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Survivors of Trauma, Essay Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1526

Essay

There is no simple solution for the impact that trauma causes to black men affected by violence.  The high rates of black male violence are the result of multiple causes and strongly suggest that a multi-solution, violence prevention agenda should be developed and implemented throughout the nation.  An aggressive but narrowly-focused criminal justice response will not suceed.  Failure to address the causes of black male violence and its public health and social consequences will only lead to greater entrenchment of the social conditions and dysfunctional adaptative responses that precipitate the concentration of interpersonal violence in urban poor black communities. John A. Rich and Courtney M. Grey state that the causes of black male trauma are a result of aspects of the “code of the street” including the need for respect and lack of faith in the police, combined with traumatic stress and substance use to accentuate their sense of vulnerability (Grey, 2005). While recurrent interpersonal violence is a major cause of death and disability among black men, quantitative studies also have examined the significance of stress caused by trauma resulting from the event.

In addition to death and disability among black men, violent injury is a constant and repeated problem.  There are many risk factors involved in recurrent injury: chemical dependency, school failure, easy access to weapons, especially handguns, low socioeconomic status, chaotic neighborhoods with weak or nonexistent family structures, being male, being African American, gang violence and the constant display of aggression and violence on television. (Grey, 2005.)

Despite the vast amount of examination of violence and trauma among black men, there has been much less attention paid to studying the way these risk factors combine to create vulnerability to victimhood.  There are very few hospital-based programs created for victims of violence, and those that do exist have not been proven to be successful at helping crime victims avoid re- injury.  After leaving the hospital, when that has been the treatment setting, patients return to the very communities where they were first injured, where the crime continues and they are vulnerable to the same forces that injured them in the first place.  Many of these men are physically disabled or emotionally scarred.

This paper will explore the effects of stress from trauma caused by violence affecting black men.  It will explain the current demographics of the topic including the prevailing problem, the affected population and the setting.  Finally, it will discuss the relevance and validity of the research as it relates to the targeted population.

Black violence has emerged as the most significant social problem threatening the survival and quality of life among African-Americans since slavery.  Rich and Grey indicate that, “Violent injury is a major cause of disability and death among black men in the United States. Homicide is the leading cause of death among male blacks between the ages of 15 and 24 years”. (Grey, 2005, p. 2).

In addition, Richard Oliver from the Bureau of Justice reports that, “Blacks, a racial minority in America, are disproportionately represented among both violent crime offenders and victims.  For example, while African-Americans constitute 12 percent of the United States population in 1993, in that same year they represented 58 percent of persons arrested for murder, 41 percent arrested for rapes, 62 percent arrested for robbery and 40 percent arrested for aggravated assault” (Oliver,1994,p.235).  Arrest data also indicates that violent crimes, especially murders, involve interracial victim-offender relationship patterns.  For example, according to Oliver, in 1993, 94 percent of white murder victims were killed by white offenders (Oliver, 1994).

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) reports that in 1993, males were disproportionately represented among persons arrested for murder at a rate of 91 percent and aggravated assaults at a rate of 90 percent (F.B.I., 1993).  The results of this frequency of violence occurring among black men results in an enormous segment of this population  suffering from severe trauma or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  John Briere and Catherine Scott suggest that the term “psychological trauma” has been applied in so many contexts by so many people that it has lost some of its original meaning.  Often, trauma is used to refer both to negative events that produce distress and to the distress itself.  Technically, the term “trauma” refers only to the event, not the reaction, and should be reserved for major events that are psychologically overwhelming for an individual (J.Briere 2006).  The Diagnostic  and  Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (American Psychiatric Association 2000)  specifically defines a trauma as a direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatening death or serious injury, or other threat to one’s physical integrity; or witnessing an event that involves death, injury or a threat to the physical integrity of another person; or learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death or injury experienced by a family member or other close associate.   The person’s response to the event must involve intense fear, helplessness, or horror (or in children, the response must involve disorganized or agitated behavior)”. In addition, Briere and Scott indicate that “it makes sense that many of the victims’ characteristics listed would be associated with greater post-traumatic difficulties.  For example, when it comes to individuals with lower socioeconomic status, less functional coping styles, family histories of mental disorder and of previous trauma exposure, genetic predisposition of PTSD and reduced stress tolerance, as well as those who are especially young or older, all might have greater vulnerability to traumatic events” (J. Briere 2006, p. 15).

Stress is one of the main characteristics resulting from trauma; Briere and Scott indicate that, “Those who experience especially high levels of distress at the time of a trauma would seemingly be more at risk for post-traumatic difficulties for a number of reasons, including pre-existing, that is, pre-trauma problems in stress tolerance and affect regulations, prior trauma exposure and a cognitive predisposition to view life events as outside of their control or as potential threats.  Nevertheless, these groups are more likely than others to meet diagnostic criteria for PTSD in both clinical and nonclinical samples” (J. Briere 2006,  p. 6).

The effects of stress, combined with events and the environment, lead to a tantamount measure of difficulties.  Rich and Grey note that, “The end result of these manifestations of traumatic stress is disruption of victim’s lives through impairment of their sense of safety.  Some symptoms such as loss, fear, emotions and hyper-vigilance, have a direct relationship in recurrent injury in that they affect a victim’s reactions to potentially volatile situations” (Grey, 2005, p. 819).  In addition to victim variables, a number of trauma characteristics appear to affect post-traumatic outcomes.  These include: the presence of a life threat; physical injury; witnessing death, especially when the scene is grotesque; the loss of a friend or loved one due to trauma; and unpredictability or uncontrollability (J. Briere, 2006.)

In addition, victims feel particularly vulnerable in the aftermath of violence because of the code of the street, their lack of faith in the police, and their post-trauma symptoms.   In addition, the subject of disrespect, combined with the determination to not be mistaken for being “a sucker “often determines a victim’s actions and attitudes following a physical trauma.  Crime victims often feel that if they do not retaliate against their attackers, they will be perceived as weak and will be more likely to be re-victimized (Grey, 2005.) In urban communities, being respected on the street is perceived as a form of social status that is worth a great deal, especially in view of the fact that often, people do not have much access to actual concrete capital.  It not only protects a person but is also a significant contributor to self-esteem, especially since in the inner-city, there may be limited chances to build one’s self-esteem in socially acceptable ways.

Elliot and Grey indicate that, “This kind of hyper-awareness and expectation of conflict among trauma victims is neither uncommon nor unexpected.  However, it may lend clues to why violence recurs in victims.  Then, responses to their trauma may set them up for more conflict especially given that most reside in neighborhoods where rates of violence are high and weapons are plentiful.”

Typically, black males do not view the police as being allies for them, and do not tend to utilize them for assistance; instead, they are more likely to take the situation into their own hands to resolve.  One contributing factor to this phenomena is the perception that racial profiling creates a barrier between African Americans and the police, and the result is that more and more citizens are buying and using handguns to settle their conflicts.  The result has been a tremendous number of gun-related deaths in the inner-city, sometimes related to gang violence, but also involving people who are innocently caught in the crosshairs of such violence.

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed.. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing Inc.

C.M. Grey. (2005). Pathways To Recurrent Trauma Among Young Black Men. Retrieved November 15, 2010, from American Public Health Association: www.apha.org

F.B.I. (1993). Black Males and Violence. Washington D.C: Dept. of Justice.

J.Briere. (2006). Principles of Trauma Therapy. Thousand Oaks,CA: Sage Publishing Company.

Oliver (1994). National Archive of Criminal Justice. Bureau of Justice Statistics: www.bureauofjusticestatistics.org

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