Safe Communities Survivor Voices Series: Thursday February 18th, Pauline Zimmerman, author
I Heard and I Saw Before I Knew
Interviewer: Linda Crockett, Director of Safe Communities
We are saddened and outraged to hear of the deaths of 49 Muslim worshippers at the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. We extend our condolences to the Muslim community in New Zealand and also our Muslim neighbors locally.
A reminder to all that it is important to avoid sharing harmful imagery and materials that primarily publicize terrorist acts and terrorists. This includes the video livestreamed by the shooter, but also stills from the video. One reason is to avoid giving terrorists the publicity they crave, which can also encourage terrorist acts by others.
Another reason is to minimize traumatizing people by making exposure to images of actual violence and killings practically unavoidable as they go about their everyday lives. Traumatic material can severely affect not only those in the specific target group of the violence, but many others as well.
As the above Twitter user has pointed out, instead of giving terrorists free publicity, find ways to help, locally and internationally. Some ideas from others include: showing support and solidarity online or in person, contacting local Muslim organizations to offer help, or donating to specific victim aid.
For Muslims anywhere,
Be mindful of neighbors and coworkers who may be very affected by these events and check in with them if you can.
Be safe, and help others feel safe, too. ❤
Twitter user @charlubby (Chuck Mullin) chronicles trauma recovery and other mental health issues in a series of cartoons featuring her alter ego, a relatable pigeon. This page succinctly expresses how repressed trauma can feel when it’s ready to come out and be processed:
For more information about @charlubby’s upcoming book, Bird Brain, look here:
Unsurprisingly, research supports women’s–especially Black women’s–descriptions of their experience of online abuse:
It’s pretty hard in 2018 to avoid being online, so it can be hard to avoid abusive interactions. This can leave vulnerable people with increased depression, anxiety, and other trauma-related symptoms. Ideally, various platforms would develop better algorithms and reporting mechanisms to limit online abuse. Even more ideally, people would stop being abusive!
Failing that, you need to support your own mental health as best you can:
This group is for non-offending parents and caregivers of children who have been sexually abused. The group will focus on the impact of child sexual abuse (CSA) on the survivor and the family.
Through guided discussion and shared activities, the participants will explore topics including: trauma response, grief and loss, necessary changes, fostering healthy child/family development, family impact (parents, marriage, siblings), establishing safety and creating a new normal.
The goals for this group include: Sharing information in a supportive environment, Gaining knowledge of trauma response, Imparting universality: You are not alone, and Networking to continue supporting survivors of CSA.
The group will meet twice monthly at Samaritan Counseling Center from 7 to 8:30 pm on the following Mondays: January 28th, February 11th & 25th, March 11th & 25th and April 8th, 2019. Total cost for the 6 session series is $150 for individuals or $250 per couple. Preregistration is required – register online here. Click here for additional information. Contact Lizz Durbin at LDurbin@scclanc.org or 717-560-9969 ext. 254 to register.
This series of 6 gatherings for adult survivors of child sexual abuse typically meets twice monthly for 3 months. Participants experience a safe community and common ground with other survivors as we look at the ways that our lives have been shaped not only by our stories of trauma, but by our own strength, struggle and resilience. By exploring healing truth and hope through conversation and creative expression, we will consider the many ways that the dark or dormant periods in our lives can give way to growth and new life.
The Circle of Hope is co-facilitated by trauma-trained therapist, Lisa Hanna Witmer, MSW, LSW and Deb Helt, Senior Safe Church Facilitator & Congregational Support Specialist. Meetings are held at Samaritan Counseling Center (1803 Oregon Pike, Lancaster, PA) from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays and group size is limited to 8 participants. The cost for the series is $125 for all 6 sessions.
The Spring 2019 series runs from February through April 2019. For a printable flyer with additional information about our spring circle, click here. To register online click here. If you have any questions, please contact Lizz at 717-560-9989 ext. 254 or LDurbin@scclanc.org.
Traumatic events may be very memorable for victims and not at all memorable for perpetrators:
Today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings have been hard for many, but especially those who have a history of sexual abuse or assault. Whether or not you watched the proceedings, it was hard to avoid hearing about them on the news and on every social media outlet.
Some people are only now realizing that some of their own experiences were abuse or assault. Others are experiencing renewed rawness of emotions that they thought were long past. Many are sad, anxious, outraged, depressed.
For many survivors, it’s not only whatever abuse or assault may have occurred. It’s also about the reactions of others, the important others and even loved ones who trivialized, dismissed, or minimized the trauma. Those who told survivors in one way or another,
“Who cares if you were upset then or now. It’s in the past! Get over it! Snap out of it! You’re making a big deal out of nothing. You weren’t actually hurt. This was nothing compared to [someone else’s painful experience]. I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way. He wouldn’t do that to someone so unattractive! He didn’t really do that much. Quit playing the victim! You’re always so dramatic! Be strong! Deep down he’s really a good guy. It was your own fault for being there. For drinking. For wearing that outfit. For trusting someone. For being friendly. For being bitchy. For being vulnerable. For acting tough. For not saying ‘no’ the right way. Why can’t you just be cool about it? You’re lucky he showed you attention. He only does that to girls he likes.”
It can be hard to reject the destructive, victim-blaming messages we may have internalized for years. Seeing someone else go through that process can be very upsetting. But it can also be an opportunity to recognize that while there are those who minimized or disbelieved or just didn’t care, it still wasn’t your fault. Just as you can see that it was not the fault of other survivors, it was also not your fault. It was always the fault of the assailant, no matter how powerful, successful, “nice,” or well-looked-upon.
Teen Vogue has some concrete suggestions for keeping yourself together during social crises that are PTSD triggers. Take care of yourself; you are worthy of care.
For those who are taking on the life’s work of recovering from any kind of childhood abuse, what you are doing really, really matters. You are blocking the spread of abuse with your own body and heart.
It takes an enormous effort to put something positive out into the world, or to pass something better on to your own or others’ children, when you weren’t even given enough resources yourself to begin with.
Being the one to stop the damage from propagating further means you are spending energy repairing your own injuries while also spending energy moving forward and putting good into the world. You are working twice as hard with fewer resources and while healing from your injuries. In a way, you are repairing the past, present, and future all at once.
No wonder changing the world is so exhausting!
If you are a survivor of abuse or assault, it may at times be very difficult dealing with the news cycle on a day-to-day basis. Not only may we hear and read about details of experiences that mirror our own, we also hear a great deal of public discourse around those kinds of traumatic and personal events. In some ways this may be even worse.
Hearing public figures and people in authority expressing doubt, denial, and minimization of survivors’ experiences is often a rerun of the kinds of responses we may have experienced ourselves when we tried to tell parents, friends, family members, or others we hoped would help us. People in our present lives may also be expressing disbelief or minimization about other survivors’ accounts in a way that re-opens our own past wounds and invalidates our experiences.
The lack of support or even belief around assault is in some ways as injurious to survivors as the actual assault was. The underlying message we may internalize is “I’m not important enough to protect or believe.”
You may find you are having trauma symptoms without recognizing them for what they are. It’s common to see increased insomnia, nightmares, flashbacks, depression and anxiety symptoms generally (OCD, GAD, panic, etc.), irritability, difficulty concentrating, hopelessness, and so forth. Always pay attention to an increase in your symptoms–it’s a sign that whatever the reason, you need to make sure you are giving yourself more support, flexibility, and care.
Remember, this does not mean you are “not working hard enough” on your healing. It just means trauma can leave us vulnerable to PTSD flare-ups at times. (If you’re being hard on yourself for experiencing symptoms, remember, it does not mean you are “weak.”)
What can I do?
Limit your exposure to triggering material: we certainly want to be informed about the world around us, but it’s easy to get sucked into obsessively monitoring the radio, social media, or TV for news that goes over and over the same points. If you need to, give yourself a specific window of time to take in the material. But make it short, and recognize that you may need to account for how it may affect your functioning afterwards. If others insist on discussing it, it is okay to say you need to not hear about it for a while.
Be around supportive others: if you have friends or family who are especially minimizing, it will be harmful for you to be around them all the time with no validating voices to neutralize them. Spend some time in person, on the phone, or even online with people you know are supportive and trustworthy. Maybe friends, your therapist, a relative, or your clergy. (If no one you know is available when you really need to talk, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline [800-656-4673].) For those lucky folks who have a pet, hug an animal companion. They are often our most ardent and nonjudgmental supporters!
Take care of yourself. If you tend to dissociate from your symptoms, you may not even realize how stressed you are feeling. Re-visit how to do self-care if you have allowed it to slide a bit. If you have worked on your recovery before, now is a good time to re-visit interventions that have worked for you before. If you have not worked on your recovery, now is the time to start!
For a general overview of how PTSD affects survivors of sexual assault, here is a short article.
It is common for PTSD symptoms to spike during times of social upheaval, especially for those who are in marginalized groups or who have abuse histories.
Nicole Sanchez, a lecturer at UC UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, has some useful insights about how we can support marginalized friends and coworkers during critical events. She’s talking about race, but much of the dynamics also apply to events affecting LGBTQ folks (and other marginalized groups).
(Threadreader compiled version here.)