Over the past year I’ve followed a blog called Raptitude. David, the author of the blog, publishes a new article on the average of about 1 every week or so. Almost as soon as he posts a new article I’ve found myself eagerly waiting with anticipation for his next bit of genius to post to my Pulse reader. I have a few favorites that really resonated with me. Some have even changed the way I tend to view and even interact with the world. I will add links to my favorite Raptitude articles at the end of this post for anyone interested.
Today I was pleased to find my Pulse reader had a new Raptitude article, of which I quickly devoured every word. It is again an article that delivers insight and perspective on the day to day happenings of a large part of the human race that is an interesting perspective to say the least. I hope you read it as well as take some time to dig around the Raptitude website, as there is sure to be something that everyone can relate to and enjoy reading.
New Year’s Eve, for the first time, I had an alarming moment when I realized spaceships really were watching me through the ceiling. They knew where I was in the house. I was troubled by it and said so to my friend, but by midnight I forgot, and felt much better.
Rewind a week or two. I was taking adorable pictures of my toddler nephew typing on his grandmother’s iPad, when I had one of those bewildering, revelatory moments.
I realized I was photographing a member of the first generation that will be able to revisit its entire life in sparkling, high resolution. Between me, his parents and his grandmother, there are easily more photos of him than there have been days in his life.
His brother is six months now. In 2081, when they’re both old men, they’ll be able to access their childhood in extraordinary detail. They’ll see their first Christmases, their first bike rides, their graduations and wedding days all in high resolution images and HD video, and it might seem strange to them that previous generations did not have much access at all to their pasts, aside from memories and a few grainy photographs.
Contrast that with my father, (1947-2008) of whom I’ve only seen one or two pictures of as a child. In those pictures he’s someone I don’t know. He has a smooth sepia face that could belong to just about anyone except my dad. He wore a moustache from the day I was born to the day he died and I couldn’t recognize my father in any other face.
The kids born after about 2007 constitute the first generation that’s younger than Facebook. Today, it’s fairly normal for human beings make their first appearance on the internet when they are less than a week old. Think of how many newborn photos you’ve seen posted by your Facebook friends this last year.
Defeated, I stood on the mat and let the cold air flood over me. I watched the ice fog pour over the sill like freezing smoke. I just let it have its way with me. I didn’t get mad at it, I didn’t shiver or scramble to dry off. I just let it feel like whatever it was going to feel like, and noticed something peculiar.
life is the present only. The past is thoughts in the present. The future is thoughts in the present. You can argue all you want that the past “existed”, but the notion of something having existed is also just a thought in the present.
It was painful to read this article as it parallels my own life so closely. Its a short read bit worth the time.
The news took me by surprise. This wasn’t just my house, this was my home. I lived there my whole life, & it was being taken away from me. My whole life was being taken away, and I had no idea what to do to stop it from happening. What was I going to do about school? I was in my Senior year and already missed two weeks of school. What about my friends? The ones I grew up with since I was four years old. What about my life? The one I’ve grown used too, the one that I couldn’t imagine living differently.
Share a lesson you wish you had learned earlier in life.
Every failed relationship you have ever had is your fault.
I’m not saying that you were the reason your ex cheated, absolutely refused to work, or was abusive… but you chose that person to be your partner – potentially unaware of the ‘type’ of person he or she was, and remained in that relationship up to a certain point… that point was when you learned your lesson.
… think about your last relationship, and why it ended…. There was something there that you just would not accept… and because of that, your relationship came to an end. Something else happened, though… you became smarter.
She is a warrior in my opinion, fighting to bring awareness to an epidemic of injustices suffered by children across the world. She fights not with her fists, but her body, in beautiful dance. A dance to bring awareness to the problem of childhood sexual assault. My message to her is to stay strong. You have an amazing opportunity to inspire change and bring awareness. Who knows how many young lives will be changed for the better through your stories and sharing your dance. Though I’ve never met her, I feel a strong bond forged by similar stories we’ve endured. She’s a warrior for the young and innocent. I admire her strength and send her much love and respect.
You can also read more about her mission and her story from The Star Online.
Today my inspiration for writing will be taken from the closest book to me. A wrinkle in time. I opened it to a random page, 90, and chose a random sentence to write about…or not. I guess we will see were this goes.
This was far worse than the nothingness had been; while she was nothing there was no need to breathe, but now her lungs were squeezed together so that although she was dying for want of air there was no way for her lungs to expand and contract, to take in the air that she must have to stay alive.
Ok, I’m writing on my cell phone keypad so this might take a while but here we go.
While writing out the sentence from the book it brought to mind times when I was a child playing with a friend named jeffrey. His mother and my mother were best friends so we played together often. Jeff had a swimming pool and we spent many hot south carolina summer days in that pool. It was an above ground circular pool so one of our favorite game was to try to create a whirlpool. Everyone i n the pool would push the water with their bodies around and around traveling around the perimeter of the pool until all of the water was moving so fast that you could lift your legs and float on the current. The passage from the book reminded me specifically of another game we wpuld play. We would try to see who could hold their breathe the longest under water. I remember a time that I wanted to win so badly I stayed under the water so long that my body started taking over and trying to force itself to breathe. It was almost as if my body was convulsing in a way. What the hell was wrong with me. Had I lost so many times that I was that desperite to win a silly game. I remember when I finally came up and took my first breathe it was like it was insufficient. Only after many many very deep breain the of are and quite a bit of time breathing heavily did I feel like the oxygen was getting to the places it needed to be. I don’t recall whether I won that round or not but I damn sure remember how my body took over and tryed to force itself to inhale and exhale while I was under water.
We had a lot of fun in that pool. Makes me wanna buy one for my kiddos. That’s not even a possibility right now as I don’t know how much longer I’ll be aloud to live in my house. Foreclosure is a little slice of hell on earth. In a way, this foreclosure business is very similar to that day in the pool. I’m underwater holding my breath trying to hold on as long as possible just looking to win a little extra time in my home. I can feel myself suffocating, dying a little inside as time presses on and presses in on me, presses down on me and compresses my chest, the thoughts of being homeless knocks the wind out of me.
I bought the book, a wrinkle in time, for my teenage daughter. I remember being in elementary school and one of my teachers read it to our class. It was magical. When I seen it at the store I asked if she had ever read it. She said she hadn’t so I bought it in hopes that she to would love it like I had. Well, she hasn’t read it yet, she’s been reading some vampire series. Not the twilight one, something different. So while she indulges in vampires I decided to read the book again to see if it still held the same magic it once had. I just started reading it today and I gotta say, I’m having a hard time getting into it. Maybe the magic is reserved for young hearts. I don’t know but I guess after I read it I’ll know for sure.
I guess in a way the magic you experience in your youth will forever remain locked in your young heart, something to be relived through the magic and mystery of that bittersweet thing we call nostalgia. I’ve played the “who can stay under the water the longest” game with my kids in my mom and dads pool and it has lost its former appeal. Now the joy is letting my youngest win the game, who had previously been to scared to put her head under water and just discovered this past summer that she could safely and that she liked it. Or trying my best to talk my oldest, who refuses to play childrens games, into playing.
This is the analysis after my writing. I love the 750 words website. Its so cool.
I love the style of writing by this wordpresser. Its very straight forward, easy to read and sounds kinda like my own inner voice…uncensored.
This blog post struck a chord with me and I figured I would share it. Please check out GoodPulp on wordpress. It will be worth your time.
So, it’s been 621 days, or, 1 year 8 months and 12 days since my children and my world came to a crashing halt.
I keep wondering why I havent healed yet. Why am I still so profoundly damaged and why can I not integrate back into the world with even a minute amount of success. What is wrong with me. I was diagnosed with PTSD which made me ask myself, does this mean I will never heal. And if I can recover, WHEN?
After beating myself up for failing to get on with life, I figure it might be time to assess the gravity, the magnitude, the reality of what was actually lost.
Before I go on, Please understand, I would have it no other way. The relief I feel knowing that my daughter had the guts to stand up and protect herself by telling her secret is remarkable. I am grateful for her bravery. I’m also relieved that her suffering has come to an end. However, I’m writing this blog post to get a better understanding of why I am having such a hard time healing from what was lost.
During some of my darkest, most painful days I recall describing what I was experiencing like this…
My husband was murdered, my daughter was raped, my home was set on fire, my job was terminated, my bank account was robbed.
And all of this occurred in one day, in the blink of an eye. I went to bed one night and life was normal. I woke up to find everything I knew and loved had changed. Life from this moment forward would never be the same.
It’s funny because the above description is not exact, but for me, it’s the closest way I can describe how I feel and for the most part it’s the equivalent of the reality.
The Breakdown of what was lost
My husband was murdered
Everyone knows someone who has lost a spouse way to early. About ten years ago my husbands best friend died in a car accident. Of course we were devastated. After all, our friends had recently married, which we celebrated as a new and exciting beginning of two friends sharing a wonderful life together. In his death, he was buried and honored with a funeral where all of his loved ones were able to pay their respects to the deceased. There was closure. Sure, it was painful to say goodbye to a friend. There was peace in knowing we could visit his grave, place flowers on such a good friends final resting space should we desire.
The bottom line is, I have spent every day since midsummer of the year 2000 with my husband. I truly loved this man with every part of me. I was still in love with him, which is quite remarkable. heck, I’ve been in relationships where the flame is snuffed out, and pretty quickly to. But this wasnt the case with us. I still looked at him with passion, still thought he was the most gorgeous man I’d ever laid eyes on.
No, in reality my husband was not actually murdered. trust me, there is a weird part of me (the part that has never actually experienced what that might be like) that feels like this would be a less painful scenario. Had he been murdered I would have been able to bury the man I loved so deeply. I could still look at him with love. Me and my children could visit his grave and place flowers. A gravestone for me has recently become something tangible that you can go to when the person you held so dear is no longer there. My husband, my children’s father is no longer there. There’s nothing. THERES NOTHING. Just an empty space in my home and in my heart. I feel his absence in the depth of my guts. There’s nothing left but the good memories that swirl around the new and bad memories. I still can’t think of him, talk about him, look at his things, go to sleep next to the spot he occupied, and yes, survive every holiday without feeling the tremendous sense of loss of this person in my life. I miss the man I thought he was. I miss my best friend. I feel like it was my husband who murdered the man I loved.
My daughter was raped
This is such a painful thought that I still have a hard time thinking about it, much less writing candidly about the feeling and emotions that are buried in my mind and heart. And for that reason I’ll simply say… this is self explanatory…and move on to the next item.
My home was set on fire
I see news stories all the time about families displaced by fire. Families that are homeless in the matter of moments. Nothing left of the comforts of home but a heap of smouldering ash. This is tragic and reported as such on the news, usually with a cry for help and where good citizens can send donations to help out the newly homeless.
For my family, our home is on fire, burning just under the surface. It feels like the Alzheimer’s disease for the exiled. without an income, saving my home, my children’s home is useless. we’re just watching it smoke, waiting for the day that it’s all gone. The saddest part is, there aren’t any nor will there ever be any distress calls from the local news media for my family. We will lose our home. My children will lose the last bit of normalcy they have left. Childhood friends, classmates, routines that provide comfort will all be gone. I cannot explain what its like to walk into your house and know that the very sights, smells, and personal space that brings peace and shelters you from the cold hard world, just outside your door will be gone. I don’t know the date but I know its coming. My husband was ordered to pay the mortgage but he never has and my lawyer didnt push the issue. Because I was and still am absolutely broke, I’m unable to pay my lawyer. The last payment that was made on our family home was april 2010. I’m still in my home but its in foreclosure. I’m not sure how much longer before we are completely homeless.
My job was terminated
My husband and I started our own business in 2006. I took pride in working both with him outside of the home and as the accountant in the home. I wont lie, ive never loved doing receipts. I kinda despised getting all the paperwork prepared for taxes. But I did it, for years I did it. I did love the physical work though. It wasnt to difficult and I really loved going to work with my husband everyday. We were a team. We were business partners. We were best friends who got to hang out every day. I look back on these times fondly and unfortunately so. If I hated the daily grind than maybe that’d be one less good memory to grieve the loss of. Now my everyday is a struggle just to get to the end. Our business was and is a fairly profitable business. We did well for ourselves, making enough to live on and have a bit left over for the fun things in life. We enjoyed entertaining friends at our house, hosting the occasional get-together. He took the business. He was the only one we listed on the LLC. We never paid ourselves paychecks so I couldn’t file for unemployment. It’s as if I havent had a job since 2006. I miss enjoying my day-to-day life. I miss working and I miss the motivation I once enjoyed as a small business owner.
My bank account was robbed
Within the first week after the discovery and while I was still in shock at my mothers house, my husband cleared out our bank account. I had not a dollar to my name and three kids to support. This has not changed and I don’t expect that it will. He took every dime that we together made and saved and left me with nothing. I went to sleep one night with a certain degree of financial security and woke up to find I couldn’t even buy toilet paper. “I couldn’t even buy toilet paper” it’s what everyone who is running low on cash says…I had to steal toilet paper from a gas station bathroom. It’s not an exaggeration, it was our reality and it was humiliating. As something ive kept a secret from everyone I know including my children, its something I still cringe privately over.
So, what’s next
When I look at the list above it reads like the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, seriously. How much stress can one person suffer before they break? I’ll paste a link I found to a site where you can do a quick assessment. I don’t need to do the assessment to know that I’ve had a multitude of stressful life changing events happen in a short amount of time but after reading over it ive decided I need to get myself back into therapy. Heres the list:
Choose Life Events In the last 2 years, did any of the following happen in your life?
Minor violations of the law
Major change in number of family get-togethers
Change in eating habits
Major change in sleeping habits (a lot more or a lot less than usual)
Taking on a loan (car,etc.,)
Major change in social activities (clubs,movies,visiting,etc.)
Major change in usual type and/or amount of recreation
Major change in church or temple activity (i.e.. a lot more or less than usual)
Major changes in working hours or conditions
Changes in residence
Changing to a new school
Trouble with boss
Revision of personal habits (dress manners, associations, quitting smoking)
At the beginning of American Beauty, just as Lester Burnham is beginning is spectacular breakdown, the movie’s tagline can be seen behind him, pinned to the wall of his cubicle. A little white sticker reads, “Look closer.”
I can’t say this enough times, Raptitude is an amazing website full of well thought out and elegantly written posts that, if you give yourself the time to read, has the potential to a enhance your quality of time spent on this watery rock called Earth.
I will be sharing a link to his posts often but i encourage anyone who reads this to bookmark Raptitude and subscribe to the rss feed.
photo by: David Cain and the Raptitude website
The internet allows us to share a brain, sort of. You have an idea, or an understanding, and now it can be anyone’s, with no need to get a publisher to agree that it’s worth sharing. If that idea changes the way someone lives, that change can change the way someone else lives, and that’s all culture is. Twenty years ago this medium wasn’t a part of our lives, and now we’re influencing each other at an astonishing rate. This is evolution.
My mom emailed me this link this morning, which is monumental in itself…due to her technology disability. So the fact that she emailed me a link for a website, and one i will love, makes my heart smile.
So, Technology, meet my mom. Mom, this is technology. Its the one I’ve been telling you about. Isn’t he dreamy…
Oh, and tech, i love the way you’ve digitized historical recordings for our listening pleasure. You’re a genius. (fluttering my puppydog eyes all sloppy in love)
Thank you to writer Lucia Stacey and thoughtcatalog.com for the funny piece that inspired me to rant a bit. Below my own thoughts on the subject, I’ve pasted the article written by Lucia Stacey as well as a link to the article on thoughtcatalog.com.
I have recently experienced a new and much bolder breed of “double down texting bandits” and just commented about this last night to a specific text etiquette faux pas Récidiviste. Don’t worry, said texter only suffered minor bruising to the ego and is certain to recover in no time at all. Don’t worry, said texter only suffered minor bruising to the ego and is certain to recover in no time at all. Sorry about the sentence double down. I sure hope the afore mentioned affliction isn’t contagious.
***** *******: Getting closer to trash nite….
Message Received: 10:48 PM, June 14
***** *******: Getting closer to trash nite….
Message Received: 10:51 PM, June 14
Me: Ya know, I’ve never heard you stut-tut-tut-tutter when ya talk but I’ll be damned if you don’t stutter when ya text.
Message Sent: 10:53 PM, June 14
***** *******: Lol
Message Received: 10:54 PM, June 14
Now, I’m not usually to bitchy when it comes to the text messages I receive. I don’t have the heart to kick every tacky texter in the teeth. This would include almost (but not all) everyone I know. Btw, the worst offenders… are my children.
So I’ve learned to live with it and have found that, during times of mind numbing boredom, deciphering some text-a-tretchification can be entertaining. I’m familiar with the usual suspects:
1.) Lolz, c u l8r, roflmaoasimp ect…
2.) Yur gunna hafta chry hawrd tu n-turp-wrut tha n-flex-shun uv dis un.
3.) The “Text-a-Turret” who fires of so many texts, and so fast, that you don’t have time to respond to the previous 3 before being pelted with the next round of texts.
4.) The “Oops, sorry I must have texted you by accident, lolz” who will send you a text about something random and completely out of the blue in effort to elicit a response, start a convo, or just generally pique your interest or pluck your nerve. It looks a little like this;
No silly, what would make you think that?
Side note: me and my friends had a list of such random sentences we would use to play a game while bored together. I’ll elaborate on the rules and details we came up with to occupy ourselves in a seperate post.
5.) The “Dooms Day Inspirational Chain Text Sender” who will send you no less than 5 of the longest winded, graphics and sound included, if you don’t reply to me and forward 10 times you’ll die a skank but because I think so highly of you I sent this to you to remind you how great of a person you are. Yes, we all have that friend, and they’re probably websurfing for the next Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw:Fw: Chain text to Blast right now.
6.) The “Slow to never Reply Texter” who has no concept of the Time/Text ratio. (I admit, I’m guilty of this one myself)
Truth be told, I could probably go on forever adding to this list. But I’m sure I have a text or 4 to respond to and this post is about to excede the blog length/attention span ratio.
To text twice in a row, or not to text twice in a row? It seems I’m asked this at least once a day, during semi-formals week or at the start of a friend’s new relationship maybe 6 times in a day. I can tell you of about a hundred (thousand) or so terrible incidents my friends and I have run into with the dreaded double text, and how it can make you look
a. like a freak
b. completely desperate
c. beyond stupid
So let’s start with some extreme examples.
Example 1: My best friend, let’s call her Lauren (because Lauren Conrad is my dream television best friend and it makes sense to me), had a particularly bad case of the double texts a few months ago. She’d been hooking up with this guy for about five months, but like a lot of the men we seem to come across he was commitment-phobic (or maybe they all know how neurotic we are). It was a typical Friday night –we were all having drinks and bitching about our weeks and preparing ourselves for the madness that would be the rest of our night. Lauren decided to text –let’s call him Adam –and ask if he was headed to the same party that we were headed to. Forty minutes passed, as did three more rounds of drinks and we decided to head down to the party. We arrived at the party but decided to head down to the party. We arrived at the party but Adam wasn’t there. Lauren had another drink and thirty minutes later decided to text him…again, “Wanna meet up later?” She waited another hour or so (2 more drinks), and when still no text was received she decided to send the absolutely forbidden triple text, “Yo, where are you?” [NOTE: never ever ever ever ever do this] Five minutes or so later Adam texted her back: “Headed back to my house with Ashley” (Ashley being the girl he used to hook up with). Let this be a lesson to you all friends. This particular malady was remedied by a late night cheeseburger, four more beers, and an endless tirade of bitching. You don’t want to be the girl pouring your heart out to the drive through attendant at McDonalds (I’m usually that girl and it’s honestly no fun).
Example 2: Another one of my friends sent a booty text to a guy she’d only hooked up with once: “My room? Now?” Two hours later, in a state of embarrassment and bad judgment she sent a follow up, “Or tomorrow?” –No response. Ever. There is hope though (sort of –things didn’t end up working out with this guy…typical) but anyway, here’s a time where the double text resulted in absolute success.
I’d been hooking up with this guy for an entire weekend (basically a lifetime) and I wanted to carry this ‘romance’ on into the coming week. He’d mentioned that his dog was coming to town (yes, to visit him –his mum was bringing the puppy to stay for a couple of days). Around 4 o’clock on Monday (almost 24 hours since I’d last seen or heard from him) I decided I’d send the ever so tempting “bait” text. A “bait” text is when you say something that is supposed to illicit you the response you hoped for and simultaneously tests the guy’s intelligence level and level of interest in you. The most typical example of a “bait” text is, “I’m tired, I need a nap!” Now, if the boy is interested and remotely intelligent it is expected that he will take the bait and respond with, “We could nap together” (NOTE: you cannot send this text too early in the relationship, otherwise if he does get the implication he may freak out –but more about that another time).
So back to my dog-lovin’ lover –I’d decided that it was time to text him (again NOTE: if a guy doesn’t text you for more than 24 hours after a hook up then your actions should be carefully monitored by cynical and objective friends) I was trying to think of bait with which to snag his interest when it came to me, the dog (not literally, obviously). So I sent him what I boastingly told my friends was guaranteed to illicit a response: “How’s spending time with your dog?! Are you happy to see her?”
2 hours passed, then 4 hours. I did the usual: deleted his number, swore I was over the whole thing, realized I wasn’t, Facebook stalked until I found a group he’d joined where someone had dropped their phone in a pool and needed numbers (don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about), got his number from there, and decided to send the dreaded DOUBLE text. At this point, even more time had passed and all hope was lost anyway, so, dignity between my gritted teeth, I sent a second message, “Do I get to meet your puppy?” 5 minutes passed and just as I was getting ready to crack open the emergency bag of ‘feel better’ BBQ chips I keep in my drawer, my phone dinged:
“Yeah, definitely! Want to come spend the night and meet her?”
So, there is one success story of the double text, though I’m pretty sure it’s an anomaly and shouldn’t ever be used as rationale for your own double texts. In general though, double texts are rarely acceptable and ONLY appropriate if:
a. There was a typo that you have to correct from the previous text
b. There was misinformation in the previous text that you need to correct
c. You’re already dating the guy and he doesn’t care
d. You don’t mind throwing your dignity to the wind and gaining five pounds from ‘I need to feel better about my self’ food binges.
Molesters versus the sex lab: Controversial testing technique a key to stopping child abusers
BY GENE SAPAKOFF
Monday, June 6, 2011
It is another disturbing and productive day inside William Burke’s modest Summerville office. A photo of a scantily clad little boy pops up on a laptop, followed by a picture of a bound and gagged young woman.
The Visual Sexual Preference test images keep coming, one as innocent as a girl in a one-piece swimsuit —department store catalog stuff —and the next something way more sordid.
Burke explains that his clients, many of them prisoners, must watch carefully before the exam is over.
“The first time, you just see the slides,” Burke says, nodding at the screen. “The second time, you have to rank them on a scale of 1-7 by how sexually interested you are in them or how disgusted you are. So I guess you get the idea on how that works. Later, we can go down the hall.”
Down the hall is the Sexual Arousal Lab. ‘We’re testing someone right now,’ Burke says.
Inside a 12-by-12-foot room, a shackled and handcuffed man let out of an Upstate jail for the day is viewing a series of 27 photos —with a state-of-the-art plethysmograph firmly attached.
An armed guard stands watch as the device —essentially a penile polygraph —measures arousal.
There is audio too. For instance, the voice of a man who has spotted a boy in a camp shower room.
Burke, 53, has been using the plethysmograph (or PPG) and other innovative ways of preventing child abuse since 1996. Not everyone endorses the technology in use at more than 100 testing facilities in the U.S.; results are challenged in court, and a Lowcountry judge once dubbed him a ‘witch doctor.’
Photo by Wade Spees This prisoner is undergoing a sex-offender test in William Burke Summerville office.
But this facility and Burke’s other offices in Columbia and Lexington are South Carolina’s primary stops for the risk assessment, treatment and supervision of sex offenders. Law enforcement officials, South Carolina’s volunteer Guardian Ad Litem staff and the Department of Social Services have Burke on speed dial.
A few of his current 300 clients come voluntarily for treatment. He gets referrals each week from men —or their workplace HR offices —seeking help with Internet pornography addiction. But roughly 80 percent of Burke’s work, he says, involves men who have sexually abused children.
Goal: Stop them.
“Our assessments are very thorough and they meet the standard of care, which dictates the kind of instruments you should be using,” Burke says.
Sometimes there are interruptions.
The phone rings.
‘Excuse me, I have to take this call,’ Burke says with a sudden frown.
“Of course, our first interest is always the safety of the children, and what you’re telling me is bad enough,’ Burke tells the caller. ‘But if video has been put on the Internet, uh, that’s taking it to a whole different level.”
The Czechoslovakian army, of all institutions. It christened the PPG during the 1950s ‘Cold War.’
‘They wanted to test guys trying to avoid military service by claiming to be gay,’ says Burke, a Rock Hill native who received psychology and clinical counseling degrees at The Citadel and a PhD in counseling at South Carolina.
The PPG has been in use in the U.S. since the 1980s. Burke’s Canadian-made Limestone Preftest model features straps that measure phallic size increases by blood flow as patients are exposed to photos and/or recordings. The data shows up on computer graphs in an adjacent room.
The Visual Sexual Preference test and Abel Screen also are included as part of a basic Burke assessment, which lasts from eight to 14 hours spread over one or two days. The Abel Screen is an evaluation concept with more than 1,000 questions and 340 slides aimed at categorizing and correlating sexual arousal.
The PPG test is Burke’s pride and joy.
“The most exciting thing for us is the stimulus material and how that has evolved,” he says.
Burke played a role in that development, by accident.
“Up until two or three years ago, what a person would listen to in the laboratory was a male monotone voice telling a story about sexual behavior,” Burke says, “and the response rates were not that great. By that I mean we positively identified, say, a person aroused by a rape scenario only about 58 percent of the time. Now it’s over 90 percent.”
Charleston-based FBI agent Cynthia McCants mentioned to Burke that often when computers were seized from pedophiles, the evidence discovered was not visual but audio versions of victimized children.
“That got me thinking,” Burke says.
He approached a talent agency in search of kids. Parents were informed and signed waivers. The child actors were given scripts.
“We would have them say things that had nothing to do with sexual behavior,” Burke says. “Like a scenario with a lady walking her dog, and you want to pet the dog but you are a little nervous and you ask, ‘Can I touch it?’ We clip that sound out and drop it into a story of a guy in the camp shower with a 10-year-old.”
The child voices have been echoing in Burke’s office, and other PPG facilities around the country, since 2006.
“I have difficulty saying this because it sounds so outrageous,” Burke says in a hushed tone. “But on average we had 200 percent or greater levels of (phallic) response in the laboratory to the voices of the children. That is cutting edge and that’s really cool to be a part of.
“Now, the false positive identification rate is next to zero. It’s just not going to happen. There are just too many safeguards for that.”
Burke stresses that his role is not to decide guilt or innocence, but to make risk recommendations. He does pre-trial assessment, offers second opinions and sometimes first opinions.
“If a man accused of molesting his stepdaughter is brought in and tests positive for arousal to young girls,” Burke says, “I will suggest he not be allowed back home.”
It goes beyond ‘gotcha.’
Burke also monitors and treats patients. Some are on probation. Some are awaiting trial.
There are no “typical” cases in this line of work.
“A lot of folks come in and say they didn’t do it,” Burke says. “Well, OK, we’ll start there. We have our interviewing and a variety of tests.
“Say someone has been accused of molesting a couple of boys and he denies it. I get a history from him and then we put him in the Sexual Arousal Laboratory and, lo and behold, he’s aroused by little boys, and after the test I say, ‘Hey, you’re aroused by little boys.’
“Sometimes that’s enough for them to say ‘I did it. And maybe I need some help.’ If that’s enough, we polygraph them to find out more information.
“It’s not guilt or innocence. But if I’m responsible for whether or not somebody is going to be released into the community, or if a judge is going to take my recommendation and report, I have to know what I’m dealing with.
‘I’m not going to be able to sleep at night if I think I’ve played a part in somebody dangerous getting out.”
‘A witch doctor’
Burke and fellow PPG lab managers —including Burke-trained R. Gregg Dwyer at MUSC —have fans, and critics.
“He does a phenomenal job,” said Micky Talley, agent in charge of the Dorchester County Probate, Parole and Pardon Services. “I don’t think we could supervise the sex offender population or do our job without Dr. Burke. It certainly helps reduce recidivism,” which is repeating previous bad behavior.
PPG testing is a condition of Dorchester County sex offenders on probation and parole. Talley and Burke meet regularly to go over test results and compliance.
Charleston County Assistant Solicitor Debbie Herring-Lash likes the PPG concept too.
“It helps (defendants) be able to go into court and admit it,” she said. “They’re going to get out of prison eventually, and sometimes it helps to be able to have treatment after they have served their sentence.”
Among his court roles, Burke offers expert testimony and participates in parole revocation hearings and sentencing phases.
His recommendations have been challenged.
“I’ve had a judge look me in the eye in a courtroom full of people and say, ‘I don’t think you’re any better than a witch doctor and I don’t believe any of this,’?”Burke says.
Some defense attorneys consider PPG testing “Orwellian.” Expensive too —$2,200 per test, at least (initially billed to those tested). British Columbia last July established a moratorium on PPG testing of youths. Fresh and objective studies on the disputed device and recidivism are hard to come by.
But South Carolina’s Sexually Violent Predator act of 1998 has made the PPG more palatable here and in states with similar laws.
“Research says it’s the single greatest test of recidivism for child molestation, over any other factor,” Burke says, citing studies done by Canadian clinical psychologist, researcher and author R. Karl Hanson and different partners. ‘If you had one thing you could choose about who is going to re-offend, it’s going to be the PPG result.
“But, again, we don’t want to do these tests to say whether somebody did something or didn’t do something. Because it’s certainly possible that someone might have some arousal to kids and he didn’t do it.
“It’s certainly possible he did do it and it didn’t show up. I don’t think that’s a valid reason to use the test. It’s a risk assessment.”
Burke also gives each patient conventional polygraphs twice a year.
“Just by threatening a polygraph, offenders start admitting to having victims and a greater number of victims,” Burke
“Just by threatening a polygraph, offenders start admitting to having victims and a greater number of victims,” Burke says.
Not everyone is cooperative. Some Burke patients have thrown PPG devices against the wall and attempted to flee —hence the armed guards for those incarcerated. And the off-duty police officer on hand for group therapy meetings.
Once, a patient tried to corner a female therapist. Burke has been the victim of a bomb threat.
“Another guy was beating on the door of my house at 2 a.m.,” he says. “Sometimes when we say, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t think you should have access to your children,’ people get really mad.”
You want no part of this chair, or anything attached.
The PPG fits around the penis.
A respirator monitors breathing patterns.
When you feel like squirming —and you will —a motion detector in the seat picks up every wiggle.
This afternoon, the shackled male is well into the PPG series of 27 “trial challenges.”
The first part of the test includes nude images of adult women and adult men in hopes that there is some response. No other nude photos are used.
“One way of looking at it is that if there is no arousal to nude adults but there is arousal to a kid in a bathing suit, that’s significant information,” Burke whispers as he observes the process from an adjacent room.
In each trial challenge, a photo appears for seven seconds.
Then a 90-second scenario.
Then six other photos related to the scenario.
Two of the challenges include ‘neutral’ stimuli, a skyscraper and furniture.
The entire test is videotaped.
“Just another way of measuring across the board,” Burke says.
But here comes trouble, the rape of a young girl at a desolate beach. She pleads. She weeps.
Then a scene in which a man beats his daughter for her apparent failure to pick up around the house.
The patient is restless.
The graph lines on the computer start moving.
“Unfortunately, he is getting aroused,” Burke says of the one-man captive audience.
This patient already has been through the Visual Sexual Preference exam, part of which includes an audio/photo scenario featuring an adult male preparing to molest a fourth-grade girl: “Why don’t you come sit with me on the couch.” “OK.” “Let’s snuggle up close so we can both see the book.”
Elements to prevent faking are built in. It’s hard to close your eyes or tune out photos when part of the drill is pressing a button whenever a picture changes or the audio gets violent.
“When you combine the tests together, the probability that you’re going to pick up whether or not someone has deviant arousal goes up to 96 or 97 percent. Which is valuable information,” Burke says. “If you just do one test independently, you’re in the low 70s.”
Ultimately, Burke says, the PPG lab is all about breaking down denial.
“Most guys deny, deny and deny. Most guys would rather say ‘I murdered my grandmother’ than admit that they have sexual fantasies about children,” he says.
“Often the only time we can get to that is through this process. That helps break down their denial, which helps us increase our ability to help them. Because sexual fantasy is the basis for 99.9 percent of all deviant sexual behavior.”
Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the child:
•Has difficulty walking or sitting
•Suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical activities
•Reports nightmares or bedwetting
•Experiences a sudden change in appetite
•Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
•Becomes pregnant or contracts a venereal disease, particularly if under age 14
•Reports sexual abuse by a parent or other adult caregiver
Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the parent or other adult caregiver:
•Is unduly protective of the child or severely limits the child’s contact with other children, especially of the opposite sex
•Is secretive and isolated
•Is jealous or controlling with family members
Childwelfare.gov, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
This is true for everyday. Maybe posting something about the good days will help me remember how blessed my family and myself truely are.
After all, its always easy to remember the crappy days. The key is… to help myself remember, and focus on more of the good days.
May 16, 2011
This day will never happen again…
Today was the first time I worked with my father. It was hard work, but not to hard. It was also very much of a relief that my dad got the contract to do the job. We have both been in need of work for quit some time. Granted, our individual circumstances for being in a “work drought” are vastly different, it matters little when work presents itself.
He’s pretty easy to work for. As a laid back and easy going guy, hard work just doesn’t seem as hard as it could be. More importantly, I had the great fortune to see my dad smile more than he has in a while. He thought he would get me back for all the times I’ve taken pictures of him. Often sneak snapshots of him doing silly stuff, like the day I was fortunate enough to have my camera ready, just in time to catch him doing a dorky dance while leaving the pool house and on the way around the pool to where we were all sitting. He was trying to make us laugh. We did. Then I was able to make him cringe with a sneak snapshot.
So, guess who was the pic taker today….
On the long drive back from pawleys island this is the picture message I got. Ugh, he got me! No, I wasn’t doing a dumb dance, I was doing “BOY” work. Ugh, double ugh. Oh the humility of femininity demished and caught on film. I’m gonna wear extra lipgloss today, lol, to recuperate.
For anyone who loves or loathes writing, you must check out this site. The writing analysis is pretty awesome. I’m thinking I might cps (copy,paste,send) some of my previous blog posts just to see how its weighted.