“I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.” ~ Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner.
There are many types of crime scenes. There are innumerable traumas that can and do occur in the lives of all people. Some of these are from nature and freak accidents where no one individual can be held accountable. Others, most others, are accomplished by people against other people.
Let’s take a look at some categories that may help to differentiate between crime scenes.
Family of Origin Crime Scenes During Childhood
Here we generally would include child abuse, sexual abuse in the family by a family member, sexual assault by a family member, neglect, severe isolation, failure to protect the child, and all the other types of crimes that parents and other family members may create for one another. Sometimes this involves physical or sexual abuse by a sibling.
Abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual.
Sometimes it involves mother turning a blind eye to your being abused by the neighbor or your dad. It may also include knowledge that you possess about one of your family members harming another. You may have witnessed a crime. You may have seen your brother commit a crime or watched in horror at what your dad did to your brothers.
A family member may have been diagnosed with cancer or another serious disease. Someone may have become addicted to alcohol, drugs, or prescription drugs within your family when you were a child. You may have been a survivor in a car accident. One of your immediate family members may have died. Childhood crime scenes involve so many things.
Childhood Non-Family Crime Scenes
In this category we would include things that you experienced or witnessed or heard about that did not directly relate to your personal family. This might include being involved in an automobile accident, witnessing the sexual assault of another, witnessing harm coming to another, or hearing about something very bad happening to someone you know well.
This might also include knowing a friend as a child who was ill with cancer or another disease. There may have been a fire at the local movie theatre where many community members were injured or killed. You may have been at the bank when it was robbed or the mall when they evacuated it due to a bomb scare. There may have been an explosion at the starch plant and your friend’s dad worked there.
Your best friend’s dad may have been accused of a crime.
The 9-11 attacks were witnessed by countless children on the television and in classrooms throughout the United States. These children who lived in 2001 are now all teens or young adults. They can remember where they were that day. They remember what they felt. They wonder what effect it may have had on their ability and lack of an ability to embrace life, school, work and a future.
Adolescent Peer-Related Crime Scenes
During the teen years very bad things happen. Most of these things are not shared with parents, but many of them are shared in therapy. The hope, from the therapist’s perspective, is to have the teen tell a parent or someone close to them. Many teens will eventually do this. Some of these things are reported by therapists to child protective services because they are abuse scenarios.
Teens often hear about or witness one of their friends being sexually assaulted. Teens often hear about or witness one of their friends being intentionally drugged so that they can be assaulted. Teens are the first to know about their friends use of drugs and alcohol. They have a code of honor that keeps them silent in most cases.
Teens are painfully aware of things adults do in the community. They are aware of double standards and double binds. Teens know the adults who sell the drugs and they know about adults who engage in illegal activities. Again, there is that slippery code of honor that exists.
Teens witness things that go on in schools. They know too much about their teachers and their teachers know too little about them. Teens witness inappropriate comments and abusive behaviors and verbalizations. They may or may not tell on the teacher. Most are afraid of the repercussions.
Child and Adolescent Crimes Against Self
Teens and younger children are at risk for suicide, drug and alcohol deaths, self-mutilation (cutting) and promiscuity. Teens have sex, they have abortions, they give their babies away to adoption, and they sometimes kill their child. They experiment with things taboo, they think about consequences and sometimes they don’t think about it at all.
When a teen cuts herself or attempts to end her life, it is a crime against the self. Even upon recovery there will be scars to endure for the rest of her life.
Yet teens are resilient and waiting for someone to come forward and ask, “How may I help?” or “What can I do for you?” They need you to listen.
More on the types of crime scenes in the next blog.
Crime Scenes are events that are traumatic. Emotional Crime Scenes refer to the emotions we have or had about the crime or event.
Take care and be well.
Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD
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Last reviewed: 8 Aug 2012