December is Universal Human Rights Month. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) created by the United Nations following World War II declares that life, safety, and freedom are human rights to be upheld. Experiencing human rights abuses can lead individuals to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental health issue that is caused by experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event. The most common cause of PTSD in women is sexual violence, but many other traumas can lead one to develop post-traumatic stress, such as combat, fleeing one’s country, or being in a car accident. Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares, irritability, feelings of guilt and more.
The best way to prevent PTSD is peace. By attempting to prevent the violence people experience, we minimize the risk of human rights abuses and decrease the likelihood of PTSD development. The prevention efforts of the WCA are so important. By educating youth about healthy relationships and consent and building a safe, healthy community, we are hopeful that they might be able to avoid the trauma that too many of us know intimately. Prevention is key to changing the culture into one of safety.
Healing From PTSD
Not everyone who experiences trauma goes on to develop PTSD, but it is common for trauma survivors to battle symptoms relating to their trauma or have a hard time processing what they’ve endured — who wouldn’t? There is no timeline on healing from trauma, and you should never be made to feel like you should have “gotten over it” already. Unfortunately, that’s not how trauma works. Trauma can manifest in the body in many different ways, and often people who’ve endured trauma feel like no one else understands what they are going through.
That is where the WCA can help survivors on their healing journey. Therapists at the WCA are trained in EMDR, hypnotherapy, art therapy, and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)–all useful strategies for addressing PTSD and healing from trauma. For survivors who want additional peer support, the WCA offers free support groups: Circle of Support (weekly group for sexual assault survivors), RAP (weekly group for domestic violence survivors), and Rainbow Connection (bi-monthly group for LGBTQ+ survivors of sexual assault and/or domestic violence). The WCA also offers a Trauma-Sensitive Yoga class for survivors who want to heal through movement.
You are not alone in your struggles, and healing from PTSD is possible.
If you think you or someone you know might be dealing with PTSD, you can visit the National Center for PTSD for more information and resources.
written by Emily Dehmer, Outreach Coordinator and Jesuit Volunteer