"There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds."
— Laurell K. Hamilton
Clint Malarchuk was a hockey goalie who played in the NHL.
He played with 3 different teams over the course of his 10 year career.
He won 141 games over those ten years.
But he will forever be remembered for a single incident that happened during a game on March 22, 1989 in Buffalo, when an opponent’s skate inadvertently severed Malarchuk’s artery in his neck and partially cut his jugular vein.
He lost a third of the blood in his body that night. It took over 300 stitches to close the wound. (The video is available on YouTube, due to its graphic nature, I will not link to it)
Miraculously he survived.
But the horrors of that event were only just beginning.
Eventually things got under control. He was seeing a mental health professional. He was on the right medications.
Then the Richard Zednick injury happened.
Zednick, also an NHL player, was cut in the throat by his teammate’s skate during a game. (Video is also available on YouTube, due to its graphic nature, I will not link to it)
Malarchuk didn’t witness the event, nor did he watch a replay of it later, but he heard about it, and he was asked to discuss it.
All seemed well, he discussed the situation with clarity and insight that only he could provide.
Except all wasn’t ok.
Despite neither being there nor ever seeing a replay of the Zednick injury, the mere learning of it triggered Malarchuk’s PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
Suddenly he couldn’t sleep. He kept on revisiting his own horrific injury.
It all became too much for him.
Eight months after the Zednick injury, and nearly 19 years after his own injury, Clint Malarchuk shot himself in the head with a gun.
For the second time in his life, he survived a near-death experience.
The reason I mention the story of Clint Malarchuk is to illustrate how triggers work.
Triggers don’t need to be direct.
The trigger might simply be hearing people discuss something.
What do I mean?
How do you speak when someone famous and renowned gets accused?
Do you say that the person is so famous that there is no way they could have done it?
Will you say that without witnesses, a victim cannot be believed?
Do you find some blemish in the victim’s character to diminish their credibility?
Will you say that it is the victim’s word versus the abuser’s word, and that isn’t enough?
Do you play the “lashon hara” card and silence the one who is mentioning the accusations?
Do you insist that the abuser’s “parnassa’ (livelihood) is going to suffer, and that sharing news of the allegations will harm the accused irrevocably?
Do you play the “he has a family” card? Insisting that spreading such news harms the wife and children of the accused.
According to statistics, 1 out of every 3 girls, and 1 out of every 5 boys are sexually abused before they reach 18.
So it is quite likely that someone will overhear your comment, and be reminded about their own victimization.
And they’ll be reminded what they were told:
That they were making it up
That they can’t be believed
That the abuser has a family
That there is no way a man of the stature of the abuser could do such a thing
That they were saying lashon hara.
That without witnesses, they, the victim was powerless.
Based upon the aforementioned statistics, there are probably many people in your life (unbeknownst to many of their colleagues) who are survivors of sexual abuse.
By discussing these accusations and siding with the accused, it is quite possible that you’re triggering them.
PTSD and triggers are real.
They can happen even many years later, as the Clint Malarchuk story shows us.
By silencing victims, however one might be doing so, you’re basically playing a game of Russian Roulette, pointing a gun of PTSD at each and every person who is hearing your words.
Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more.
To speak with Yisroel about presenting at a child safety event or to discuss a personal case, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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