WSPA Statements on Public Issues
Over the past week, our nation, along with the rest of the world, has watched with horror the shocking, heinous killing of an unarmed Black man unfolding in front of our eyes on the video that captured it all. Before the devastating loss of George Floyd, there was that of another Black American, Ahmaud Arbery, who was fatally shot while jogging in February in what has been compared to present-day lynching, now being investigated as a hate crime. And then there was Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical worker who was shot and killed on March 13 after the police raided her home while serving a no-knock warrant. There are countless other people whose lives were tragically taken. And how many more were never captured on phone or camera? How many loved ones have been left behind to suffer unspeakable grief and loss? How many Black communities have been left traumatized and heartbroken in the wake of these tragedies and crimes?
Racism and white privilege have a well-established, all-too-familiar place in our nations history. That history spans over 400 years during which people of color have been subjected to physical, psychological, and sexual violence and various forms of segregation, prejudice, and discrimination. Racism is both overt and covert (Castle, Wendel, Kerr, Broms, & Rollins, 2019), which is to say both visible and microaggressive, which only serves to promote its ubiquity and pervasiveness. Although individual racism might at times be more discernable to some, institutional racism has been shown to thrive within well-known and well-respected norms and practices of our social and political institutions, and is frequently more shielded and protected against widespread condemnation than individual racism (Ture & Hamilton, 1968).
Both overt and covert forms of racism permeate the acts of police brutality that took the life of George Floyd and many others. Police violence against members of racial and ethnic marginalized groups can range from witnessing police violence against another person, to being a target of various racial microaggressions, to threat of violence, actual physical violence, and frequently, murder (Helms, Nicolas, & Green, 2010). Police brutality and other forms of racism have extremely deleterious effects on physical and mental health of individuals and whole communities. Racism has been recognized as a social determinant of health, and disparities that negatively affect our communities of color have been reported as contributing causes to many illnesses and diseases, both mental and physical. A disproportionate burden of illness among racial and ethnic marginalized groups that have been affected by COVID-19 is a recent example of just how deadly racial inequities can be (Anyane-Yeboa, Sato, & Sakuraba, 2020; Baptiste et al., 2020).
As we pause at this painful juncture in time, we are reminded of Judith Hermans (1997) seminal work on trauma and recovery, in which she posits it is far more comfortable to align ourselves with the perpetrator of trauma, because the only thing perpetrators ask for is silence. Silence means complicity by passive non-doing, but to support victims requires us to speak up and uphold their voices, to validate, and to take action that would bring forth safety and recovery. At this moment in which our world is reeling from the heartbreaking losses of our fellow Black Americans, may we find courage to bear unflinching witness to the pain of racial violence and trauma that has so deeply affected countless individuals, families, and communities. Equally importantly, may these tragedies also lead to an unwavering commitment for all of us to work together toward a better world.
We, the Board of Trustees and leaders of an institution of helpers, hope to reaffirm as your state association that we are committed to speak out for social justice and against inequity. We are committed to action and accountability as demonstrated through our ongoing endeavors to deepen our understanding of diversity, as well as encourage community discussions focused on race and inequity. It is our hope and intention that with the collective resources we have as psychologists and input from our community, we can make measurable progress towards building awareness and united action around issues of race and social justice. In the words of the Black activist and author Adrienne Maree Brown, Things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. We must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.
Anyane-Yeboa, A., Sato, T., & Sakuraba, A. (2020). Racial disparities in covid-19 deaths reveal harsh truths about structural inequality in America. Journal of Internal Medicine, 2020, May 25.
Baptiste, D. L., CommodoreMensah, Y., Alexander, K. A., Jacques, K., Wilson, P. R., Akomah, J., Sharps, P, & Cooper, L. A. (2020). Covid19: shedding light on racial and health inequities in the United States. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 2020, May 29.
Castle, B., Wendel, M., Kerr, J., Brooms, D., & Rollins, A. (2018). Public healths approach to systemic racism: a systematic literature review. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 6, 27-36.
Helms, J.E., Nicolas, G., Green, C.E. (2010). Racism and ethnoviolence as trauma: Enhancing professional training. Traumatology, 16(4), 53-62.
Herman, J. (1997). Trauma and recovery: The aftermath of violence from domestic abuse to political terror. New York: Basic Books.
Ture, K. & Hamilton, C.V. (1968). Black power: the politics of liberation. New York, NY: Vintage Books.
WSPA supports APA's statement on the Science Behind Why Women May Not Report Sexual Assault and the statement on Survivor Silence by Ohio Psychological Association.
Survivor Silence - Ohio Psychological Association, 9-26-18
Because of the recent sexual abuse claims made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against former White House secretary Brett Kavanaugh, many people have been left wondering why Dr. Ford is coming forward about an incident that she claims happened three decades earlier. Many people are questioning whether or not the claims are even true. Notwithstanding a delay in reporting, research shows that young women infrequently report experiences of sexual victimization to the police, or other authorities. Survivors of sexual violence are more likely to discuss their experience with an acquaintance. Even still, the fear of negative social reactions is prominent in their decision of whether or not to do so. Negative social reactions that result in feelings of hurt, shame, or rejection may lead the survivor to believe that they were responsible for the assault. Anticipated negative social reactions may impact the likelihood that they will disclose the experience to others in the future. The turmoil over whether or not to come forward may seem conflicting or confusing to some but research supports that it is more common than we think.
Sexual assault is a major public health problem that occurs across the life span, in a variety of social contexts, with incidents ranging in severity. In the U.S. about 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 6 men experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. 41% of female victims who reported history of completed rape, report that the first incident occurred before the age of 18 years old.Commonly reported outcomes following a sexual assault include feeling fearful (62% women, 18% men), concern for their safety (57% women, 17% men), and symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder (52% women, 17% men).
Frequently, sexual assault survivors experience stigma around the assault. Stigmas associated with sexual assault include victim blaming from those close to them, including friends, partners, social service providers and society as a whole. Stigma is a dynamic social process that may lead to rejection of sexual assault survivors. The effect of stigma and rejection can then be self-blame: survivors may accept and internalize blame for the abuse and/or assault. Self-blame is a major reason many do not come forward right away or ever. Shame may account for survivors feeling unworthy and defective. Many of these concerns lead to avoidant coping or the pure silence of the sexual assault survivors experiences.
Negative social reactions, self-blame, and shame are linked to poor outcomes such as PTSD, depression, psychological and physical distress, affect dysregulation, and maladaptive coping. If our social response to sexual assault were more supportive and helpful, it is likely that these poor outcomes could be avoided. Awareness regarding sexual abuse survivor silence can help both the public and service providers to be more empathetic to sexual assault survivors, thus reducing stigma and negative responses. Increased awareness should lead to intentional efforts to help survivors feel supported and empowered.
Black, M. C., Basile, K. C., Breiding, M. J., Smith, S .G., Walters, M. L., Merrick, M. T. Stevens, M. R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 summary report. Retrieved from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control: http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf
Gidycz, C., & Orchowskil, L. (2015). Psychological consequences associated with positive and negative responses to disclosure of sexual assault among college women: A prospective study. Violence against Women. 21, 7, pp. 803-823.
Kennedy, A., & Prock, K. (2016). ''I still feel like I am not normal'': A review of the role of stigma and stigmatization among female survivors of child sexual abuse, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence. Trauma Violence & Abuse. DOI: 10.1177/1524838016673601.
This post has been updated 6/20/18 to reflect the most recent Executive Order continuing indefinite detention of immigrant children and families.
The Washington State Psychological Association is adamantly opposed to the current Administrations zero-tolerance policy involving the lengthy detention of immigrant children and families in federal facilities after attempts to cross the U.S. border, applied to even those seeking asylumand relatedly, the other recent immigration policy shift stating that domestic and/or gang violence are not legitimate reasons to seek asylum. As psychologists, we find these policies unacceptable, given the significant risks for exploitation and victimization such experiences confer on already-vulnerable childrenespecially those who have been separated from their parentsand the tremendous and often irreparable emotional burden these forced fractures place on families who are often already exposed to significant mental and physical trauma. Psychologists have long understood the ways in which children are uniquely vulnerable to trauma, and research findings are clear that even brief trauma can continue to have adverse effects across the lifespan. We join our colleagues in esteemed national organizations such as the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians,/a>, and the National Latina/o Psychological Association in condemning these policies based on a large body of scientific research on the impact of migration, family separation, and trauma throughout the lifespan. By the latest Executive Order, which is yet to be implemented and which seeks to extend detention of children indefinitely, families are now allowed to remain together in federal detention centers; however, over 2,300 children nationally have already been separated from their parents with no clear plans for reunification.
WSPAs mission is to promote the psychological well-being of all Washington residents, through education, clinical service, and advocacy. As a proud member of the Refugee Mental Health Network, we are appalled by reports that over 200 asylum seekers, including many parents separated from their children, are currently being held in a federal prison in SeaTac, Washington. We fully support the efforts of Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Governor Jay Inslee, and our elected representatives in their efforts to resolve this situation.
Our emphatic rejection of the current policy is consistent with our mission as an organization and our Code of Ethics as psychologists, and reflects the value we place on respect for the rights and dignities of all people, not only as psychologists, but as Americans. We are proud of our collective national history as a refuge to those in need that is enhanced, not diminished, by diversity. We stand with organizations such as the United Nations Human Rights Office and Physicians for Human Rights in recognizing these harmful experiences as an issue of fundamental human rights. Justice and respect for all people are our most closely held values as psychologists, Americans, and human beings, and we resolutely believe U.S. immigration policy should reflect those values.
Read the Executive Order here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/affording-congress-opportunity-address-family-separation
Ways to Help
We urge you to call your members of Congress (https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members) and let them know of your opposition to these policies.
Below is a list of organizations working to support refugees separated from their families.
*Please note that this is not an exhaustive list nor does WSPA have any formal alliance with any of the groups. We encourage everyone to thoroughly research the causes they support.
Refugees Northwest provides mental health and physical evaluations, emergency food, and basic needs for asylum-seekers; read more about their work on behalf of asylum-seekers, asylees, and refugees, and how to help, on www.refugeesnw.org
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project is doing work defending and advancing the rights of immigrants through direct legal services, systemic advocacy, and community education. https://www.nwirp.org/
Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) is the largest immigration nonprofit in Texas offering free and low-cost legal services to immigrant children and families. Donate to their fund for legal representation, education, and advocacy for unaccompanied minors here: https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/leafund
American Immigration Lawyers Association provides pro-bono services to represent women and men with their asylum screening, bond hearings, ongoing asylum representation. http://www.aila.org/
CARAa consortium of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, the American Immigration Council, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, and the American Immigration Lawyers Associationprovides pro-bono legal services at family detention centers. http://caraprobono.org/
Florence Project is an Arizona project offering free legal services to men, women, and unaccompanied children in immigration custody. https://firrp.org/
Kids in Need of Defense works to ensure that kids do not appear in immigration court without representation, and to lobby for policies that advocate for childrens legal interests. https://supportkind.org/about/
The Young Center for Immigrant Childrens Rights works for the rights of children in immigration proceedings. https://www.theyoungcenter.org/
The Urban Justice Centers Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project provides legal services and works to prevent the deportation of those fleeing violence. https://asylumadvocacy.org/
Womens Refugee Commission advocates for the rights and protection of women, children, and youth fleeing violence and persecution. https://www.womensrefugeecommission.org/
On September 1, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a historic speech to members of the American Psychological Association who gathered in Washington, D.C. for its 75th Annual Convention. Dr. King spoke directly about the problems of racism and segregation in our country, and he called on psychologists as social scientists to assume a more active role in their eradication. Fifty years later Dr. Kings words have taken on a new sense of meaning and urgency not just for psychologists but for our nation as a whole.
The Charlottesville white nationalist rally in August in which three people lost their lives and many others were injured follows a nationwide increase in hate crimes in the past year. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported as many as 1,094 incidents in the first month after the presidential election last year, and 1,863 between November 9 and March 31 of this year. There are 917 hate groups currently operating in the United States according to SPLC. Considering that most hate crimes are not reported to the police (Bureau of Justice Statistics), these recent numbers represent a pressing call for increased public discourse and action.
Washington State Psychological Association (WSPA) joins the American Psychological Association to firmly and unequivocally condemn the acts of racism and violence which took place in Charlottesville, and all other acts of bias, prejudice, and discrimination, which lead to hate crimes motivated by an offenders bias against a victims race, ethnicity, gender and gender expression, culture and national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and/or socio-economic status. White supremacist views and other forms of racism, bigotry, discrimination and prejudice do not belong in our society and must be recognized and denounced.
Violent crimes motivated by bias and hate have far reaching effects on the victims. These include feelings of helplessness and humiliation (Herman, 1992), a loss of the sense of safety and security, and symptoms of depression and anxiety (APA, 2017). As mental health professionals, psychologists are uniquely equipped to assist individuals, groups, and communities traumatized by hate crimes. Today, fifty years later, we remember Dr. Kings call and recommit as social scientists to use our knowledge and skills to realize improved outcomes for all individuals and communities. We foster healing in all people through mental health treatment, community-based education including programs teaching tolerance, reducing prejudice, and promoting social justice, and research and policy initiatives targeting a safer, healthier, and more equitable society for all.
It is the policy of both Washington State Psychological Association (WSPA) and American Psychological Association (APA) that ...same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality."
In 2009, APA published the findings of its Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. The Task Force not only found no scientific basis for positive results of Sexual Orientation Conversion Efforts (SOCE) but also declared SOCE likely poses significant potential dangers for mental health, particularly for vulnerable youth.
WSPA fully supports these findings and since 2013 we have actively supported efforts to change Washington State law to make the practice of conversion therapy an act of unprofessional conduct in the State's Uniform Disciplinary Act (RCW 18.130).
Letters of our advocacy can be found below:
Letter of support for funding a working group to study the effects of SOCE in Washington State.
Letter of support introducing legislation to restrict the practice of SOCE.
Letter of support to Washington Conversion Therapy Ban (HB 2451).
Memo to House Health Care & Wellness Committee.
Letter of support to City of Seattle's Conversion Therapy Ban.
Washington State Psychological Association joined with American Psychological Association in supporting the March for Our Lives Event held Saturday, March 24, 2018 to prevent further gun violence. WSPA members marched with others throughout the state and country in supporting our young people who are asking us to do more to protect them from further violence by firearms.
As psychologists, with our unique skills, training, and knowledge, we can support our communities by actively participating in resolving this public health crisis. Our members are involved in many aspects of this complicated issue including research, education, assessment, prevention, and treatment of victims of gun violence. We have an important contribution to make so that we can all better protect our children.
The following links for information on APAs support of March for Our Lives and APAs policies on advocacy for gun-violence prevention:
As a parent, you may be struggling with how to talk with your children about a shooting rampage. It is important to remember that children look to their parents to make them feel safe. This is true no matter what age your children are, be they toddlers, adolescents or even young adults.
Consider the following tips for helping your children manage their distress.
Talk with your child. Talking to your children about their worries and concerns is the first step to help them feel safe and begin to cope with the events occurring around them. What you talk about and how you say it does depend on their age, but all children need to be able to know you are there listening to them.
- Find times when they are most likely to talk: such as when riding in the car, before dinner or at bedtime.
- Start the conversation. Let them know you are interested in them and how they are coping with the information they are getting.
- Listen to their thoughts and point of view. Don't interrupt allow them to express their ideas and understanding before you respond.
- Express your own opinions and ideas without putting down theirs. Acknowledge that it is okay to disagree.
- Remind them you are there for them to provide safety, comfort and support. Give them a hug.
Keep home a safe place. Children, regardless of age, often find home to be a safe haven when the world around them becomes overwhelming. During times of crisis, it is important to remember that your children may come home seeking the safe feeling they have being there. Help make it a place where your children find the solitude or comfort they need. Plan a night where everyone participates in a favorite family activity.
Watch for signs of stress, fear or anxiety. After a traumatic event, it is typical for children (and adults) to experience a wide range of emotions, including fearfulness, shock, anger, grief and anxiety. Your children's behaviors may change because of their response to the event. They may experience trouble sleeping, difficulty with concentrating on school work or changes in appetite. This is normal for everyone and should begin to disappear in a few months. Encourage your children to put their feelings into words by talking about them or journaling. Some children may find it helpful to express their feelings through art.
Take "news breaks." Your children may want to keep informed by gathering information about the event from the Internet, television or newspapers. It is important to limit the amount of time spent watching the news because constant exposure may actually heighten their anxiety and fears. Also, scheduling some breaks for yourself is important; allow yourself time to engage in activities you enjoy.
Take care of yourself. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your children. Be a model for your children on how to manage traumatic events. Keep regular schedules for activities such as family meals and exercise to help restore a sense of security and normalcy.
These tips and strategies can help you guide your children through the current crisis. If you are feeling stuck or overwhelmed, you may want to consider talking to someone who could help. A licensed mental health professional such as a psychologist can assist you in developing an appropriate strategy for moving forward. It is important to get professional help if you feel like you are unable to function or perform basic activities of daily living.
Thanks to psychologists Ronald S. Palomares, Ph.D., and Lynn F. Bufka, Ph.D. who assisted us with this article.
More links concerning gun violence:
Coping with Mass Shootings
Talking to Kids When They Need Help
7 Ways to Talk to Children and Youth about the Shootings in Orlando
Helping Children Manage Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting
How Much News Coverage is OK for Children?
Gun Violence Prevention
APA Initiatives to Prevent Gun Violence