Not that long ago, the community right beside us experienced a shocking and heart-breaking triple homicide. A domestic homicide in fact as the victims were all people who had been involved with this person at some point in the past. Very recently, one of the communities I work in had a similar thing happen. An innocent family member was killed, a woman was shot and miraculously survived and the shooter killed himself. Immediately following that incident there was another “serious incident” in the city next door involving a woman who was killed by her former boyfriend who then also took his own life. Domestic homicides are not new, or rare actually. The vast majority of homicides happen to women at the hands of current or past partners and according to some folks who manage resources that respond to these types of incidents, domestic homicides appear to be on the rise.
It is a long road to recovery for everyone directly involved in any incident like this. The trauma that is often experienced can have long-lasting effects and often changes our sense of safety and security about the world around us. Trauma in general often changes our world view and can create a sense of helplessness and despair.
We know this. There are resources out there to try to help with this (albeit, horrendously underfunded in most areas). Still, being ‘trauma-informed’ is the new black as they say. Everyone who works in a job that assists others is expected to be trained in such a way as to have a base level of understanding in relation to trauma.
What we don’t think about or have a good understanding of is how this impacts our communities.
Our interventions with trauma generally follow a medical model. That means we wait until there is a problem, assess, diagnose and then offer treatment. While valuable, it is extremely important that we go beyond just looking at individuals and look at our communities and what they may need to heal and in some cases, rebuild.
Recently, researchers have begun to focus on something called collective trauma. This means focusing on the collective or community group who has been subjected to whatever trauma and violence that has happened to the individual(s) and the impact this has had.
As our various communities have struggled to make sense of the violence, we often turn towards violence prevention or what is needed to help make it stop. After working in the field long enough, you start to feel like you’re bailing the sinking ship with a spoon instead of a bucket. But violence prevention also focuses on individuals and what we often really mean by violence prevention is healthy communities where individuals have the opportunity to grow, learn, heal and thrive in a safe and socially connected space.
Highly impacted communities should be given the opportunity to develop healing strategies. Healing strategies that should be focused on connecting with others and figuring out how to work together so that we know where we want to go from here. It is important to recognize that trauma is not only about those who experience the event first hand, but about all of us and how it impacts our worlds. We all need the chance to heal.