Course Overview

This course has by far been my favorite psychology course.  I have learned more in this course than I have in any other course. I loved the way our individual learning was shaped by things we cared about and wanted to learn. This course was a great way to further dive into topics that were of great importance to me and I cannot wait to take psychology of evil with Jesse this summer.

I also personally have gotten so much out of weekly blogging. I am considering starting a personal blog, in which, I can learn more and focus on things that I care about which may not all be focused on psychology. The experience of blogging has greatly strengthened my writing style and my ability to quickly find sources. I also have improved at public speaking. Although I have always been comfortable speaking informally, public speaking to people I don’t know in a class setting has always made me nervous. This course has been a game changer academically, I think it will help me so much in future endeavors.



Victim to Survivor

Sexual assault touches everyone, whether it has happened to you or an acquaintance. With the prevalence of rape in mind we must ask ourselves, Can we settle for the way victims are treated?

It took me these four weeks to decide whether or not to share this with you. Actually, it took me this whole semester. As soon as I heard there were topic blogs I knew that I wanted to cover sexual assault in more depth, what I couldn’t decide was if I was comfortable sharing something so personal. However, due to the nature of my previous posts which aimed for victims to share their stories and speak out, I don’t think it would be fair for me not to share a piece of my story.

A letter to the men that sexually assaulted me,

I have struggled daily, for over three years, to move forward with my life. You took more from me than anyone else ever has. I struggle to function in the most fundamental ways. Since the assault, I have become an insomniac. Most nights I need pills to fall asleep, without them I lay awake unable to stop my mind from retracing that night. If I do manage to fall asleep, I wake up screaming. I rarely eat. When I lost control of everything in my life food turned out to be the one thing I could control. I started focusing on the few things I could control and gave up on the things I had learned I couldn’t. Following the assault, I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. In January of 2012, I was admitted to the hospital after overdosing in an attempt to end my own life. For the first time since the assault I have been able to stop self-harming, yet to this day I have well over 100 scars that were self-inflicted. For the rest of the time I lived in that town, I lived in fear. I spent the rest of my teen years alone in my room, every time I went somewhere I risked running into you or your friends.
The first year following the assault remarkably changed my life. I dropped from an honors student to failing classes, getting suspended, and eventually, I was expelled. I started fighting, lying to my family, breaking rules and laws, and eventually turned to substance abuse to help me deal with my problems. I jumped from relationship to relationship relying on men for protection and comfort, but it never lasted due to my lack of trust. Every day I fight for a healthy life, to move past this without letting it haunt me to the extent it has in the past.
Nothing can give me back what you took. No one should face the daily struggles that I burden. I’m not writing this to get back to whom I once was, but rather to show that this cannot be accepted. You had a choice, what you did was something you had complete control over. I chose to go there with my friend, while drunk and put myself in a vulnerable position. For the rest of my life, I will deal with the consequences of my decision. However, the events that occurred once I got there was not my choice but yours. I am broken, but you can no longer keep me quiet. For the longest time, I wished you had killed me. When you were choking me, I wanted it to never end, because when you stopped, I knew I would never be able to escape from the violations you inflicted. I was only fifteen. You were adults who should have known better. You were my neighbors, and you ignored me telling you no. I don’t deserve what you put me through. I have grown, I have gotten help. Slowly I am taking back my control…. MY LIFE. You ended the person I was without even a second thought, but I won’t let you keep me trapped in this hole. For so long I would dream of justice, but it never came. You were let off on one of the worst crimes a person could commit. You may not have been punished for your actions, but I can’t let this consume my life. This letter isn’t to seek vengeance. It is not to give forgiveness. I hope you can see that this letter is simply to tell you the impact your decision had on every aspect of my life. I will never forgive what you did, but I will not let this consume me any longer.

So now that you’re more aware of what sexual assault is and some of the ways we can better help victims, we can discuss the final chapter of this overview, and that is treatment.

So how can we turn the victim into a survivor?

While we’ve covered the first response to a disclosure, to wrap up this topic, we must also examine the ways in which sexual assault trauma can be treated to help turn a victim into a survivor, someone who is now able to cope and continue moving forward without the negative ramifications from the assault.

Psychological interventions are meant to reduce distress, symptoms of PTSD, and rape trauma. These are usually treated with a mix of counseling, structured and unstructured interactions, treatment plans and training programs. The most common approach often involves cognitive behavioral therapy and experiential therapy. Treatment for sexual assault often has two primary goals: reduction and prevention of psychological disorders such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other psychopathologies, as well as, improving self-esteem and social adjustment. Psychotherapeutic treatments often rely on two essential components:

  1. Develop and maintain trust with the therapist -This is often achieved through time and confidentiality. The trust one has with their therapist may develop at different paces and depends on a multitude of personal factors.
  2. Recall of the assault as to help the therapist understand and assist the individual overcome any debilitating aspects of what happened.

Therapy is one of the most effective treatments for the impact of sexual assault. However, there are things that one can do individually to help improve their state post-assault, these include:

Journalling- keeping a journal about your feelings post-assault can be very helpful in aiding in one’s healing.

Music- Music has been known to be very therapeutic and can also aid in healing, writing songs can also help aid in personal healing as it depicts what you’re going through. An excellent example of music assisting in personal healing is this song by Brother Ali written about his girlfriend’s experience.

Put you first- focus on your physical and mental health and safety.

Learn- Knowledge about others experiences and healing processes can help you overcome your own struggles and show you that you are not alone. The more you know about sexual assault, the easier it is to move forward.

Practice Rational thinking- Irrational thoughts are often a cause of guilt and depression following an assault. Learn to write, speak, and think the rational thoughts over those that are irrational. Remember you are not to blame.

Silence the critic in you- Along with the irrational thoughts we are our own worse critic. Learn when you are telling yourself things won’t get better and replace it with a more positive viewpoint, for example: “it may be hard, but it will get better.”

Identify things that you may blame on someone else when it deserves to be put on your attacker- It may be hard sometimes but often if we pay close attention we put the blame on others more than we focus on the blame that should be placed on the attacker. For example, blame the rapist for doing what they did instead of focusing blame on a bystander.

Write a letter to your attacker- Just as I did above, writing a letter, whether it is an open letter, a victim impact statement, or a personal letter no one ever reads. can be very therapeutic and aid in your own healing.

While there are many things that can aid in one’s healing, the important thing is to take it day by day. Every single step forward you take brings you closer to becoming a survivor. Stay strong and remember you are not alone.

The Rape Recovery Handbook: Step-by-step help for survivors of sexual assault; Matsakis, Aphrodite;  New Harbinger Publications, 2003


Sexual Assault: How the Victim is Treated and How They SHOULD be Treated

In my last post, we discussed the three top reactions to women that report rape: indifference, disbelief, or punishment. As promised here is more information regarding these responses:


There are multiple forms of indifference regarding sexual assault, these include:

Police indifference-  There have been multiple accounts of police indifference, from not testing rape kits (or taking too long to test them), to indifference in catching and prosecuting rapists. Departments have also been known to manipulate statistics for political purposes. Not only do these increase the trauma to the victim but they also endanger more people to these predators.

Church indifference- In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI wrote a pastoral letter to the Catholic Church in Ireland apologizing for the church’s, “well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches.” As well as, “a misplaced concern for the reputation of the church and the avoidance of scandal.” Both were written about pedophile priests. Notably, he also neglected to reference the suffering of the children involved and downplay the trauma they endured.

Educators’ indifference- Often educational organizations seem blinded to acquaintance rape. Many schools fail to suspend young men who are found to have committed acts of sexual assault. In a 2010 study published by the Center for Public Integrity, they found that only 10%-25% of those found responsible for rapes between 2003-2008 were permanently suspended. However, it should be noted, not all college administrations do so. It is also important to know that their incentive to hide or cover up rape allegations is due to the potential suffering of their institution.


Disbelief is one of the worst responses because when we don’t believe the victim, the crime will not be investigated, and the accused will not be penalized. The two pillars disbelief stands on are: the assertations that the majority of rape claims are false, and the minimization of rape as ‘bad sex.’


Instances of inappropriate punishment of those who make rape accusations appear frequently. There is a risk for criminal charges and harsh penalties that exist for those that make false rape allegations, which can also be given to those that retract truthful complaints in fear of retaliation. We also punish those that assist these women, blaming the messenger.

So How Should We Handle Rape In A Way That Supports The Victims?

“We need to encourage victims to speak out either loudly, softly or just with a whisper. Believe being able to talk without fear is really the key to healing. To have validation is profound. And that… Is powerful.” (Kuntz, Karen)

The three most important ways in which we respond should be as follows:

Listen- Don’t interrupt, try to one up them, or shut them down. Rather, engage in active listening and show them you are there for them.

Believe- Whether they forget details or can retell the story 16 times is irrelevant. What they are telling you is their truth and 100% what they believe.

Provide supportive responses- DO NOT TOUCH THE VICTIM, If they ask for a hug or some form of contact that’s fine, however, many victims can be triggered or set off by human touch. Supportive responses can just be stating, ‘I believe you.’ If you know of any resources, it can be helpful to share them, or even let the victim know that you are there for them.

We also need to provide some reform in the community.

Hospitals- As often one of the main places that receive disclosures, hospitals and medical clinics need to be trained in first response to sexual assault. In Canada, we must also reform the system so that victims can come directly to hospitals for a rape kit before having to call the police. As the system stands right now, the hospital must turn you away and send you to the police before they can continue with a rape kit.

Colleges and Universities- As having one of the highest sexual assault rates, post-secondary educators must also be trained in first response. They also must learn to encourage students to come forward and to take action against assailants. Students complaints should be dealt with accordingly, and the police should be involved at the request of the victim. Students should also be taught and encouraged to identify, report, and interfere with predators in a social setting. I think it is profoundly important to note that the University of Lethbridge has worked hard, while still needing to improve, on the ways in which they tend to sexual assault complaints. On top of the I Believe You campaign, they have offered self-defense classes, and I also ran into security at the first responders to sexual violence course last spring.

Police- Training for police officers needs to focus more on what the officer’s job actually is: collect evidence and leave the judgments to the prosecutors, judges, and juries. Police officers and detectives must also be educated in current rape research on predators, as well as, put in charge of identifying them.

Prosecutors- Unfortunately many prosecutors have been known to avoid filing charges in fear of public scrutiny. Kaethe Morris Hoffer, the legal director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, stated, “That the jury won’t convict is not an acceptable, or legal, reason for a prosecutor to refrain from charging a perpetrator with rape. To do so is the same as saying to a black man who was almost killed by a posse and a hanging, ‘We totally believe you, but in this community we could never get a conviction, so we are not going to prosecute the lynch mob.’ Fundamentally, if a prosecutor believes a crime was committed, he or she must not allow social biases to prevent him or her from seeking justice. Prosecutors certainly ought to tell victims when they think a conviction would be unlikely- due to social biases that make people doubt what women report- but they should always be willing to put the offender on trial if the victim, understanding the difficulty of winning, nonetheless wants the rapist charged.”

Media- Not only must media outlets publicize ACCURATE data on rape prevalence and false rape claims, but journalists must also seriously reconsider the ‘he said, she said’ ways in which they cover rape accusations. Presenting real investigative reporting and presentation of facts- without biased opinions- would significantly reduce the media’s role in perpetuating that men do not commit rape. They must also remove terms such as ‘having sex with a minor’ or ‘nonconsensual sex’ which minimize the force, humiliation, and trauma that come from rape.

We must destigmatize sexual assault and rape. We must reform our ways and provide support to the victim.


The Other 90%-1st Responders to Sexual Assault, SVAC

Whisper No More- Kuntz, Karen; Self-published

Rape is Rape: How Denial, Distortion, and Victim Blaming are Fueling a Hidden Acquaintance Rape Crisis- Raphael, Jody; Lawrence Hill Books, 2013


Sexual Assault: Who It Affects and How

” I am not here to impress you with pompous style and empty words or to put only my opinion in your face or make my voice so loud it’s the only one you here I simply want to share a story.” (Kuntz, Karen)

There are vulnerable populations concerning sexual assault. While everyone is at risk and can be affected by sexual assault some are at a more increased risk than others. At risk, populations include Immigrants, Survivors/ Victims, Aboriginal Persons, The Elderly, Persons with disabilities, and Women between 15-24 years of age.

Depending on the victim, the way in which they are affected is vastly different due to a variance in culture, ethnicity, life experiences, personal and professional resources available, sexual orientation, disability, and age. Whether or not a victim is diagnosed with PTSD is also linked to these factors as well as the Pre-event factors, event factors, and post-event factors discussed in my previous post on PTSD.

In well over 80% of rape cases, the attacker is known to the victim.  This means they are either acquaintances, friends, family members, teachers, neighbors, or significant others- usually, someone you trust, someone you believed would never do such a thing. This acquaintance rape crisis is mainly due to three main factors: Denial, Distortion, and Victim Blaming.


As a society, we deny the potential for acquaintance rape. With comments like ‘legitimate rape,’ we perpetuate that rape only counts when it is forced by a stranger. It delegitimizes rapes that occur with acquaintances or those against drugged, drunk or unconscious individuals. Denial leads to three primary responses to women reporting rape:  Indifference, disbelief, or outright punishment. These reactions will be further addressed in the next post.


While distortion may be partially due to denial, we cannot deny as a society we have skewed views of sexual assault. In the National Violence Against Women Survey (1995-1996), they found that out of 8000 women there had been a significant increase in reported rapes in the modern reform era (1990-1996) than before 1975. However, there has been no significant increase since the mid-1990’s; thus contradicting advocates of false rape claims who believe that there is an increase in false rape claims.

Victim Blaming

Victim Blaming has been a major topic of discussion surrounding rape and sexual assault. While they are not always made viciously, and they are often filled with distorted viewpoints, and some with ‘good intentions.’ Buzzfeed gives an excellent list of victim blaming comments made by a wide variety of individuals.

Those are just some good examples. Yet if you want a more personal example, something closer to home, I will share a more personal example. ” At least you can use this as an example to not drink so much next time.” This was a comment made to me by a member of the Lethbridge Police Department. I will not include a name as it has been dealt with through mediation and it was a substantial learning experience for him and other new officers.

The problem with victim blaming is that it puts the blame on the victim when they should not be blamed. While there are preventative measures one can take to lower risk of sexual assault, it is never the victim’s fault. Whether they take precautions or not, it does not guarantee one’s safety. Some of the preventative measures one can take include:

Knowing your Resources- Who would you reach out to if you’re in trouble? Who would you go to if you were assaulted? What resources are available at school, work, or in the community?

Stay Alert- Know your situations, where you are, what are the risks. Are you aware of your surroundings? Who can help you nearby? Who is around you, could they hurt you? How can you defend yourself?

Don’t Publically Share Your Location- Social media makes it easy to share your location. However, this also makes it simpler to be targeted.

Make a Plan- Go out with a group and make plans to look out for each other.

Watch your Drink- Don’t leave your drink unattended, if you must leave your drink, leave it with someone you actually trust.

For more preventative measures visit:

However, the truth still remains, even if you take all the precautions you are still not necessarily safe. Anyone can be affected by rape, and it can happen to ANYONE. Rape isn’t about attraction or sexuality; rape is about POWER. No one is too old, too young, too ugly, or too anything, for that matter, to be raped. The way you dress or the things you do do not give anyone the right to assault you. Do you think there are ways clothing can mean you’re asking for it? Watch This:


Keep This To A Whisper- Kuntz, Karen; Self-published

Rape Is Rape: How Denial, Distortion, and Victim Blaming are Fueling a Hidden Acquaintance Rape Crisis- Raphael, Jody; Lawrence Hill Books, 2013


An Introduction to Sexual Assault

The next four posts will surround sexual assault. Sexual assault occurs globally and is more common than we may think. This topic was a natural choice for me due to both personal experience and training I have taken. As far as topics go sexual assault often is kept to a whisper.


We want to hear you, we want to know what you have to say, we want to help encourage you to move on, to get better, to start new. We want to help you heal your pain. We want to lift you up… We want to hear your story, listen to your voice, feel your pain. We want to make a difference, we want to make a change…We want to stop the violence…Tell us, tell us please, tell us your story. Speak out. BUT… Could you please whisper… because really part of me does not want to hear, believe, or experience the horrific pain because then it is easier for me to rationalize that this sort of crime does not happen and can not happen to you or to me really….We need to believe that, so please whisper.

-Karen Kuntz

That poem was written by a southern Alberta rape victim, and I shared it with you because it has a significant impact on these next four posts. Rape and sexual assault are topics with little discourse because it truly is one of the most uncomfortable topics. The reason this is shocking is that 1 in 4 Canadian women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. While my posts will mainly view victims as female, this is not to say men do not also get sexually assaulted. I focus on women and may use female pronouns due to the fact in Canada 92% of victims are female. I also must pause to explain that while I can reiterate government statistics, it is incredibly important to note that sexual assault is massively under-reported, in fact only 10% of victims report this crime to the police.

Before we dive further into the details, we must first make a crucial distinction: sexual assault versus rape.

Sexual assault is defined as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.”

Whereas Rape is defined as “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

So Why Only 10%?

While there are many reasons sexual assault may go unreported the main reasons are fear, guilt, shame, stigma, embarrassment, Invasive rape kit, disbelief, and minimization. In 2007 police reported that 80% of cases the victim knew the perpetrator. It is also important to add some other statistics into that 10% that report. That is, that out of 310 reported rapes only 57 lead to arrests, 11 get referred to prosecutors, 7 lead to a felony conviction, and only 6 lead to incarceration.

But What About False Reports?

Men Against Abuse Now state, “Only about 2% of all rape and related sex charges are determined to be false, the same percentage as for other felonies (FBI). So while they do happen, and they are very problematic when they do, people claim that allegations are false far more frequently than they are and far more frequently than for other crimes.  Put another way, we are much more likely to disbelieve a woman if she says she was raped than if she says she was robbed, but for no good reason.” So the question becomes if I was to tell you I was raped would you be any less likely to believe me than if I told you I was physically assaulted?

In the following weeks, we will further examine sexual assault and continue a discourse that has continuously been silenced. I will examine the complexities and myths and show the importance of continuing this discourse.


As we lead into the five days of homelessness, I found it relevant to post on homelessness. For the first time, I will be first hand experiencing what it means to be homeless. While I can’t say, it will be the same for me as it is for people who deal with it on a daily basis it will be an excellent learning experience. For five days I will sleep outside, have no access to showers or changes of clothes, no technology, and no access to food other than what is donated. This is an incredibly big challenge for me, however, it is not futile. This experience will not only help me grow but also raise money and awareness for homeless populations. I have included the link to donate, and if you choose to, please select the University of Lethbridge to help us reach our goal of $10,000.

So what factors can affect homelessness?

Social factors that exist include addiction, family breakdown, and mental illness. These can then compound with structural forces, for example, lack of available low-cost housing, poor economic conditions, and insufficient mental health services. Together these dynamic relationships impact the levels of homelessness.

What is Fuzzy Logic or a Fuzzy Cognitive Map?

The study I am examining uses fuzzy cognitive maps and fuzzy logic to model the issue of homelessness, so before I continue let’s look at just what exactly these two things are.

Fuzzy Logic is defined by as “a branch of logic designed to allow degrees of imprecision in reasoning and knowledge, typified by terms such as `very’, `quite possibly’, and`unlikely’, to be represented in such a way that the information can be processed by a computer.”

Fuzzy Cognitive Map is actually rooted in conceptual cognitive maps. Axelrod defines cognitive maps as “visual representations of an individual’s ‘mental model’ constructs, and are therefore analogous to concept maps that represent a person’s structured knowledge or beliefs.” Fuzzy cognitive maps are simply an extension of this definition as they utilize fuzzy logic in creating a weighted, directed cognitive map.


Firstly in the study, they used fuzzy logic to convert information taken from recently published, peer-reviewed articles, for the aforementioned forces related to homelessness, from which they examined the strength of impact for pairs of factors. They proceeded to input these relationships into a fuzzy cognitive map to test the impact of increasing or decreasing individual or groups of factors. This technique allowed for a more realistic perspective of homelessness. Through this study they found that education was the most substantial force relating to homelessness.

Homelessness itself is an extremely complex social problem with immense structural and social factors. These factors, contribute to duration, frequency, and type of homelessness. To be fully homeless is to live without shelter; however, many experience partial homelessness that may include temporary, or sub-standard shelter. Homelessness is difficult to define, making it difficult for governments left struggling with uncertainty when attempting to create and implement policies that they expect will effectively manage or potentially dispose of this problem.

Some Statistics on homelessness

  • At least 200,000 Canadians experience homelessness in any given year.
  • At least 150,000 Canadians a year use a homeless shelter at some point.
  • At least 30,000 Canadians are homeless on any given night.
  • At least 50,000 Canadians are part of the “hidden homeless” on any given night — staying with friends or relatives on a temporary basis as they have nowhere else to go.

So as we move forward into the five days of homelessness I ask everyone to reflect on these statistics and the problem we face with homelessness. Maybe you have experienced what it is like, or maybe you never have but I hope that as a community we can come together and raise awareness and money to help reduce the amount of homelessness our country faces.

BPD What Is It? How Does It Impact One’s Abilities?

Often when someone speaks about BPD, the first thought is Bipolar disorder when in reality BPD stands for Borderline Personality Disorder. But what is Borderline Personality Disorder?
It is not talked about very often, despite having been introduced to the DSM 3 in 1980. Before BPD’s introduction into the DSM Borderline Personality Disorder was thought to be categorized closely with schizophrenia, this was due to overlap with many psychiatric disorders. Now that it has its diagnostic identity we are learning more about this disorder and discourse around the topic is starting to grow. Borderline Personality Disorder often co-occurs with other psychiatric disorders such as major depressive and bipolar II disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, substance use disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and with several other personality disorders.
Nine symptoms diagnose BPD in the DSM 4. These nine symptoms fall into four categories. The four categories and symptoms they include were listed at, and are as follows:

1.Excessive, unstable and poorly regulated response.

This category includes three symptoms:

Affective (emotional) instability including intense, episodic emotional anguish, irritability, and anxiety/ panic attacks
Anger that is inappropriate, intense and difficult to control, and
Chronic feelings of emptiness
2. Impulsive behaviors that are harmful to you or to others.

A category that contains two symptoms:

Self-damaging acts such as excessive spending, unsafe and inappropriate sexual conduct, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating, and
Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats, or self-injurious behavior
3. You may have an inaccurate view of yourself and others, and experience a high level of suspiciousness and other misperceptions.

There are two criteria in this category:

A markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of yourself (your identity), and
Paranoid ideation or severe dissociative episodes (transient and stress related)
4. Finally, you may experience tumultuous and very unstable relationships.

The last two criteria/symptoms fall into this category are:

You may engage in frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment, and
Your relationships may be very intense, unstable, and alternate between the extremes of over-idealizing and undervaluing people who are important to you
Now that we can understand just what Borderline Personality Disorder consists of we can move into just what exactly BPD means regarding social cognition for those who face this disorder. If you look through the symptoms listed above, you can see that those suffering from BPD are likely to face significant problems with social interactions. Findings from studies done on social cognitive abilities in individuals with BPD have been very diverse, ranging from deficits to superior skills. The study I looked at examines the neuronal basis of social cognition in BPD. The study focused on three social cognition tasks that varied in level of complexity: basal processing of faces with a neutral expression, recognition of emotions, and attribution of emotional intentions. This study found that while none of the participants with BPD had no deficits at the behavioral level, they showed hypoactivation in areas of the mirror neuron system, where their healthy counterparts showed hyperactivation. Those with BPD also showed hyperactivation in the amygdala which was not modulated by task complexity. From this study, they conclude that an enhanced emotional approach in the processing of social stimuli for individuals with BPD allows good performance in standardized social-cognitive tasks. However, this may be the basis of social-cognitive deficits in real-life social interactions.