Our community is reeling. Not unlike other communities in our nation, and across the world. For the last two years, Milwaukee and its surrounding suburbs have been inundated with violence. This violence has run the gamut of the violence spectrum, but in its wake, it’s left a common outcome—we are traumatized.
For me personally it started with the shooting death of Darius Simmons, a 13-year-old boy who was shot by his 76-year-old neighbor on May 31, 2012. The man was sure that Darius was guilty of burglarizing his home (he was not) and said “justice” was done in this act of violence. The violence and its impact was further solidified in August of 2012, when an armed man entered the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek and open fired on innocent worshipers. Again in October, during an act of intimate partner violence, our world was shaken as a man entered the Azana Spa in Brookfield and shot and killed his estranged wife and others who stood in his way.
In December we felt the trauma along with the world when Adam Lanza shot and killed himself after taking the lives of 20 children and six adults in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
If this wasn’t enough, Milwaukee went on to set a homicide record for 2013. 106 homicides bookended the year, with the intimate partner violence in January that resulted in the murder of Anita Brooks, and the burglary interruption in November that resulted in the death of Christopher “Caly Kris” Gray, Jr. As I looked around at Chris’s funeral—at what looked like 700+ people to me—I saw his two little boys, who would be forever changed by this traumatic event in their lives.
Our 2014 is not shaping up to be any better. In April this year, police shot and killed Dontre Hamilton. In the fall-out, we learned that Dontre had been off medication for a few months for his diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia because his outreach program claimed he did not have insurance. On April 28, Dontre was seen by a worker who vowed to get help. On April 30, 15 minutes before he was shot and killed, his mother learned that he was eligible for a new antipsychotic injection.
This weekend, well. Now we await news stories related to two 12-year-old girls who have been charged as adults with first-degree attempted homicide in the planned stabbing of another 12-year-old girl.
These are just examples—there is no way I can recap each and every act of violence in our city and its surrounding suburbs. There is no way I can fairly do justice to all the families that have been victimized and traumatized at the hands of another individual. But I can call to the organizations that will care for us to become trauma-informed in their practices. I can call to all service providers, healthcare providers, and educators across this great nation to strive to understand how exposure to these incidents impacts us all, and especially those who are already vulnerable due to continued exposure to traumas such as these outlined here—or to hidden traumas that maybe no one even knows about.
I don’t have answers to stopping this madness. I have thoughts, I have opinions, but more critically, now is the time to ensure our response to those who carry the weight of continued exposure to traumatic events, to ensure that we have the highly personalized, trauma-sensitive care they will require set up in our schools, in our healthcare system, and in our human services, community mental health, and correctional programs. We can offer that—if nothing else.
Now for the shameless plug. I offer it because I know it can help—I see it every day. If you’re a Nonviolent Crisis Intervention®
Certified Instructor looking for an advanced renewal course, I urge you to expand your trainings with an empathic focus on how trauma affects behavior
. If you’re not familiar with CPI training, please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask how we can help.