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Resources

If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or others, help is available. Please call the free National Suicide Prevention Hotline 24/7:

800-273-8255 (TALK)

You can also visit your local Emergency Room.

What is Trauma?

A trauma is a shock to the system.  Culturally, the word “trauma” has a very serious undertones.  The first things most people think of are veterans, or victims of physical and sexual abuse.  As a result, many people don’t label their experiences as “traumatic.”  Some may identify their experiences as less serious than they actually were.  For example, comparing them to things they think are worse; like dismissing sexual harassment in comparison to rape, or referring to a family member as only mean and not emotionally abusive when they would regularly be insulted by that person. 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5) defines trauma as “exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence in one or more of the following ways: direct experiencing, witnessing the event(s), learning that the traumatic event(s) occurred to a close family member or friend, or experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to negative details of traumatic events (i.e. first responders).”  However, that doesn't necessarily capture the full scope of traumatic experiences including systemic abuse and cultural trauma that has recently come to the forefront of people's minds with the Black Lives Matter Movement. 

So by the more general definition, most of us have experienced trauma at least once in our lives.  We’ve lost loved ones, or seen them fall ill. Some of us live, or once lived, in or near violent neighborhoods.  We’ve been in car accidents, or gone to war, or experienced sexually or physically inappropriate behavior. In fact, in 2015, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that in the U.S. 43.5% or 52.2 million women, and 24.8% or 27.4 million men reported experiencing some type of contact sexual violence.  Sexual contact violence is defined as "rape, being made to penetrate someone else, sexual coercion, and/or unwanted sexual contact."  Furthermore, of those numbers, the vast majority of attempted and completed rape occurred before the age of 18; 81.3% for women, 70.8% for men.  In addition, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men reported experiencing some form of intimate partner violence (defined as sexual and/or physical abuse and/or stalking) in their lifetimes.  The CDC report does not differentiate between hetero or LGTBQ couples, but interpersonal violence can and does occur in all groups.

People try to cope with these experiences in different ways.  Some are more obviously unhealthy, like addiction or self-harm such as cutting, burning, or physically hurting oneself.  Others may engage in less obvious but still unhealthy coping behaviors, like working all the time, driving recklessly, taking up dangerous hobbies, or engaging in high-risk sexual behavior.  It is a natural and understandable response to want to avoid reminders of painful experiences, but trying not to think or talk about them often keeps people stuck in the grip of those experiences.

Those that talk about their trauma with caring and supportive people stand a better chance of healing than those that choose not to think or talk about these experiences.