In the past two weeks it has been difficult to be anywhere without reading or hearing about the Ohio Kidnapping, 10 year captivity, sexual abuse, torture and beatings causing miscarriages to three young woman and one daughter, locked in a neighborhood house by one man.
Both in and outside of my office people have commented and questioned:
- How does something like this happen?
- I can’t watch the news anymore.
- How could the neighbors not know?
- Why is there such evil in the world?
- I could never have survived.
- Can these women ever be the same?
Judith Herman tells us that a traumatic event is one that has the capacity to provoke fear, helplessness, or horror in response to the threat of injury or death, or witnessing that in another.
When the trauma is that of nature, we speak of disaster.
When the trauma is man-made, we speak of atrocities.
It is worth considering that in face of this Ohio atrocity, whether we live in that neighborhood or witness the horror in the virtual community of viewers, we cannot easily shake this inhumanity because it is not only traumatizing— it evokes moral injury.
According to psychologist Brett Litz, moral injury is the (social, psychological, spiritual, behavioral) impact of perpetrating, failing to prevent or bearing witness to acts that transgress our deeply held moral beliefs and expectations.
- We are compelled to talk about it, read about it, rage and despair in face of it because it assaults our beliefs and implicates our humanity.
- We not only identify with the fear and terror of victims, we fear that we could resonate with the guilt and shame of perpetrators.
- It disturbs us on many levels.
- As humans it is beyond us to accept that one of us could do this to another.
- Yael Danieli suggests that in face of moral horror, we suffer the “Guilt of the Just.”
How Do We Deal …