Impact of Trauma and Violence

Trauma and violence impacts many people. It can result from a single experience, or enduring repeated or multiple experiences for example, exposure to family violence, child abuse, dating violence or sexual violence.

Trauma occurs when the event(s) overwhelms a person’s ability to cope or integrate the ideas and emotions involved in that experience. Three common elements define traumatic experiences:

  • It was unexpected.
  • The person was unprepared.
  • There was nothing the person could do to stop it from happening. It’s ‘beyond a person’s control.

The event itself does not determine whether something is traumatic to someone. It is the person’s experience of the event and the meaning they make of it that determines lasting impact. It creates a barrier for people to regulate their response to stress. Trauma affects our relationship with ourselves and others.

Trauma impacts individuals, families, communities, cultures, service providers (vicarious trauma) and organizations. The trauma becomes the organizing principle from which the person lives their life always trying to cope with and/or avoid the impact of the trauma. This can be both a conscious and unconscious awareness/experience.

People living with the effects of trauma often experience ‘hyperarousal’ or the “acute stress response”. This is a physiological reaction to a perceived harmful event, attack or threat to survival that may include fight, flight, freeze or fawn (appease) behaviours.

 

References:

Baker, L., Straatman, A.L., Etherington, N., O’Neil, B., Heron, C., Sapardanis, K. (2016). Towards a conceptual framework: Trauma, family violence and health. London, ON: Knowledge Hub, Learning Network, Centre for Research & Education on Violence against Women & Children.