Monday, January 25, 2016

Why Women and Trauma?

"Why do you want to work with women and trauma?" is a question I get asked. In graduate school, a professor once said, "I could never work with victims (of intimate partner violence)." And, I get it (I think). What I believe people are getting at is that it's tough.

There are easier things to work with than violence against women- but it's many of our reality. So, the questions I'm more interested in answering are: Why is being a woman a risk factor for developing PTSD? *Why do women experience nearly twice the rates of anxiety, depression, and PTSD as men? Where we go from here, I believe, lies in the answer to these and other questions. 

Let's look at the why... According to the Veteran's Administration (VA), half of women will experience a traumatic event. Half. The most common traumatic events in our mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, and friends lives (about one in three of us experience this) are sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Outraged? Good! It's is a healthy reaction to this reality. 

Now, here are 3 things you can do, now, to help channel that anger into a better world:
1. When we say that we or someone we know well as been impacted by violence against women, believe it. Having our experience questioned or belittled from the jump does not build trust and safety. We need to start from a place of inner safety to begin to talk about things.
2. Understand why women are more than twice as likely as men to experience PTSD, anxiety, and depression- and then help change it. The VA suggests women are more likely to blame ourselves. Raising our girls to know their worth and not to take on other people's problems, then, is key.
3. Keep asking questions- but ask effective questions. Instead of: Why didn't she leave? Is it really that bad? Or, why work with women and trauma? Ask: Why do people assault and abuse others?  What can be done about it? And, how can I help the women in my life feel safer?

*The binary view of gender found in my online research and expressed here (limited to women and men) doesn't match many peoples' experience of gender as more fluid; this warrants a longer blog post so check back, soon!

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