ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences)

Recently, it was suggested that Heath look into completing the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Test.  Not familiar with such, we did a little research.  What we uncovered is invaluable and absolutely on point.  The information on the website is vast and, instead of trying to interpret, I’ve simply placed the information below that I felt was the most applicable, as the article is rather lengthy.
Heath did take the test and his detailed results are found at the end of this blog or can be read here.
*NOTE:  Some information in the answers contains information not suitable for all readers.
The ACE  Study has impacted the public health community tremendously since its accidental conception.  What began as an obesity study by Dr. Vincent Felitti has ended up correlating childhood experiences both mentally and physically with mental and physical health.  It seems logical, yes, but when the proof is abundant, it becomes science; a cause for immense study.
The accidental miswording of questions to participants in the obesity study prompted an uncovering a pattern of sexual abuse in the participant’s youth.  According to Aces Too High:

The first shocker: There was a direct link between childhood trauma and adult onset of chronic disease, as well as mental illness, doing time in prison, and work issues, such as absenteeism.

The second shocker: About two-thirds of the adults in the study had experienced one or more types of adverse childhood experiences. Of those, 87 percent had experienced 2 or more types. This showed that people who had an alcoholic father, for example, were likely to have also experienced physical abuse or verbal abuse. In other words, ACEs usually didn’t happen in isolation.

The third shocker: More adverse childhood experiences resulted in a higher risk of medical, mental and social problems as an adult.

To explain these results, the ACE scoring system was developed.

The ACE Study became even more significant with the publication of parallel research that provided the link between why something that happened to you when you were a kid could land you in the hospital at age 50. The stress of severe and chronic childhood trauma – such as being regularly hit, constantly belittled and berated, watching your father often hit your mother – releases hormones that physically damage a child’s developing brain.

This was determined by a group of neuroscientists and pediatricians, including neuroscientist Martin Teicher and pediatrician Jack Shonkoff, both at Harvard University, neuroscientist Bruce McEwen at Rockefeller University, and child psychiatrist Bruce Perry at the Child Trauma Academy.

To further quote the article:

As San Francisco pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris recently explained to host Ira Glass on the radio program, “This American Life”, if you’re in a forest and see a bear, a very efficient fight or flight system instantly floods your body with adrenaline and cortisol and shuts off the thinking portion of your brain that would stop to consider other options. This is very helpful if you’re in a forest and you need to run from a bear. “The problem is when that bear comes home from the bar every night,” she said.

If a bear threatens a child every single day, his emergency response system is activated over and over and over again. He’s always ready to fight or flee from the bear, but the part of his brain – the prefrontal cortex – that’s called upon to diagram a sentence or do math becomes stunted, because, in our brains, emergencies – such as fleeing bears – take precedence over doing math.

For Harris’ patients who had four or more categories of adverse childhood experiences “their odds of having learning or behavior problems in school were 32 times as high as kids who had no adverse childhood experiences,” she told Glass.

Together, the two discoveries – the ACE epidemiology and the brain research — reveal a story too compelling to ignore:  take precedence over doing math.

For Harris’ patients who had four or more categories of adverse childhood experiences “their odds of having learning or behavior problems in school were 32 times as high as kids who had no adverse childhood experiences,” she told Glass.

Together, the two discoveries – the ACE epidemiology and the brain research — reveal a story too compelling to ignore:

Children with toxic stress live much of their lives in fight, flight or fright (freeze) mode. They respond to the world as a place of constant danger. With their brains overloaded with stress hormones and unable to function appropriately, they can’t focus on learning. They fall behind in school or fail to develop healthy relationships with peers or create problems with teachers and principals because they are unable to trust adults. Some kids do all three. With despair, guilt and frustration pecking away at their psyches, they often find solace in food, alcohol, tobacco, methamphetamines, inappropriate sex, high-risk sports, and/or work and over-achievement. They don’t regard these coping methods as problems. Consciously or unconsciously, they use them as solutions to escape from depression, anxiety, anger, fear and shame.

What all this means, says Anda is that we need to prevent adverse childhood experiences and, at the same time, change our systems – educational, criminal justice, healthcare, mental health, public health, workplace – so that we don’t further traumatize someone who’s already traumatized. You can’t do one or the other and hope to make any progress.

“Dr. Putnam is right — ACEs changed the landscape,” Anda says. “Or perhaps the many publications from the ACE Study opened our eyes to see the truth of the landscape. ACEs create a “chronic public health disaster” that until recently has been hidden by our limited vision. Now we see that the biologic impacts of ACEs transcend the traditional boundaries of our siloed health and human service systems. Children affected by ACEs appear in all human service systems throughout the lifespan — childhood, adolescence, and adulthood — as clients with behavioral, learning, social, criminal, and chronic health problems.”

Heath’s ACE Results
*NOTE:  Some information in the answers contains information
not suitable for all readers.
Prior to your 18th birthday:
  1. Did a parent or other adult in the household OFTEN … Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
Yes, my father was very verbally abusive from a young age, and he was prone to rages that were laced with cuss words and put-downs. He and my mother fought regularly over the financial burdens my physical ailments caused, and they ranged from my being pigeon-toed as a baby, allergic to Rice dust and Pollen, underbite, IBS, and ADD. My father raged at me for not understanding what he wanted, cussed, called me worthless, a failure, an embarrassment, and the slang word for a woman’s privates.
My father talked down to me around others, sighed over slights that I never grasped, shamed me in front of my mother and sister, and on one occasion had my mother call a neighbor so I could apologize for gambling. After apologizing, he had my mom hold the phone while he beat me so that she could hear my screams and weeping of remorse. The next day, I returned the money, coins from playing “even or odd”, and shamefully avoided the kids that had heard about it. NO matter where we were or what we were doing, my father found fault in what I did, vented at my stupidity, and cussed me when I cried from his attacks. I was hit so much, so often, that I was in constant fear from him, and shamefully used the bathroom on myself several times just hearing him scream. He raged so powerfully that his eyes bulged, spit flew from his mouth, and he shook with disgust. I don’t remember a time when he was ever pleased, everything he saw was flawed and short of his standard, and he often reminded me what shaming the family name would cost me.
When my sister and I were caught playing doctor at a young age, I was accused of rape or incest which made me both nasty and sick. Nothing happened, my body wasn’t capable of it, but for the rest of my life he found ways to bring it up.
When our beagles inbred and had deformed puppies, he blamed me for not keeping them separated. He had me put them in a box, crying and blind, and told me that they were what happened when a brother and sister had sex. They were doomed in their deformity, he said, and made me watch as he took the first by its back legs. I thought he might straighten them, know some fix, but it was a fool’s hope knowing him as I did.
Blood showered the snow as he slapped its little head against the cinder block wall around our well. Tossing its lifeless body at my feet, I wordlessly looked up in disbelief as he told me to do the rest. I watched them struggle, the cold biting, tears spilling down my face, begging him not to make me. He reminded me that he had told me to keep them apart, so this was my fault. I caused it, now I had to fix it. At first I tried not to do it too hard, but then realized I was only beating them up not killing them as he wanted. Sobbing, I swung and watched them paint the snow with my failure, then looked up to see him snort and walk away.
As a young boy, my sister and I had a dog named Bear. She was a long-haired sheep dog that loved to run back and forth around the chicken coop, barking excitedly as they took flight, safely inside. Father had all kinds of chickens and turkeys in there, that I fed and watered as chores, and on weekends he would go stand and watch them. Well, we had gone on vacation to Florida with some friends of my parents, and when we returned the whole property was bathed in down pillow stuffing or so it seemed. The wind had scattered them everywhere, but nothing remained of their wearers or their plucker for that matter.
Bear was hiding somewhere when we drove up, Dad in a rage as he looked at what was left of his birds. Shaking and eyes bulging, he told mom to get us in the house and keep us there. I knew when he went to the gun cabinet it was over and I joined my sister in pleading that she be spared. Mom could only tearfully hold us as he stomped outside, called for Bear, and cussed when she slipped by and into the carport under mom’s car.
Dad would never shoot her there, risking the bullet damaging the car, so inside he came and altered his plan. Going to the fridge, He got some lunch meat, a small sledge hammer, and told us to go to our rooms. Calling sweetly to her, dangling the meat far enough to expose, I saw the swing and yelp. Yet, he didn’t stop, he never stopped, and peeking out the window I saw his arm rise and fall, blood splattering everywhere. Unable to go outside, I watched him use a water hose to wash away the blood, but no amount of calling brought her to me when I did get out. It wasn’t until the sweet stench of rot, coming from the ditch, lead to her discovery. Head crushed, she had been tossed into the ditch close to where mom threw out scraps, discarded for displeasing my father. His brutal justice terrified me to my core, and I always believed when he punished me that I might end up the same way.
  1. Did a parent or other adult in the household OFTEN… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
Yes, I was pushed, grabbed, shook, slapped, punched, and beaten with everything my father could find that might “get my attention.” He never thought that I was paying attention, it was why I struggled to read and understand, and nothing sharpened the attention like a few slaps. The words swam on me, I felt shamed that others could do well what I struggled to, and dad saw my learning disability as evidence of what he had known. Stupid, worthless, a waste of time and air, I was often reduced to tears, stuttering until he got tired of hitting me. Once he started, it always lasted until he was tired, and I was always reminded that it was I who made him do it.
Mom said if I was just good it wouldn’t happen; try harder, study more, but I knew what she didn’t about him. He hated me for being less than he expected me to be, and he often used my sister to compare me to. If only I could be more like Heather, and that was saying something since she was a girl. If I was taken to help him work on the truck, it was easier for me to crawl under and around than him, it wasn’t long before he was pecking me on the head with wrenches. I wasn’t paying attention, not listening to him, so he beat on my head like he did those tires when he changed them. He slapped me until I tasted blood, whipped me with his belt until I was covered in welts from upper back to thighs and, when circumstances dictated, whatever he thought might work. Extension cords, weeping willow limbs, fan belts, and even a swing set chain once until he realized it might be too much.
Mom always made sure that my clothes covered any marks, and there was little that she couldn’t fix with makeup, Preparation H or ice. I think it began when she had to do it for herself, she didn’t please him often either, so she knew what would work and what wouldn’t. She also knew what would happen if people talked, how he would respond, because no one shamed Joe Stocks and went unscathed.
His father was the only other one that I remember hurting me, and he had whipped me with a razor strap for leaving running over grandma’s plastic cooking spoons. She had given them to me to use in the mud hole I had been playing it, creating mud pies and cookies for no one in general, because they didn’t taste like grandma’s in the least, I knew. I had been clothed in the long red marks, it stung even to wear cloths, and when I got home mom saw after a bath. Never understood why my dad got mad enough to slam his father into their house, picking him up off his feet, shaking him, but I saw the spit as he raged and threatened him. Grandpa didn’t touch me again after that, but it really made no difference considering how much dad did on his own.
  1. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Try to or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal sex with you?
I was 8 or 9 the first time my Boy Scout leader, Jack Walls, introduced me to alcohol and porn for the purposes of molesting me. The alcohol made me feel relaxed and care free, the porn inflamed desire in me for the first time, and Jack assured me it was natural for a man to show a boy what felt good. Over the next 11 years or so, Jack would continue to use alcohol and porn to lower my resistance, and progressed from masturbation, to oral, and then anal sex. He performed on me in front of my peers, told me to please others and them please me, and touched me in ways I was raised to believe were wrong. Most of what he did he said I wanted, my body had clearly responded, and if we all responded that way it was what we wanted or were asking him to do.
Jack used to love using adult novels for us to read, telling us to listen as he touched us, and in the fantasy those words created used us in every way a child can be. He encouraged us to touch one another, abused us in front of others to show it was ok, and asked us to recruit other boys or friends so that they could enjoy all that we did.
By my late teens, when I was trying to pull away, dad had begun slapping me around and threatening me for avoiding Jack. After all that man had done for me, the time and energy to make something out of nothing, and all I wanted to do was quit? My father didn’t raise a quitter, damn sure didn’t raise a fag, and he would be damned if I shamed him.
So, Jack molested me at will at the farm, his home, in his truck, and then at my own home since dad gave him permission to seek me out. If I was avoiding him, not going by when asked to, then he could come to our house. He would bring over alcohol, a porn tape, and rape me in my own bed as he told me how much he loved me. He was the only one that loved me, saw me for all that I was, and no one appreciated me the way he did. All that I knew is that there was no escaping my dad, no escaping Jack, and I soon began thinking of suicide, fondly.
The church said what Jack did was wrong, and Jack said that it was only natural. My dad said it was wrong, yet he did what he always condemned others for doing.
  1. Did you often feel that… No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
All that I knew for certain was that I existed to please others, never met their standard, and it made me question who I was and what purpose I had for living. I knew that my mom knew about my dad first hand and what she saw him do to me, and while she told her parents she swore them to silence for fear what he might do. Family couldn’t have missed all the signs, they simply ignored what they heard, because they were raised that what happened in the home stayed in the home.
I was a very affectionate child, hungry for attention, but when the sexual abuse began shied away from contact where possible. It made my sky crawl when people said they loved me and then touched me, because I could see and hear him do so in my mind. Jack had suggested as well that it was natural for a boy to experiment with his sister, only natural that they had sex together. He even had books that talked about it, how sisters craved that kind of attention and affection, and he was full of suggestions. He also wanted all the details, what we did and how they responded, and he suggested that any relationship could offer some form of pleasure if you only knew how.
He wanted us to try and seduce other boys’ mothers, sisters, family members, anyone that might be interested in one of his boys. He wanted to sexualize every relationship to undermine it, so we either perverted them or withdrew to protect them. I withdrew from everyone that I could, not wanting to damn others to my hell, and endured the abuse that I believed was my just reward for being so flawed.
When my abuser was exposed later, his wife and my mother convinced my father to allow him to use his name to continue his involvement in our out of state scouting. He continued to do what he had been, all the campouts were on his father’s farm, and none of the parents believed he had done anything.
No matter how angry I was, how troubled I became, how hard I tried to quit, it was always me who had the problem. I felt betrayed at home, abused and manipulated, but had no idea how to free myself with my family supporting my abuser. They even brought me to his home so that he might prepare me to defend him in court, and my parents saying how I owed him for the young man he helped mold me into.
I knew that Jack used the church to gather information on family problems, knew his father shielded him from trouble, and the churches that sponsored the scouts wouldn’t dare cross the Walls family. Jack used everyone to gather information, and he then used that information to control and coerce us all to his will. I had no will of my own, each day was a toss to see who I would be or what I would do.
  1. Was your mother or stepmother: Often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes or often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
Yes, I saw my father regularly scream at, push, point at, and even shake when she failed to do what he had asked or expected. From having a meal prepared to balancing her checkbook, dad expected her to reflect well on him even if his own behavior made him look the worst of all.
What made it worse is that when she had bruises on her it was me that she told others didn’t know my strength. Word would get back to dad, who wouldn’t abide a son that hurt his mother, and then I got beat for leaving marks that he had put on her. Mom got to where she would cover up, not risking others seeing, and certainly not wanting my father to have another excuse.
When I was in high school, after an argument about him being a bully, I told him that if he ever put his hands on mom again I would kill him. I was on the floor before I even knew what hit me, him sitting on my chest so that I couldn’t breathe, finger in my face, as he spat out that if I ever even said such again he would beat me to death with his bare hands. No gun, no hammer, just those hard fists my body had absorbed for years.



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