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Shabnum Popat, the Clinical Lead for Quetzal, shares how the events and persistent news reports associated with death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement can trigger emotions around unprocessed trauma for people already struggling to process their own traumatic experiences. For the survivors of childhood sexual abuse who may be triggered by witnessing and hearing about the events of May 25th, talking to a counsellor can help process emotions, thoughts, and triggers that they may be experiencing.

The Black Lives Matter Movement has swept the world; following the death of George Floyd at the hand of a police officer on the 25th May the movement reminds us that lives matter, no matter the colour of our skin, no matter the language we speak, no matter the culture we come from and that abuse of power as well as unnecessary use of force and violence towards minorities cannot be tolerated. Unknowingly this movement has tapped into our fears and insecurities on such a deep level that we feel compelled to act, speak out and stand up to injustice.

The level of aggression that has built the foundation of this movement can unconsciously tap into our own fears and feelings of persecution, especially when we have experienced our own trauma. Experiencing trauma can leave us neurologically and psychologically changed; it can affect the way we feel, behave and think. It can have a crippling effect on how we develop sending out debilitating ripples into every part of our life. When we have already experienced trauma; confronted with this level of injustice and cruelty can send us spiralling into negative thought cycles, and over powering emotions that we may find difficult to manage.

The abuse of power demonstrated on the 25th of May can unconsciously trigger any unprocessed trauma that we may hold. Our clients come to us for support with processing the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. The abuse of power they have experienced as a child, and the powerlessness felt by them as they were abused can be triggered by witnessing such distressing events. Many of our clients have felt abandoned and let down by different authorities during their lives, and this demonstrable abuse of power by figures in authority can compound what our clients believe about putting their trust in such authorities. It can bring up a whole range of feelings around being violated, feeling unsafe, and worthless; something our clients are working so hard to overcome.

The Black Lives Matter Movement is a culmination of all of those people who felt unsafe, who felt worthless, who were abused, who were judged, who were denied their rights because of how they looked, sounded or even what they said. We have people of all cultures, race and creed standing unanimously saying that this is not right, this is not okay and we will not stand for this any longer; we have a right to live, everyone has a right to live.

We are dedicated to providing a safe, non-judgemental and therapeutic space to anyone who wants to explore how the recent events associated with the death of George Floyd has affected them. If you are already in counselling with us, we urge you to explore your reactions and emotions with your counsellors. If you are currently not receiving counselling with Quetzal regarding your experience of childhood sexual abuse, please do get in touch with us to see how we may be able to support you.

For some suggestions on how to deal with the risk of re-traumatisation due to the events associated to Black Lives Matter and the murder of George Floyd, one of our trustees Kerry Corbett wrote an article on LinkedIn – Share it.