Competent Caring

by Jessica Spohn

Something that bothers me is how quickly others expect individuals to bounce back from any kind of trauma—surgery, failing a class, or divorce, but especially domestic abuse and rape. There seems to be a lack of understanding that each survivor may exhibit a spectrum of emotional responses to the trauma (e.g., calm, hysteria, laughter, anger, apathy, shock, depression) as well as a lack of understanding that each survivor copes in a different way.  Victims and survivors of violence have their own culture— ideas, beliefs, and knowledge based on a shared experience. Competency is key to caring.

In my opinion, it’s time to increase awareness about the recovery process.

There’s a certain kind of fragility in resiliency. A person may look okay on the outside but can be fighting a battle on the inside, one whose scars will fade but will never completely go away. Victims of violence are victims until they feel they can overcome not only what happened to them but the mental and emotional trauma as well.  Then they transition to becoming a survivor. This process can take weeks or years.  During this process many victims experience denial and mental and physical sickness before they are able to realize their strong, self-potential as their own beautiful person again. Sometimes it just clicks; sometimes it takes therapy and medication and support groups in all shapes and sizes. It’s the individual’s unique journey and healing time.

Many times there’s relapse. Relapse is a switch back into the victim mindset or what I call “panic mode.” It is often caused by “triggers.” Triggers are objects, people, places, and so on that remind the person of the trauma or the abuser. They could outright see the abuser, someone associated with them, or someone that looks like them. They could see a car that looks like the one they used to drive, hear the ringtone they used to associate with the person, walk by the location where the event happened, or hear something in the news or read something on a social networking site.  Relapses can be quick or take longer, depending on the stage of the person’s recovery process, the situation, and how it is handled.

My new favorite concept that I’d like to share is “intersectionality.”  Intersectionality is a theory that essentially says our various cultures and physical features have a way of meshing together to create a unique us, and that needs to be recognized and accepted instead of discriminated against; a person is not solely their gender expression or sexuality or status as a survivor of abuse or their color of skin or their socioeconomic status, etc., but a combination of it all. And that’s okay! As I mentioned in the previous article, it’s okay to be who you are, even if some of it isn’t perfect, or even if you don’t show-and-tell it all.

We may not share all of our feelings and stories with the whole world or even our best friend, so keep in mind that people you meet may not indulge everything either. Each one of us is different, and each one of us can make a difference by promoting the respect, time, and understanding we would expect someone to give right back to us.

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