Over 15 years, Tonier Cain was arrested 83 times, and convicted 66 times. She was addicted to crack. She was a prostitute. She had four children and lost them to child protective services. Remarkably, she didn't give up hope, and one day, she found someone in the system who knew about trauma and who didn't give up on her. Cain now advocates for trauma-informed care in prisons and mental health facilities. She gives speeches around the country and the world. Cissy White was fortunate to attend a conference in North Carolina where Cain gave a presentation. This is Cissy's reaction.
Seriously. It was hard to stand after she spoke. When I did, I went right to a yoga mat in the self-care calm room for a while. I took off my high heels and curled up in a ball for a bit.
I'm still digesting her words. It's not that the content was intense and heavy, though it was. It wasn't that she talked about a ton of traumatic experiences she had survived - though she did.
It's not that my own trauma was triggered, though that happened. It was the way she spoke about being let down so often by the systems she was often in and how often she was re-traumatized by them.
It's the way she challenged my thinking so that I can no longer think about adverse childhood experiences without thinking about all of the ACEs -
and adverse community experiences and how intertwined they are. ACEs comes from the CDC-Kaiser PermanenteAdverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study), groundbreaking research that looked at how 10 types of childhood trauma affect long-term health. They include: physical, emotional and sexual abuse; physical and emotional neglect; living with a family member who’s addicted to alcohol or other substances, or who’s depressed or has other mental illnesses; experiencing parental divorce or separation; having a family member who’s incarcerated, and witnessing a mother being abused.
The ACE Study found that the higher someone’s ACE score – the more types of childhood adversity a person experienced – the higher their risk of chronic disease, mental illness, violence, being a victim of violence and several other consequences.
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