Monday, October 30, 2017

The full cost of experiencing IPV, sexual violence, and stalking is unknown. 5/5

 One study estimates the cost of IPV to U.S. society, including health costs and productivity losses, to be $5.8 billion, including $4.2 billion for physical violence, $320 million for partner rape, and $342 million for partner stalking, in 1995 dollars.25 Converted to 2017 dollars, the cost of IPV in the United States would be $9.3 billion. Other researchers have calculated the costs of rape victims’ health care utilization and lost productivity, and societal costs of criminal justice system interventions using differing methodologies.26 No study provides a complete picture of the full cost of violence to victims, both in terms of direct and indirect costs across the lifespan. Furthermore, research on violence has seldom examined varying economic impacts by race or ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability, or geographic location. Further research is necessary to ensure that practitioners and policymakers have a more complete understanding of the costs of abuse in order to provide appropriate responses and remedies so that survivors can break free, have a healthy recovery, and live full lives.
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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Debt and poor credit due to financial control and exploitation restricts access to safe housing and can lead to homelessness. 4/5

 Victims of IPV, sexual assault, and stalking often incur a number of other direct costs while seeking safety and rebuilding their lives. Using data from the 2006 National Crime Victimization Survey’s Supplemental Victimization Survey, researchers found that three in 10 stalking victims accrued out-of-pocket costs, such as attorney fees, replacing or repairing damage to property, child care costs, moving expenses, or changing phone numbers—12.9 percent of victims incurred out-of-pocket costs exceeding $1,000.19 A Kentucky study of the economic costs of abuse experienced by protective order petitioners estimated that victims had incurred an average of $1,114 in property losses during the six months prior to obtaining an injunction.20

A survey of IPV survivors enrolled in the Allstate Moving Ahead financial literacy program found that nearly all survivors (99 percent) experience economic abuse, including financial control and exploitation, such as having their earnings taken or being given an allowance.21 Thirty-nine domestic violence service providers in New York State participated in a study on the costs economic abuse had on their clients; half of the providers reported that approximately one in four of their domestic violence clients were saddled with debt created by their abusive partner.22 Furthermore, nearly one-third of providers reported that at least 25 percent of clients were unable to open bank accounts or suffered poor credit as a result.

Victims of IPV who seek to break free from an abusive relationship are often faced with housing instability and homelessness due to high housing costs, economic insecurity, damaged credit, and poor tenant history. One analysis of the 2003 California Women’s Health Survey found that IPV was correlated with housing instability. Thirty percent of the 297 respondents who reported IPV experienced housing instability in the prior year.23 Another study of 110 victims receiving service from shelters, criminal justice agencies, and/or welfare programs in Georgia found that 38 percent reported homelessness after fleeing abuse, and 25 percent were forced to leave their homes due to financial problems or partner harassment.24
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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Physical, psychological, and economic abuse often lead to job instability. 3/5

 A 2005 national telephone poll of 1,200 working adults found that 64 percent of those who identified as victims of domestic violence reported that their ability to work was affected by the violence.11 Constant distraction and fear of abuser’s intrusions at work make it difficult for victims to concentrate and perform their job duties.12 Nearly all (96 percent) of 120 employed women IPV survivors surveyed by the Maine Department of Labor indicated that abuse affected their performance and productivity, including being constantly harassed at work, delayed getting to work, or prevented from going to work (Figure 1). As a result, 60 percent of victims in the study reported having either quit their job or being terminated as a result of the abuse.13

Analysis of NVAWS data found that victims of IPV who were stalked lost an average of 10.1 days of paid work per year, those who were raped lost an average of 8.1 days per year, and those who experienced physical violence lost 7.2 days per year.14 Another study analyzing the obstacles impacting the number of hours worked by welfare recipients in Michigan found that experiencing IPV was associated with significantly fewer hours worked per year—victims reported working more than 10 percent fewer hours annually than nonabused women.15

Reduced work hours and lower educational attainment lead to significant income losses for those experiencing IPV. Interviews of female participants in Pennsylvania’s Work First Program in 1998 and 2001 found that women who reported increased abuse when they started their job worked fewer weeks and had lower wages. Women who experienced work-related control, abuse, and sabotage faced an 88 cent per hour “wage penalty” compared with those who had not.16 When comparing wages in the 2000 NYS, authors found that adolescents who experienced physical or sexual assault earned more than one dollar less per hour than their peers; between 50 and 71 percent of these effects can be attributed to lower educational attainment and occupational status as a result of experiencing violence.17 Expected lifetime income losses for adolescent victims of sexual violence was $36,000 in 2000 dollars, in 2017 this would equate to $52,242.18
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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Physical and psychological trauma and partner interference impede educational attainment 2/5

 One analysis of seven waves of data collected between 1976 and 1987 from the National Youth Survey (NYS) of adolescents 11–17 years old showed that having experienced victimization as an adolescent was associated with a decline in effort put into schoolwork and poorer academic performance, even when controlling for income and other factors.6 Data from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a national survey that measures the prevalence of behaviors that contribute to leading causes of death and disability among high school students, showed that students who experienced dating and sexual violence were more likely to skip school due to safety concerns than their peers.7 The Campus Sexual Assault Study, a web-based survey from over 6,800 undergraduate students on the prevalence and nature of sexual assault on college campuses, found that in response to sexual violence, victims often avoided or tried to avoid the assailant, dropped a class, moved their residence, or sought counseling.8

Using survey data from 498 single mothers who received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits in Michigan, researchers found that women who experienced IPV during adolescence obtained, on average, 0.5 fewer years of education than those who did not experience violence.9 Experiencing violence as an adult can also deter victims from continuing their education through job training. A 1998 study of 122 welfare recipients in western Pennsylvania enrolled in job training found that partner violence increased the likelihood of dropping out of the program. Psychological abuse in particular had a significant impact on whether enrollees completed their training—individuals who were told that “working women are bad mothers” were five times more likely to leave their program than women who did not receive this message.10 A 2016 survey of five job training programs in the greater Cincinnati region found that 30 percent of participants reported experiencing IPV. Participants reported that abusive partners frequently discouraged their enrollment in workforce development programs, some of whom reported experiencing physical violence to prevent them from participating (Partners for a Competitive Workforce 2016).
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Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Economic Cost of Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking 1/5

Intimate partner violence (IPV), sexual assault, and stalking have profound economic effects on victims and survivors. The physical aspects of violence often result in significant medical costs and time off from work. The long-term psychological consequences may hinder victims’ ability to study or hold a job; in some cases, perpetrators directly sabotage their victims’ employment. Economic abuse, which can take a range of forms—including preventing access to financial resources and generating unauthorized debt—can leave victims facing economic insecurity and poor credit. Seeking safety is often financially prohibitive, reducing a victim’s ability to leave the abuser and recover.

This fact sheet summarizes findings from research literature on the economic consequences and costs of IPV, sexual assault, and stalking for victims and survivors. The costs highlighted include medical expenditures, lower wages resulting from diminished educational attainment, lost wages from missed work and job loss, debt and poor credit, and costs associated with housing instability. 
 IPV assault, rape, and psychological abuse increase health care utilization, resulting in high out-of-pocket costs and medical debt.
 Assault, sexual violence, and psychological abuse can result in a range of physical and mental health needs, which produce costs both in the immediate aftermath of violence and over the lifespan. Analysis of the 1995-1996 National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS) revealed that 41.5 percent of IPV assaults resulted in physical injury, 28.1 percent of which led to medical treatment, and approximately 28 percent of those who experienced physical assaults, rape, and stalking by an intimate partner received some type of mental health counseling.1 

Compared with their nonabused peers, victims of IPV are at higher risk of health problems, including gynecological dysfunction (such as pelvic pain), sexually transmitted infections, gastrointestinal problems, chronic pain, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.2 These health consequences often continue long after the abuse has ended.3 Analysis of a randomized phone survey of 3,333 women aged 18-64 and enrolled in an insurance plan in the Pacific Northwest found that health care costs for those experiencing abuse were 42 percent higher than the costs for nonabused women. Women who were abused five or more years prior to the survey still faced costs that were 19 percent higher than their nonabused counterparts.4

Using data from the NVAWS, the 1996 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), and Medicare 5% Sample Beneficiary Standard Analytic Files, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (Injury Center) estimated that the mean cost of medical care for those who sought treatment after a physical assault by an intimate partner was $2,665 per incident, or $4,273 in 2017 dollars. Of those seeking mental health services, the mean cost was $1,017 per incident ($1,631 in 2017 dollars).5 The mean per incident cost of treatment for IPV victims of rape was $2,084 for medical care and $978 for mental health care ($3,342 and $1,568, in 2017 dollars, respectively). Mental health costs for IPV stalking victims seeking treatment was $690, or $1,106 in 2017 dollars. 

The Injury Center study also found that IPV victims experiencing physical violence paid 28.6 percent of medical costs and 32.0 percent of mental health costs out of pocket; IPV rape victims paid 29.2 percent of medical costs and 33.6 percent of mental health costs out of pocket; and IPV victims experiencing stalking paid 32.0 percent of mental health costs out of pocket.
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Friday, October 20, 2017

13 Subtle Ways Women Are Treated Differently At Work

How can you fight an enemy you can't see? That's the challenge professional women face in today's workplace.
"Discrimination today is not as in your face as it was before; it's often harder to see," says Caryl Rivers, coauthor of recent book "The New Soft War On Women." "Legally, you cant say 'I'm not going to hire you or give you this assignment because you're a woman and you can't do it,' but the old attitudes still run deep and are expressed subtly."

Both men and women hold these views but often don't even realize it. "It's hard to fight this," says Rivers, but awareness is key.

Here are 13 subtle ways women are still treated differently at work.

If women are assertive, it can be seen as aggressive. "It's a Catch-22," says Sonya Rhodes, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and author of new book "The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match." "Whatever women do at work, they have to do it nicely. But the more you back off, the more they don't take you seriously." Women have to walk a thin line between being too nice and too forceful.

When women are successful, they're often called "bitchy" and seen as less likable. In one well-known 2003 study, business students were given two identical resumes, one using the name Heidi and the other Howard. "Howard was judged as terrifically competent, but Heidi was judged as bitchy," says Rivers. When the experiment was repeated 10 years later, the woman was found to be slightly more likable but less trustworthy than the man.

Women are more likely to get lower initial offers. In another study using identical resumes, female scientists were offered a starting salary of $26,500, and men were offered $30,200. "Hiring managers will offer a slightly lower salary because they think they can get away with it," says Rhodes. And because women are often so grateful to get the position, she says they are less likely to negotiate the offer, which compounds and perpetuates the cycle of lower pay.

Women are less likely to get credit in group projects. When men and women work together, the men are more likely to get the credit — even if she did the bulk of the work and he's junior, says Rivers. It may be a combination of men being assumed more competent and women not actively taking credit for their work. "Women undersell themselves, and people undersell women," adds Rhodes.

Women are assumed to be incompetent until they prove themselves. As Linda Hudson, former CEO of security and defense company BAE Systems, recently told the authors of "The Confidence Code": "I think the environment is such that even in the position I am now, everyone's first impression is that I'm not qualified to do the job. When a man walks into a room, they're assumed to be competent until they prove otherwise." Women, however, are automatically assumed to be incompetent.

Women get promoted on performance, and men get promoted on potential. Research shows that women must prove that they are capable of succeeding in a role before they are promoted into it, whereas men may be promoted on their perceived potential. That means men often move up faster in organizations. "When a men walks in the door, he gets the benefit of male stereotypes," says Rivers.

Talkative men are seen as competent, and talkative women as incompetent. A study comparing the volubility of powerful men and women found that male leaders talk more — and with good reason. When men and women talked the same amount, she was seen as significantly less competent and less suited to leadership.

When women show anger, they are often judged as too emotional. Research shows that both men and women think women should be nice and kind and nurturing, says Rivers, and that men should be strong. When men show anger it looks like strength, but when women do the same, they are perceived as too emotional and out of control. "These stereotypes are deeply ingrained," she says.

Men get a fatherhood bonus, and women a motherhood penalty. While employers believe men will put more effort into succeeding at work once they become fathers, they believe women will direct more effort towards their kids. "The minute women become mothers, the attitude towards them changes," Rivers says. "When women become mothers, they suffer financially. Women make significantly less over a lifetime."

Women are often interrupted or ignored in meetings. Especially when there are only one or two women around the table, their voices can easily go unheard. Rhodes says it's very common that others may interrupt them, finish their sentences, or not give them the focus and subtle encouragement to continue. More frustrating is when a woman offers her idea, and no one responds. Then, a few minutes later, a man in the room presents the same idea, and only then is it heard and received well. When Beth Brooke, global vice chair at Ernst & Young, experienced this at a board meeting, she pulled the leader aside to mention it, and he hadn't even noticed that it happened.

When speaking in public, women have to take command of a room. Women presenters at male-dominated events have a harder time getting the attention of the room, says Rhodes. For example, one of her clients, a woman in her late 20s who works for a financial company, says when she stands up to give a presentation, she can't get the guys to settle down. "Women don't command that kind of attention," she says. "They have to take control."

Women may not be invited to social events. Getting together to drink, watch the game, or play sports is typically how social bonds are formed at the office and when valuable information, like who's position might be opening up or how to get in the graces of a certain boss, is shared. When women aren't included in these events, says Rhodes, it can marginalize them and limit their knowledge.

Women are judged more harshly on their appearance. In a major survey conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation and detailed in the book "Executive Presence," senior executives listed twice as many appearance blunders committed by women than men. Additionally, women were judged more harshly. For example, a woman might be seen as lacking leadership skills if she's overweight, while a man receives the same judgment if obese.
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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

7 unique challenges homeless women face — and what you can do to help

Uncertainty, struggle and stigma are just some of the threads that knit together the shared experiences of the homeless community.
But for women who are homeless, there are several unique challenges only they know: What it's like to have a period without access to supplies. What it's like to monitor your behavior due to fear of sexual assault. What it's like to be pregnant and not have the services you desperately need.
Although many of us think homelessness is rare, living without access to stable housing is more common than you think. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 1 in 194 people in the U.S. will experience homelessness at some point over a year-long period.
Women and families are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.
As of 2015, there were about 565,000 homeless people living in the United States on any given night. It’s estimated that women comprise a little under 40% of that population. But that number may shift. Women and families are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, with 85% of homeless families headed by single women.
Though homelessness is not only a women’s issue, there are some issues only homeless women have to navigate, which deserve our attention and action.
Here are seven unique challenges homeless women face..

1. Access to menstruation products is often limited.
For homeless women, coping with menstruation is a monthly challenge — and often a nightmare. The majority of shelters aren’t allocated governmental funds to put toward period products, and pads and tampons often rank low on the financial list of priorities for homeless women.
Anyone with a period knows products are costly, with a box of tampon or pads costing around $5 to $10, plus tax. Even in public restrooms, a pad or tampon, which can be used for around 8 hours at most, will set you back at least 25 cents. Over the course of a week-long cycle, that money adds up — and fast.
Many homeless women say the cost is unmanageable, often using ripped pieces of cloth or toilet paper instead of sanitary napkins or tampons, risking infection.

2. Access to comprehensive maternal health care can be difficult.
Research has shown the rate of unintended pregnancies among homeless women is much higher than that of the general population — and complications in birth are far more common for homeless women and their babies. Notably, homeless women are almost three times more likely to have a preterm delivery than housed women, often leading to costly health complications for their infants.
For any woman, the path to motherhood is often an expensive one, full of doctor’s appointments, medication and high-priced products for infants. Though there are services where homeless, expectant mothers can get free care, many put off accessing services out of fear of losing their newborn to child protection agencies, or because they are under-informed about which particular services exist.
Aside from the care, the system is often overwhelmed, leading many to believe homeless women are receiving care of a lower quality.

3. Homelessness only exacerbates the burden of childcare on women.
Women often carry the burden of childcare — and homelessness certainly doesn’t change that. With the overwhelming majority of homeless families headed by women, there’s pressure on women to create a more stable housing situation for not only themselves, but their children. If they don’t, many fear their children will be taken away from them by the state.
But homeless women, especially mothers of young children not yet in school, have to juggle the need of working to save up money and caring for their children. It’s a balance that’s complicated — if not impossible — to obtain, which is why support services dedicated to women and children are essential.

4. 1 in 4 women consider domestic violence to be the main factor in their current homelessness.
For many women, the immediate impacts of domestic violence are a major contributor to unstable housing. It’s estimated that about 63% of the sheltered homeless population are survivors of domestic violence, with 1 in 4 homeless women reporting domestic violence the main factor in their current homelessness.
Women, especially stay-at-home mothers who are out of the workforce and rely on their abusive partners financially, are especially at risk for unstable housing after leaving an abusive relationship. Notably, some women, fearing homelessness, stay in dangerous relationships to avoid the hardships of unstable housing.

5. Being homeless often means decreased personal safety for women.
Homeless women don’t only have to deal with financial stresses, but they also have to deal with concerns for their personal safety. Not having a home often means sleeping in shelters, many of which are male-dominated, given that the majority of homeless populations are male.
Many women report they have felt unsafe in shelters, or are survivors of gendered trauma stemming from stays in shelters. And life on the streets, especially in major cities, doesn't provide more safety by any means.
Homeless women have shared harrowing accounts of being sexually assaulted in showers at general intake shelters, and avoiding public restrooms late at night in fear of harassment or abuse. Women also rarely panhandle, often fearing doing so will make them a target for gender-based crime and violence.

6. Homeless women are living with mental illness at much higher rates than the general population.
About 1 in 4 of all homeless people live with a severe mental illness, which often goes untreated given low availability of mental health resources to low-income populations.
In the U.S., 47% of homeless women meet the criteria for a major depressive disorder alone, which is twice the rate of women in the general population. High rates of violence and assault toward homeless women also contribute to mental health disparities, with trauma often left unaddressed.
With mental health both underserved and stigmatized in the general population, it’s no surprise homeless women have an especially hard time accessing care.

7. Gender inequality in jobs makes escaping homelessness even more difficult.
From the gender pay gap to sexism in the workplace, gender inequality in jobs is not a new conversation. Although gender inequality in the workplace impacts all women, the way it impacts homeless women is rarely talked about.
The financial hardship associated with homelessness is a burden often only lifted by stable income, which usually means stable employment. But more than half of all homeless mothers do not have a high school diploma, meaning programs that help homeless women gain job skills or more education are essential.
By Katie Dupere - April 13, 2016

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Costing the Economic Impact of Violence against Women in the Arab Region

Beirut, Lebanon - UN Women; The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA); the Swedish Institute in Alexandria; and the Institute for Women's Studies in the Arab World (IWSAW) at the Lebanese American University (LAU) have joined hands to launch the outcome of the first phase of a project on “Estimating the Cost of the Economic Impact of Violence against Women in the Arab Region”. The two-phased regional project aims to support Arab States in estimating the costs of violence against women (VAW)and using such costings as an instrument for policy reform and advocacy.

Taking place in Beirut, the event brings together concerned top officials in the Arab governments, namely ministers of women's affairs; heads of national institutions for the advancement of women, as well as representatives of the Arab and foreign diplomatic corps, the United Nations agencies and civil society organizations, with a special appearance by Tunisian Actor Dhafer L'Abidine and Media Personality Ricardo Karam.

The project produced a report on the status of violence, as well as an operational model to estimate the cost of violence as a key priority for Arab States, based on the recognition that VAW is a critical human rights violation that has negative multiplier effects on the rights of women, economic growth, public health and societal wellbeing. This model is based on a review of available methodologies and regional specificities to cost VAW in the Arab region. It accounts for the direct and indirect tangible costs of marital violence, including the total household cost, the total cost of service provision (at the community-level, and total cost to businesses.

Recognizing that despite most Arab states having ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), progress at policy level remains slow and uneven across the region, the report also provides an overview of the policy context of VAW and sets forth recommendations targeted at State Institutions, UN and other International Organizations, and Civil Society Organizations.

“For UN Women, this project is incredibly important as a tool in our programming to drive policy development. When policymakers understand both the economic and social burdens of a problem, and the cost savings that can be generated by strategies designed to address the problem, the likelihood of endorsing a policy addressing the issue is expedited.” says Mohammad Naciri, Regional Director for Arab States, UN Women.

United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Mohamed Ali Al-Hakim comments that the project is the product of continuous work carried out by ESCWA and its partners over the past two years to provide an economic model for calculating the cost of violence against women in line with the needs of the region. He emphasized that the model not only helps decision-makers to know the economic consequences of violence against women and their effects on the national economy, but also supports the comprehensive reform process against the phenomenon. This is in full conformity with international obligations that require States to protect women from violence and punish those who cause harm.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017
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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Emily Nasrallah: The “peasant woman” who wrote about her land and won the heart of the world

“I am a peasant woman, the daughter of villagers” says the writer Emily Nasrallah about herself. This modesty and connection to the land is one of the most evident traits one notices upon sitting down to talk with Nasrallah. But she might also point out to a cupboard, all full of books that she has authored—books that have impacted readers in Lebanon, and that have touched people from around the world. On August 28, 2017, Nasrallah will receive the Goethe Medal for a remarkable body of work, in different genres, from novels to short stories, from poetry to autobiographical prose. And it is this expansive and remarkable oeuvre and her position on women’s and human rights that makes one understand why Goethe would award Nasrallah with this honor— along with feminist publisher Urvashi Butalia from India, and historian Irina Shcherbakova, from Russia.

I am a Story

Speaking about her German readers, Nasrallah says that they regularly ask about her personal life, because as she states, “I am a story. We are from simple village and my family are peasants; I lived my childhood working in the fields with my family, planting, and harvesting olives and grapes.”

Nasrallah was born in 1931 in the village of Kfeir in South Lebanon. “I put an effort into continuing my education,” she says. She attended Kfeir’s public school, and that meant that she had to repeat the third grade three times—for the simple reason that the school did not offer any classes after that level. When her family could not pay for her education, she wrote a letter to her uncle in the U.S., asking him to pay her school fees, which he did. Nasrallah thus became the first girl in her village to leave home to live and study outside the village. She attended the elite “International School of Choueifat,” (also known as the Charles Saad school). To save money for her university education, she began working as a journalist, in the women’s magazine, Sawt al Mar’a (Voice of the Woman), and in the political magazine, Al Sayyad, and as a teacher. And indeed, she was able to finish her university years with a degree in education.

She spent seventeen years working at Al Sayyad Magazine. After marriage, she left teaching, but she stayed in journalism, and she also dedicated time for her family. She continued to write fiction and non-fiction. She would find the time to write when she was done taking care of her house and family—with the help of someone who helped her with housework; and when she was working on a novel, she would designate specific times to write. She also talks about the tremendous support of her husband, who would always tell her “You are free, you do what you want, you write what you want,” and he always encouraged her to write better. “Now he has passed away six years ago, after 55 years together,” she says. Nasrallah has four children, and she would proudly talk about them and their accomplishments.

Writing Is an Act of Love

Nasrallah describes writing as an act of love. Her love of language and stories may have started with her grandmother, who would sit her on her lap and tell her stories— “she was the first storyteller,” Nasrallah says. But the author also credits one of her maternal uncles, who initially lived in the U.S, but was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and came to live with them when she was little. It was this uncle who gave the author her first taste for writing, asking her to write things, and to describe “who is this house for?” “who is this tree for?”
Before she turned six—which was the age that her school would permit her to enroll, she would hide under the window to listen to what the teacher was saying. Her mother would ask the teacher for her daughter to sit in class—“as long as you disappear when the inspector comes,” she laughs.

But it was the deep sadness she felt when her siblings immigrated that she wrote her first novel, Birds of September, published in 1962. She remembers how the pages were soaked with tears when she finished writing. Nasrallah would explore themes of immigration, war, women’s rights, and social issues in her novels, short stories, and personal writings. And she would write for a wide audience that included adults and children. In What Happened to Zeeko, Nasrallah channeled the perspective of her daughter’s cat, Zeeko, and its life with the family, until their house was bombed in 1982. In Flight Against Time, she wrote about an older couple from the village who travel to Canada and New York, and experience alienation from the language and the way of life, and a different relationship between people, and to the land and environment. In Min Hasad al Ayyam-- or From the Harvest of the Days, a collection of articles in three parts, Nasrallah reflects on a multitude of social and cultural issues, from violence against women, to women poets and politicians, her village, life in Beirut and its artistic perseverance, to immigration, among other topics.

Yet it is her writing about immigration that she is most known for. And it is something she recognizes as well: “It is something I lived through… and I wrote a lot of novels all against immigration,” she explains, as she quotes her grandmother: this is “the land that does not hold its people.”

I Stood by Women

Although Nasrallah does not identify as a feminist herself, she states that “no doubt in my writings I have stood by the woman to save her from some of the suffering she had experienced in our society.” Calling attention to the discrimination women face, starting from within the family, she declares, “I wanted women to be equal to men… I lived, I grew from a peasant woman in the fields to elite schools, and I saw that women can advance” when they have opportunities. Nasrallah explains that she does not preach to women, because women know themselves and their areas of work, but she stands against injustice. And she acknowledges that her love of justice, of women’s and human rights, is something that she has inherited from her family—to value every person, irrespective of who they are, where they come from, and the work that they do.


It is no doubt that Nasrallah’s work has made an impact, as her books are widely read around the world, and they are taught in many schools in Lebanon. But she also has a strong connection to her German readers, a mutual admiration that started in the 1980s and continues to this day. She believes that German readers have been very interested in her writings. And she keeps in touch with them through the seminars that she attends, but they also attend discussions and talks in Lebanon, she explains, through committees that organize “cultural tourism,” and people always visit her and inquire about how she wrote her books. They are interested in stories about women, and in her personal story.
And so it is that this willful and generous woman from the village of South Lebanon, with a deep love of the land and a strong sense of responsibility and justice, is now being honored by the Goethe Institute. She is grateful for the Medal, although as she states, she does not work for the reward, but for the love of writing: “Just as a rooster has to crow,” she says smilingly, “so we have to write.”

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Conclusion 6/6

The argument that lack of evidence or neglect of evidence can lead to ineffective anti-trafficking policies and practices is an important one made in all the papers in some way or another. But should we also look to research anti-trafficking itself? Such a focus has been suggested by some commentators already. Sverre Molland, for example, outlines the need for researchers examining human trafficking to undertake ‘tandem ethnography’ that explores both the, ‘social worlds of trafficking and anti-trafficking’, helping to understand both their co-constitution and enabling state responses to human trafficking to be critically framed in relation to the phenomenon itself.27 Ultimately, examining the moral, political, and economic interests at stake in understanding the nature, direction and reticence of particular policy and advocacy stances and anti-trafficking projects themselves is a task that begs for a deeper and more politically-charged call to research. Evidence may then well take on a different and less technocratic guise than currently inhabits the world of human trafficking research.

Lack of effectiveness is tied to lack of sound justification for policy in the first place. The logic is circular and takes us back to the questions posed at the outset of this Editorial: why is there such a dearth of good research on human trafficking? How can research be better designed and carried out in ways that avoid the prescriptive logics of intervention? It is hoped that the papers in this special issue, and the considerations put forward in the four debate pieces, will contribute to the extension of our ways of thinking about why evidence is important, what evidence matters, and how research to produce meaningful evidence can be better designed and carried out.

*Sallie Yea is an Honorary Fellow in the Department of Social Inquiry at La Trobe University, Australia. Prior to this she held academic positions in Human Geography and International Development in Singapore, Melbourne and New Zealand. She has published widely on the subject of human trafficking including journal articles in Antipode, Political Geography and Gender, Place and Culture. She has also published an edited volume titled Human Trafficking in Asia: Forcing issues, and a monograph titled Trafficking Women in Korea: Filipina migrant entertainers, both with Routledge. She is currently working on an edited volume exploring the issue of trafficking of migrant fishers, and a monograph exploring human trafficking and the anti-trafficking movement in Singapore.

Anti-Trafficking Review, Issue 8, PP 1-13 -
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Thursday, October 12, 2017

This Special Issue: Evidence and effectiveness 5/6

So far in this Editorial I have focused on some of the key issues concerning the questions to which evidence is brought to bear and how this ‘disciplines’ research in both methodology, use, interpretation and presentation of data. More recently there have been calls not only for evidence to inform policy and anti-trafficking interventions—termed ‘evidence-based policy’—but often vocal demands for evidence of the normative basis on which anti-trafficking practices rest and, relatedly, the effectiveness of such practices. In contrast to well-accepted treatise on aid effectiveness more generally, many in the anti-trafficking community, including the contributors to this special issue, have lamented the paucity of evidence to inform policy directives and concrete interventions and the lack of monitoring and evaluation of interventions. Some of the contributors ask, for example, why governments privilege criminal justice responses to human trafficking and devote disproportionately large resources to it, when there is little evidence to suggest they are effective in countering human trafficking or, indeed, providing victims with justice and restitution. Logistical issues (such as access) are important to consider, but political interests are equally important.

Three of the contributions in this issue focus on the evidence that is used—or rejected—to formulate national anti-trafficking policies. They demonstrate how, even when evidence does exist, anti-trafficking laws and policies can still be based on assumptions, morality, political agendas or external pressures. Huschke and Ward’s contribution presents a study that the authors conducted on the applicability of the ‘Swedish model’ (a ban on the purchase of sex) in Northern Ireland and its possible impact on human trafficking. The study found that sex workers and their clients oppose the ban and the police have limited powers to enforce it. However, despite this solid evidence that the ban would have very limited effect on human trafficking, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted to adopt the measure. The authors conclude that ‘evidence … is of little interest for proponents of the Swedish model’. The paper also reveals how crucial it is to actually talk to subjects affected by human trafficking policy and law, including sex workers and their clients—something no one should have to emphasize fifteen years after the signing of the UN Trafficking Protocol.

In their contribution, Millar, O’Doherty and Roots describe the difficult process of conducting socio-legal research on human trafficking in Canada and, in particular, the ‘formidable task’ of obtaining verifiable data on trafficking prosecutions and the implications this has for anti-trafficking laws and policies. Their research shows that Canadian anti-trafficking legislation is based not on robust evidence but on sensationalistic media reports, NGO advocacy and international pressure from the US government through its annual Trafficking in Persons Report. It also raises the important question of the availability and accessibility of court data that can be used to conduct research and produce evidence. The authors conclude with five recommendations for the Canadian government to facilitate research, in order to create evidence-based policies.

The links between human trafficking and vulnerability factors, such as poverty, unequal development and gender-based violence, are generally well documented and accepted in literature and policies on human trafficking. Climate change, on the other hand, is rarely considered as such a vulnerability factor. Using the Indian Sundarbans as a case study, Molinari shows how climate change in the region has exacerbated the same factors that lead to human trafficking, such as loss of livelihoods and forced migration. Despite this evidence, climate change rarely features in anti-trafficking policy and discourse. One reason, argues Molinari, may be that it does not fit neatly into the dominant anti-trafficking narrative of vulnerable women and girls and malevolent crime gangs.

Lynch and Hadjimatheou take a different approach to ‘evidence’ in their contribution. They explore the (physical) evidence on which border force officers (BFOs) at London Heathrow airport can count to implement their duties to identify potential victims of trafficking and refer them to support services. They outline the main frustrations that BFOs have with regard to their anti-trafficking work, namely, the limited power to stop and question nationals of the European Economic Area countries, the lack of powers to search travelers’ phones and view their social media profiles and the limited exchange of intelligence information with other police departments. The authors acknowledge the problematic profiling based on race and gender that occurs at borders but hope to initiate a more honest discussion about what can be reasonably expected of BFOs with regard to their anti-trafficking duties.

As already mentioned in this Editorial, the need for—and use of—global prevalence data on trafficking has been hotly debated for over a decade, but even more so in the past few years with the publication of the Global Slavery Index (GSI) by the Walk Free Foundation. In her contribution, Gallagher undertakes the onerous task to unravel the methodology behind the GSI and to question some of its findings. For example, why is wealthy and peaceful Brunei among the most vulnerable countries to ‘modern slavery’ and Singapore—among the safest, given its almost one million migrant workers, many of whom lack any protections. In addition, Gallagher reflects on the surprising lack of critical engagement with the Index by those involved in anti-trafficking work and, more broadly, the increasing influence of ‘philanthro-capitalism’ in the anti-trafficking and other development fields.

The final two thematic papers in this issue focus, to different extents, on the role of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) in anti-trafficking work. From his perspective of an M&E practitioner in Southeast Asia, Harkins lists nine constraining factors to producing robust evidence for the success of anti-trafficking interventions. While some of these relate to broader issues, such as lack of definitional clarity or a criminal justice focus, others stem from insufficient investment in and capacity for conducting M&E. In his experience, most anti-trafficking projects ‘bean count’ direct outputs (such as numbers of participants trained or people reached) rather than outcomes (such as better information and knowledge acquired). Consequently, this lack of capacity precludes the production of meaningful evidence of which interventions work and which don’t.

Similar findings are shared by Van Dyke in her contribution, which explores the M&E data collected by anti-trafficking organisations working in partnerships in England and Wales. There too, the data collected by these partnerships focuses on outputs (numbers of awareness-raising materials, people reached, victims referred or suspects convicted) rather than outcomes or impacts (such as learning, enhanced wellbeing, improved referral, or increased confiscation of assets of traffickers and compensation to victims). She concludes that more robust and purposeful data collection is necessary in order to evaluate the work of anti-trafficking partnerships.

For the debate section of this issue we invited contributors to defend or reject the proposition ‘Global trafficking prevalence data advances the fight against trafficking in persons’. In her contribution, David defends the proposition by demonstrating how statistics on other crimes and victims of crime have led to improved understanding and policy measures targeting these crimes. Acknowledging the limitations of current data on trafficking, she adds that data is nevertheless critical if we are to adequately respond to human trafficking and related crimes. Feingold, for his part, rejects the proposition as what he calls ‘the numbers game’. He points to definitional problems, such as using the term ‘modern slavery’, as well as generally questions whether we can ever have serious and reliable estimates and whether they would actually help trafficked persons or anyone else. Robinson, Branchini and Thame defend the proposition on the condition that data is collected rigorously and presented in sufficient detail as to allow meaningful analysis. They offer five recommendations for improving data collection and prevalence estimates. Finally, Dottridge rejects the proposition by pointing out how global estimates obscure the situation of groups of people who have been known to endure slavery-like conditions for decades. Using the examples of Paraguay, Cambodia and Russia, he demonstrates how neither the Global Slavery Index, nor the US TIP Report give us any helpful information about which people and in which industries in these countries suffer exploitation.
Anti-Trafficking Review, Issue 8, PP 1-13 -
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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Politics of Evidence 4/6

The significance of ideology in anti-trafficking efforts noted by Doezema earlier in this Editorial speaks to a broader concern that is addressed in this issue: namely the manipulation, misuse and, at worse, neglect of existing evidence altogether. In Singapore, for example, I have witnessed firsthand the ways in which film screenings and other public events by NGOs to raise awareness about human trafficking resulted in a privileging of the ‘child sex slave’ as the valid frame of reference for characterising human trafficking, even when some research began to indicate the prevalence of human trafficking amongst other groups and in other sectors outside the sex industry.18 Gender and age bias in anti-trafficking efforts are certainly not restricted to the Singapore context, but they do provide a stark reminder of the oftentimes growing chasm between actual situations of trafficking and the self-perpetuating myths that come to form the basis of much action in the field. Indeed, the power of (mis)representations to take the place of empirically informed evidence was well acknowledged in an earlier issue of Anti-Trafficking Review.19 Others have noted with concern the ways political and other agendas, including conservative and moral ones, have influenced the construction and use of ‘evidence’ in anti-trafficking efforts.20 These observations urge us to undertake a more critical introspection of both the absence and manipulation of evidence in anti-trafficking work, and the continued investment in projects and policy stances based on thin evidence at best or no evidence at all.

The Singapore example above demonstrates how resources continue to be poured into criminal justice responses targeted at the sex industry, despite growing evidence of the prevalence of trafficking amongst male workers in the construction and shipyard sector, migrant fishers, and foreign domestic workers. Undoubtedly political interests in narrowing the parameters of victimhood so as to exclude large populations of migrant workers who form an important crux underscoring Singapore’s economic miracle provide an important explanation for the discounting of evidence in this context.21 On a larger scale, numerous studies have indicated time and again that some of the foundational assumptions that form the basis of anti-trafficking efforts are flawed to say the least. Whilst images of dark, shadowy figures associated with transnational criminal networks persist as ‘traffickers’, studies from a range of regions have revealed the significance of individual, small scale local recruiters/ traffickers operating with some familiarity with victims themselves.22 Similarly, a large number of studies have now been published suggesting that criminal justice responses are less than effective in curbing trafficking, and should be tempered in favour of a greater focus on prevention. However, by its very nature success in prevention is far more difficult to measure and evaluate, making it less attractive to governments and international organisations alike.23 These examples suggest then that there is often a significant amount of evidence available to inform and (re)direct anti-trafficking policy and practice, but that it is often maligned in favour of responses that are based on pre-existing assumptions, political interests, or support a particular ideology and morality.

Scholars of human trafficking could do well to consider the substantial critiques that have emerged in related fields, such as development, in questioning these prevailing logics of intervention. Over two decades ago James Ferguson,24 for example, examined how ‘development’ projects were divorced from the political realities that undergird them, rendering them technocratic interventions that gave the impression of being politically neutral. Importantly, as Ferguson noted, power and political proclivities often provided the key in explaining why certain projects failed, and indeed why particular programmatic interventions continued to be pursued despite limited evidence of their success.25 A more robust critique of anti-trafficking evidence would do well to consider the conceptual aids provided by these types of critiques. To date, researchers of trafficking have noted the ways political interests centred around (exclusionary) migration policies have invoked a protectionist/prevention discourse around vulnerability—particularly for women—in tightening their borders against entry of particular types of migrants.26 This type of critical scholarship could be extended to explore the politics of other anti-trafficking measures and, in particular, the ways evidence is ignored or manipulated to perpetuate such exclusionary and unhelpful stances.

Anti-Trafficking Review, Issue 8, PP 1-13 -
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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Quantity or Quality? 3/6

Beyond the need for better evidence through research, important questions remain about what kind of evidence is valued amongst the anti-trafficking community. As the above discussion suggests, the questions to which evidence is brought to bear are undeniably oriented foremost to quantification, particularly through measurement of scale and the increasing reliance on indicators to inform measurements. Whether through the publication of accurate numbers or, more commonly, estimates, there now exists an almost obsessive tendency to know the scale, proportion, size, major sectors and geographical concentrations of human trafficking. One of the most common iterations emerging in recent years from the anti-trafficking community is the question of scale. In every context where I have conducted research I have been repeatedly asked by governments, NGOs and members of the public the following questions: How many trafficked people do you think there are in the country? Do you know where they come from? Is the problem mainly to do with the sex industry? If I respond that I do not know (as we are seeking understanding about ‘hidden populations’), my value as a researcher is diminished. The questions that make research valuable are, in other words, increasingly oriented to quantification and designing better methods to elicit reasonably accurate estimates. Hence, we now have organisations like Walk Free Foundation with their Global Slavery Index estimating that 45.8 million persons are held in slavery10 and the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s estimate of 21 million forced labourers worldwide. Many have cautioned against the value of such estimates,11 as does Anne Gallagher in this issue.

The usefulness of global estimates is taken up in the debate section of this special issue, with the question of whether global trafficking prevalence data indeed advances the fight against human trafficking. Two of the contributions argue in the positive (David and Robinson et al.) and two in the negative (Feingold and Dottridge). Beyond their arguments, we might also suggest that despite—or perhaps because of—the wholesale quantification of human trafficking evidence and the increasing invocation of indicators they are worthy of more critical introspection than they have generally been accorded to date. It is important to consider the arguments of recent critical work in the social sciences on the increasing role of measurement and use of indicators in understanding complex social phenomena, including in the arenas of poverty/ development and human rights. Merry summarised these concerns with the following: ‘The deployment of statistical measures tends to replace political debate with technical expertise. The growing reliance on indicators provides an example of the dissemination of the corporate form of thinking and governance into broader social spheres.’12 As she elaborates, ‘a key dimension of the power of indicators is their capacity to convert complicated, contextually variable phenomena into unambiguous, clear, and impersonal measures. They represent a technology of producing readily accessible and standardized forms of knowledge … Indicators submerge local particularities and idiosyncrasies into universal categories, thus generating knowledge that is standardized and comparable across nations and regions.’13 Indicators, in other words, can conceal as much as they reveal. Thus, as I argue elsewhere, indicators can have the effect of excluding important dimensions and experiences of, in this case, human trafficking or disciplining these dimensions. This occurs when indicators obscure the co-constitution of different elements of exploitative labour relations. What is often concealed by indicators, in other words, is how the elements that inform them can combine in ways that are productive to the emergence of unfreedom in labour situations.14

Critiques also centre on the key role of measurement and statistics as forms of governmentality,15 producing contexts for the biopolitical management of subjects, knowable to the anti-trafficking community as interventions for managing victims, vulnerable populations and perpetrators. For example, indicators of human trafficking enable migrants to be sorted into trafficked (underpinned by normative assumptions about gender, vulnerability, exploitation and the need for protection), and non-trafficked (conversely, underpinned by notions of indomitability and exclusion from protection). These concerns about the power of indicators to ‘sort’ migrants into categories of deserving and undeserving have been made by a number of commentators in relation to human trafficking and forced labour16 and migration more generally. Casas-Cortes, for example, suggests that the quantification of migration (where migrants settle, their mode of arrival and so on) can be understood as efforts to ‘render knowledge of migration as an object of governmentality’.17

In sum, the privileging of quantification in research with trafficked persons and indeed on any aspect of human trafficking is perhaps understandable as the discipline is increasingly fraught with demands from policy-makers, bureaucrats, donors, the media and even civil society to justify claims. However, these claims are often construed in narrow terms that direct researchers’ efforts in the ways they articulate their findings and the questions they ask. Where governments, and sometimes international organisations and NGOs carry out research themselves a healthy scepticism abounds as to the impartiality of the data produced. Efforts to look for better ways to estimate trafficking prevalence should not, of course, be abandoned but merely tempered in favour of a more balanced focus on different types of data, information and questions that move beyond the current preoccupation with prevalence.

Anti-Trafficking Review, Issue 8, PP 1-13 -
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Saturday, October 7, 2017


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Friday, October 6, 2017

Better Research? 2/6

Given the recognition that meaningful evidence on human trafficking is both sparse and prone to manipulation, and that the knowledge has largely been filled by wild claims emerging from the media, NGOs and governments, amongst others, much energy has consequently been spent on attempts to better design research so it produces more meaningful data: data that can be compared, that more deeply engages with individual experiences and that enables estimates to be made. In 2005 a special issue of the journal International Migration critically discussed the key challenges in conducting research with trafficked persons and other key stakeholders. Issues of ethics, access, context of disclosure, remuneration for research participants, and a range of related concerns emerged as impacting both the opportunity to conduct research and the rigour with which research can be conducted.5 Having attended several subsequent conferences and workshops on research in human trafficking, I have seen very little that is new emerge beyond the issues outlined in 2005, apart from the scholarly investment in more elaborate and thoughtful discussions of ethical issues in research and ‘evidence gathering’.6

One area that begs further attention in questions about evidence concerns how trafficking research can benefit from approaches in social sciences that take seriously notions of critical reflexivity, positionality and power relations that accompany research design, fieldwork and undoubtedly the analysis of data produced. Yet in the vast majority of research reports on human trafficking I have come across—which now number well in the hundreds—these concepts are all but vanquished. There appears no time (or perhaps value) to invest in processes that recognise our role as researchers in not only shaping research design but also outcomes. Critical, post-structuralist and feminist optics in the research process, in other words, seem to have a limited validity in many (particularly commissioned/ non-academic) studies of human trafficking, despite the increasingly prominent place of such concepts in the broader social sciences approaches to research. In the field of international development, for example, a large body of research on participatory, critical and feminist approaches has emerged over the past decade, offering to correct the self-assured objectivity of some foundational approaches to poverty and marginalisation in important ways.7 These approaches are valuable not only because of the methodological reflections they seek, but also because they take seriously different scales (the body/ the everyday) and subjects (migrants, victims and survivors) of human security that have been marginalised in traditional state-centric approaches to security.8 Such a perspective enables researchers to think about evidence in novel ways, raising hitherto neglected questions, such as what is the impact of heightened immigration restrictions on the vulnerability of migrant workers, including sexual labourers? And how do bureaucratic classifications of and responses to human trafficking affect the agency and voice of trafficked persons themselves?

Investment in all aspects of research is necessary to generate ethically and methodologically rigorous evidence where co-learning by different types of stakeholders conducting research on trafficking is encouraged and supported. Ethnographic studies should be particularly encouraged; a quick scope of the literature over the past fifteen years reveals only a handful of ethnographic, book-length treatments of human trafficking and anti-trafficking.9 There is no reason why qualitative, longer-term, ethnographic studies such as these should not be amenable to discussions about evidence in the same vein as quantitative research.

Anti-Trafficking Review, Issue 8, PP 1-13 -
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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Politics of Evidence, Data & Research in Anti-Trafficking Work 1/6

Since the mid-2000s, critical commentators have raised concerns about both the paucity of evidence on important aspects of human trafficking, and the difficulty of obtaining meaningful data.1 Policy formations, advocacy campaigns, concrete interventions, and popular understandings of human trafficking have all had accusations of wild claims and unfounded assumptions levelled at them. Guesstimates prevail and take on a life of their own in such a context.2 Calls for more robust evidence to prove or disprove claims about the nature, extent and location of human trafficking, the characteristics of trafficked persons, and the continued investment in particular types of responses have abounded. This has occurred in light of the growing potential for unsubstantiated claims to fulfil the place of rigorous evidence to inform anti-trafficking work.

Wstion of ‘evidence’ in anti-trafficking work. But before exploring these themes in further detail here we should first attempt to achieve some degree of clarity about the terms we are employing in this special issue. In particular, it is important to distinguish between evidence, data, and research; particularly so as many in the anti-trafficking community tend to use these terms interchangeably. Whilst research is a broad term encompassing the activities that generate knowledge and extend understanding through active investigation, data is normally understood as the results of such investigation. Although it has quantitative overtones (discussed in further detail below in relation to human trafficking), data should certainly not only—or even primarily—be understood as just statistics. Rather, it encompasses a wide range of information derived from an equally expansive bevy of methods, including participatory activities, life stories, interviews, and ethnography. Evidence, on the other hand, is not simply another word for data, but implies the ability to give substance to belief and therefore the ability to (dis)prove a proposition or suggestion. The notion of ‘truth’ then is important when considering evidence. But, as Jo Doezema rightly pointed out over fifteen years ago, anti-trafficking can become a dangerous ideology which involves ‘the distortion of truth for political ends.’3 Evidence, in other words, should never be thought of as politically neutral and the recognition that truths are social, political and moral constructs has a long pedigree in the social sciences. Scholars of human trafficking are increasingly recognising this as relevant to understanding the continued human rights abuses, inequalities and exclusions, and repressive policies often carried out in the name of anti-trafficking.4

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Monday, October 2, 2017

The Art of Self-Love with Rita Loyd

A couple of months ago I came across some very inspiring posts on Facebook, accompanied by images of beautiful and colourful paintings. I truly loved the vibes of the genuine messages and artist Rita Loyd and I soon became friends on Facebook.

I quickly began to understand that Rita’s core message and the reason why I founded Soul Love have a very similar intention – A reminder to love yourself and share this with those around us. I therefore proudly introduce to you the kind and loving artist Rita Loyd.
Rita Loyd

Rita Loyd is a watercolor artist and a writer. The message of her work is about the healing power of unconditional self-love. Rita began to paint healing art in 1996, as a way to cope with chronic illness and depression. As she continued to paint through the years, the creative process became her teacher, healer and friend, guiding her to find the true meaning of self-love. She writes about this experience and more in her book Unconditional Self-Love: What It Is, Why It’s Important and How to Nurture It in Your Life.

Rita’s Healing Art has been exhibited in Art Galleries, Gift Shops, Art Festivals, Community Events and Domestic Violence Shelters in the South East Region of the U.S. Her artwork has been featured on over 100 magazine covers across the U.S. and in Canada. Her writing and story have been published in magazines in the U.S. and in New Zealand.

Rita Loyd lives in Huntsville, Alabama, with her husband, Jody. Her main focus is on helping her father care for her mother who has Alzheimer’s disease. She continues to write and paint and even hopes to write her first song this summer about unconditional Self-Love.
Interview with Rita Loyd

Dirk Terpstra: Can you tell me a bit more about your personal journey related to your illness and depression and in what way the art of painting and writing was so therapeutic to you?

Rita Loyd: My illness began in 1995, after I was exposed to chemicals in the workplace and in school (I was employed at a sign shop and worked with glues and pulverized plastics. At school I studied photography so I worked with photo developing chemicals). After about a year of exposure to these chemicals my immune system weakened and I began to have stomach problems with ulcers. My ulcers were so difficult to heal that I could barely eat and subsequently I lost my strength and had to quit both school and work.

After a year of illness I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.) My family doctor was unable to help me so I turned to alternative medicine and treatments for help. But it would take years for my stomach to heal and for me to regain some of the strength that I had lost. During this dark night of the soul I read spiritual books for answers and although they were insightful and enlightening, I still needed something more. I felt as if I did not deserve to take up space. I felt as if I were lost and alone.

It was then that I began to paint healing art as a way to cope with my illness, anxiety and depression. I would paint myself as I was or how I wished to be. Most often I would paint myself peaceful and whole and then I would imagine that image to be a future reflection of myself; a glimpse into the future. My art was like faith; it was the proof of what I hoped for and the evidence of things yet seen.

My art lifted me up in many ways. It became my friend, healer and teacher. A friend, for it was always there to listen to how I felt without judgment, a healer, for it helped me to process my thoughts and feelings as I searched for the inspiration of what to paint next, and my teacher, for it taught me how to love myself unconditionally.

Dirk: How did your art teach you to love yourself?

Rita: My goal was to paint images that would lift my spirit. But in order to do this I first had to examine where in my spirit I needed lifting up; where in my life I felt wounded. This was not an easy question to answer because it required me to examine my shadow self; the part of myself that I most wanted to ignore because I felt ashamed of my flaws. And this shame that I felt would trigger a feeling of self-defensiveness, which would cause me to shut down and not be able to see or reveal my truth. So the only solution was to first create a safe space of observation. This space was created by agreeing to look inward with only kindness and non-judgment for that short period of time for the sake of creating art. I was to be a neutral observer rather than a condemning judge. I then would search for the cause of my wounds and for the spiritual advice that would help me to see my life in a more positive and healthy way. And that was what I painted.

After years of this practice, I realized that my creative process was teaching me how to love myself by giving me the setting and reason to: slow down, go inward, ask myself questions, seek new and positive answers, accept myself, forgive myself, learn from my mistakes, discover who I was and who I wanted to be, be patient with myself, trust myself, respect my sensitivity, quiet my inner critic, allow myself to speak and to share my voice.

Once I made the realization that my creative process was unconsciously teaching me how to love myself within the boundaries of creating art, I did a study on self-love and then I was able to learn how to incorporate self-love into all areas of my life.

Dirk: What does unconditional self-love mean to you?

Rita: Unconditional self-love is about speaking to yourself, treating yourself, and seeing yourself and your life (past, present, future), with all the qualities of love, including kindness, compassion, patience, fairness, respect, encouragement and forgiveness. It is also about paying attention to what your spirit, mind and body need in order to be happy, healthy and whole, to the best of your ability.

Dirk: What truths about life have you discovered during this journey?

Rita: My art and creative process has taught me many things. I have observed a parallel with life and my art. Here is some of what I have learned.
Take risks when your life or your art is not what you want it be.
If your intuition has proven to be trustworthy in life and art, then listen and trust it. If your intuition hasn’t been found to be trustworthy, then examine the filters in which you receive your information to see what is distorting the messages. (For example, sometimes fear and insecurity negatively distort the way we see and interpret life. Then we use that distorted information to make our decisions.)
You can accomplish most any task if you don’t give up trying.
Examine your life and your art, both close up and at a distance. Both perspectives are equally important in the evaluation process.
The more you trust the process of life and art, the more you can relax and allow life and art to flow.
Don’t take criticism personally in life or in art. Criticism is more about the preferences and limitations of the one speaking, than the one spoken about.
When your life or your art overwhelms you, take a short break, and come back to it rested with a fresher mind.
Ultimately, the only opinion that counts, concerning your life and your art, has got to be yours, or you will never be satisfied.
Don’t allow the inner critic to stop you from speaking or expressing your truth. (Other things may warrant your restraint, but don’t let the inner critic determine what you say or do.)
When you experience failure in life or art, don’t think of that failure in negative terms – instead think of it as something to learn from and to grow from. When we can ask ourselves, “Why didn’t this work out?” The answers to this question can give us crucial information that will help us make our future life or art much better.

Dirk: Where does unconditional self-love come from?

Rita: Let me begin by saying that there are two kinds of self-love. There is ego-based self-love and there is spirit-based self-love. Ego-based self-love comes from the ego and so do its concerns. It is a conditional love that allows you to love yourself only when everything in your life is going well and when you feel your appearance is attractive. Spirit-based self-love comes from our spirit and its concerns are from the spirit. Its concern is about the well being and healing of the whole person – spirit, mind and body, and its love is unconditional.

So unconditional self-love comes from within our own spirit. It is not something exterior to us that we are rewarded after doing something good. It’s not about earning it or deserving it. It is a seed already planted within us, just waiting to be nurtured in order to grow.

Dirk: In your book you often use beautiful affirmations. In what way are they so powerful to you?

Rita: In my art I include affirmations because they give the viewer a deeper understanding of what I am trying to say in my art. I think of my art as visual affirmations and so verbal affirmations come naturally. Personally, affirmations help me to reach a more peaceful and empowered place in my mind and they also help to interrupt negative intrusive thoughts. For example, when I become aware of a negative, intrusive thought, I say, “Negative thought, go to the light of God. I replace you with positive, healing, loving thoughts – positive, healing, loving thoughts – positive, healing, loving thoughts”. And when I cannot sleep, I tell myself, “The peace of God flows through my body and mind like a gently soothing river stream”.

I believe that the mind is very powerful and our words and thoughts help to access that power. I also believe that our words and thoughts influence our immune system and our state of well being.

“Sometimes we forget to love ourselves when life becomes difficult. But remember, it is when life becomes difficult that we need self-love the most”.

Dirk: My favourite part of your book are the exercises, they are so helpful in the process. Why have you decided to add them to the book?

Rita: I think it is important to not only give advice but to help others incorporate that advice into their own lives. And I feel that these exercises help to do that.

Dirk: Which of your paintings resonates the most with how you currently feel and why?

Rita: I am currently helping my dad care for my mom who has Alzheimer’s disease, which can be very overwhelming. So I would say that all of my recent paintings are my most meaningful because they were inspired by this experience and they deal with 1) my desire to feel more grounded and centered, 2) my desire to clear and protect my energy, 3) my desire to find my inner strength and courage, and 4) my desire to visualize my mother comforted by the love and light of God. Here are four examples of my most recent paintings. The inspiration and meaning for these paintings are discussed on my blog:

Healing and Grounding from the Earth

Clearing Negative Energy and Placing Protection

Compassion, Courage and Strength

Mother Embraced by Light and Love

Dirk: Any final words Rita?

Rita: The path of unconditional self-love is a life long journey. Sometimes we forget to love ourselves when life becomes difficult. But remember, it is when life becomes difficult that we need self-love the most.

I encourage you to view Rita’s inspiring work please visit her website where she offers her greeting card line, her book and her recently created Unconditional Self-Love Message Card Deck. Personally, I really love her card deck.


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