’s ok….” Instead of brothers telling sons, “Oh she’ll get over it…” the black community of men and women need to show black women the same loyalty and support that she has offered all these years. The black community has a responsibility to self-police sexual violence from its domestic space. Men should train boys and sons to grow into protective young men; and women should raise their daughter to speak up and step away from sexual violence. If the black community expects different results, it must engage in different accountability in curtailing behavior that only erodes from within. Sexual violence can no longer be the dirty little secret.TIME. (2014) Why Black Women Struggle More With Domestic Violence. Retrieved from States Department of Civil Rights. (USDCR). (2011). Dear Colleague