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6/9 - This Week in Women: Young Minds, Foreign Policy and Courtroom Controversy

News

From Hollywood babies to teens making pretty impressive strides in science and technology, the youth had a majority on this week’s headlines. Meanwhile, Canada’s Foreign Affair minister announced somewhat shocking news for the typically tranquil territory and controversy came out of the courtroom to round out this week’s news in women to watch.


Susana Cappello, Victoria Roca and Carolina Baigorri invented a straw to detect date rape drugs

Susana Cappello, Victoria Roca and Carolina Baigorri. Courtesy of USA Today

What started as motivation to win a business competition, turned into a patentable product for these three high school students from Miami. Cappello, Roca and Baigorri realized that, although there was always discussion around date rape, there still ceased to be a tangible solution to prevent the problem. So, the three students explored the market for an easy device to carry around that would detect the most popular date rape drugs, gamma hydroxybutyric (GHB), Ketamine and Rohypnol, in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. They originally proposed a piece of jewelry as their device-of-choice, however, they ended up with a straw—portable and relevant—that will turn blue once dipped in a drugged drink. Throughout their product development and entrepreneurial journey, not only did these three ladies develop a necessary product, but they became the first students from their school to win the Miami Herald’s Business Plan Challenge High School Track.

Chrystia Freeland announced a shift for Canada’s foreign policy

In an effort to focus on national strength, rather than international allies, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland, released that the country would be expanding its budget to increase military “hard power.” Freeland acknowledged the shift as a way to address “challenges that we’re facing right now with terrorism and broader public safety issues.” She also noted the shift in policy as a response to the United States’ unpredictability with global leadership, explaining that Canada shouldn’t be completely dependent on the alliance. This announcement comes as a more aggressive policy for the typically neutral Canadian state, which reflects Freeland’s personal stances on multilateralism and international regulations in moving Canada forward.

Chrystia Freeland. Courtesy of Yahoo

Kamala Harris was “shushed” and the Internet took notice

California Sen. Kamala Harris was in the midst of a line of questioning aimed at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein during Wednesday night’s hearing on Russian intelligence, when Senate intelligence committee Chairman Richard Burr interrupted her by asking, “Will the senator suspend?” This was the first of many interjections by Burr throughout the hearing, which ultimately led Burr to divert questioning to Texas Sen. John Cornyn. Due to the fact that Harris was one of three women on the intelligence panel, the internet responded to Burr’s interjections as sexist. Sen. Elizabeth Warren revealed her alignment with this notion when she tweeted, "Silencing @SenKamalaHarris for not being "courteous" enough is just unbelievable. Keep fighting, Kamala! #NeverthelessShePersisted.”

Amanda Southworth was one of the youngest attendees at this week’s Worldwide Developers Conference

At 15 years old, Southworth has been coding for six years--self taught--and has built out two apps, AnxietyHelper and Verena that are geared toward helping young users manage their mental health, and to feel accepted as part of the LGBT community, respectively. These accolades are what landed the teenager a WWDC Scholarship; an award that recognizes “talented students and STEM organization members.” Along with this recognition, the scholarship grants winners access to the annual conference, thus, Southworth spent the week immersed in a world for which she left high school to pursue. “Now I do coding about five hours a day and schoolwork for about two hours of the day,” said Southworth, who made the change to be home schooled at 12 years old. "I'm looking forward to meeting people who do the same thing as me because everybody tells me I'm really crazy for like just dropping school and going for this with all of my might,” said Southworth on attending the event.

Amal Cooney gave birth to twins

The human rights lawyer, who managed to lock down the infamous bachelor, George Clooney, gave birth to twins on Tuesday morning. The twins, Ella and Alexander Clooney, were reported to be “healthy, happy and doing fine,” in a statement from one of the Clooney’s representatives. Amal Clooney first announced her pregnancy in February, not only to the surprise of the Clooney fans, but for the news of twins at her age of 39-years-old. Yet, along with the twins, Mrs. Clooney was also reported to be happy and healthy, while her husband on the other hand, was “sedated and should recover in a few days.”

Amal Clooney. Courtesy of Popsugar

6min read
Health

What Sexual Abuse Survivors Want You to Know

In 2016, I finally found my voice. I always thought I had one, especially as a business owner and mother of two vocal toddlers, but I had been wrong.


For more than 30 years, I had been struggling with the fear of being my true self and speaking my truth. Then the repressed memories of my childhood sexual abuse unraveled before me while raising my 3-year-old daughter, and my life has not been the same since.

Believe it or not, I am happy about that.

The journey for a survivor like me to feel even slightly comfortable sharing these words, without fear of being shamed or looked down upon, is a long and often lonely one. For all of the people out there in the shadows who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I dedicate this to you. You might never come out to talk about it and that's okay, but I am going to do so here and I hope that in doing so, I will open people's eyes to the long-term effects of abuse. As a survivor who is now fully conscious of her abuse, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, quite frankly, it may never go away.

It took me some time to accept that and I refuse to let it stop me from thriving in life; therefore, I strive to manage it (as do many others with PTSD) through various strategies I've learned and continue to learn through personal and group therapy. Over the years, various things have triggered my repressed memories and emotions of my abuse--from going to birthday parties and attending preschool tours to the Kavanaugh hearing and most recently, the"Leaving Neverland" documentary (I did not watch the latter, but read commentary about it).

These triggers often cause panic attacks. I was angry when I read Barbara Streisand's comments about the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, as detailed in the documentary. She was quoted as saying, "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." She later apologized for her comments. I was frustrated when one of the senators questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (during the Kavanaugh hearing) responded snidely that Dr. Ford was still able to get her Ph.D. after her alleged assault--as if to imply she must be lying because she gained success in life.We survivors are screaming to the world, "You just don't get it!" So let me explain: It takes a great amount of resilience and fortitude to walk out into society every day knowing that at any moment an image, a sound, a color, a smell, or a child crying could ignite fear in us that brings us back to that moment of abuse, causing a chemical reaction that results in a panic attack.

So yes, despite enduring and repressing those awful moments in my early life during which I didn't understand what was happening to me or why, decades later I did get married; I did become a parent; I did start a business that I continue to run today; and I am still learning to navigate this "new normal." These milestones do not erase the trauma that I experienced. Society needs to open their eyes and realize that any triumph after something as ghastly as childhood abuse should be celebrated, not looked upon as evidence that perhaps the trauma "never happened" or "wasn't that bad. "When a survivor is speaking out about what happened to them, they are asking the world to join them on their journey to heal. We need love, we need to feel safe and we need society to learn the signs of abuse and how to prevent it so that we can protect the 1 out of 10 children who are being abused by the age of 18. When I state this statistic at events or in large groups, I often have at least one person come up to me after and confide that they too are a survivor and have kept it a secret. My vehicle for speaking out was through the novella The Survivors Club, which is the inspiration behind a TV pilot that my co-creator and I are pitching as a supernatural, mind-bending TV series. Acknowledging my abuse has empowered me to speak up on behalf of innocent children who do not have a voice and the adult survivors who are silent.

Remembering has helped me further understand my young adult challenges,past risky relationships, anger issues, buried fears, and my anxieties. I am determined to thrive and not hide behind these negative things as they have molded me into the strong person I am today.Here is my advice to those who wonder how to best support survivors of sexual abuse:Ask how we need support: Many survivors have a tough exterior, which means the people around them assume they never need help--we tend to be the caregivers for our friends and families. Learning to be vulnerable was new for me, so I realized I needed a check-off list of what loved ones should ask me afterI had a panic attack.

The list had questions like: "Do you need a hug," "How are you feeling," "Do you need time alone."Be patient with our PTSD". Family and close ones tend to ask when will the PTSD go away. It isn't a cold or a disease that requires a finite amount of drugs or treatment. There's no pill to make it miraculously disappear, but therapy helps manage it and some therapies have been known to help it go away. Mental Health America has a wealth of information on PTSD that can help you and survivors understand it better. Have compassion: When I was with friends at a preschool tour to learn more about its summer camp, I almost fainted because I couldn't stop worrying about my kids being around new teenagers and staff that might watch them go the bathroom or put on their bathing suit. After the tour, my friends said,"Nubia, you don't have to put your kids in this camp. They will be happy doing other things this summer."

In that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have friends who understood what I was going through and supported me. They showed me love and compassion, which made me feel safe and not judged.