Trauma does not only exist for soldiers and refugees. It can be subjectively and objectively defined, and that definition changes depending on the individual. The University of North Texas recently published a study stating that even though an individual may be exposed to an event that passed the study’s measurement threshold to be qualified as traumatizing, the event may not have been subjectively described by the individual as traumatizing. The reverse was also true (Boals, 2018). Traumatized youths are those considered traumatized, based on their personal experiences, so basically, if one feels traumatized—one has been traumatized (Development Services Group, 2016).
I am not, and do not claim to be a mental health professional. I do however, have 17 years of experience working with kids, particularly working with kids labeled at-risk. So, while I’m not professionally trained, given my experience, I found it notable that despite the proximity to violence that exists for children at HBV, and considering this proximity to violence as trauma—I did not observe acts of anxiety, depression, or misbehavior. Perhaps that’s because of the behavior contract signed and understood by the HBV community, but short of a few kids needing to take a break during class (when children are disruptive, they’re asked to step out of the classroom for five minutes to recenter) and one boy visibly upset with his SAT practice test results (which I attributed to him being a perfectionist), I didn’t observe any behavior that would be flagged as being triggered by trauma. In the future, I’d like to interview the kids and their families to see how they perceive their environment, and how that compares to how it was written about in the series in The New York Times. From the perspective of The Times, these kids are being chronically exposed to violence, and a study done in the Bronx described children in particular, as vulnerable to suffering from “compounded community trauma” (Dean, DeVoe, McKay, & Traube, 2005). Based on the experience I have and research I’ve done, trauma can be caused by poverty, proximity to violence, racial, political, and economic oppression, and violence in the media (particularly when looking at coverage of the violent treatment of of black and brown bodies). With that understanding, the children of HBV live in a consistently traumatic environment.