Interrupting the Intergenerational Trauma of Family Violence

Shadows of child and adult holding handsIn recent years, lawyers and judges have increasingly recognized the role that exposure to trauma plays in the lives of persons who are involved with the legal system. While trauma can come in many forms,  providers of mental health or legal services need to be especially aware of trauma that is ongoing and has intergenerational consequences. The term “intergenerational trauma” has most often been associated with societal trauma that has been inflicted on certain racial or ethnic groups, who live with the effects and pass them along to succeeding generations. Frequently discussed examples of this are African American slavery, Native American forced attendance at boarding schools, and the Holocaust of World War II. All of these horrors affected survivors in a myriad of ways, and the economic, social, and emotional impact can be felt many generations later.

Here, though, I want to focus on a more mundane and equal-opportunity form of intergenerational trauma: family violence, which is defined here as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or aggression directed against an intimate partner or child in the family. These are sadly common behaviors that occur across race, gender, and socio-economic status lines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over their lifetimes, approximately 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men experience physical or sexual violence or stalking, and more than 43 million women and 38 million men experience psychological aggression. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reports that in 2019 there were approximately 656,000 victims of child abuse and neglect in the U.S., which is a rate of 8.9 victims per 1,000 children Certain ethnic groups such as American Indians and African Americans had even higher rates, and children under 1 year of age had a rate of victimization equal to 25.7 per 1,000 children. Evidence suggests that the incidents of family violence have increased during the isolation, stress, and lock-downs of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While conventional wisdom has long suggested that children living in violent homes may learn to be abusers or victims when they grow up, research on the biopsychosocial nature of family violence gives us insight into why this is the case. (more…)

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The Worst Places in America

person sitting in wheelchair in empty nursing home hallwayNumerous social commentators have noted how the pandemic has hit the least powerful and prosperous parts of the population the hardest.  Infections, hospitalizations, and deaths have been disproportionally high among the poor, people of color, recent immigrants, Native Americans, and the elderly.

The pandemic has also underscored the worst places to work and live, with the pejorative “worst” referring to the way certain places weigh heavily on the body, mind, and spirit.  These places are not only individualized but also organized into types and categories.  I nominate three types of places as the worst in the United States:  prisons, nursing homes, and food processing plants.

Media accounts have reported at length on how COVID-19 has ravaged prison populations, but prisons were undesirable places long before the virus arrived.  The nation has in general abandoned any commitment to rehabilitate inmates, and prisons have deteriorated into demeaning, dangerous warehouses.  Diseases and medical problems are four to ten times as common as they are in the general population, and the Prison Policy Initiative and Wisconsin Department of Corrections estimate that 42% of the state’s inmates suffer from one or more mental illnesses.   According to the prominent sociologist Jonathan Simon, most of the nation considers prison inmates to be “toxic waste” of a human variety and thinks of the people who run the prisons as engaged in “waste management.”

Nursing homes have been the places in which 40% of COVID-19 fatalities have occurred, and some of the most excruciating pandemic scenes have involved distraught friends and relatives saying goodbye to confused and dying residents through tightly-sealed windows. (more…)

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COVID-19 and American Ageism

yellow t-shirt with a design that includes the covid molecule and the words "boomer remover"
A “Boomer Remover” t-shirt for sale on a website.

This post was written by Dr. David Papke and Dr. Elise Papke.

In periods of social strain, assorted societal biases are more likely to come in play. That seems to be the case with American ageism, and as a result it has become even harder than before to be an older American.

Ageism is a multifaceted phenomenon that includes micro-aggression, inattentiveness, harmful stereotypes, and, of course, bias and discrimination. Ageist people often claim that they are trying to help seniors or that they are only joking. Seniors usually see through this, but ageism nevertheless leaves many feeling inferior or even worthless.

One example of ageist rhetoric that has surfaced in the midst of the pandemic is “Boomer Remover.” Offensive and even a bit frightening, this meme or catchphrase refers to and implicitly endorses the notion that the virus will reduce the number of annoying Baby Boomers.

For some time now, Baby Boomers have been thought to be a drain on society’s resources, especially because of their uninsured medical expenses and need for financial support. (more…)

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What Does Addiction Look Like?

Picture of PillsWhen lawyers think about working with clients who have addictions, we often imagine clients who are young or middle-aged and facing legal consequences such as criminal charges for drug possession or for driving under the influence of alcohol or another drug. But not every person struggling with addictions is young, in trouble with law enforcement, or even using substances in a visible way that signals addiction to family members or professionals.

More than 2.5 million adults over age 55 struggle with addictions every year in the United States. (more…)

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Trying to Strike Some Optimistic Notes Amid the COVID-19 Crisis

Can you offer a note of optimism when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Mike Gousha, Marquette Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy, asked Jeanette Kowalik, the health commissioner of the City of Milwaukee, that question at the end of an online “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” interview on Wednesday, May 20.

Kowalik tried, but it was a challenge to put a cheerful face on the impact the virus is having on Milwaukee and most of the world.

“Definitely what’s happening right now is like Haley’s comet,“ she said. It was hard to anticipate “something at this level” as a health crisis, she said, saying the United States as a whole was experiencing “these astronomical numbers” of confirmed cases and deaths.

The only option now is to continue social and physical distancing and use personal protective equipment such as face masks, Kowalik said, while awaiting development and widespread use of a vaccine to deal with the virus. (more…)

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