November 10, 2012 • Podcasts
Aboriginal Women’s Cultural Safety and Sexual Health
Continued from page 3
RS: And you think the lack of understanding about what you’re talking about, basically, all the history and the health issues and the systemic issues, combined with racism, must also be involved in that?
CR: Yeah, well, there’s still a lot of people who really don’t understand the history and who are really not able to grasp the idea of historical trauma. And so, what that term means, is that, if you think about an individual life, if a person is traumatized by something, they live with that trauma. But, they don’t live with it, it doesn’t stay inside them, it affects the other people in their lives, right? So, if you imagine an entire family being traumatized, then that family’s extended family, they’ll experience some of that, because, that, that gets shared. The coping gets shared, the trauma gets shared. So imagine a whole community of people being traumatized. Imagine a whole nation of people being traumatized. Well then, it’s not difficult to understand how that trauma is passed on from one generation to another.
People don’t mean to do it, they don’t want to do it, but it just happens. It’s pain and pain doesn’t go away unless they’re some way to address it. And if there are no supports, which there are very few for Aboriginal people, to address those things, and oftentimes, when there’s a government that will not acknowledge the trauma, or people who say “Well just get over it, we’re just so past that now”. Well, that’s, that’s an easy thing to say when it’s not you, when it’s not your family, when it’s not your community, when that’s not your nation.
So, I think there’s a lot of people who don’t understand that. I use a tree metaphor sometimes to explain it to people. It’s the social determinants of health, but I say, if you look at a tree and the leaves are healthy, you’re pretty much guaranteed, or you know, that the soil and the roots of that tree are healthy as well. If you look at a tree, and the leaves of that tree are dying, then you have to know that there’s something going on in the roots of that tree, there’s some contamination, there’s some trauma, there’s something going in. So I say, if you want to look at a population of people, like Aboriginal women, and the disparities that we often experience, you can’t stop with the person. You have to look at the circumstances and the conditions which that person lives. And then, if you look deep into the roots, well that’s history, that’s structure, that’s government policies, that’s stigma, that’s racism, that’s sexist racism, so that’s that kind of misogyny that they save just for women of colour, just for Aboriginal women. So, I mean, I don’t know that everybody understands that.
RS: Yeah, and I mean, I think for a lot of people like myself, it’s a constant learning process, too, especially when you don’t experience it yourself, or experience different things.
CR: Yeah, yeah.
RS: What needs to happen so that Aboriginal women and Aboriginal peoples can get better access to health care and health services?
CR: I think I’ve already talked about the fact that Aboriginal women don’t always have access to health services, sexual health services that they need, either prevention, or treatment, or even care and support – so for instance if they’re infected with HIV. But they also report about problems they encounter when they do go for help. So, even when they can access the help, they often encounter racism, disrespectful behavior that creates a barrier for them to accessing it again. Or, if they’ve heard of other people having experiences, and so that’s where this notion of cultural – what we used to term and some people still do, cultural competency – but we now talk more about it as being cultural safety. So, we’ve been doing some research with Aboriginal people with HIV, and particularly with women, talking to them about their experiences within the health care system, and what are some of the barriers they face in terms of their relationships with those people that they interact with, the health care professionals.