One Kid at a Time

I’ve probably mentioned about a dozen times that the high school I work at is in an inner-city area. It’s not the worst area in the world or perhaps even in the city, but it is a place where poverty, drugs and violence are considered normal.

Just four days into the school year after our school became the first high school in the county to require school colored uniforms to cut down on the large amount of gang activity at school, we’ve already had our first student shot.

A young man got into a fight right across the street from the school and was shot, luckily for him it was only in the leg. According to the news he is being uncooperative with the police as far as giving details about his shooter, which leads me to believe that this is likely gang related.

This happened on the same day that Tyrone Mosby (19) was arrested for killing

Danielle Sampson (15) when a bullet from a drive by shooting found it’s way to the back of her head as she road home from church with her family.

There are a lot of good kids that grow up in that community and that go to the high school, but many of them from the time they were born were dealt a cruel hand that had them almost destined to stay in poverty, be involved in the criminal justice system or headed towards an early grave.

The culture that keeps them at a disadvantage is so intrinsic that it’s often hard for them to see a better life for themselves. Many of them can’t imagine living life any different than from what they know. They grow up in poverty, their parents grew up in poverty and their grandparents likely also grew up in poverty. Everyone around them is either involved in criminal behavior, uneducated, unemployed and or/abuses drugs. They are exposed to all these things and more at a very early age and so psychologically they start to believe that they will be no better (and often don’t want to be much different) than anyone else in their community and thus act in ways that nearly guarantee that they won’t.

Young boys join gangs, start stealing, robbing and even killing. Young girls do much of the same with the addition of getting pregnant and giving birth to more young people who may be cursed from birth to repeat the cycle.

My program focuses on reaching the kids many thought were unreachable. The angry kids, the kids who are using drugs or have given up on school and sometimes life. Often times I lose kids to dropping out or the juvenile justice system and when crimes like the ones I’ve mentioned aren’t rare or even shocking, but “normal”, it’s easy to start wondering how effective not only am I, but also the school and other services in the community are being.

Then I have to realize that I can’t save every kid I come in contact with as much as I would like to. They all have their own lives, their own minds and will ultimately do what ever it is they want to do. I only have them for a very small amount of time during the week and often that doesn’t compare to the impact their family and community, where they spent most of their time, has on them.

I have to remind myself that it’s not about saving everyone, but about trying to save one kid at a time.

The Cycle of Violence, Power and Control

ImageWorking as a counselor in a high school, I am surprised at the amount of abuse many young girls I work with have gone through. Not to mention the sexual, physical and psychological abuse many of them went through growing up, but how much of that has affected them now as teenagers.

A surprising amount of young ladies in high school, and perhaps even in middle school are involved in physically abusive relationships. Having dealt with many of these young ladies, I’ve recognized that many of them believe that if a guy doesn’t hit or get physically rough with them, then “he doesn’t really love me”. This may not make any sense to most people, but a lot of these young ladies have grown up in homes where the people who “love” them, especially the men in their lives, are often the same people who abuse them, so many of these young ladies have subconsciously equated love with violence, manipulation and fear. Also, since many of the people who these women look to for protection, they also equate physical violence with a guys ability to protect them, even if it’s the guy himself they need protecting from.

I’ve had young ladies tell me that they would break up with a guy if he didn’t hit or push her when she got “out of line” because they believed they needed a man who was strong enough to keep them “in line”. They would say, “Sometimes I get get out of control, get a smart mouth and act a fool. I need someone who can put me in my place.” In most cases, these young women grew up in families where men (their fathers’, mother’s boyfriends, uncles, older brothers, etc.) physically, sexually and/or psychologically abused them.

Earlier this year I was walking through the halls of the high school I work at and heard yelling and shouting. I turned the corner and saw a boy attacking a girl. I quickly got between them and he was enraged, evening threatening me, but I didn’t care, I was more concerned about the young lady he was attacking. He quickly told me that it was none of my business and that was his girlfriend. I stayed between them waiting for assistance and then he walked away. I asked the young lady if she was okay, and shew as crying, but said she was okay and she was tired of him hitting on her. I tried to talk to her, but then he yelled for her to come with him and to my surprise she left and went with him. I tried to stop her, and by the time other teachers and security came they had walked off campus. I was so upset with the whole situation that it took me a few days to get it out of my mind. I never got the young lady’s name or I would have called her in and offered her counseling in hopes that with knowledge and empowerment she would leave that unhealthy relationship for a better one.

Also in college I dated a girl who had been physically abused by her father to the point that she was removed from her home. Ever since then and up until we met, every guy she dated physically abused her and I mean beat her like she meant nothing to them, leaving her with bruises and bloodied lips. She never learned how to separate love from abuse once it had forged together in her head.

I find this to be very sad and dangerous and is one of the issues I work extremely hard to correct because these young ladies are putting themselves in extremely dangerous situations that if not corrected will effect them for the rest of their lives along with any children they have. Girls who grow up witnessing violence, even if it is just heard or sensed (through tension, visual cues) are more likely to date guys who will put their hands on them and boys who grow up in that same situation are more likely to think it’s okay to put their hands on women they claim to love.

It’s extremely important that if you are the victim of abuse that you get help. Check out http://www.thehotline.org or any other resources in your area. Look at the Cycle of Violence and the Power of Control wheels below. It doesn’t get better, only repeats and gets worse.