On the Screen - postings from public email lists

These postings are included here because of their relevance to the work and thinking of On the Screen participants.  An archive of On the Screen messages exists at a shadow site for project participants, and will likely inform final writing and reporting of the project.

getting on line

Alphaplus, a literacy / language resource centre in Ontario, has a list devoted to trauma and learning. To subscribe go to http://alphaplus.ca/, [go to Talk to others, follow prompts to register] which contains important and rich discussions about trauma and learning and to which some of the women on this project have contributed messages/input.

Daphne Greenberg moderates a woman and literacy listserv. You can subscribe to it immediately through the NIFL website, or subscribe by sending an email message to: LISTPROC@LITERACY.NIFL.GOV with the following request in the body of the message:

subscribe NIFL-Womenlit firstname lastname

Substitute your first and last name spelled exactly as you would like it to appear, (e.g., to subscribe to the NIFL-Womenlit list Sue Smith would type: subscribe NIFL-womenlit Sue Smith There should be no other text in the message (e.g., your signature block). It is recommended that the subject line be left blank if possible.

An archive of the list is available, [without subscription], at http://www.nifl.gov/nifl-womenlit/.

To subscribe to the National Literacy Advocacy list, get online at http://www.nifl.gov/lincs/discussions/nifl-nla/subscribe_nla.html

postings from the women and literacy and NLA lists:

Date: Tue, 7 Dec 1999 14:09:44 -0500 (EST)
From: "Daphne Greenberg" <ALCDGG@langate.gsu.edu>
Subject: [NIFL-WOMENLIT:395] Reconstructive Surgery

I just came across this resource, which you may want to share when appropriate with your learners: The American Association of Facial and Reconstructive Surgery, and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence have a program called Face to Face. Through this program, survivors of domestic abuse have access to plastic surgeons nationwide who have volunteered their services at no charge. Survivors are treated just like any other patient when they come into the doctor's offices, with complete confidentiality. The toll free number is 800-842-4546. By the way, I just called it and found an interesting twist. You have to leave your phone number and they will call you back. I can only imagine how impossible this could be for some women who live with abusive partners-but on second thought, I guess if they are at a point in their lives where they can go for reconstructive surgery, it may imply that they have left their abusive partners? Daphne

Daphne Greenberg Center for the Study of Adult Literacy Georgia State University University Plaza Atlanta, GA 30303-3083 Fax: 404-651-1415 Ph: 404-651-0400 E-mail: alcdgg@langate.gsu.edu

To: nla@world.std.com
Subject: NLA Question: PTSD From: Dwyoho@aol.com Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 10:16:08 EDT

In a message dated 10/19/99 11:02:38 PM Eastern Daylight Time, AWilder106@aol.com writes:

<< AWilder106@aol.com >> One aspect of PTSD that has come up in our program is the learner who is an adult survivor of sexual abuse. There was an article from Laubach Literacy about this a while back, or maybe it was just a mailing to member orgs? Laubach listens in on this listserv so you may hear from them.

The implications for our program:

We are careful to ascertain when we match tutors to learners whether there are any preferences regarding gender. We also stress the importance of either partner contacting us immediately with ANY concerns. A few times we have broken apart pairings.

We have two PTSD learners who participate in mental health activities so we have to work around their schedules. Not unusual--we have many more in mental health programs, but just don't know if abuse or PTSD is the problem, and we don't ask.

Since some estimates of sexual abuse are as high as one in three among adult women, I suspect many of our learners have issues in this area that we don't know about. I suspect that sometimes absences, difficulty staying motivated, problems concentrating during sessions, physical hyperactivity, etc. stem from this issue, but we really don't know.

I have noticed that when we arrange furniture so that tutoring pairs face a wall, invariably someone moves the table out again to the center of the room. I suspect some learners feel more secure without their backs to the door and/or feel less confined with space all around them. I suffer from PTSD myself, so I may be overly sensitized to this area. I'll share about that on private email with anoyone if that would be helpful, but I've posted these remarks to the list as a general response to the query. Debbie Yoho

Subject: NLA Question: PTSD From: "Erica I. Walch" <eiwalch@hotmail.com>

Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1999 09:55:03 -0400

Dear Andrea,

I am an ABE teacher who works in an urban Adult & Family Learning Center. Many of the learners at our center stay with the program for quite a long time, and much of the learners' reading material and learner-produced writings deal with issues of personal development and life stories. For these reasons, we all get to know each other in some depth. While we don't have any veterans with PTSD, we have many students who have experiencedextremely traumatic events in their lives, and have identified these events as moments when their lives changed and their ability to function in the world decreased. If this is what PTSD is, some of our students seem to have it. We teachers try to find out the reading and learning histories of our students - when and how they were first taught to read (if at all), what they remember about formal schooling (if they had any), and what their parents' attitudes towards education/schooling/learning/reading were. This history is shared during a one-on-one interview with a teacher. The purpose of learning the educational history of our learners is for us to understand their ideas about learning, so that we can better serve them. These interviews are often quite intense and emotional. Some learners are unwilling to share the information because it is so hurtful for them to recall past events related to schooling.

My colleagues and I ask ourselves if this recollection of traumatic stress is helpful or not? Are the students who are able to overcome their past trauma and walk in the door to register for our program people who have overcome (or are successfully dealing with) PTSD? Do they even have it? Are the people who have PTSD the ones we don't see - people who are so hurt by experiences as learners that they feel they cannot walk in the door to start to learn again? I was interested by your question, and I am interested to see what other responses you get. While thinking about this question something trauma-related happened. There is a student in one of my math groups who was severly abused by her former husband. She was literally beaten within an inch of her life and spent a considerable amount of time in the hospital. She has severe health problems (physical and mental) as a result of this abuse. She changed her name and moved a few towns away from their home in an attempt to deal with the events. Last night, she pulled me aside in the beginning of our math session and told me she'd seen her abuser that day. She told the physical and emotional states she went through at some length. She said she would try to do math, but probalby wouldn't be able to concentrate, because she couldn't stop thinking about what had happened to her. This "flashback" was certainly interfering with her ability to learn at that moment.

Erica Walch Read/Write/Now Adult & Family Learning Center Springfield, MA

To: nla@world.std.com
Subject: NLA Discussion: PTSD From: Dwyoho@aol.com Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 10:32:09 EDT

Dear Listers,

I have had several responses to my posting about PTSD and I may have created a false impression. So I thought I would share a little more about this question to clarify.

First, our program has no special methods or techniques in working with adult learners who may be experiencing this syndrome. I did not mean to leave that impression.

To offer a summary for those who would prefer to get the gist and click to the next posting: in my opinion it may be helpful to know something about this subject, but there is a danger in becoming "overly-sensitive" because undue concern can lead to a detached attitude toward the learner, as though there is something "wrong" or at least "different" about him/her if she "has" this problem. My ideas about this are from the perspective of someone who has been labeled with PTSD, as has my husband. But I am not a professional in this area. I have only worked with professionals to deal with it on my own personal level.

PTSD is not a disease you "have". It is not something to be "cured". It is more like a condition to be managed, perhaps like high blood pressure. It is also not fully understood nor has it been sufficiently scientifically researched to pass from the realm of theory to undisputed fact. It also is not a 90's expression to replace what used to be called "battle fatigue".

I think of PTSD as a process that follows trauma, the heart and mind struggling to cope with exeriences that have torn at the very center of someone's concepts of themselves, the world, and other people. Certainly combat can do that, as well as a host of other experiences from plane crashes to hurricanes to severe physical and emotional abuse.

Learners who have suffered trauma may have diffficulty concentrating, remembering, connecting with others, and/or articulating their needs. But not necessarily all the time. For no apparent reason, some days are much worse than others. PTSD may involve flashbacks, or it may not. And flashbacks are NOT what Hollywood has depicted with actors fogging out into another world while totally unconscious of what is happening in the here and now. IN fact, I think "flashback" is too dramatic a word, although the experience can be dramatic.

For example, once I was eating breakfast on a Saturday with friends in a restuarant. Suddenly I felt unable to eat, nauseaus. I excused myself to the restroom, and it got worse. Flushed, dizzy, weakness. I washed my face with cold water and returned to the table. I told my friends, who knew my history, that I wasn't sure I could drive home. Because I understood my problem, I knew I wasn't sick, but in no condition to operate a vehicle. They accepted what I told them without alarm or curious questions, and took me home. Later my husband and I went back to get the car. It was a flashback, triggered by an off hand, inocuous remark in the course of an everyday conversation. But I didn't lose touch with reality, and I didn't "see" or "relive" a previous experience. A memory I cannot even now pin down simply prompted a physical response.

PTSD is closely associated with clinical depression. Sometimes it i diagnosed as the root cause of a depression. In short, PTSD has to do with a sense of a loss of control, a feeling of helplessness, often tied to a powerful, overwhelming betrayal and deep anger.

I dare say our learners suffer smaller traumas every day, dealing with their low literacy. What all trauma sufferers need is acceptance, as my friends accepted me that Saturday. If they want to talk, talk. If they want to be quiet, accept that. Don't get all bent out of shape and don't try to play therapist. Don't offer advice unless its asked for. Most importantly, reflect back to the person the good things you see in him or her, potential, courage, perseverance with the lesson, or willingess to ask questions, or to go to the trouble to study and learn. Any one of a million things you can find in someone if you look past the "presenting problem", whether it be literacy or PTSD.

I'll answer any questions anyone has, but send them to my e-mail directly. This is probably enough about this on this listsev.

For the cause, Debbie Yoho dwyoho@aol.com 

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 11:23:13 -0500 (EST)
From: JATDP@aol.com
To: Multiple recipients of list <nifl-womenlit@literacy.nifl.gov>
Subject: [NIFL-WOMENLIT:578] Women, Violence, and learning

To all,
I post the following for those on the list who are interested, but I also  want to take this opportunity to re-iterate the strong connection between  literacy and violence.

 I personally believe that Jenny Horsman's book (Too Scared to Learn, mentioned on this list serv several times) is just the tip of the iceberg in what, hopefully, will be on-going research exploring the critical connections between violence/trauma and adult learning. With the advent of more sophisticated research in neurophysiology, particularly in the field of LD
but also in trauma, the impact and effects of trauma on learning/teaching will become clearer. Why does it seem so many adult learners and so many women on welfare who also have low literacy skills have suffered violence in their lives? ? How do we conduct staff development and structure our adult ed programs and classrooms to best serve survivors of violence? What approach might we take with children who are victums so that they will not end up as adults with low literacy skills?

The Violence Against Women Act, in part, helps support research in the field of violence against women.

Thanks for your time to hear me out.
Judy Titzel World Education Boston, MA.

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 16:51:40 -0500 (EST)
Reply-To: nifl-womenlit@literacy.nifl.gov
From: "Joanne K. Dowdy" <ALCJDD@langate.gsu.edu>
Subject: [NIFL-WOMENLIT:583] Re: Women, Violence, and learning

The Black Church and domestic Violience Institute held in Atlanta this February, attended to this issue of male violence on women. You can contact Rev. Aubra Love at aubral@aol.com to find out about some of the presentations and the plan of action that is being develop for a national model of anti-violence training.

J. K. Dowdy
Assistant Director Center for the Study of Adult Literacy Georgia State University

From: AWilder106@aol.com
Reply-To: nifl-womenlit@literacy.nifl.gov
Subject: [NIFL-WOMENLIT:581] Re: Women, Violence, and learning
>Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 16:04:09 -0500 (EST)
Dear Judy,
I have been thinking about your questions all day.

For the last one, it seems that children who are victims either stop learning or look to school as a haven and do not end up low literate.  I think that the children you are talking about are poor, traumatized, and (potentially) low literate.  The only answer is to treat the trauma.  If it is untreated then they (hopefully) show up in adult literacy programs where again the problem is to treat the trauma.  I say "hopefully" because of the numbers of low literate traumatized adults who don't get to a program.  Again, the trauma has to be treated.  This means psychological help.  It also means education for the literacy providers on how to recognize and work with the symptoms of trauma in the classroom, and to know how trauma distorts
learning.  It also means alternative learning, as in the use of martial  arts or art therapy.

On numbers:  1)  Herman (1992, 1997) reports that in a random sample of 900 women, 1 in 4 had been raped;  1 in 3 had been sexually abused in  childhood.
2)  The Times yesterday gave a figure of 22% of women in the United States who had been assaulted by an intimate partner over their lifetime. India (of the 6 countries cited) has a high of 40%.

I don't know of any figures (but you might) which look specifically at low literate women.

What continually amazes me is our focus on women, who will continue to get  assaulted, violated, beaten, and the lack of focus on men--at least it seems  that way to me.  We will continue to pick bodies out of the river until we  ALSO focus upstream and stop them from being thrown into the water in the  first place.  This should be a male responsibility.  I don't hear male voices  speaking up on this--about male violence, and what to do about it.  Or am I  jaundiced?  Deaf?
Andrea Wilder
DJRosen@world.std.com 03/22 4:30 PM
Andrea and others,

I agree that men need to take responsibility for stopping assaults against women.  I would be interested to learn about what men (who do not assault others) could do that would help.  I have seen in discussions on this list, and elsewhere, how male teachers can become more sensitive to the situations of women students who are or have been victims of male violence, but I would be interested to learn about what men might do in their communities which might prevent male violence.

Suggestions, anyone?

David J. Rosen  <DJRosen@world.std.com>

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 19:45:45 -0500 (EST)
Reply-To: nifl-womenlit@literacy.nifl.gov
From: "Jana Freese" <jafreese@hotmail.com>
Subject: [NIFL-WOMENLIT:584] Re: Women, Violence, and learning

I think Andrea's point to focus on the perpetrater (male or female) is well  taken.  I can remember in 1984 when Lorena Bobbit cut off her husband's  penis the uproar I heard from men who had never spoken out before on  violence against women or violence in general, were screaming foul play.   Interesting, at best, that the reaction of the medical field was to rush to  this "bashers" aid and reattach his "great phallic piece."  We are driving  an uphill battle, but support may be more forthcoming if we focus on perps,  in general, as opposed to making it a gender issue (although statistically  men do batter at a higher rate than women do).  My point is to eliminate the  horrors of violence and the barriers to learning, I agree that we must turn  the tide of focus from "after the fact" mentality to education on  prevention.  Jana Freese

Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 01:08:17 -0500 (EST)
Reply-To: nifl-womenlit@literacy.nifl.gov
From: Joellen Hiltbrand <hiltbrandlmc@yahoo.com>
Subject: [NIFL-WOMENLIT:585] Re: Women, Violence, and learning

I'm new to this list, and am excited about the discussions so far.

About the question on what men can do to help prevent sexual violence -- I'm a self-defense teacher (as well as a developmental ed teacher) and teach women, straight men and gay men to protect themselves against sexual violence.

I'd say, from a professional as well as a personal viewpoint that men could and should work with each other on developing impulse control, specifically around issues of powerlessness and rage.

According to the research I've done, as well as the men I've interviewed and taught, men need help (and preferably from other men) de-escalating situations. Whereas women have a harder time rallying their spirits to their own defense, men tend to escalate situations very rapidly. Men could effectively work with each other to practice methods of anger de-escalation.

In addition, men could also work with each other to just do basic research on statistics of violence against women and translate that into actual numbers of women in their lives. A great deal of male response is somewhat similar to white response to racism -- a distancing and willful ignorance of political and personal reality.

Another way men can help end sexual violence is to support women in empowering themselves physically  -- in sports, martial arts, and through taking self-defense classes. Often men deal with these acts of empowerment by belittling women or by  testing women's ability to use the techniques they've learned.

Yet another way men can help end sexual violence is by refusing to patronize films, tv shows, radio programs,  books and other forms of media that promote, glorify and sexualize violence against women. Protest images of violence -- write letters, stage protests, withhold income from companies that promote depictions of violence against women as entertainment.

There are many many ways that men can work with each other to end sexual violence. Part of what stops (straight) men from doing this work, I think, is the fear of being ridiculed by other (straight) men -- which is part of the sad consequences of gender stereotyping.

In terms of sexual violence and literacy, I have had female students in developmental classes whose male partners, threatened by their empowerment, do things such as locking up their wives' and girlfriends' food, refusing to give them money, and hassling them while they're trying to study. These factors ALSO affect a woman's ability to develop literacy skills.

Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 01:19:06 -0500 (EST)
Reply-To: nifl-womenlit@literacy.nifl.gov
From: Joellen Hiltbrand <hiltbrandlmc@yahoo.com>
Subject: [NIFL-WOMENLIT:586] Re: Women, Violence, and learning

I disagree that we should focus on "perps" in general. The statistical evidence about who perpetrates sexual violence against whom points out clear gender patterns. This is not to dismiss sexual violence perpetrated by women, but I don't think we should pander to the fear that "men might get mad" if we speak the truth about who's doing what to whom.

Support can be gained by discussing the effects of violence upon men AS perpetrators, as well as discussing the effects of violence against women -- not by trying to sidestep the truth.

I think part of the goal, as educators, is to develop curriculum about dealing with the affective issues in families and relationships relative to the pursuit of education.

Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 15:20:26 -0500 (EST)
Reply-To: nifl-womenlit@literacy.nifl.gov
From: MaryBeth Esposito <MarybethEsposito@compuserve.com>
Subject: [NIFL-WOMENLIT:597] Re: Women, Violence, and learning
"I agree that men need to take responsibility for stopping assaults against women.  I would be interested to learn about what men (who do not assault others) could do that would help.  David J. Rosen

David, your leadership and those of other men is essential.   Here are a couple of resources for men looking to stop men's violence against women.  They are not related to literacy.

The federal government has produced an action list for different community members/ this is not gender specific for men, but you may find some practical ideas: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/vawo/speeches/cheklist.htm

I think the most important thing men can do is talk about the problem; self,  peer and public education.  Also, helping to raise money for shelter, support and prevention services might be a good idea.

 In the human service agency I work for, we plan to increase programming in our work with young fathers.   We plan to host a Compassion Power  Workshop, given by Steven Stosney, Ph.D.  Area trained staff will help men address violent behavior in their relationships by building skills for self-empowerment and emotional regulation.

There are programs run by men for men- in Boston, there is a group called EMERGE.  Also, Northeastern University hosts a program called Mentors in Violence Prevention (through the Center for the Study of Sport in Society).

Marybeth Esposito  <MarybethEsposito@compuserve.com>

updated April 19, 2000

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