I’m sure each of us is looking forward to the mid-point of the summer this weekend. Whether you plan to celebrate with a backyard BBQ or you are scheduled to work so others may enjoy the holiday with friends and family, it’s a time to celebrate (and maybe earn time and a half on your paycheck)!

I’ve recently been seeing pictures of war veterans with yard signs asking their neighbors to be courteous since a combat veteran is in the area. The fireworks we enjoy as part of the celebration could actually be re-traumatizing men and women who have been in life and death situations that involved bombs, explosions, loud noises, whistling, etc. This just made me think of so many different situations that could potentially be causing people to suffer again and again from traumatic situations in their pasts as well.

I have had the privilege of working in Mississippi and hear time and time again of people who struggle with not just storms (which is understandable if they suffered through Hurricane Katrina) but also with darkening skies and increased winds. I live in the Midwestern states where tornadoes are a fact of life. I know of people who have lived through the destruction and devastation of a tornado first hand and thus respond promptly to any warnings and take immediate shelter. I also know of many, MANY people who have been hearing about tornadoes their entire lives but don’t take the warnings seriously; are out driving or just going about their daily business with little attention being paid to the skies.

I have worked with people who have suffered physical abuse or been verbally tormented. Raised voices, loud noises, sudden movements and the like can seem like a threat. While for me that might just represent the beginning of a headache (and not just the physical kind) to others it can most definitely remind them of horrific things they have endured in their past.

Sexual abuse and sexual assaults are far too common and many people that you provide services to, or people that you are working side by side with every day have been victimized. Triggers for them might be as obvious as being physically touched or startled but as subtle as you inadvertently wearing the same perfume or cologne as the abuser. I know of a woman who becomes very uncomfortable with innuendos because her abuser would use those as a way of humiliating her in public before the abuse actually happened behind closed doors.

We certainly can’t expect everyone with trauma in their past to put up a yard sign, but what we can do is be tuned in to people’s body language; we can be aware of the social histories of the people who are in our care; we can always treat people with dignity and respect; and, we can be willing to change our behavior if we are the source of re-traumatization.

Nikki Wince – Mandt Faculty Supervisor