Forgotten Victims: Infants and Toddlers Who Witness Violence and Trauma. Briana S. Nelson, Ph.D., LCMFT Kansas State University Marriage & Family Therapy Program School of Family Studies & Human Services [email protected] 785-532-1490.
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Psychological trauma is an affliction of the powerless. At the moment of trauma, the victim is rendered helpless by overwhelming force. When the force is that of nature, we speak of disasters. When the force is that of other human beings, we speak of atrocities. Traumatic events overwhelm the ordinary systems of care that give people a sense of control, connection, and meaning. -Herman, 1997
“... the development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor involving direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one’s physical integrity; or witnessing an event that involves death, injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of another person; or learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death or injury experienced by a family member or other close associate” (DSM-IV, 1994, p. 424)
Traumatic events that are experienced directly by children include, but are not limited to:
“Witnessed events include, but are not limited to, observing the serious injury or unnatural death of another person due to violent assault, accident, war, or disaster...
“Events experienced by others that are learned about include… violent personal assault, serious accident, or serious injury experienced by a family member or a close friend; learning about the sudden, unexpected death of a family member or a close friend; or learning that one’s child has a life-threatening disease.”
(DSM-IV, p. 424)
Children’s Defense Fund, 2001 report
When one thinks about how a traumatic event impacts one child and then begins to piece together the number of people with whom that one child has contact throughout his or her life, the realization that a single event does not have a single victim becomes clear. The repercussions from trauma are infinite. Beginning to identify and understand these repercussions on traumatized children is critical to prevent further loss of innocence.