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Author of The Pornographer's Daughter providing commentary on pornography, life and much more.

Suicide and Fear

Kristin Battista-Frazee


I see a lot of sadness, bewilderment and inspirational hashtags floating around social media after the tragic suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. The open grieving and well-intentioned thoughts are necessary but let me remind you this surge of mental health awareness won’t last. What’s more alarming, in the context of other suicides such as Kurt Cobain and Robin Williams, not much changed after those high-profile deaths.  

I have worked in the mental health and social work profession for about 25 years and mental illness continues to be this elusive and misunderstood thing. It’s no wonder that people are confused with many confounding social, medical, economic, and environmental factors which shape mental health.  Throw addiction into the midst and it becomes a cluster &@#$. The only thing everyone seems to agree about is when a suicide occurs it’s terrible and should have never happened in the first place.  

But inevitably no matter the gains in public education, personal storytelling and policy to reduce the stigma of mental illness and provide greater access to treatment, we end up right back in the same place. This immovable idea, spoken and unspoken, still persists that people with mental illness are fundamentally broken and beyond repair, violent, and weak. This has produced a fundamentally broken and beyond repair behavioral health system. This is perpetuated in debates around gun rights, health care access, the role social media plays in our lives … the list goes on. The “us versus them,” “it can’t happen to me,” and “not in my backyard,” plays out in countless ways. The denial, fear and blame game is conquering us.

I normally try to be optimistic but this year has been tough. Congratulations America, suicide rates are higher than ever, opioid addiction is out of control, you have elected politicians who want to strangle access to mental health care and health care and, bullying is mainstream and now described as “leadership.” Above all, we are desperately afraid to admit the outsized role mental illness and addiction plays in our lives. Until this fear is vanquished we will continue to lose more people to suicide.

Social Work’s Struggle with the Uncomfortable

Kristin Battista-Frazee

As social workers, we are charged with comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable. This phrase has often focused our mission, and for the most part, we have exceled in doing this. But at times it’s hard for us to get out of our comfort zone and confront things that we are unfamiliar with or don’t fully understand. 

When I decided to publish my memoir, The Pornographer’s Daughter (Skyhorse, 2014), which details the impact of my father’s federal indictment in the 1970s on obscenity charges for distributing Deep Throat, an adult film, I embraced this idea of making the comfortable feel uncomfortable. I wanted to shatter the stereotypes which came with an association to pornography and banish any shame by sharing my story. I was lucky to have had support from employers, family, and friends along the way.

I was also cognizant not everyone would not be receptive to my book. Regardless of how I comported myself as a professional some would find any mention of “pornography” objectionable. I always did my best to appropriately apply my brand where it made sense for me and depending on the situation. In the end a lack of knowledge, curiosity and deep-seated prejudice in any form is hard to combat.

I have found a welcoming space among fellow social workers who have accepted me for who I am and wanted to learn more about my story but this isn’t always the case.  Recently as a partner in the #MacroSW Twitter chats, I worked on a collaborative project with Social Work Today to host topics based on their articles.  After our first (and only) chat, I was asked not to promote any future events with my Twitter handle (@porndaughter).  “It could create confusion for people who are new to the #MacroSW chats or who do not know you or your story,” stated a Social Work Today editor.

I was faced with a choice, and with the full support of the #MacroSW chat partners, we declined Social Work Today’s request and any further collaboration at the expense of ostracizing a partner.  Their decision was puzzling since as a #MacroSW partner I had hosted many chats on @porndaughter interacting with expert hosts and social work organization representatives. And after all, I had written four articles with this publication, two of them cover stories which I promoted on my Twitter handle expressing gratitude for these writing opportunities.

Social Work Today was not altogether unreasonable in their effort to protect their brand. They have readers who may be offended, a bottom line to meet, and intense competition for the distribution for their content. I too have had to make brand decisions and decided long ago to present an integrated persona to embrace my identity and story. Since 2009 I have been known on Twitter as @porndaughter.  The greatest benefit of my work with #MacroSW chats is to fully participate, network and host chats bringing to bear the full equity of my brand and everything I am as a person and professional. 

This incident raises a bigger question about the social work profession’s ability to live up to the NASW Code of Ethics (1.05 Cultural Competence and Social Diversity): to embrace different points of view, acknowledge and confront bias and seek to understand social diversity and oppression of all kinds (i.e. religion, race, political belief). If a leading publication for the social work profession is uncomfortable with the word “porn” in defense of their brand, what does this say about our profession’s ability to live by our core values? And how can we reconcile bias with a perceived ethical standard which may not match today’s progressive approach to current social problems?

We all may stumble and have different interpretations of the NASW Code of Ethics and in situations, such as this, we can just hope to learn something about embracing a multi-faceted view of the world. If social workers are truly going to work from a strengths based perspective, to understand a person is not just one part of their experience but the sum of a whole host of influences, we must strive to do better in many big and small ways.

When you are learning about the complexities of who you are, whether it’s your gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or culture, I have noticed the world can be an unforgiving, while at the same time, a surprisingly forgiving place as you begin to share all that is unique to you and integrate this into your work. 

I’m not sure what the best outcome should have been with Social Work Today but I share my experience to ask that we be vigilant in keeping our own bias in check and pushing the social work profession to always do better in overcoming discrimination of any type. 

My Social Work Today Articles

Evolution of Online Social Work Education, E-News Exclusive, March 2017

The High-Tech Social Worker -- Myth or Reality?, January/February 2017 Issue

Building a Better Practice, May/June 2016 Issue

Social Workers Can Create a Buzz About Their Profession, Web Exclusive, September 2015

What We Can Learn About Personal Branding from Donald Trump

Kristin Battista-Frazee

While shopping with my daughter to find the perfect Homecoming dress this fall I stumbled upon a cute black outfit on the rack at Lord & Taylor. This was our fourth department store of the day and I hoped this find would end our search. I excitedly pulled the garment free from a tangle of other dresses and looked inside for the price tag. My hopes of finding the perfect dress were dashed as soon as I saw the Ivanka Trump label. There was no way I would buy anything associated with the Trump name.

It’s amazing the feelings generated by a name or brand and your personal brand is no different. What people think and feel about you when they hear your name is important. Despite the negative feelings some have toward Donald Trump, he did successful leverage and shape his personal brand to become the next President of the United States. Although this wasn’t the only reason he was elected…fake news, Russia’s interference, Dems lack of messaging to the working class, hatred towards Clinton (take your pick)…, there are some branding lessons worth noting from Donald Trump’s presidential evolution.

Read the full article on Huffington Post.

Google Can Guide Your Marketing

Kristin Battista-Frazee

Photo From Creative Commons

Photo From Creative Commons

If you work for a small business or non-profit organization most likely you don’t have a big marketing budget or SEO and inbound experts on staff like at a multi-million tech start-up. Don’t fret, there are good resources available from Google to help you determine if your digital marketing program is on track.  

Websites on the Go

According to the Pew Research Center, 68% of U.S. adults have a smartphone, up from 35% in 2011 which means more people expect to access content on their phones or tablets. Your website needs to be mobile ready for your on-the-go audience.  You can check to see if your website is mobile optimized with Google’s online test.  Just type in your website and click “analyze.” I’m always surprised to see how many organizations don’t have a mobile-friendly website since this is an easy problem to fix. Wordpress, Squarespace and Wix offers a variety of mobile-friendly templates.

Speedy Pages Leads to Engaged Users

How fast your website pages download across all devices, makes a difference in how long people will stay on your site and browse what you have to offer. Google’s Page Speed Insights analyzes your website address and scores for user experience and the time it takes to download your web pages. Once your results pop-up, you can access detailed instructions for improving page speeds. Just a word of advice, don’t attempt to tinker with your website if you’re tired. Also, you might want to consider handing this task off to your webmaster. A good web designer will already have a handle on the importance of this. But if they don’t, just knowing about this potential problem is a good thing.

You Ought to Know What’s Trending

To build a good content strategy for your organization and brainstorm topics and keywords to drive the best traffic to your website, Google Trends is a helpful tool. Type in keywords or topic ideas to gauge popularity over a period of time and by region and even do a comparison against other ideas.  Look in the related search section to learn about other queries based on your search terms and see what’s rising in popularity.  

For example, for the topic of “social work” you’ll see the search popularity for this term has declined against all other Google searches. This could be because of the increased amount of content published on the Internet which makes it unlikely “social work” would trend against bigger headline news. This also means, if you’re writing about social work or selling into the social work space, you have a smaller but potential more interested audience.

Within the “social work” niche, you’ll see related queries are “Master of Social Work,” “social work jobs,” and “school social work.” This indicates other topics people are searching for online.  Under queries, toggle to the rising tab to see which search queries which have had the greatest traction.

So I hope this helps to get you thinking about how to improve your marketing program especially on a small budget. Also, check out this great article from HubSpot, 10 SEO Tools to Analyze Your Website Like Google Does.


What New York City Helped Me Value

Kristin Battista-Frazee

Photo from Creative Commons

Photo from Creative Commons

When Ted Cruz insinuated Donald Trump embodied “New York values,” we all know he meant to make this sound sinister and played upon people’s negative impressions of New Yorkers.  This week’s New York primary has everyone talking about the values of the people who live in this state. For anyone who has spent time or lived in New York, you know it can bring out the best and worst in people. For me, I remember the best of New York values.

I lived in New York City between 1992 and 1996 and moved here right after graduating from college. I have to confess, I didn’t fall in love with this city. I sometimes liked what the city offered and I just adjusted to my new urban life. Even though I had these conflicted feeling about Manhattan, I wouldn’t have traded my experience living here for anything in the world. New York City can be unforgiving — loud, cramped and fast-paced– but my everyday interactions with New Yorkers were priceless.

In Sunday’s Washington Post article, There Are New York Values Ted Cruz Probably Never Expected, reminded me of the values I learned while living in the city. The snapshots of different people sharing their values in this piece showed heart, rare toughness, and a very human side. I can only hope the rest of the country can apply a little New York values to their lives.

During my time in New York, the most striking part of life was the diversity. It is truly a microcosm of the world.  I had arrived from Florida State University with a habit of saying “Y’all” that I acquired from living in Tallahassee and my waitressing job at a southern style restaurant. I loved FSU but it was a homogeneous place; mostly a white student body with a small Latino population and even smaller number of African American students.   When I started my MSW program at Columbia University, I had never seen so many people of different backgrounds on campus and on the streets— Arab, Asian, Caribbean, African and the list goes on.

The exposure to different cultures helped me value diversity and I carry this with me to this day.  I fell in love with falafel sandwiches from Amir’s near campus and Cuban-Chinese food. It was fascinating to learn about the Chinese immigrants from Cuba who fled Castro in 1959 and made a new home in New York City to create this odd and delicious cuisine.  Who knew you can get Ropa Vieja and egg rolls in the same place? Only in New York. I didn’t just indulge my palette but experienced a melting pot of people who at tried their best to get along with each other. It wasn’t always the perfect, kumbaya experience but it did make you want to try to understand things beyond your own experience.

As an example, while a social work intern at Veritas, a drug treatment center in Morningside Heights, a predominantly Hispanic and African-American community, my classmates and I frequented the small deli next door.  The friendly Latino man who worked behind the counter noticed us.  

“Why do you all come here?” he asked curiously one day.

“We work next door and I like your turkey sandwiches,” said my classmate.

”I didn’t think you were from around here, so I was just wondering,” he said shrugging his shoulders and smiling as he wiped his counter.

We laughed together since it was obvious we were not from the neighborhood and didn’t fit in but we knew we were welcomed anyway.  

People strive to be tolerant and something else people don’t realize is New Yorkers try to be nice, too.  If New Yorkers can be nice, everyone should be. Tweet That.  I found people in the tight-knit neighborhoods formed within 20 block segments were just as hospitable as a small Southern or Midwestern town.

When I came home to Florida for visits, people would ask me, “aren’t New Yorkers mean?” I would always respond emphatically, “Surprisingly, no.” After puzzled stares, I would go on to describe how people would give up subway seats for older people and pregnant women and about the cashier where I bought coffee and bagels always joked with me and said, “you’re ready to go to work now,” when he handed me my blue Greek cup

When I left the city to move to the Washington, D.C. area, even though I was ready to leave and live in a new place, I knew I would miss certain things about the city. I would never be a true New Yorker but when I look back on my time in New York City, I’m grateful to have learned these values.

You’re More Than Your Job: A Holistic Approach to Personal Branding

Kristin Battista-Frazee

You might not have known that prominent social worker and U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski was also a novelist who penned two murder mysteries, Capitol Offense and Capitol Venture, in the mid-1990s. Senator Mikulski is most well known as a tough politician, but discovering this aspect of her interests reveals there’s much more to her than the obvious.  You, too, have special skills that you can integrate into your personal brand. Your activities outside of work are a big part of who you are, and showing another side of yourself can create a more holistic and authentic personal brand. 

I have written about authenticity before. Being yourself is just as important as discovering your strengths and challenges and what expertise you bring to the table to solve a problem for your audience. Your hobbies are an extension of what makes you you, and this helps you to connect to people on a personal level.  So, if you sing in the church choir and are proud of this accomplishment, share it. But do exercise judgment, as with anything else, to make sure the audience you are revealing yourself to will appreciate what you have to offer.

Read more about things to keep in mind.

Spring Fever: Prep Your Brand Now for Graduation

Kristin Battista-Frazee

As you recover from your holiday break, you may be thinking spring can’t come soon enough. If you’re in the home stretch of your social work degree program, catch spring fever early by prepping your brand for graduation. Although finals are still on the horizon, before you know it you will have an awesome new degree and be searching for a job. If you’re new to the work world or a seasoned professional returning to your career (or maybe you worked through grad school) after graduation, here are some tips for putting your best foot forward this spring.

Read more tips for newbies, pros and everyone


Out With the Old, In With Your New Social Work Brand in 2016

Kristin Battista-Frazee

With a new year almost upon us, now is the time people start thinking about the future. It’s exciting (and stressful) to consider a career change, going back to school, or relocating to a new place.  Whatever your resolutions, is your brand ready to take you where you want to go in 2016? If you’re not sure, here are a few steps to re-evaluate and revamp your personal brand. Read more about these tips: 

  • Evaluating your current goals
  • Fighting for something
  • Taking an inventory of your web presence
  • Connecting to others
  • Volunteering and holiday cheer