Violence Victim Regains Control of Her Life
Alejandra had always taken great pride in her work ethic and ability to provide for her family. As a girl, she had learned carpentry from her grandfather and in her spare time often refurbished and sold furniture she had discovered discarded on the curb, until one day. On her way back from running errands, Alejandra changed her plans and decided to check the nearby neighborhood for errant chairs or tables. As dusk descended and Alejandra stepped from her vehicle to look more closely at a pile of items heaped upon a curb, she suddenly felt cold steel pushed into the small of her back followed by a swift and ear-splitting blow to her head. As Alejandra regained consciousness to the glaring lights of patrol cars, she wept uncontrollably.
In the months that followed, Alejandra struggled to return to work and remain engaged in her duties. Every little sound sent her into a panic. She was constantly checking her surroundings and looking for danger. She had trouble sleeping and often woke up gasping for air. Alejandra became distrustful of others and felt as if she was at war with her thoughts so to as avoid thinking about the assault. Moreover, she couldn’t shake the overwhelming feeling of guilt whenever she thought of her family and how she had nearly let them down. Finally, Alejandra remembered that the detective with whom she worked had provided a list of victim services to her and she decided to call The Family Conservancy.
During her time in therapy, Alejandra learned about the symptoms of her diagnoses. She created a plan to maintain her safety given her thoughts of suicide. She removed dangerous objects from her environment. She learned grounding techniques such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation in order to help her better manage her fear. She used pleasant memories of her childhood to help settle her nerves. In moments of tenseness, Alejandra would breathe deeply and conjure up the smells of freshly sanded wood which reminded her of the many hours spent in her grandfather’s shop. Alejandra also visited a psychiatrist upon her therapist’s suggestion and received medication to manage her symptoms.
Alejandra had also struggled to connect with others following the assault and became isolated. She quit singing in her church choir and her relationship with her family became strained. During therapy, Alejandra learned about the importance of connection and learned about ways to interact with others including to join a cooking club and enroll in ESL classes. She also discovered ways to support her loved ones through their challenges.
As she began to stabilize and her thoughts of suicide receded, Alejandra learned about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy from her therapist and agreed to participate in the intervention. During EMDR, Alejandra identified negative beliefs in relation to the assault and reprocessed the feelings. As she processed the recent trauma, Alejandra began to recall memories from her childhood that she had repressed, including numerous instances of interpersonal violence. Alejandra identified that rage she felt from her father using violence against her mother and how it had resulted in negative self-perceptions. Alejandra worked with her therapist to reprocess these difficult memories too.
After ten months of therapy, Alejandra finally feels strong again. She can talk about the assault without panicking or feeling overwhelmed. She no longer feels guilty when thinking about her family but realizes that the assault and violence throughout her childhood were out of her control. Unlike at the beginning of therapy, Alejandra realizes that she is not insufficient but is good just the way she is. Most importantly, Alejandra expresses a sense of pride that she has overcome her emotional obstacles. While she recognizes that she may feel triggered or scared or anxious in the future, Alejandra now feels equipped with the tools to go forward and knows where to seek help should she need it again.
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