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PTSD and Trauma Informed Care 

I’ve heard it said many times that survivors of sexual trafficking, sexual assault, and intimate terrorism often experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the same level as those who have had intense combat war experiences. We provide understanding and care for those who have served on behalf of our country and now live with PTSD. They leave the war and try to relate to what it looks like in the “normal” world.  

 

Survivors of sexual trauma, often never have the opportunity to leave their war.  The survivors of sexual trauma that we serve at Xquisite have experienced sexual trauma as early as three years old and it continues into youth and adulthood. The severity of sexual trauma that is experienced is paralyzing under continued manipulated terror tactics from an abuser or trafficker is unimaginable.  

 

When signs of PTSD are evident visibly, our first response must be to extend understanding and held with trauma informed care at the center of every encounter, conversation, and response. Pity or facial expressions of shock from an advocate only compounds the survivor’s ability to receive care as they go into a feeling of protecting you from what has traumatized them.  Failing to extend trauma informed care within moments, may result in a survivor walking away from the very community they need. 

 

 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develops when a person has experienced or witnessed a scary, shocking, terrifying, or dangerous event. These stressful or traumatic events usually involve a situation where someone's life has been threatened or severe injury has occurred. Many of the diamonds we serve have had numerous traumatic events equal to a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury. * 

 

We cannot begin to fully understand the depth of terror or injury that has occurred; however, we can understand what trauma inflicts and commit to do our best to do no further harm by how we care for them.  

 

It is helpful to understand what PTSD episode might look like. Someone who experiences PTSD episodes, may relive the trauma that caused their PTSD through intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, visions, and nightmares. They may also experience intense anxiety and debilitating fear. The physical symptoms of a PTSD episode can include self-harm to dull the pain, shaking, sweating, racing heart, and difficulty breathing. It is difficult if not impossible to sleep for fear of being found.  

 

The worst thing to do or say to someone with PTSD involves statements or actions that take away their voice or choice in decisions. Someone with PTSD is having a normal response to an abnormal situation. Comments like “just get over it,” “it wasn’t that bad,” “that’s the past, it doesn’t have to be your future,” “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” do incredible harm. Additional symptoms may include increased difficulty trusting others, we must be patient and trustworthy through our actions. They may exhibit a negative self-image which is important to remind them they deserve love and respect. Their bodies often lack nutrition and exhibit various stages of healing internally and externally from being raped, violence and having been tortured. All of which takes time to heal and build trust, found through relationship. Encouraging words of affirmation spoken until they can hear and perhaps believe them for themselves takes deliberate and continual efforts as a part of trauma informed care. Their trauma changed their lives, and we can play an essential role in their healing journey, by loving them right where they are in the middle of their trauma.  

 

 

Survivors overcoming PTSD are always on alert, they assess danger in every situation and look for the exits and safe places to escape.  When you have been terrorized and constantly in the mental and physical fight for your life, controlled emotions are on hyperdrive, which might appear as fear, like they are not engaging in conversation, or hearing what is said.  Often these symptoms are misunderstood. Deep down they are crying for you to notice their pain, to ask the right question, to take a moment and really see them.  Trauma informed care sees them, hears them, and believes them. 

 

The terrorists that inflict such trauma onto the innocent have built a very tangible threat and promise to destroy them and anyone they love.  This tactic isolates the survivor into compliance to keep the secret and to protect the ones they love.  The intimate terror wielded by someone that controls every aspect of their thinking, behavior, and physical well-being is real, it is paralyzing, and the depth of that terror runs so deep that to overcome it takes equally intentional unconditional love, no judgement, and gentle long-term care. 

 

What can we do?  Provide a safe place, provide gentle options, and a sense of belonging. Feelings of abandonment and rejection should be replaced by being loved as they are, no strings attached, no judgment or expectations.  When you have had no options, it is difficult to understand that you can have a choice.  We should never mimic what the terrorist in their life has demanded of them. Providing options that are attainable in increments begins to extend stability and hope. 

 

Xquisite desires to show a way to life away from terror by loving them unconditionally and showing them the options to consider as they move away from trauma.  Loving advocates walking with them encouraging them that no matter what life has presented them, their value remains strong, Diamond Strong. 

 

*Source material: choosingtherapy.com 

 

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