Archive for February, 2014


This is the sixth in a series of articles that I wrote for a Feature Writing class at Kennesaw State University in the Fall 2002 semester. The link where the article was originally published can be found at the bottom of this entry. Feel free to comment. (Also keep in mind that any links at this point may or may not be accurate.)

The power of The Magazine

By Brekke Ferguson

We’ve strived to finish our articles week after week, some of us finishing them sooner than others. Yet, what was in it for us? Aside from a grade, that is. Well, the chance to see our name in print is something that many of us have wanted to see, but never knew where to start.

That was the business of the Literary Nonfiction class this semester. The business of writing feature articles. As a part of the Kennesaw State University’s website, we were giving the chance to have our articles posted issue by issue.

However, what was this publication? The Magazine went live for the first time on November 18. It featured articles on multiple topics, offering something for nearly every reader. To date, issues two and three are also online, giving an even wider variety of topics for readers everywhere.

On the KSU campus, while there are already student publications, there are not online publications like this one. The Sentinel is in newspaper format, and many people who can write simply do not send their stories toSentinel staffers. Talon is the KSU feature magazine, a perfect place for publishing any articles our editorial staff wrote this semester, or any other articles you might want to write.

Who are we, this editorial staff of The Magazine? We’re mothers, fathers, students, businessmen, businesswomen, teachers, and much more. Some of us have no writing experience, while others have been writing for years. Cheryl said, “I’ve been published in hundreds of magazines and newspapers in the past ten years I’ve been writing. The “thrill” of seeing my name in print really has worn off. My desires today are to inform, educate and enthuse someone through my writing. I want to speak to someone’s heart through my writing. If I’ve done that I would feel successful in my writing career.” Rodney, on the other hand, said, “I came back to school because I wanted to have to think and ‘toy’ with writing so I signed up.”

At the beginning of the semester, I had not looked at the course synopsis at the front of the catalog, so I honestly had no expectations. The first night of class, I was absolutely terrified by the sheer amount of deadlines that were on the syllabus. I almost left, but I really did not have that option, so I decided to tough it out. I could do it; it would just take a lot of work (along with the work in my other three classes.) As the semester began, I realized that this class was like none other I had taken.

Because of that, I was curious as to what other editorial board members felt about that. Rodney said that the course load made him “wary.” However, his motivations for taking the class came back to him, “I wondered if I could do it. But again, I wanted to be made to think, so I stayed.”

So, those of us who weren’t completely terrified have stuck it out to the end, and that end is definitely upon us. So what did we gain from this experience? What was it we were supposed to learn? I think Rodney said it the best, in describing how he felt his writing had improved. “I learned the importance of outlining, of scope and finally I have a better grasp of the meanings of theme and subject.” I also know from our board meetings, that Rodney, like many of us, learned the value of CONTROL!

However, knowing what we learned or what we gained just doesn’t seem to be enough, so I talked to some other KSU students, one of who is Interim Editor of The Sentinel. I asked her several questions, and received very thoughtful and interesting responses. Here are a few pieces of our interview.

Brekke Ferguson: Does the page appeal to you visually?

Kirsten Ott: Yes! I really like the organization of the articles.

BF: Will you go back to read other issues once they are online?

KO: Yes, because I’m always looking for writers for The Sentinel and because I’m interested in what my peers are writing about these days. Tony’s piece on technical writing was very useful for me and I was touched by your piece on sexual assault.

BF: Do you feel this would appeal to KSU students in other classes, this idea of having a place to showcase work they do in a class?

KO: Well, yes and no. I believe this is a great place for students to publish articles on topics that interest them, but aside from feature writing classes, these types of articles aren’t the type of papers assigned by English teachers. As far as writing assignments in classes of other majors, I don’t know what type of papers are assigned.

I found this to be an interview that brought hope to budding writers in this class, and also to the concept of the web page itself. I asked Cheryl if she felt that all teachers should implement web pages to showcase students’ work, and she brought up a very good point. “I’m also taking a news reporting class where this very desire was discussed. I think what people want to do is to learn and read writing produced by other people in the class. This can be accomplished by critique groups. Having each professor produce a web site is pretty intensive.” However, Kirsten did say this, “Depends on the class – if it is feature writing, creative writing, writing for the web or careers in writing, I think it would be very valuable for the teachers to introduce this site to their class and get their students to write for it.”

So, the consensus is that this class is definitely a keeper, especially with the “real-world” methods that Jim taught. Rodney and Cheryl both mentioned this in their interviews. Rodney said, “I’ve gained insight into myself and others. I now have a better understanding of some of my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve enjoyed the class, though I procrastinate, and believe [Jim Messenger] really had our best interests at heart – i.e. his ‘real world’ approach. Life, as you know, isn’t always easy. It marches on in spite of our wishes.” Cheryl said, “I think the English Department should continuously challenge students to operate in the ‘real world.’ This course challenges students to prepare for publication, so I feel it should be a regular offering.”

No matter how we began the class, those of us left stuck it out, and we survived. Now, the real issue is not so much what we learned, but how we use what we learn. As writers, it is now time to strive forward in our endeavors. We need to send stories out for publication, and what better place to start than here on campus with our student publications. After all, starting at home is “keeping it local.”

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Brekke Ferguson is an English major at Kennesaw State University and amateur feature writer.

Copyright © 2002 by Brekke Ferguson. All rights reserved.

http://www.kennesaw.edu/themagazine/Ferguson6.htm

 

This is the fifth in a series of articles that I wrote for a Feature Writing class at Kennesaw State University in the Fall 2002 semester. The link where the article was originally published can be found at the bottom of this entry. Feel free to comment. (Also keep in mind that any links at this point may or may not be accurate.)

The Harry Potter phenomenon

By Brekke Ferguson

Everyday, it seems like something new is coming out in the Harry Potter line. The second movie, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” came out on November 15 with an $88 million dollar opening weekend. Toys ‘R Us has multiple commercials about the Harry Potter toy section in their stores. Coca-Cola has partnered with Reading is Fundamental to create livethemagic.com where Internet surfers can be sorted into the Hogwarts School houses, among other fun and interesting activities surrounding Harry and Hogwarts.

But who is this Harry Potter and why does everyone seem to know his name?

Harry Potter is a wizard boy created by J.K. Rowling, a British author, who created the world of Hogwarts and the wizarding world that exists behind the Muggle (those with no magic ability) world. The Harry Potter series began with the book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone if one happens to be an American reader), in which we meet young Harry who is miserable at his aunt and uncle’s house near London.

Harry ended up in their care when the evil Lord Voldemort (“He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” in the books) killed both of Harry’s parents when Harry himself was just an infant. Young Harry, in that same incident, miraculously avoided death, the only mark left on him being a lighting-shaped scar on his forehead.

Initially, however, Harry has never heard of the wizarding world, Hogwarts, or for that matter, Muggles. All he knows is that strange things constantly happen to him, and he is constantly in trouble with his relatives, the Dursley’s.

On Harry’s eleventh birthday, a mysterious letter arrives at the Dursley’s home at 4 Privet Drive with Harry’s name on it. Mr. Dursley intercepts it, and reads the letter that invites Harry to Hogwarts; Mr. Dursley panics, because he and his wife Petunia want nothing to do with the wizarding world. The next day, two letters arrive, and then each day after more and more letters arrive until the house is almost flooded with letters. This prompts the Dursley’s to run, and try to hide from the letters; however, the folks at Hogwarts are not to be outsmarted. Hagrid, Hogwarts’ lovable gamekeeper finds Harry, and the adventure begins.

People who have never read the Harry Potter books often wonder where the popularity and the magic of the books come from. However, those who read the books understand what that magic is after encountering the superb storytelling. However, that does not sufficiently explain why the books are so interesting, and so addicting to readers young and old. The frenzy around the books; however, is enough to turn off any more serious reader.

When I started seeing the hype and frenzy that surrounded the books, I was totally against reading them. All of the talk seemed to be too good to be true. However when the ads for the first Harry Potter movie began to hit the air, and I saw that the venerable Maggie Smith and the hilarious Robbie Coltrain were going to have major roles, I decided to give Mr. Potter a chance.

In deciding to see the movie, I also decided to read at least the first book. However, my motivations for reading weren’t pure. I wanted to read the book so I could, like any good book lover, be prepared to slaughter the movie version of the book.

I read the first book, and I was astonished! The book was amazing. After that, I read them one after the other, and I never wanted to put them down! I was, in short, hooked. I waited, not so patiently, for the fourth book to come out in paperback, and as soon as it did, I had it, and read it just as voraciously as the first three. I, like so many others, had become a convert.

Like most fans, I was left wanting more, and more there currently is not. The fifth book, in a series of seven, now slated for June of 2003 after rumors of no less than three other release dates, seems like it will never appear! Who is this woman who led me – and adult, and skeptic – into a world supposedly for children, and trapped me somewhere between reality and Hogwarts?

J.K Rowling was born on July 31, (which is not only Harry Potter’s birthday, but my own), and she lives in Scotland with her daughter. In a bio clip at www.kidsreads.com, this is the basic information given: “Like that of her own character, Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling’s life has the luster of a fairy tale. Divorced, living on public assistance in a tiny Edinburgh flat with her infant daughter, Rowling wrote Harry Potter and the [Philosopher’s] Stone at a table in a cafe during her daughter’s naps – and it was Harry Potter that rescued her. First, the Scottish Arts Council gave her a grant to finish the book. After its sales to Bloomsbury (UK) and Scholastic Books, the accolades began to pile up, Harry Potter won the British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year, and the Smarties Prize, and rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. Book rights have been sold to England, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Greece, Finland, Denmark, Spain, and Sweden.”

The thing that amazes me most about J.K. Rowling is that she not only draws older people into her world, but she really does draw children in. I have a friend, whose younger sister, a 12 year old, has read each book no less than 5 times, and she continues to love them. Previously, my friend told me that her sister read only shorter books, such as R.L. Stein’s Goosebumps series. I was impressed by this new eagerness in her sister, because the Harry Potter volumes are as long as, or longer than, some adult novels. Then I started to hear about other children being extremely excited about reading the books.

This was a curious phenomenon, because most kids I knew from working at an elementary school while I was in high school, all wanted to watch T.V. and had no taste for reading. In fact, in my experience, it was like taming wild cattle to get some of these students to read even their class work. So what is so different about Harry Potter? Why would “confirmed” non-readers suddenly become not just readers, but voracious readers because of one book series? I asked some of the parents I know about how they and their children felt about Harry Potter. The answers I got were fascinating.

The first thing that I found to be intriguing was that not only are American children and parents devouring the books, but a mom who is from Mexico, was reading them in Spanish. However, her daughter found them a bit more difficult to read, because the Spanish in the translation is of an older, more formal style.

Allyson, mother of four, said that her two middle children, Steph, 13, and Pete, 9, were on opposite ends of the spectrum as readers. Steph was an avid reader, and she ate the books up, reading them over and over. Pete on the other hand, was not a reader until Harry Potter entered his life. “Pete is where it made a HUGE difference,” said Allyson, “He is 9, and hates to pick up a book, so Steph started to read them to him. He became interested and picked up the books on tape at the library and started to listen to them. Then last summer he checked out Volume 1 and Volume 2 and started to READ them for himself. He is now on Volume IV and reads for about 30 minutes each night, at least. Harry Potter has opened him up to the real act of reading. He still complains about other books being toooooooo long, but he is willing to pick up [Harry Potter] and read it.”

In other words – as claimed – these books really were encouraging kids to read! However, evidence supplied by two children is still not a great number for statistical purposes, but when several other parents to whom I posed the question said the same thing, well, I was definitely impressed.

Now that I knew kids were really reading the Harry Potter books, I was also curious as to why and how J.K. Rowling could get children so involved in her books. My friend Ary said this, “I think that basically kids today have one thing in common – a huge hungry imagination, eagerness for adventures and knowledge and things to relate to, to get excited about. Fairy tales are great, but Disney and other cartoons have made them too well known for kids to enjoy reading them, as they already know what’s going to happen next.”

This I totally understood, because in my own experience, there is not a lot of fun in reading the books that the Disney movies come from. Harry Potter, however, is an entirely new world full of new possibilities.

Even with this wonderful and heartening news from parents, I still needed to go to the “professionals”, so, who better to ask than a librarian? After all, librarians deal with books everyday, so I figured a librarian would definitely have some insight into what I had begun to call the Harry Potter phenomenon.

Clare, a librarian in Massachusetts, works in a middle school library. The first thing I asked her was whether her library carried the books. Instead of giving me a number, she gave me the website to the school’s catalog, and I have to say I was impressed by not only the number of each Harry Potter book they had (no less than two), but also the stock of books on tape and other books that talk about the Harry Potter series and the author herself. It was definitely a great selection.

The next thing I asked was how well circulated the books were. “Harry Potter is very well circulated, but we almost always have at least one copy or another available,” she told me.

When talking about Harry Potter, it is somewhat difficult to get away from the controversy surrounding the books, simply because they are about witches and wizards. While, to my knowledge, there has been no official statement from The Moral Majority or Rev. Jerry Fallwell, there have been protests from the religious community. In my family alone, I’ve heard one of my aunts and my grandmother both say that the books were “evil.” Seems a bit harsh coming from people who have never read the books, but everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. Curious about the controversy and parents whose opinions may be similar to opinions expressed by my family, I asked Clare, the librarian, about it.

“There have been questions from a few fundamentalist parents, but my take to them is that it is a public school and I provide a wide range of reading materials for a very wide range of readers. If you don’t want your child to take these books out, YOU tell them that, I won’t. I tell students that if they know a book is going to make either of them (the reader or the parent) uncomfortable, please put it back on the shelf and take another of the 5,000 choices.”

In my head, I was thinking, “Way to go, Clare!” However, in trying to be non-biased, I could understand where opponents were coming from. After all, the Bible does warn against witchcraft. Deuteronomy 18:10-11 says, “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in, or who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.”

However, I do have to agree with Clare. While in one’s own home, the right to dictate what a child reads is definitely one’s right; in libraries, that right is not present. Libraries are there to give multiple options to many different kinds of readers; therefore taking out anything because one group doesn’t agree with it is not fair to those readers who find no evil in the Harry Potter world.

My final question to Clare was similar to those I posed to the other parents, but with a different twist. “Do you feel that Harry Potter has influenced children’s reading habits? For better or worse?”

She gave a very in-depth and insightful answer. “I absolutely see a great connection to the reading habits. Much as I haven’t been as big a fan of the movies as the books, I also see a great connection there. Many times the students will come in to check out the books in the series to refresh or explore the stories. I am also constantly being asked if I know when the next one is coming out — Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and I don’t know the answer, sadly.

When it does come out, there will be another resurgence in reading.”

She went on to say, “Another thing I like is that if nothing else, it gets kids talking about books, about reading, about stories. The second book and on are tougher reading, but kids are willing to work through it and that’s fabulous. Parents are also very willing to read these books to their kids. I know so many parents and teachers who are as crazy about the books as the rest of us.”

All in all, the results were definitely in line with what I had believed before, and, in fact, the responses I received were even more intriguing than I had anticipated. This magical world of Hogwarts and Harry Potter filled with magic and the game of quidditch, treachery and survival is definitely an imagination twister, giving readers of today a new world similar to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

I first believed the Harry Potter phenomenon to be a popular fad, but now I believe that Harry Potter will not slide into obscurity anytime soon, unlike other children’s books. So long as there are Harry Potter fans that cannot get enough of the Harry Potter books, the wonderful Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will remain alive.

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Copyright (c) 2002 by Brekke Ferguson. All rights reserved.

http://www.kennesaw.edu/themagazine/Ferguson5.htm

 

This is the fourth in a series of articles that I wrote for a Feature Writing class at Kennesaw State University in the Fall 2002 semester. The link where the article was originally published can be found at the bottom of this entry. Feel free to comment. (Also keep in mind that any links at this point may or may not be accurate.)

The bittersweet agony of writing

By Brekke Ferguson

Staring at this blank canvas, my heart pounds in fear. I know that this article must be written; yet, neither the motivation nor the creativity is there. So, this is where I begin to type, letting words flow onto the computer screen. It’s insanity, most of what is written, but I can never tell where a story will come from.

Sure, I have an outline, but that is only the basic idea of where I want to go, not so much what I want to say and how I want to say it. I am now guessing readers everywhere are wondering what this article is about.

Well, it’s about writing, of course.

According to http://www.merriam-webster.com, writing is “the act or process of one who writes as: the act or art of forming visible letters or characters.”

The writing process. There are thousands of books on writing and the writing process. Want to know how to write a research paper? Go to an online library catalog and type in “research paper” in a keyword search. (For an idea of the number of results, my school library’s search engine came up with 10,000+ results.) Want to know how to write a letter? A memo? A business proposal? All of these subjects have many books published on them, and that doesn’t count articles in journals, magazines, and newspapers.

All of this begs the question: Why is writing so seemingly important? Writing is a form of communication. It can convey thoughts, ideas, and intent. Writing as a tool tackles multiple fields and multiple forms. Each form has its own set of rules.

Academic writing is a form of writing that most high school, and all college students are familiar with: In college, we are drilled in Composition 101. Then we journey to “Comp 102,” hoping we have retained some of what we learned before. The basic idea is that there is one standard form of writing for academia, and that is what most classes will require. Unfortunately, these professors often fail to mention that there are multiple bibliographical forms and sometimes classes will require knowledge of more than one (Read: There is more out there than MLA – the Modern Language Association’s guide for writers of research papers.)

On the opposite end of the genre is personal writing. This type of writing takes many forms in itself. It can be words scribbled on lined paper, on napkins, in a journal – basically, any writing surface becomes the canvas for the writer’s thoughts. This personal writing can also have many motivations behind it. It also involves different thoughts on being a writer.

When I was thinking about this article, I starting asking some of my friends about their ideas on writing, and I got some interesting responses. I asked several different questions, and there were two that, to me, revealed themselves as most important.

The first was “Do you call yourself a writer when you talk about your writing to other people?” and the second was “What is your motivation to write?” Both questions prompted interesting and sometimes surprising responses.

The answers to the first question were a bit surprising to me, because I often fail to call myself a writer even though I have been published and even though I am almost constantly writing something.

Amanda Hurst said, “Yes, but usually I call myself a poet, since I write more poetry than anything else.” Another friend, Tom Brazeau said, “Yes, although I very seldom bring up my writing in conversation with people who don’t know me on a personal level. Guess I’m just kind of shy about it.” As a side note, he added, “[I] will probably be less so once I’m published.”

This question also came up in one of my classes, and most people said that they did not consider themselves to be writers, even though, like me, they were writing all the time.

Another form of personal writing is applying writing as catharsis. Merriam-Webster online gives this definition of catharsis: “a: purification or purgation of the emotions (as pity and fear) primarily through art; b: a purification or purgation that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension.” Writing is an art, and emotions definitely are purged in personal writing.

What brings about this need for emotional purging? Traumatic events often cause very strong emotions, and sometimes writing them down can help. Sometimes a single strong emotion, such as anger, can prompt someone to write down what they feel. This idea of writing what one feels, however, is not just my own personal, random idea; it has some basis in fact.

I remember a therapist once suggesting I write a letter to myself, and to tell myself I was so angry about a particular thing. I did write the letter, and I gained a sense of clarity. I am apparently not the only person to experience something like this. I’ve had multiple friends say, “My counselor said to write this,” or “My kids’ counselor told them to write that.”

This type of cathartic writing also is a prevalent suggestion in self-help books such as The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Laura Davis and Ellen Bass or Susan Zimmerman’sWriting to Heal the Soul: Transforming Grief and Loss Through Writing. They offer suggestions for writing, giving different types of writing and different topics to help a person deal with a particular issue he or she is trying to deal with.

What motivates people to write? Staring at the blank page of a word processor has rarely given me the idea of what I want to write. The words have to come from somewhere, and I suppose that is my brain. Although I have often wondered if my fingers were doing the thinking on some of the things I have written!

The concept of motivation was the other question I asked friends to address, and I believe the most profound answer was the one Tom Brazeau gave, “I’ve got too many ideas and concepts rattling around in my head not to put them down, for better or worse. I like to make people think and take a look at the world from a different perspective. Hopefully, I succeed. What it really comes down to, though, is that I just enjoy writing. While I dream of getting published and seeing my work in bookstores, my writing is truly done for me.”

That, I think is what personal writing is all about. The idea that there are so many ideas in one’s head that they just have to be gotten out, and that it does not matter where your work ends up, so long as it written for oneself.

Now, if only I could remember that on those long nights I spend staring at a computer screen begging a paper to pop out of my sleep-deprived mind.

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Copyright © 2002 by Brekke Ferguson. All rights reserved.

http://www.kennesaw.edu/themagazine/Ferguson4.htm

 

This is the third in a series of articles that I wrote for a Feature Writing class at Kennesaw State University in the Fall 2002 semester. The link where the article was originally published can be found at the bottom of this entry. Feel free to comment. (Also keep in mind that any links at this point may or may not be accurate.)

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS ARTICLE IS ABOUT SEXUAL ABUSE AND RAPE. I’M MAKING THIS A TRIGGER WARNING. PLEASE KEEP THAT IN MIND AND READ WITH CARE.

From victim to survivor

By Brekke Ferguson

It amazes me some days how I was able to pull myself back from the brink of self-annihilation and get myself the help I needed to survive. As a child, I was the victim of sexual abuse – today, I am a survivor.

The journey to surviving is never easy, but there is hope and help out there, and there are many things that can make that road easier. My journey began with the telling of the story, and then it moved to music, and through someone’s music, I found a support group. From there, I was on the road to survival one baby step at a time.

How did I get there?  Through educating myself, through supportive friends and family, and through the help of organizations that said, “We can help.”

The U.S. Department of Justice issues a National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) each year detailing the statistics of the violent crime and property victimizations along with trends of previous years. In 2001, there were 248,000 rape and sexual assault cases reported. Of this 248,000, around 225,000 were women over the age of 12.

The actual number of reported cases was down from 261,000 in the year 2000, however, this drop does not make the ordeal these women faced any less significant. Sexual abuse is occurring every day in our society, and even with statistical drops, the women affected must continue to live on. At the same time, all women need not be afraid of walking out of their door and finding themselves becoming a victim.

While there are no definite measures that can be taken to completely prevent an assault, there are some simple measures that one can take to help prevent an assault. Here are some suggestions compiled from RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) and Fronske Health Center at Northern Arizona University.

  • Consistently be aware of one’s surroundings:  Do not walk down a dark alley alone.

  • Go to parties or clubs with friends

  • Avoid the possibility of date rape drugs such as Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate (more commonly known as GHB), Rohypnol and Ketamine by making sure that a drink is kept with one at all times – never set it down unattended. If that happens, get a new drink. “The drug can be slipped into a drink – any drink, whether a glass of beer or a glass of water. Many of the drugs are colorless, odorless, and tasteless; victims may not know they have been drugged until it is too late, which is what makes this crime particularly heinous,” according to Drug Enforcement Agency Director Asa Hutchinson in an interview with RAINN.

  • In a relationship, define limits. No matter how long a relationship has lasted, the right to say “No!” should always be there.

  • Make sure parking areas are well lit; use the buddy system when leaving places such as work, school, or clubs.

A fact that is very unsettling is that most women who are raped know their attackers. In fact, according the NCVS, 147,420 women knew their attackers as intimates, relatives, friends or acquaintances. In these cases, it can be doubly hard to seek help for fear of people not believing the report of the incident; however, it is always important to report the incident.

If an attack occurs, there are procedures that should be followed immediately after the incident. According to the Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault (GNESA), a non-profit coalition of sexual assault agencies and concerned individuals, the most important thing to remember is that “Whatever you did to survive was the right thing. Second, understand that you did nothing to deserve to be raped. It was not your fault!”

Here are steps that should be taken if an assault occurs:

  • Go to a safe place.

  • Consider reporting the attack to police.

  • Seek medical attention.

  • DO NOT SHOWER OR WASH-UP IN ANY WAY.

  • Contact a local rape crisis center, or call RAINN’s national hotline – 1-800-656- HOPE

  • For more detailed information, go to http//www.gnesa.org or http//www.RAINN.org

After a sexual assault, it is common to feel many emotions. GNESA reports that the most common are fear, guilt, loss of control or powerlessness, embarrassment, anxiety, concern for the rapist, wonder — “Why me?”, shame, anger, emotional shock, disbelief, depression, disorientation, and denial. Other common reactions after an assault can be insomnia, eating disorders, flashbacks and panic attacks.

What happens if you don’t immediately report the attack? If, like me, the memories are repressed, then the memories can one day be unlocked by some triggering event. In this event, many of the procedures above can still be followed. First, find someone to talk to that you can trust. If you fell as though you can’t trust anyone, then call RAINN’s toll-free number. Never be afraid to seek help, because there is nothing to be ashamed of. As GNESA states, “You did nothing to deserve to be raped. It’s not your fault!”

From my own personal experience, I know that finding people to talk to can definitely help. Over and over, I recommend the victim should go to someone they trust for help and support, but how exactly does one give support if someone should turn to you? GNESA gives answers to this often-difficult question as well. First, the experts say it is important to “understand that every survivor of sexual assault reacts differently.” Next, the organization says, this is how one can help:

  • Believe what the survivor is telling you; accept what you hear without judgment. Offering judgment can turn the survivor away from you and anyone else they may have considered talking to. The worst thing for a survivor is to not get help.

  • Listen actively and openly.

  • Reinforce that the rape was not the survivor’s fault.

  • Do not suggest that you know how the survivor feels. Everyone reacts differently to trauma and you want to avoid saying anything that may appear that you are minimizing a survivor’s own experience.

  • Be sincere.

  • Attempt to establish trust and rapport; be available.

  • Look for opportunities to point out the survivor’s strengths and positive aspects.

  • Ask open-ended questions to elicit a full response.

  • Present alternatives so the survivor can make a choice; suggest calling an advocate to locate the rape crisis center nearest you. Find a Rape Crisis Center. http://www.gnesa.org/about_GNESA/rcc.html

  • Accept the survivor’s decisions in dealing with the rape.

  • Be aware of your limitations.

  • Be careful not to play a role that is not natural to you.

  • Try not to tell the survivor what to do.

  • Silence is okay. I often found that sometimes sitting in silence with someone was much more beneficial than trying to force out words that won’t come. Struggling to find the words is often very difficult, so allowing for silences is extremely important.

  • Don’t take it personally should the survivor direct negative feelings toward you. In their hearts, they know you did not do this to them, but often survivors need to lash out at someone, and if you’re listening, you may find yourself the target.

  • Do not argue with the survivor or engage in a power struggle.

  • Know that you cannot “cure” anyone.

  • Be patient. Allow a survivor to talk when she ready, at her own pace, including whatever details are comfortable to disclose. I remember trying to tell people specific details of what happened only to find myself in tears, or worse, having a panic attack. Each memory is often relived at the telling, so if your survivor is not specific at first, give them time.

  • Offer support but be careful not to be overprotective.

  • Do not suggest that a survivor simply put the rape in the past and move on with life.

  • Respect the survivor’s need for privacy and time alone.

  • Be careful not to trivialize the rape in an effort to ease tension.

  • Do not threaten to take the law into your own hands. The survivor ultimately must decide if they are going to press charges or even report the assault to police. To do this means that your survivor will have to lay their entire lives out in court (if the case should get that far), and for many that thought is just too daunting.

  • Be conscious of expressing anger if a survivor waited to tell you about the rape or is reluctant to talk.

  • Constantly repeat that the survivor did nothing to cause the rape, and that she is in no way responsible for what has happened.

  • Just be there. Be their shoulder, their anchor.

Sometimes, the scope of the abuse goes beyond the ability of a family member or a friend’s ability to help, and at that point it is important for the survivor to seek help elsewhere, but it is also equally important for supporters to know when they are out of their limits, and that they should help their loved one find assistance. However, even if the survivor does seek professional help, continue to be there for them. Friends and family will always be important on the road to survival.

Surviving sexual abuse is more than just surviving the assault itself. Surviving is coming away from the experience being able to find help, and then helping yourself incorporate the memories into your life, as opposed to letting the memories and the event control your life and shadow it forever. Beyond that, it is placing the event in context by being more aware that these assaults take place everyday; all over the country, and that you are never alone.

For over five years, the memories of my own abuse lay dormant in my head. When they surfaced, I was filled with so much emotional turbulence that I feared I would never be free of it. I was terrified; I was angry; but most of all, I was hurting. Thankfully, I had a counselor who helped me through the beginning, and a mother, who is a sexual abuse survivor herself, along with very dear friends, helped me through the rest.

Life has to happen day-by-day after a trauma on this scale. My mom – when I would be in the midst of a panic attack, or wondering when life would ever return to normal — would always say, “You have to take it day by day. You can’t do anything about the future, only about tomorrow.”

The road from being a victim to being a survivor is a long one, and the steps are rarely covered in great leaps and bounds. However, have faith in yourself that you can be strong and survive, and you will.

###

Some useful Internet web sites:

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network

http://www.rainn.org

Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault

http://www.gnesa.org

AWARE — Arming Women Against Rape & Endangerment

http://www.aware.org

Pandora’s Box — The Secrecy of Child Abuse

http://www.prevent-abuse-now.com/

The Male Survivor Connection of South Florida

http://www.malesurvivor.com

###

Brekke Ferguson is a survivor of child sexual abuse. She is a full-time student at Kennesaw State University and a full-time mother.

Copyright © 2002 by Brekke Ferguson.  All rights reserved.

http://www.kennesaw.edu/themagazine/Ferguson3.htm

 

This is the second in a series of articles that I wrote for a Feature Writing class at Kennesaw State University in the Fall 2002 semester. The link where the article was originally published can be found at the bottom of this entry. Feel free to comment. (Also keep in mind that any links at this point may or may not be accurate.)

Religion is not a sports team

By Brekke Ferguson

The Yankees didn’t going to the 2002 World Series. Fans around the world were shocked and dismayed, and for one year, Yankees fans couldn’t say that their team was better than the rest.

In the thirteenth century, the Catholic Church decided that they were better than the rest, a better team than other religions — even other Christian religions — and they began the Inquisition. What would it be like if such an “Inquisition” were to conducted against the fans of a rival baseball team? Murder.

Even a quick historical search will show that religious persecution and intolerance have existed for centuries. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that even today, in a country where the “Bill of Rights” plainly states that there should be “freedom of religion” that there is intolerance. The original settlers of this country came here fleeing religious persecution, yet it should have been no surprise that they turned around and began following the same practice they had run from.

Several religious groups that are being persecuted today are the Pagans and the Neo-Pagan movement. Paganism is not a single religion, but a collection of different religious paths that are outside of Christianity, Islam, or Judaism. The Pagan Educational Network, an online resource, gives this general definition of the movement, “Neo-Paganism: Collection of diverse contemporary religions rooted in indigenous traditions or deriving inspiration therefrom, characterized by a belief in the interconnection of all life, personal autonomy, and immanent divinities. Often nature-centered and supportive of gender equity.”

Followers of Pagan paths take many different roads, and many of them have beliefs that are completely different from other Pagan paths. A major reason Pagans are persecuted is because of the incorrect, yet popular, assumption that “Pagan” means “devil-worshipper.” While there are so-called Satanists who could possibly fall into this category, most followers on a Pagan path do not believe in a being called Satan. The figure of Satan is actually a Christian belief.

No matter what religion one believes in, enrichment of understanding is achieved by learning not only about one’s own religion, but also about other religions as well. Being informed helps one keep an open mind, and it can also help cement one’s own beliefs more firmly.  

The word “Pagan” is defined by Dictionary.com as “one who is not a Christian, Muslim, or Jew, especially a worshiper of a polytheistic religion.” Some examples of some Eastern schools of thought that would fall under that definition are Baha’i (believe in one God), Buddhism (does not point to any specific God, but there is a belief in reincarnation), Confucianism (Confucius, “head” of this religion, was actually a philosopher who believed in the need for harmony and order), and Hinduism (belief in one supreme God, but that God is worshiped in many forms).

In a brochure published by the Pagan Educational Network, it states, “Pagan religions may draw on ancient historical practices or be entirely new.”  Most Pagan religions have spanned a long history, but some have a much shorter span of history. Some are very old and rooted in tradition, such as Ásatrú, which is a Norse-based pagan religion.

The Pagan Educational Network defines a younger Pagan religion called Wicca like this: “Wicca is sometimes called Witchcraft. Practitioners differ over use of terms. The individual’s preference should determine the use of terms. Membership estimates range from 50,000 to 150,000 in the U.S.  Wiccans are initiated as priests and priestesses. There is no ‘lay/clergy’ distinction. Leaders of covens are sometimes called ‘High Priestess’ or ‘Lady’ to denote leadership status. The individual’s preference should determine the use of titles.”

Wicca is a younger religion, dating only to 1954, and was inspired by Gerald Gardner’s book Witchcraft Today. The ideas in Gardner’s books have been around for years, but he is often considered the first to ever practice Wicca in a recognizably modern form.

According to the Pagan Educational Network, “Members of Pagan religions self identify; there is no official hierarchy within the movement. Membership estimates range from 100,000 to 300,000 in the U.S. Each Pagan is independent and autonomous, even while working with groups.” This autonomy is what intrigues many people to the path.  For instance, at a recent meeting of a Georgia Pagan organization, each person introduced him or herself, and told about why they chose a pagan path, and also why they have stuck with it. The most common answer was, “It is what I feel comfortable with. It is where I fit.”

Ann, who co-founded the group, said that she “stuck with it because it makes sense.” Ann has been practicing around eight years. Kevin, a local Ásatrú, said that his father read him Norse mythology as a child. As he grew older, he began to become interested in other aspects of the mystical nature of Norse society, and he later began to practice. When asked why he stayed with it, he said, “I just did. It’s what I knew best.”

This sentiment of fitting in, and of feeling comfortable in a religion is what many people search for in religion, yet it often escapes them. These people go through the motions of religion, and many have done so their entire lives, simply because it is what they know, or what they were told to do.

Perhaps now, especially in regard to the turbulent times we all are facing, it is time to step up and to begin to think about religion, and one’s right to believe in their beliefs. It’s time to think more about tolerance, and less about whose religious “team” is best. It’s time to learn about one’s own religion, but also the religions of one’s peers.

The “United States Constitution” states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”

I asked several people what their idea of religious equality and religious freedom was, and I got some interesting responses. Mark, a Canadian Pagan, said that religious freedom meant, “That I have the freedom to believe what I want and that my beliefs will not effect other areas of my life.” Allyson said that, “religious equality scares people because of the unknown.”

If fear of the unknown were keeping people from being more tolerant of other religions, then the obvious solution would be to learn about other religions. Knowledge is power, but knowledge also comes with a price – no longer being able to plead ignorance and continuing to act as one had before.  Power brings with it responsibility.

According to the Major League Baseball Association, every team in the league has the right to play no matter if other team’s fans like them or not. Likewise, the “United States Constitution” gives American citizens the right to practice religion – no matter what religion it is.

Yankees fans cannot stop the Mets fans from loving the Mets, and in that vein one religion’s practitioners cannot stop another religion’s practitioners from practicing their beliefs.  

                                                                              ###

Brekke Ferguson is an English major at Kennesaw State University with an interest in religions of the world.

Copyright © 2002 by Brekke Ferguson.  All rights reserved.

http://www.kennesaw.edu/themagazine/Ferguson2.htm

This is the first in a series of articles that I wrote for a Feature Writing class at Kennesaw State University in the Fall 2002 semester. The link where the article was originally published can be found at the bottom of this entry. Feel free to comment. (Also keep in mind that any links at this point may or may not be accurate.)

Single parents breaking the traditional family mold

By Brekke Ferguson

Cheyenne is five years old. Her parents are divorced, and her father shows little interest in her life or her brother’s life. On parent teacher night, her mother Kelly was speaking with Cheyenne’s teacher about “Doughnuts for Dad” day. Most people would think that since Kelly is a single mother, she would be allowed to attend the event with her daughter.

Most people would be wrong. Kelly was informed by her daughter’s teacher that this was an event for the children to have a male figure attend, and that it would not be proper for Kelly to attend herself.  Instead of thinking about the child, all the teacher could think about was that Kelly’s attendance would be improper.

Single parents are both the mother and the father. Their role is to care for their child’s needs, provide love and support, and provide the best atmosphere for their children to grow up in.  Thirty-eight percent of single parent families are from divorced couples, and 35 percent are from never-married parents according to a brief issued by the US Census Bureau in September of 1997.

Single parents fall outside the “traditional” family sphere, yet this is no reason to discriminate against them or their children. After all, children should be the people who matter, and their well-being should be the focus, versus the idea of “traditional” and “non-traditional” spheres.

On the upside, single parenting is not all hardship. Because people so often just see the difficulties, it often comes as a surprise that many single moms and dads find being a single parent rewarding. One mom, Jennifer, mother of a two-year-old girl, said, “It’s a bigger reward than a two-parent family, because it is all yours for the taking – the joys and the sorrows. It’s not easy, but nothing easy is truly worth it.”

Single parenting isn’t easy, by any stretch of the imagination. One person must take up the responsibility of two people, often having to juggle to find time for full-time work, housework, alone time, and, most importantly, time with their kids. Some parents even add the pursuit of a college degree to the mix. With all of this responsibility, it is easy to feel isolated and alone.

Thankfully, there is hope and help. For instance, there are many Internet resources online for single parents and for two-parent households. Parenting is a tough, often thankless job, and sometimes parents need a helping hand.  Here are a few examples of the resources available:

M.O.M.S. – Moms on a Mission Single is one such organization, “dedicated to providing resources, support and information to all single parents.” With several options for communicating, such as an e-mail mailing list, message boards, and chat rooms, there is definitely a great base here. The mailing list is especially helpful with questions and support. (http://www.singlemoms.org)

Making Lemonade – The Single Parent Network is another such organization: Created by Jody Seidler, Making Lemonade offers helpful advice and humor; they also have a mailing list and a newsletter. (http://www.makinglemonade.com/)

Parents Without Partners – P.W.P.: An international, non-profit organization, PWP works to get single parents together by having chapters located around the world. Looking for a support group in your area, check outhttp://www.parentswithoutpartners.org/ for more information.

La Leche League: This group provides support for breast-feeding mothers. La Leche League began in 1956, and has chapters in most cities around the country, and also in other countries as well. One of the most easily recognized names in the mother support field. (http://www.lalecheleague.org/)

There are countless other resources available, and a quick Internet search can guide one in the right direction. The real point, particularly for single parents, is this: Do not feel alone for one more day. Reach out and find support, because, chances are, there are other people in the same position as you, and often they have the same questions you have.

All parents move along a road of ups, downs, and in-betweens. There is no such thing as an easy parenthood. Parenthood turns one’s life on end, and one has to start over with the appearance of a child. Whether you are a single parent or in a two-parent relationship, the journey is very similar, and it is important to find support, and to support each other.

Remembering that single parents are in the same game, and that they need the same help along the way, helps us all. The focus should be on the children, not on the supposed mistakes a single mom or dad made, or on why a marriage didn’t work. Children need support, and helping support all parents is a big step in ensuring that children receive what they need to grow into healthy and happy adults.

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Brekke Ferguson is a single mother of six-month-old Kerowyn.  She is an active writer, and an active participant in several single parent groups.

Copyright © 2002 by Brekke Ferguson.  All rights reserved.

 

http://www.kennesaw.edu/themagazine/Ferguson1.htm