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  • Writer's pictureAmelia Gillis, LMHC

Don't Touch Me

"Don't touch me" she said while in the middle of the act. She jumped back from her husband as though he was the enemy. She had such fear in her words and eyes. Her spouse couldn't quite understand her sentiments and what he did to endure such words. She quickly got out of bed and ran into the bathroom. Fighting to hold back tears and figure out what to say to her recently new husband. He ran after her only to be met with a door.

She shut him off. She was in the bathroom without a peep. He was confused and alarmed as though he did something. Neither of them knew her outburst was a result of her trauma.

A trauma she thought she had ran from. A trauma she thought was no longer evident. She dissociated herself from that experience, from that night. Never to speak of it again.

Yet, that night was here to speak of itself.

The Aftermath

She had been in an abusive relationship for 3 years. He started verbally but later became physical. She had shared that she had been in an unhealthy relationship but never went into details. Years later she was living in the aftermath of that experience. She was a survivor. Nevertheless, she didn't know that she was at an increased risk of subsequently experiencing a wide range of mental health problems. Among these problems, the most significant of these is Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD causes the human body to react in an extreme manner to a situation that is triggering to the brain. For example, someone who experienced abuse from their father as a child may get upset when they see a little girl take her father's hand to cross the street. Another person who is triggered might even have a panic attack and/or need to turn away from the scene. These was what she was experiencing.

The Impact

Domestic Violence impacts the brain and behavior. It causes trauma for the victim, and one may experience symptoms such as numbing, hyperarousal, reexperiencing, and avoidance.

Dealing with a trauma like domestic violence can cause the body to experience terror, rage, helplessness, and even impulses to fight or flight. Those feelings can be impossible to articulate yet alone understand. Trauma can cause a person to respond differently. They can be easily triggered by their senses. Once their brain is reminded through their senses about the experience, they can relive that moment.The fear alone of reliving the experience can be overwhelming. Even though the trauma becomes a thing of the past, the emotional brain keeps generating sensations that make the sufferer feel scared and helpless.”

The Response

Her husband didn't know what to do or say. Therefore, he sat by the door in an attempt to understand what was happening. She couldn't express the full impact the incident has had on her life. Yet, she asked that he sit with her. He asked that she do her best to allow him to support her. She cried in his arms, because in that moment what she needed the most was a listening ear even when she didn't have the words to say.

Support is Available

*If you know someone who is dealing with domestic violence, having a supportive and non-judgmental network helps traumatized people heal. The domestic violence hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800.799.SAFE (7233)


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