Author Archives: studentforlife2013

Rebuilding the Foundation by Addressing Basic Needs

The effect on victims of violence is something that seems like an obvious association that does not need much explanation. Our class has had several classes where this was the focus, and even when it is not the immediate focus, class discussions are almost always related to how violence affects the victim and their communities. There are effects on victims, their families, friends, their support systems in their communities and churches feel the effects of violence. The cost of violence, both on the part of victims and their perpetrators, has an effect on our society  The following are statistics from 2000 [Cortso et al., 2012] that outline the effects violence has on individuals an their communities:

  • 2.5 million injuries were due to interpersonal and self-directed violence resulting in total lifetime costs > $70 billion.
  • $5.6 billion were spent on medical for violence related injuries
  • $64.7 billion were lost in work and household productivity

These statistics demonstrate the cost to society when it comes to the effects of violence. When people are abused, they can have lasting consequences that can affect their ability to work and be a functioning part of the larger society. Victims sometimes (but not always) seek medical care after a violent injury, which in turn contributes to added cost to society in medical bills. These statistics demonstrate the economics related to violence, and as our class has further explored, there are even more costs to society when it comes to an individual’s mental health and overall wellness. These emotional and psychological costs, affect each layer of an individual’s support structure, which has a ripple effect on the environment around them.

            Prevention is the key, like many issues, to solving violence in our communities. One thing we must consider, when thinking about solutions to violence is what might prevent communities from seeing that violence is an immediate problem. Often, communities with long standing histories become desensitized to violence. More importantly, people living in these communities have real, basic problems such as how to put food on the table for their children, the need for employment, and sometimes it’s a matter of how to put a roof over their head or where they will sleep that night. In nursing school, we have had many class discussion based on Maslow’s Theory of Hierarchical needs. The basic principle behind Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is that you cannot address people’s needs of security, belongingness, and self-worth without addressing their BASIC physiological needs first (food, shelter, water, air, clothing and sleep).


I bring up this theory I have so often studied and applied to case studies in my nursing classes for a reason. The Grady Nia Project was introduced to our class this past week as a success story in a local approach to addressing the basic needs of women who are victims of domestic violence and have considered or attempted suicide. The program begins with a thorough evaluation that addresses key issues such as a client’s current living situation, employment, sleep patterns, current medications, and nutrition/diet. By examining these key physiological areas closely, the program aims to first address these issues, or helps the client address them throughout the program, so they can then begin to focus on the goal of the program.

Nis is a kwanza term that means “purpose.” The purpose of program is to reduce risk of suicide of the women enrolled in the program. The program offers individual and group therapy to women and helps women to identify their strengths and weaknesses with regard to their developed coping mechanisms. Additionally, it provides help and resources to women to address substance abuse problems, as well as psychosocial illnesses including bipolar disorder or depression. Most importantly, when all of this is addressed and working pieces are moving together, the Nia Project helps women realize their self worth and helps them to understand they deserve love and respect…that they matter to their community.

The Nia Project gave me the tools to build the foundation that I now stand on today. And for that, I am Grateful.” Participant of the Nia Project, interviewed 2007.

Grady is often discussed in the context of the low-income population it serves and is more often than not, depicted as a drain on GA tax-paying dollars. As a future healthcare provider, I know that much of what I have learned while in school has come from my experiences at Grady. Grady cares for people with limited to no resources, and it continues to generate amazing programs such as the Nia Project. Grady may not have the fanciest technology, and may not be a moneymaking hospital, but that’s not what the heart of Grady is to bright eyed student like myself. Grady is a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn in a setting similar to underdeveloped countries in a major urban city, that has the capacity to show how a program, or even one person can affect change by meeting the basic physical needs of a victim or patient. This is not something you can teach in books, you have to see his or her story sitting in front of you, look into their eyes. Only then can you understand that there is a chance to take a desperate situation and inspire it into something good, if you take the time and walk with them step by step in the process to realizing their own self worth.


Corso, S.P., Mercy, J. Thomas, S.R., Finkelstein, E.A. (2007). Medical Costs and Productivity Losses Due to Interpersonal and Self-Directed Violence in the United States. American Journal of Preventative Medicine. 32(6) 474-482.


Religion and Violence: The Intersect

I had been looking forward to this class since I was admitted into the course last fall. The course “Violence: A Multidisciplinary Inquiry” is one of the few opportunities I have had as a midwifery student to get outside of the medical discussions, black and white decisions, life or death matters of being a nurse-midwifery student. And today. Today, I had the rarest opportunity to meet a globally recognized individual, who is not only know for his prose, but more importantly for his strength, courage and steadfast belief in the freedom of speech.


Professor Rushdie providing his John Hancock to classmates copies of his latest book Joesph Anton: A Memoir.

Salmon Rushdie sat in front of our class today and had a talkback discussion with us on the intersection of religion and violence. This topic seemed all too fitting with the release of his latest book, Joseph Anton: A Memoir.  Here sits a man who had a fatwa placed on him by the Aytollah Khomeini in 1989 and lived underground for twelve years with 24 hour armed protection. Before this day, I can honestly say I had given a lot of thought to the idea of religion, as well as the idea of violence, but together, in my mind these two ideas have rarely intersected with the exception of studying past wars, and of course, 9/11.

Preparing for class this week and reflecting on our readings, I began to think, what in my life would motivate me enough to commit an act of violence? I struggled with this idea as I had quite a longer list on what would stop me from acting out in a violent manner. I have grown up with a religious background, and consider myself a spiritually minded individual. I have witnessed acts of violence and listened to victims of assault share their stories in the clinical setting, and have also listened to survivors of human trafficking bravely tell their stories. But I have given very little conscious, reflective thought regarding the role that religion plays in motivating violent acts against others in this world.

Our class discussion both with Professor Rushdie as well other expert Emory Faculty, Liz Bounds and Gordon Newby provided some insight and challenged my own view on religion, the role it plays in our world and it’s power to motivate violence. An example we discussed is an extremist’s belief that their real life comes after this one.  That this life on earth is a precursor to what awaits you when you die. How you perform in this world, what you chose to stand for, and how you fight for what you believe in will dictate the reward waiting for you in the afterlife. Ayaan Hirsi, a human rights activist for women’s rights in Islamic Societies (among other things), remembers these types of teaching from Osama Bin Laden in her book, “Infidel”.

“Bin Laden’s quotes from the Quaran resonated in my brain: “When you meet the unbelievers, strike them in the neck.” “If you do not go out and fight, God will punish you severely and put others in your place.” “Wherever you find the polytheists, kill them, seize them, besiege them, ambush them.” “You who believe, do not take the Jews and Christians as friends; they are allies only to each other. Anyone who takes them as an ally becomes one of them” Ayaan Hirsi-Infidel.

Often, those recruited have similar qualities such as mental health issues, living in poverty, and needing the money for their family in some capacity or another. You begin to see how suicide bombers and martyrs are recruited for acts of violence in the name of their religion. More importantly, you begin to see how little value is placed on this life, the life you are living, in the hopes of what may or may not be waiting for you in the next life

There is a need in our growth as a human race to individually question what we believe as a person. Our beliefs should be evolving over time, allowing religious communities to grow in the changing times and cultures around us. It is interesting to me to think about the religious texts our beliefs are rooted in, and how they might look differently if they were written today. In religions across the globe, religious texts are accounts from humans about their faith, written by humans. Although the principles of many religions are similar, they are still interpretations of someone who wrote them down at some point and time in history. As part of humanity, there is a responsibility on our part to study, examine and question how these beliefs relate to the here and now. It important in our growth as humanity to ask the question, “Is what we believe still relevant to the context of the community we serve, and the society at large we are hoping to create in this world?” More questioning and dialogue about our faith can lead to finding common ground in the similarities across religions, not the differences that lead to international wars, genocides and the oppression of others.


Reaching the MLK memorial just before dusk on my monument walk around our nation’s capitol.

Walking in our nation’s capitol recently, I visited our history in the context of a walk around the many monuments erected to remember our past. The most recently erected monument is to Martin Luther King, Jr. A brief but insightful tour by a national park ranger challenged us to each think about what MLK’s work means to each of us.  Whether what he stands for, whether his work, whether his vision has been realized by the world today. The answer to whether or not equality for all permeates throughout our society and the world at large…for me, it was an obvious no. The monument is deeply rooted in this idea of unfinished work, the incompleteness of a vision that is left up to us as the human race to realize around the world, not just for Americans, but for all people.

Religion and violence are a part of our history and have been the catalyst to many disagreements and atrocities the world has seen to date. Often, people need something to believe in whether it’s belief in a higher power, or a grounded belief in the rigor of science. For some, it is finding renewed faith that was once lost, helping them to find purpose and community in an otherwise unfamiliar place. And for some, religion is the belief in the greater good, that people are bigger than themselves and can rise to the occasion to do good, and care for each other regardless of who they are, or where they came from. Regardless of your belief or willingness to believe in religion, one cannot question the existence of violence and the havoc it has reaped across nations. It is glaring at us everyday in news headlines around the globe. The caveat, however, is violence does not have to exist in the context of religious justification.  A little less justification could have the power to lead to a lot less violence, and a whole lot more acceptance. It is in the space between these differences, that we can allow religion to challenge us to find the common ground to grow as a stronger, more diverse and accepting group for all…and maybe, just maybe, realizing the dream of equality for all people.

A quote taken from a speech given by MLK in Georgia, 1967. Taken at the Martin Luther King Memorial. Washington D.C. [2013].