There are ongoing developments on this area. However, there has also been a recent development, which has not been explored or examined, that is ‘Traumatic Brain Injury’ or ‘Brain Injury’ from childhood trauma. Our organization is deeply concerned that many victims past and present may actually have Traumatic Brian Injury and are misdiagnosed. The misdiagnosis is common mostly because the symptoms of Traumatic Brian Injury or Brain Injury are very similar to depressive and anxiety based diagnoses. Sadly, there is also a serious lack of literature on the link between brain injury and child abuse. As some here may be aware, ‘brain injury’ is considered an ‘organic injury’ whereas ‘nonorganic injury’ is considered to be ‘psychiatric’ in nature. However, there is some debate on the two commonly being linked. This is to say that the brain injury would be the underlying issue in the diagnosis. As per the neurodevelopment/neuropsychiatric aspects of child abuse’ there is supporting evidence of how developmental deprivation/interference may lead to ‘organic’ (physical) injury.
Restoring Dignity is conducting some research on trauma in childhood and its impact on the human body, at least from a developmental point. I was reading recently on the immune system and how it interacts with foreign invaders to the body when the thought of whether a similar relationship might exist contending with trauma.
The thought also occurred to me that if we can established damages from trauma to the human body on a cellular level as we do with viruses invading the body, can we also then establish how much this may influence genetic design in families visa vie - 'generational affects'.
So the question I think is can trauma during childhood (during the formative years and preteens) influence cellular and genetic coding? Additionally, what role does this play in the relationship with neurons and the neurological pathways of the body (IE the conditioning of cognitive and behavioral issues).
We are also interested in seeing whether there might be a relationship to the loss or over production of protein in the human body when dealing with trauma (IE - Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (C.T.E.) and protein - research in sport injuries has shown that protein can become toxic to the brain which lead to long term problems and Dementia).
Much has been written and expressed that trauma in childhood does have a profound impact into adulthood. The scientific facts of this have not been established. I think the point is moving beyond theory to understand how deep these damages run and if we can develop new treatments from this body of research to more effectively treat the long term impacts of trauma to the human body?
Back on August 13th, 2012, Dr. Russell Schachar, MD, FRCP(C), Staff Psychiatrist, The Hospital for Sick Children, Senior Scientist, Research Institute, Toronto Dominion Bank Financial Group Chair in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, shared the following:
You are posing one of the more difficult questions in child development as far as I am concerned.
More generally, the question pertains to environmental interactions with genetic disposition a process, which might include what, is known as epigenetic effects. Generally, it is thought that the best way to unravel these interactions is to first identify the psychosocial influences that impact child development (many are known of course) and the genetic influences. One can then ask questions about the interactions of environmental and genetic risk factors. Many of us are involved in the search for these genetic risk factors right now and are making progress.
Research into the relationship of biological functions within the body on a cellular level has already begun. Professor Paul J Zak, pioneer of neuroeconomics has been studying the role of Oxytocin, a mammalian hormone that acts primarily as a neuromodulator in the brain. His findings and the re-examining the role of Oxytocin in behavior present a new breakthrough for many of us in various fields. However, like any new finding temperance must be exercised to ensure treatment is balanced and effective.
Karen Bales, a professor at University of California, Davis, Department of Psychology and California National Primate Research Center offers a voice of wisdom on this.
Professor Bales conducted research on the administration of lengthy, low dosage intervals of Oxytocin on immature voles. The results from that experiment yielded severe antisocial behaviours in the voles. In an interview for Scientific American Magazine Bales said I don’t think we can count out oxytocin, she continues, but we have to be very careful with the dosing.” As always, more research is needed. If we can identify the cell and molecules in the body, the role they play in biological interactions in the body, we can then begin to learn how to manipulate these when the body experiences trauma. Such a discovery may in fact lead us to reconditioning the biology of the body back to its natural state. Within this context the possibilities for better outcomes for our young are endless.
My friend and affiliate, Dr, Charles Emmerys will be presenting on an equally important issue of child abuse and brain injury. We have heard much about brain injury among war veterans, emergency workers and sports - not child abuse
The symptomatology of anxiety and depressive based disorders are often found with child abuse survivors. These symptoms are also generic in brain injury survivors. Because of these generic symptoms, it is very likely that these survivors may have been misdiagnosed. So the question is - is this at epidemic proportions among unbeknownst child abuse survivors? Dr. Emmerys will also speak in greater detail about the concern of brain injury among child abuse survivors.
In December of 2011 I was diagnosed with moderate Traumatic Brain Injury. The diagnosis came after a ten-year period of heavy research and systemic hurdles. Many child abuse victims/survivors are misdiagnosed and are falling through the cracks of the system.
A dialogue about child abuse victims/survivors living with Traumatic Brain Injury must begin to encourage public understanding and education for this underrepresented segment of the population.
For example, in Joel Bakan’s The Corporation The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, Robert D. Hare, a researcher in the field of criminal psychology, has suggested the idea of psychopathology of institutions. Hare advises the FBI's Child Abduction and Serial Murder Investigative Resources Center (CASMIRC) and consults for various British and North American prison services. Indeed when one reviews the history of institutional violence and exploitation it is easy to see the logic in this thinking. Viewing a corporation, as it is legally defined 'a person' what ways could a corporation considered to be psychopathic? Lets examine Robert D. Hare’s checklist of key characteristics for a psychopath:
Factor 1: Personality "Aggressive narcissism"
Grandiose sense of self-worth
Lack of remorse or guilt
Shallow affect (genuine emotion is short-lived and egocentric)
Callousness; lack of empathy
Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
Factor 2: Case history "Socially deviant lifestyle".
Acquired behavioural sociopathy/sociological conditioning (Item 21: a newly identified trait i.e., a person relying on sociological strategies and tricks to deceive)
Barron Therlow of England once said They (corporations) have no soul to save, and they have no body to incarcerate.
Institutions command extraordinary power and influence over society.
The fate of those persons who have suffered maltreatment in public institutions reflects poorly on our systems of governance, and calls urgently for the commitment of citizens who place their faith in justice.
Offending institutions are indifferent to institutional child abuse victims. When those of us around the world first cried out for what we had lost, our adversaries responded by reducing our pain and suffering to statistical trends and numbers. Offending institutions have often erected 'feel good’ memorials to conceal the true measure of their crimes against vulnerable, neglected and abused children, denying their victims a dignified burial. They have authored apologies only to reduce their liability.
Offending groups stigmatized their victims with labels. This is a façade to protect dishonorable institutions. Governments expend more resources defending themselves than they do addressing the problem.
For decades, government, religious, and secular institutions around the globe have possessed the ability, but not the will, to redress the omissions and commissions they have committed against society's marginalized groups.
The Roman Catholic Church has claimed that the numbers of abusive clergy or abuse cases are greatly exaggerated. Nothing could be further form the truth. One clear and recent example is that of the Residential schools claims. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has reported that abuse claims have greatly surpassed the original number. That is an additional 17,500 more claims then the original number in 2006. The cost of these claims is now running at a $2 - Billion mark.
The former Law Commission of Canada in its 2000 report on child abuse in Canadian institutions report states that the redress or healing process must be both qualitative and quantitative. Many victims, who file actions against institutions via civil law suits or criminal, often complain that the experience was like being abused and exploited all over again.
In many of the institutional abuse cases, the alleged institutions frequently conducted ‘internal investigations’. The results of these internal investigations did, in almost every case; result in the alleged being exonerated. In the cases where governments are accused, a criminal investigation is launched by police agencies, only after considerable pressure from victims. The result is usually the same: no perpetrators charged or prosecuted.
In the cases of the police conducting criminal investigations, we have to remember who their employer is, the alleged perpetrator - the government. In Canada the police agencies are required by statute to report their findings to the alleged perpetrator, the government.
Additionally in many cases police and other professionals have not had the proper training or experience to investigate institutional child abuse matters. The Jericho Hill school case was a prime example of this. Police investigators did not understand the culture of the deaf language. Nor did the investigators understand the impact of the abuse, which infected all the children at Jericho Hill School.
Police investigators in a number of interviews would be interviewing students as a victim one day and interviewing the same student as an offender the next. Always, investigators were approaching the case from an adversarial standpoint.
To date there have been no studies done on the results of these redress programs, whether they are civil settlements or government alternative dispute resolution programs. There is also no accurate record of the victim numbers.
This is in part due to the fact that we are barely into the preliminary stages of case numbers. As a survivor, I can offer you some insight, from my own experience. The lawyers I speak with around Canada who have represented victims say that to date, the redress process is failing. The victims I speak with concur. I concur. The compensation programs do not adequately address the issues of survivors.
In the end, governments and other offending institutions spend considerably higher amounts of money defending themselves when in almost every case they are clearly found guilty. It is hard to expect justice when the offending party makes all the rules, controls all the evidence, and has infinitely more resources. What is also at issue is that we are applying common laws to a problem, which does not equate fairly or justly to these laws. Class actions in Canada only first began in 1978. The lack of experience in this area again slows the legal process.
In the Jericho Hill school case, we lose two percent of the population per year while we pursue justice for the victims. They die. The Jericho Hill case has been active for over twenty-eight years. This again is also a government tactic, delay to compromise redress for victims. Ultimately, victims give up, settle for pennies or die.
Governments, offending institutions that do not settle these cases with adequate redress, do injustice to us all. The end result is that after a few years these plaintiffs end up back in the system, via welfare, mental health services, or the criminal Justice System. If Governments are to spend tax dollars on these cases, they must be accountable to the average Canadian. It is only logical.
Governments too often in these cases refuse to address the problem. They manufacture statutes of limitations that prevent victims from having their day in court. They refuse to make mandatory reporting an issue. They do not create a national registry for those in the helping professions caring for vulnerable groups. They author poor public policy and starve good agencies of resources and money. They advocate cover-ups and internal procedures to discourage future claims of abuse. Government paid and funded lawyers terrify abuse victims from coming forward. Then, there are the spineless people in bureaucracy and health sectors who have not done their job.
In all good conscience, governments must recognize that the laws and values of present governing systems have contributed to the detriment of vulnerable, neglected children and marginalized groups.
The appropriate and right thing for governments to do is to begin drafting legislation with victims, who will deal with institutional abuse both for the principles of prevention, and to redress the wrongs of the past. I would also reference here that in recent years the children of Jewish holocaust are suing the German Government for the generational effects of the holocaust. Trauma impacts its victims across their lifespan and for generations to come. There is no escaping it, not even for the rest of society. The personal, social and economic costs of institutional violence and exploitation are very real.
The economic costs to society can be found in policing, court and prison costs; in health care costs; in welfare costs; and as opportunity costs.
Indeed, our nations have lost people of great talent, skill, and leadership. I think of people like former Australian Senator Andrew Murray who became one of Australia’s most historic figures. The retired Senator is a former Child Migrant. One day, the Senator was picked up by a cab driver on his way to a meeting.
By chance, the cab driver himself was a former Child Migrant and part of a movement seeking redress for survivors of the child migration schemes. During the cab ride, the two men had a dialogue on Child Migration. From the cab driver’s story, Senator Murray soon discovered that many former Child Migrants were not as fortunate as he.
From that meeting the Senator committed himself to push for a national inquiry into child migration schemes in Australia. That commitment later led to four national inquiries:
Bringing them Home Report - otherwise known as the ‘stolen generations’ report. The Aborigines residential schools system.
Lost Innocents: Righting the Record - The Child Migrants and Home Children Schemes.
Forgotten Australians - covering institutional care for children up to the 1970’s.
Protecting Vulnerable Children - covering institutional care for children post 1970’s.
Here in Canada I often think of someone like Phil Fountaine, the former National Chief for the Assembly of First Nations.
The former National Chief, along with survivor Nora Bernard (Canadian Residential School Activist), and others was instrumental in establishing a national settlement for the residential schools federal lawsuits. From this suit, the ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ (T.R.C.) has been a proud success of the former National Chief’s key role in the redress process.
United Nations‟ Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his opening statement to the General Assembly, addressing the children of the world said,
We, the grown-ups, have failed you deplorably, he said, noting that 33 percent of youngsters suffer from malnutrition before the age of five, 25 percent are not immunized, nearly 20 percent don't attend school and far too many have seen violence that no child should ever see. We the adults, must reverse this. Governments and society must likewise recognize that the current political and justice systems have only served to perpetuate the problems of the past. Too often helping professions of those groups and experts charged with the care of vulnerable groups and individuals label people unjustly.
They seek punitive measures to address behaviors their systems have created. Human beings are debased in the beginning stages of their development and then sent into society without the means to integrate into society.
Many of the victims I speak with in this country and around the world all live in abject poverty. Many have mental health disorders. Many who are functional still suffer a long road of relationship after relationship because their behaviors often alienate people. Many do not have family or support bases. Many are homeless.
In 1969 the Professor of Australia's Psychological Medicine at Monash University, Dr. Ironside, stated at a child abuse seminar:
Future social historians will look back on this age as one in which, in the affluent societies at least, children were paradoxically deprived of their birthright in spite of increasing knowledge of the developmental requirements for healthy emotional, mental and personality growth. The future social historian will also note that legislation aimed at improving services for young children in need not only failed its praiseworthy objective but, paradoxically, contributed to the further deprivation for vulnerable children.
The public attitude on the subject of institutional child abuse is poor. Institutional child abuse affects countless marginalized groups. To be reasonable, I believe the public wants to see there is redemption and realistic solutions to the problem. It is our task; therefore, all of us gathered here today and those in shared professions to offer a proper response.
There is arrogance about our respective nations advising other countries on how to deal with child welfare when our own house is not in order.
Let us therefore, begin taking stock of what needs to be done and undertake reasonable, fair measures to counteract the problem institutional violence and exploitation poses to our young.
Both government and offending institutions must be held accountable for their wrong doings in institutional violence and exploitation of our young. Only then can we look to other countries where there is war, economic slow downs, famine and aids and advise with a free and clear conscience.
While we seek to enact just measures of restitution, how shall we price someone's childhood? The reality is, we cannot. However, if we are to move in the direction of redressing wrongs, we can begin only, by engendering a social conscience.
The message I bring to you today is this. We are not just dealing with problems of the past; we are dealing with problems of the present and future. Those problems do not just affect the victims. They affect us all.
Now, more than ever these victims of abuse need all the help we can give them. And it is the responsibility of all of us involved with them, and others of similar circumstances; to do all we can to support their personal growth.
Great harm has been done to victims and survivors. We have suffered great losses. In our grief and anger we have found our cause and our wish for future generations. This wretched course of history must never happen again.
Edith Hamilton, one of my favorite authors once wrote:
The man who fights for a new cause does not receive that tribute. He is up against the immense force of stubborn resistance the new always arouses. He must give battle without trumpets and drums and with the probability that he will not live to see the victory. Since my diagnosis of Traumatic Brain Injury I have had to come to accept this truth. The research is clear; I am a strong candidate for early onset of dementia. By early onset I am referring to victims in their forties and fifties. I am forty-two years old. My days on this earth are numbered and I know that.
When I look into the eyes of my son or nieces I want to know that they will not inherit the fate so many others and I have endured. I want them to grow up in a world free of adult interference, free to live out the innocence and wonder of their childhood. Though my days upon this earth are shortened, that hope must not. The cause must endure; the torch must be passed to light the way for future generations.
Our lives are defined by the choices we make and by the choices we are afforded. And so the pursuit of freedom and equality is not perfect and humanity progresses very slowly. There can be no rest.
Let us seek to exercise our freedoms:
- The freedom of speech
- The right to express and communicate ideas
- The right to recall governments to their duties and obligations
- The right to affirm our membership and allegiance to the body politic, to society
The power to share in the decisions of government, which shape our lives, everything that makes our lives worthwhile: family, work, education, and home.
Let us endorse, both in word and in deed, the United Nations' Conventions on the Rights of the Child. More countries have ratified the Convention than any other human rights treaty in history.
And when embattled, let us remember the wisdom of William Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’:
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land. Human Rights and freedoms has become the stepping stones to progress and survival - we are the officers, the keepers of the gate, and we have a duty now as we continue to overcome the deficits of morality and empathy in the world around us; to stand steadfast in the struggle for equality, social inclusion regardless of race, culture, gender or disability. Let us honor this truth that we are more than the sum of our parts, out of many we are truly one.
May God bless survivors, their families, advocates, and may God bless all of you.