By: Anonymous, Vermont
I went into the situation a bit naive. I was aware that I had to keep my hopes and expectations in check, but I couldn’t help it that they trickled out here and there. I mean why shouldn’t they? My niece is an amazing, strong, and smart young teenager with so much potential. She has experienced a lot of trauma throughout her life, but had demonstrated enormous amounts of resiliency. In addition, we had a great relationship, she was very open and honest with me, she respected me, I respected her, and I specialize in working with youth survivors of sexual violence.
So when we opened up our home to her for longer than a sleepover, I was nervous but also excited. I was excited for her to have a safe, stable, loving home in which she would be respected and supervised. I knew her young hormonal teenage attitude would be difficult, and that the dynamic of our relationship shift would be challenging. I hoped that she would start to flourish, that this opportunity would give her the opportunity to start being able to focus on being a young teenager worrying about school, her peers, going to the movies, sports, and homework.
I learned a lot to say the least. I learned that sometimes when really bad things happen to people, they begin to believe that they are bad and are not deserving of good things. I learned that it takes more than good intentions and a safe, stable, loving environment for somebody to feel safe and positive. That sometimes when trauma survivors have experienced so much chaos in their life and it has become their norm, that safe, stable, and loving environments actually feel dangerous and not safe or comfortable at all. I learned that there are so many situations in which I do not know what the “right” answer is, or if there really even is a “right” answer.
All of the experiences I have had with my niece have clearly impacted the way that I understand youth, including youth with whom I have the privilege of working with. It is important to remember that trauma effects people in a variety of unique ways depending on the person. That it is impossible for one situation to effect people in the exact same way, because each person is unique and carries with them a culmination of experiences and thoughts that nobody else has. And it is important to remember there are resources and supports available for survivors of trauma and those supporting them. People who have experienced trauma connected to domestic and/or sexual violence are encouraged to reach out the their member program. To identify the organization in your county please visit: http://www.vtnetwork.org. In addition, I found The National Child Traumatic Stress Network available at http://www.nctsnet.org an invaluable resource.
One thing is for certain though, no matter where my niece is and who she is living with, is that I will never, ever give up on trying to show her that she is loved and worthy of love.