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McGuire: Understanding trauma with Family Shelter Service

Community voice

Published: Monday, July 7, 2014 7:07 p.m. CDT
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Maureen McGuire is the marketing and communications representative for Family Shelter Service.

Trauma robs people of feeling safe. It interrupts their world view and can alter it forever. And traumatic experiences are more pervasive than one might think.   

Research suggests that approximately 25 percent of American children will experience at least one traumatic event by the age of 16. In addition, one in four teens reports some form of dating abuse. While we can never truly know how the past experiences of others may have affected them, it is important that we are aware of its consequences and take this into account in all of our dealings with others.

Family Shelter Service Director of Programs Jen Gabrenya writes a weekly Facebook post entitled "Trauma-Informed Tuesdays," which discusses the effects of trauma and how it informs all of our interactions at Family Shelter Service, where we work with people impacted by domestic abuse.

Following are excerpts from Gabrenya's Facebook posts:

"At Family Shelter Service we must recognize the traumas that we as caretakers have experienced and honor the pain each of us suffered as we walk alongside our clients on their own journey. It's amazing how often we over-think what work with trauma survivors "should" look like. When in reality, healing happens merely by building a relationship and offering small but powerful doses of positive interactions."

"Trauma survivors often suffer from depression and a diminished interest in routine activities. They may also lack the confidence to present themselves in a positive way when seeking employment. Family Shelter Service's Career Club program was specifically designed to help survivors identify and market their skills when conducting a job search. But more importantly, we help them recreate a positive image of themselves — so often forgotten after years of abuse."

"To assist individuals seeking Orders of Protection, DuPage County has provided Family Shelter Service with an office space at the courthouse. To help trauma survivors feel more safe in this space, we recently rearranged it to be more welcoming. Now the front desk is always staffed, the space is well-lit with comfortable seating and computers for filling out online OPs offer added privacy."

"This work has taught us that everyone can acknowledge that harm was done and make space for healing to occur. You too can practice this piece of trauma-informed care by recognizing that so many people you encounter have suffered trauma and everyone deserves to be treated with compassion."

You can follow Jen Gabrenya's "Trauma-Informed Tuesdays" posts on Family Shelter Service's Facebook page, which can be accessed through www.familyshelterservice.org or at www.facebook.com/FamilyShelterService.

Maureen McGuire is the marketing and communications representative for Family Shelter Service.

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