WSPA Statements on Public Issues
WSPA‘s Good Trouble Committee would like to acknowledge that May is dedicated to celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage. We want to draw attention to and appreciate the richness that people in these communities have brought to the United States and their positive impact on science, art, commerce, and government. For example, Asian immigrants toiled to build this country, and their immigration histories are complex and multifaceted. We honor and appreciate this far-from-monolithic diverse group, and acknowledge that at times, attempts to highlight diversity erase instead of celebrate it: Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities have similarities with and also important differences from Asian communities. The AAPI acronym may obscure these important variations in culture and lived experiences, and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders have advocated for accurate representation of their unique identities.
WSPA reiterates its condemnation of increasing hate and violence towards Asians, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and strives as an organization to seek opportunities to support these communities.
Additional Resources for Further Learning
- Visit the Asian Mental Health Collective to support AAPI providers
History of Asian American Psychology (Leong & Okazaki, 2009; attached)
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, The Library of Congress
Asian American Inventions Contributions, History News
The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee
Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong
The United States is built on the labor of enslaved people, the colonized and severely decimated numbers of Native Americans, and toils of immigrants. From building railroads to farming the land in the 1800s to shaping and enriching the cultural landscape through language, food, and traditions, immigrants continue to contribute to the progress of the United States in a multitude of ways. They have persisted with resilience through harsh conditions such as the Asian Exclusion Act, the forced relocation and incarceration of Japanese Americans, post-9/11 Islamophobia and hate crimes, conflation of the legacy of slavery with the unique challenges facing the African diaspora, inhumane family separation at the southern U.S. border, and most recently, Anti-Asian hate during the ongoing pandemic. Undocumented immigrants face seemingly unsurmountable challenges, including structural discrimination and social prejudice, in the pursuit of stable lives for their children and families. Despite the economic contributions of documented and undocumented immigrants, immigrants have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic, and relief efforts are not always accessible to them. Immigrant Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate their resilience, reflect on how this very diverse group weaves together a brilliant and rich tapestry of culture and heritage in our country and to be thoughtful about how those of us with privilege can be allies and advocates.
See below for resources for further learning.
What is Immigrant Heritage Month?
NPR‘s Where We Come From, stories of immigrants of color
National Immigrant Justice Center: How to Help
Since 2008, July has been designated Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month (you can learn more about her remarkable activism here and here). As we have been experiencing as people and as practitioners, the road to pandemic recovery will be a long one, especially for people with marginalized identities: people of color reported that discrimination as a source of stress increased in 2020. Research is accumulating to bolster the gravity of this reality: anti-Asian and anti-Jewish racism and hate crimes have risen during the pandemic with understandable consequences and psychological impact for people who face it, and systemic racism continues to impact how COVID-19 affects Black Americans and BIPOC communities more generally. Other marginalized groups such as LGBTQ youth report a negative impact of the pandemic and the current climate on mental health - the list could go on. It is important for all of us to seek ongoing education and work to remediate the factors that make it more difficult for some people in our communities to access mental health care.
WSPA‘s Good Trouble Committee would like to acknowledge and celebrate Pride Month. While we are still reeling from the record number of anti-trans* bills across the country, we want to remember the rich history and evolution of how Pride Month came to be. As psychologists, it is especially important that we honor and uplift people across all variations in sexual orientation and gender identity, given the mental health field‘s painful and recent history of pathologizing people for whom they love and how they identify their gender. Activists worked tirelessly to have homosexuality removed from the DSM, and we are grateful for that important work. We are encouraged by new generations of psychologists doing important work to increase our field‘s ability to understand and support LGBTQIA2S+ people in their experiences.
WSPA‘s Good Trouble Committee would like to recognize May as Mental Health Awareness Month (MHAM). This topic is pertinent to many of us on both professional and personal levels. No one is immune to mental health challenges, and approximately one in five people will experience mental illness in their lifetime. Despite this reality, stigma in our society prevails and access to care remains limited for many. The COVID 19 pandemic has impacted the mental health needs of people across diverse identities and communities. Now, more than ever, talking about mental health and seeking support needs to be normalized. As an organization, we are committed to destigmatizing mental health and supporting our community as we emerge from the challenges of this past year and beyond.
Additional Resources for Further Learning & Sharing
National Alliance on Mental Illness‘s MHAM resources
Mental Health Month, including Tools 2 Thrive resources, from Mental Health America
Free access to mental health research this month from Taylor & Francis
Washington State Department of Health Statewide High-Level Analysis of Forecasted Behavioral Health Impacts from COVID-19
American Hospital Association‘s MHAM resources, including podcasts, case studies, and tools
WSPA is striving to do more to honor the historical and current contributions of Black Psychologists and educate ourselves and our communities. We know we have a long way to go. As we learn to do that, we want to encourage you to take the time to educate yourself, and to more fully recognize the necessity of racial diversity in Psychology. We strive to recognize our own biases, untangle the complexities of systemic oppression, build genuine and honest relationships across races, and together find ways to dismantle systemic racism. Much too often in history, Black Americans‘ contributions and triumphs are suppressed, silenced, or forgotten. Here are some resources to educate ourselves and acknowledge the efforts and excellences of Black Psychologists and their contributions:
The Washington State Psychological Association (WSPA) represents over 600 psychologist members across the state of Washington. In doing so, we recognize and value the many varied ways in which the discipline and principles of psychology are practiced, and we cherish the diversity of our membership. Across this diversity, we are all united by ethical and scientific principles that guide us in our lives and work. We keep these principles in mind today as we celebrate 2021 Pride Month and our LGBTQIA2S+ members and Washingtonians.
As part of this celebration, we specifically acknowledge the passing of the Gender Affirming Treatment Act (SB 5313), which prohibits the Washington State Healthcare Authority and all managed care plans operating within our state from denying coverage for medical treatment on the basis of gender identity, and for revisions improving access to gender-affirming care. WSPA supported this bill and those who fought tirelessly for its passage, and the positive impact it will have on healthcare for transgender and nonbinary patients in Washington.
While we recognize the achievement of SB 5313, we must also acknowledge the continued rise of anti-transgender legislation in the United States. In 2020, there were 79 anti-transgender bills introduced in state legislatures. In 2021, 33 states introduced more than 100 bills that target the health, safety, and rights of transgender people across the country. These legislative efforts run counter to scientific evidence detailing the benefits of affirming care and harms of discrimination, and they are a threat to the lives and well-being of transgender people. As psychologists, advocates, and anti-oppression activists, we unequivocally affirm that we stand against legislation and policy that enables anti-transgender discrimination. As providers of mental healthcare, we also have a responsibility to speak out against the practice of gender identity change efforts by mental health clinicians.
Affirming care for transgender and gender nonbinary people has long been the standard of care endorsed by the interdisciplinary World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH; 2012). This standard of care is grounded in scientific evidence of the life-saving importance of such care. These principles are also documented in the psychology-specific guidelines for practice with transgender people (APA, 2015a). These affirming guidelines are aligned with our discipline’s overall mission to serve a diverse public (APA, 2015b), and contemporary psychological science on gender identity (APA, 2009b). We know that sexual identity change efforts (i.e., techniques used by mental health providers intended to change a person’s sexual identity) can cause great harm to patients, who benefit significantly from practices that affirm and support sexual identity (APA, 2009a). The same is true for gender identity change efforts, which are associated with an increase of serious and dangerous mental health symptoms while supportive, responsive, and affirming care for people across the gender spectrum is clearly shown to benefit patients who receive it (APA, 2021). Transgender, gender nonbinary, and gender identities in all their many expressions are healthy manifestations of identity and do not warrant therapeutic intervention simply for existing. WSPA will continue to work actively to ensure these identities and the people who hold them are respected by us, our members, and those who practice the discipline of psychology.
To transgender, gender nonbinary, and people of all genders: We firmly commit to provide the affirming care that well-established science and our professional ethics demand.
To our colleagues both within and outside of psychology: We will continue intra- and interdisciplinary collaboration to provide the care our patients deserve, and when this requires us to challenge ourselves and each other, we will rise to this challenge. Many of us are transgender and gender nonbinary ourselves, and we commit to respecting this important fact of our work.
To those who propose anti-transgender legislation: We will continue to advocate ardently for science-informed policy, justice, and dignity; and we will continue to actively oppose legislative efforts that target the health, wellbeing, and freedom of Washingtonians based on gender identity.
We stand in solidarity with national mental health professional organizations that also uphold the empirical support and ethical imperative for gender-affirming care. This includes the American Psychological Association (APA), other state psychological associations fighting discriminatory legislation, and other mental health and healthcare worker organizations within Washington State.
- American Psychological Association. (2009a). Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation. https://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/therapeutic-response.pdf
- American Psychological Association. (2009b). Report of the task force on gender identity and gender variance. https://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/policy/gender-identity-report.pdf
- American Psychological Association. (2015a). Guidelines for psychological practice with transgender and gender nonconforming people. American Psychologist, 70(9), 832-864. https://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/transgender.pdf
- American Psychological Association. (2015b). Serving a Diverse Public. https://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/diversity-preparation?tab=2
- American Psychological Association. (2021, February). APA resolution on gender identity change efforts. https://www.apa.org/about/policy/resolution-gender-identity-change-efforts.pdf
- World Professional Association for Transgender Health. (2012) Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender, and Gender- Nonconforming People. https://www.wpath.org/publications/soc
Local Resources for Engagement and Advocacy:
The Washington State Psychological Association unequivocally condemns the increasing hate and violence directed towards Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders nationwide, including the recent targeted attacks and tragic murder of Asian women in Atlanta, GA. As an organization committed to diversity and inclusion, we are deeply saddened by the alarming rise in anti-Asian racist attacks. We also acknowledge that anti-Asian bias and violence is not new and has been a part of our nation’s history in the form of federal laws, specifically citizenship laws and immigration laws, that systematically discriminated against Asian Americans. The internment of Japanese Americans during WWII is another example of such institutional racism. The Muslim ban and deportation of Southeast Asian refugees and undocumented immigrants are recent federally sanctioned acts of discrimination against this minority group. Further, since the beginning of the pandemic, Asian Americans have been targeted with hate crimes and bias, with near 4000 reports of discrimination in the past year as per the Stop AAPI Hate National Report.
The role of white supremacy, racialized misogyny, and the overfetishization of Asian women in the most recent attacks is undeniable. So, we wanted to share resources for support for those affected by anti-Asian racism. We also wanted to share resources for allies and advocates to further our knowledge and enhance our ability to fight white supremacy, including information about the history of anti-Asian racism in our country and state.
WSPA‘s Board of Trustees and Good Trouble Committee Statement on Capitol Violence
WSPA firmly condemns the hatred, racism, antisemitism, and violence displayed at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. There are many disturbing aspects of that day, not least of which was the stark difference in how peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors were treated in the very same location this past summer, a potent example of ongoing inequity in our society and the lethal consequences those inequities can have for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC).
As practitioners of mental health, we are called to help our clients, patients, and communities process these events. Each of the general principles of our ethics code speaks to how psychologists must rise to this occasion. First, nonmaleficence by not contributing to this violence ourselves is of course necessary but wholly insufficient; beneficence requires that we work for the good of all people in our spheres of influence, especially those who are marginalized. Fidelity and responsibility dictate that we honor public trust in our profession by conveying decades of clinical science and practice that have made clear that personal and societal destruction follows injustice. Integrity demands that our work must be consistently infused with that clarity, regardless of the influence current political chaos exerts on how truth is conveyed. Finally, psychologists who are just and respectful of people’s rights and dignities in the quiet space of their offices but not outside of it will fail to meet the needs of people who must leave those offices at sessions’ ends to re-enter unjust, disrespectful, and frankly unsafe places. To be an ethical psychologist requires being an ethical citizen and human being.
For all of us who are hurting, we urge you to model self-care to those around you. Especially since further violence is likely, we hope you give yourself permission to be the change you need in the world right now. You can determine how much to get involved to make the changes you hope for in order to move toward a less broken world. You are able to give yourself permission to seek support and take time when you need it, because all humans are worthy of such care, and also so that you can be there for your loved ones and patients as well.
We demand justice, equity, and accountability, and will work tirelessly to those ends.
WSPA Board of Trustees
WSPA Good Trouble Committee
- WSPA’s Good Trouble Diversity & Equity Resources.
- The Good Trouble Committee is always open to interested members.
- Despite political upheaval and new vaccines, the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Interested members are also always welcome to join our Disaster Relief Network (DRN) or contact the WSPA office about joining the DRN Pro Bono group of psychologists offering brief, free therapy to frontline and essential workers.
We, the members of the Washington State Psychological Association Board of Trustees and Good Trouble Committee, were moved by and stand in solidarity with the Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy‘s (American Psychological Association Division 29) recent statement regarding their concerns with the Examination for the Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP). A small but growing body of research indicates that BIPOC test-takers are less likely to pass the EPPP on their first attempt (Bowman & Ameen, 2018; Macura & Ameen, 2020; Sharpless, 2019a & 2019b), and that doctoral programs with higher proportions of BIPOC students have lower EPPP pass rates (Sharpless & Barber, 2013). Any psychologist with an interest in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in our field should be uncomfortable with these findings and their implications.
EPPP inequities are an ethical issue. Section 9.05 of our Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct speaks directly to the ethics of test construction: Psychologists who develop tests and other assessment techniques use appropriate psychometric procedures and current scientific or professional knowledge for test design, standardization, validation, reduction or elimination of bias, and recommendations for use. Reducing and hopefully eliminating bias in the EPPP is not only aligned with this specific ethical mandate, but also speaks to our more general ethical principle of justice: Psychologists recognize that fairness and justice entitle all persons to access to and benefit from the contributions of psychology and to equal quality in the processes, procedures, and services being conducted by psychologists. If a biased EPPP produces inequities in who becomes a psychologist, it is likely that these inequities are also reflected in access to care. Specifically, by creating barriers to entry into our profession for linguistically and culturally diverse test-takers, we also create barriers to care for the linguistically and culturally diverse people whom these test-takers might be best suited to serve.
We support Div. 29‘s recommendations regarding the future of the EPPP, and any other recommendations that are rigorously interrogated to avoid the current injustices described above (e.g., Callahan, et al., 2021). We hope that instead of perpetuating inequities, a licensing exam for psychologists might instead set the psychometric standard for eliminating bias in test construction.
Bowman, N., & Ameen, E. (2018, June). Exploring differences in pass rates on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Communique. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/communique/2018/06/pass-rates
Callahan, J. L., Bell, D. J., Davila, J., Johnson, S. L., Strauman, T. J., & Yee, C. M. (2021). Inviting ASPPB to address systemic bias and racism: Reply to Turner, Hunsley, and Rodolfa. American Psychologist. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000801
Macura, Z., & Ameen, E. J. (2020). Factors associated with passing the EPPP on first attempt: Findings from a mixed methods survey of recent test takers. Training and Education in Professional Psychology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/tep0000316
Sharpless, B. A. (2019). Are demographic variables associated with performance on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)?. The Journal of Psychology, 153(2), 161-172. https://doi.org/10.1080/00223980.2018.1504739
Sharpless, B. A. (2019b). Pass rates on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) according to demographic variables: A partial replication. Training and Education in Professional Psychology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/tep0000301
Sharpless, B. A., & Barber, J. P. (2013). Predictors of program performance on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 44(4), 208–217. https://doi.apa.org/doi/10.1037/a0031689
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.
As many are now aware, the current presidential administration issued an Executive Order on September 22, 2020 curtailing diversity training in federal agencies under the false pretense of combating race and sex stereotyping. APA quickly released a statement describing how this problematic order attempts to deny clearly evident systemic inequities in our society, and state groups such as the Connecticut Psychological Association (CPA) have shared similar statements.
WSPA stands in solidarity with our colleagues at APA and CPA, and with all those who are negatively affected by this order. We highlight some of the many reasons the order is problematic:
- It denies the realities of historically marginalized people in our country, and also denies people the opportunity to learn about this history, which is typically already excluded and/or falsified by our institutions and educational systems.
- It disregards the role science-based education may play in remedying systemic inequity (for further detail on this point, please see APA‘s attached Summary of Psychological Research and Science of Diversity Training).
- It impedes the development of inclusive, safe work environments that encourage employees to understand each others‘ lived realities, learn from each other, cultivate open communication, and reduce the negative impact of implicit bias.
- It encourages a culture of apathy or even divisiveness that hinders the work environment and therefore employees in that environment.
- It may negatively affect the work federal agencies do (e.g., federal programs serving a community should understand the needs and history of that community).
WSPA is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our profession, state, and country, and works to provide support, encouragement, and active collaboration with all psychologists similarly committed to addressing systemic inequities. WSPA initiatives related to these issues include our diversity and equity educational resources, our Good Trouble Committee, and our resources on bias, stigma reduction, and health inequities related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For further reading on workplace diversity and training, please see the following resources:
Sharma, A. (2016). Managing diversity and equality in the workplace. Cogent Business & Management, 3(1), 1212682.
Hughes, C. (2018). Conclusion: Diversity intelligence as a core of diversity training and leadership development. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 20(3), 370-378.
Madera, J. M. (2018). What‘s in it for me? Perspective taking as an intervention for improving attitudes toward diversity management. Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, 59(2), 100-111.
Madera, J. M., Kapoor, C. E., Waight, J., & Madera, J. M. (2011). Diversity training: Examining minority employees' organizational attitudes. Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes.
Madera, J. M., Neal, J. A., & Dawson, M. (2011). A strategy for diversity training: Focusing on empathy in the workplace. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, 35(4), 469-487.
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