Butterfly, Emerging: How Trauma-Informed Services Help Survivors to Heal

Butterfly, Emerging: How Trauma-Informed Services Help Survivors to Heal

Melissa Lucchesi (Voices, Inc., USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5981-8.ch004
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The prevalence of traumas such as sexual violence is difficult to measure. However, it is fairly widely accepted that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 33 men will be a victim of sexual violence in her or his lifetime. Because of complicating factors to this type of trauma, survivors may not readily identify themselves as that. Healing arts and yoga help survivors to process traumatic energy and thoughts without having to delve into those dark and painful caverns. This chapter shares first person experience of sexual violence and navigating healing, as well as professional experience with other survivors, to illustrate the importance of trauma-informed healing and expressive arts when healing from trauma.
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In 2001, I was raped by someone I had dated. It was after a party in my dorm room, and my roommate had gone out to walk her boyfriend to his car. I had trusted him. He was someone my friends liked and knew. Yet, I was sexually assaulted and raped in those moments we were alone. I remember in the days that followed I would look around at the yellow and blue décor, the white painted cinder block walls, the pictures of my family and friends taped over my bed, and I felt somehow that I had watched the whole thing happen from up above. It felt like I was not entirely in my body during the assault, and instead somewhere watching helplessly as it happened.

My roommate and I had worked so hard to decorate that room, and it was touted one of the “nicest” dorm rooms in our building. We were so proud that my comforter was complementary to hers, and that we figured that we’d have enough space for a futon and breathing room if we faced our dressers towards one another and took turns using them. Yet, after I confided in my roommate about the assault, she asked if I wanted to change up the room. It struck me as such a thoughtful idea. She knew that looking at the room as it was might bring everything rushing back, and that I might appreciate the change. I declined, mostly because I was angry that he had already taken so much from me and I was not about to give him our “nice” dorm room too. But a piece of me stayed trapped in that room, and remained there for years. The décor changed, the layout changed, the roommates faces too, and yet a piece of my soul that shattered that night remained stuck in the yellow and blue, and in the white painted cinder block walls.

There was very little in terms of healing when I first tried to navigate healing from rape. I sought out support groups, and there were none on campus. I was shocked to find out that there weren’t campus awareness groups so I started one. I found the county’s crisis center and began attending a support group there with faces and stories so similar to my own. I still felt dead inside. I felt shattered and I couldn’t figure out how to put myself back together. In the spring, I attended my first Take Back the Night event on campus. The event is a movement to honor stories of people affected by sexual or domestic violence, and gives opportunities to speak out without shame. Survivors were speaking out their trauma loudly and in the middle of campus. I was in awe that so many people could relate to what I had gone through. With my dad standing strongly in the audience, I too spoke out my trauma. It was empowering, and I felt a little less broken. I continued speaking out my trauma to friends, family, my therapist, teachers, and found a path to the work I now do.

In a surreal twist of fate in 2007, I was drugged at a bar and taken to the home of a man I did not know, and I was raped. I believed I wouldn’t survive that night, and I watched as my life went in a reel before my eyes. I did survive, and surviving was conflicting. I was grateful to be alive, but it was painstakingly difficult to wake up every day and live. I could not believe I did the work I did, and still this happened to me again. I was again fragmented, pieces of me this time in his home, in the different rooms I had been attacked.

A piece of me stayed stuck in the advocacy office where I spoke out what had happened and requested an advocate come with me to report the rape. A piece of me was embedded in the metal chair in the police station where I reported the rape to two male officers. A piece remained in the district attorney’s office where I also had to speak it out, in the municipal courtroom where charges were pushed forward, and in the county courthouse where I sat for hours reliving my deepest trauma on the stand. Every time I spoke out my trauma, a little piece remained in that place. It is impossible to feel whole when you lose track of all of the pieces of you that have broken off.

On a very simple level, a traumatic event is anything that overwhelms our capacity to cope and respond. It leaves us feeling helpless, hopeless, and out of control. When we think about trauma we usually think about the really big ones…. but trauma lives on a spectrum. We’re shaped by the big ones and the little ones. When we don’t have the tools and resources to deal with traumatic events, they impact our physiology; they impact our bodies. When we’re not able to get ourselves to safety or say what we need to say, traumatic energy gets stuck in the body. (Hala Khouri, 2015)

Key Terms in this Chapter

Healing Arts: In this context, the healing arts refer to holistic and complementary healing modalities that aim to help people overcome difficulties such as trauma.

Ahimsa: A key concept in the Indian religions and yogic practice that literally means to do no harm. It is a part of the first limb of yoga from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Creative Arts: In this context, the creative arts are anything utilizing creative expression and imagination through art, crafts, movement, music, etc.

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