The Faces of Trauma

Posted on October 31, 2013, in Trauma

The faces of trauma look back at us with many expressions. Some stare at us with an empty gaze, numb to the pain and living in a psychologically self-imposed isolation. At the other end of the continuum of expression are those who lunge at us with angry eyes and faces contorted in rage. They experience pain differently and fight back with a vengeance.

Still others live in fear. Their expressions present with apprehension and anticipation of impending pain. Then there are those who present as if all is well, having learned to make the best of their circumstances even as traumatic patterns continue and/or remain unhealed. All of them are hyper-vigilant for signs of danger and resort to well-practiced reactions.

We see them because they come to us or are sent to us for help, hope, and healing. We have a responsibility to learn how to respond in a variety of ways that help them be safe, build trust, and take risks to become stronger and enhance their own sense of well-being.

We have to be careful when we talk about providing trauma-informed care. We have to be careful that we can deliver on the promise rather than just mimic the popular language in the field today. The stakes are too high for traumatized young people for anything other than the full commitment of organizations to build capacity for understanding, skillful intervention, effective supervision and leadership integrity.

A decade ago it was estimated that 1.5 million children experienced abuse or maltreatment. About 500,000 of them were seriously injured, evidenced by loss of consciousness, broken bones or severe burns. Fifteen hundred of those children died (Cicchetti, 2000). More recent information about child maltreatment and abuse is even more disturbing. As of 2010, it is reported that nearly 6 million children in the United States were victims of abuse or neglect. Among industrialized countries in the world, children in America die at a rate of five per day (an average of one child nearly every five hours). Such a dramatic increase over a decade could reasonably be considered an epidemic (Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children's Bureau, 2011). All of that is related to reported cases of child abuse or neglect and does not take in to account the unreported cases or the incidence of children being traumatized by indirect means such as witnessing violence in their homes or communities.

The mission of Reclaiming Youth International is to bring training and consultation services of the highest quality to public and private child, youth and family serving organizations throughout the world. We’re very proud to announce our latest partnership with Howard Bath, Children’s Commissioner for the Northern Territory of Australia, and Diana Boswell, Senior Associate of the Thomas Wright Institute, Kingston, Australia to offer training in working with traumatized children and youth. The Three Pillars™ of TraumaWise™ Care is a model that presents important knowledge from the rapidly expanding area of the study of trauma, developmental trauma and neurodevelopment.

Examining varying types of trauma exposure and experience of children and youth, Three Pillars training presents sound strategies for responding that are based on current knowledge and sound practices. I will have the opportunity to present The Three Pillars of TraumaWise Care in our Vancouver Island Seminars April 27 & 28, 2013 at the Harbour Towers Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia. We hope you’ll plan to join us there for this training, a Circle of Courage workshop day with Martin Brokenleg, or the other training offerings available in that event. Best wishes for the peace that comes from knowing that we’re doing the very best we can for the children, youth and families who look to us for help.


Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children's Bureau. (2011). Child Maltreatment 2010. Retrieved from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

Cicchetti, D. T. (2000).  An Ecological-Transactional Model of Child Maltreatment. In Handbook of Developmental Psychopathology (2nd ed., pp. 689-722). New York: Kluwer Academic / Plenum Publishers.

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