Trauma & Retraumatizing in a Desensitized World

Totalitarianism is a simple philosophy. It dictates that we ought to do that which benefits the greatest number of people. Most of us learned about it from Star Trek. Spock taught us that “The Needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

This week, Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney undoubtedly did what she believed to be in the best interest of the public. She sought an arrest warrant that would force a survivor of domestic violence to face her abuser and compel her to testify.

Because the system functions at the level it does, Jessica Ruiz was detained, only to have the case continued to a future date. No greater good served there, but we can blame bureaucracy and the justice system (we always seem to need someone to blame). Here’s what gets missed:

Requiring a person to face their abuser means inevitably forcing them to psychically relive their trauma. There is never an instance in which this can be an acceptable means to an end. It’s compelling a person to relive their worst nightmares – only the nightmare was real.

No person who has survived trauma or born witness to it’s aftermath would be capable of inflicting such harm. It doesn’t matter that the District Attorney sought the greater good. She did so without respect and understanding of the harm to the individual. As any Star Trek fan will tell you, “Sometimes the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.”

Robert Robinson is alleged to have abused Jessica Ruiz extensively over a two day period. He is a monster –  a man with ten felony convictions and a lifetime registrant on Maine’s Sex Offender Registry. Monsters shatter the worldviews of those they derive pleasure from hurting

How do the rest of us reconcile our worldviews?

We have progressively become desensitized to trauma within our society. Earlier this week Aaron Alexis killed 12 innocent people in a U.S. Navy command complex building. Spot check – how many of us really took note of this?

It only takes a few days for the headlines to fade. They barely phase us anymore. We merely take note of the numbers and the location to rule out the possibility that someone we care about was affected. Unless it hit close to home, it doesn’t affect us at all.

We have progressively distanced ourselves from the reality others experience because there is more and more in our world to fear.  We’ve subconsciously disconnected because it prevents us from imagining ourselves in similar straits. This defense affords us a false sense of security and well being, but it does so at the cost of compassion for the innocent and at the cost of ignoring systemic responses.

Not only is the system broken; it often does far more harm than good. When we stop monitoring it and stop expecting compassion from those in power, we become culpable.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in assisting people in recovery (whether from drugs, alcohol, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles and improve their quality of life.