With Sisterhood Agenda’s SHE: Sisters, Healthy & Empowered Project, we propose to use the emerging science of trauma and resilience to update empowerment strategies that have already proven effective - programs that support individuals in determining their own priorities, have the flexibility to address changing goals over time, are delivered in valued settings, and reflect local circumstances. Sisterhood Agenda responses to trauma are thoughtful, standardized, and replicable.
Adverse childhood experiences (ACES) include experiences with violence, divorce, abuse, neglect, and incarceration. Since the development of the concept of ACEs, high ACE scores have been predictive of poor health and disease. Our girls experience trauma at an alarming rate: over 90% of women have experienced two or more adverse childhood experiences (ACES) by the time they are eighteen years old. Women are 50% more likely than men to have high adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The most common trauma for women is sexual assault or child sexual abuse: one in three women will experience a sexual assault by the age of eighteen.
Interpersonal violence is a major source of trauma for women and children. Unlike men, who are more likely to experience violence from strangers, women and girls are most likely to be hurt by those they know, love, and trust. Young children generally lack a stable sense of self that can moderate the impact of extreme events. As a result of trauma, girls often create coping mechanisms and behaviors that take them further from self-actualization. Physical separation, lack of knowledge, and lack of social support place women and girls at risk.
The Federal Partners Committee on Women and Trauma confirm greater awareness regarding the relationship between trauma and health. When an outside threat is too much to manage, it can affect many areas of life. Scientific evidence confirms the lasting impact that trauma has on the mind and body. Toxic stress has a direct impact on biological and neurological development.
Along with genetic vulnerability, we now understand that toxic stress is associated with the development of a wide range of disorders from mental illnesses to cardiac disease. Women with high ACEs are significantly more likely to have:
- Mental health issues
- Substance abuse problems
- Chronic physical illnesses
- Chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer
- Premature death
Being untethered, social isolation further marginalizes victims and survivors, increasing their chances of disease and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this way, sisterhood is an integral part of the cure.
The effects of ACES are holistic and pervasive, weakening one’s ability to be healthy. Additionally, women with high ACEs:
- Are prone to depression
- Are more likely to become victims of rape and domestic violence
- Are more likely to be in unhealthy relationships
- Are more likely to commit suicide; two-thirds of all suicide attempts are attributable to ACEs
- Have diminished brain functioning
- Have reduced resilience
- Are at risk for further problems, including educational failure
- Are less likely to practice safer sex
- Suffer from poor confidence, health, relationships, and studies
- Engage is more self-destructive behaviors both in childhood and adulthood
Our extensive research is clear: simply put, there is a well-established link between childhood adversity, chronic health, and problems with well-being later in life. Sisterhood Agenda implements SHE for empowerment and resilience, thus reducing these health disparities.
The SHE: Sisters, Healthy & Empowerment book (coming soon) is an educational tool that is an important part of this evidence-based project.