I had just arrived home yesterday and was surprised to find my neighbor — I’ll call her Sarah (not her real name) — standing in my drive. Then I realized it was her car that was parked on the other side of the street. She must have been waiting for me.
“Has something happened?” I asked, but not really needing to, given the pallor of her face and the way she staggered as we walked towards my house.
“I’ve been beaten up and I just need to call the police.” That’s when I noticed the hand she held to her temple was hiding a very nasty lump. “I don’t want to stay,” she added quickly.
At work, I am known as the trauma geek – in fact, just yesterday afternoon I was teaching trauma-informed care to our current class of parent educators who are getting their certification in nonviolent parenting. One of the participants is a domestic violence survivor and gave a description of how trauma affected her ability to think and remember after escaping into a shelter.
“It was like there was rain in my ears for a week. You could speak to me and I would see your mouth moving, but I couldn’t understand what you were saying.” She was far more eloquent than my slides on the neurological effects of trauma. And now here was Sarah sitting on my sofa probably in the same state.
A glass of water! I remembered the grounding techniques to soothe the alarm center (amygdala) of the brain. I filled a glass and then sat down and stroked her hand.
“Would you be willing to tell me who has done this to you?”