When I was first studying for my Master’s in Counseling at Northwest University, there was a lot of emphasis on trauma. Most trauma was specific to one individual and caused by one event or one person. We explored the trauma caused by natural disasters, wars, abusive parents, relatives, or significant others. When I moved to the islands, I realized there was something missing from my education. I heard story upon story of groups of people who either on purpose, out of ignorance, or a desire to maintain status quo and “good intentions” caused collective harm to individuals, who then went on to develop PTSD-like symptoms due to the actions of the specific group. Even when the group’s direct effects faded into the background, the shadow of their criticism, injustice, mob mentality, and other harmful actions continued to haunt the victim’s mind and lives.
I don’t think that social trauma is specific to rural areas, but it certainly has a more powerful effect in a rural community where anonymity and the ability to simply get up and move somewhere else or join a different group is more limited.
Sadly, there is very limited information on social trauma as very few researchers have tackled this important subject. However, in the age of social media, I think it’s time that we start to examine and address the very real trauma faced by victims who have suffered abuse, corruption of power, and other harm by a group of people, both here on our islands and in other parts of the world.
If you have been a victim of social trauma, remember that you deserve to be treated with respect, no matter what. Our role as members of society is to build each other up, not tear each other down. When people in positions of power and responsibility fail to do their job, we must not remain silent. It’s our responsibility to tell our story, and no one can take our story away from us. If you have been a victim of physical or sexual abuse here on the islands, contact SAFE San Juans. It is possible to find healing from social trauma, with a counselor skilled in trauma-informed care. You don’t need to deal with this alone. Share your story with someone who cares.