Warning: the following story depicts acts of violence that some readers may find upsetting.
Living in the same neighborhood you grew up in can be a reminder of happy childhood moments, but it can also bring sad or scary memories to mind. Troy* lives in his childhood neighborhood where he also became the victim of gun violence. One day he was crossing the street and was caught in the crossfire of gunshots. A pedestrian who witnessed the shooting called an ambulance and Troy was rushed to King’s County Hospital where he stayed for a few days to recover.
Troy told a hospital social worker he was concerned with the cost of the treatment and how many days he would have to miss work. The social worker referred him to our Community Program office in Brooklyn, that partners with local hospitals as part of our efforts to create better support for all victims of violence including young men of color like Troy.
Troy met with a case manager who explained that New York State’s Office of Victim Services (OVS) offers victims like him the opportunity to apply for financial compensation. They guided him through the process, continued to advocate with OVS on his behalf and OVS covered his medical treatment. The case manager also offered him the chance to receive emotional support, and speak privately about his experience.
Helping Troy Heal from Trauma
Troy eventually felt comfortable talking about how being shot affected him. Troy shared that he witnessed gun violence as a child and has been in emotional pain ever since. Because he had experienced reactions to the trauma of witnessing violence over such a long period, the case manager recommended that he see a therapist at our Counseling Center. Our Counseling Center is the only New York State licensed mental health clinic that concentrates solely on delivering trauma-focused treatment for survivors of crime and abuse.
In therapy, Troy talked about how prevalent gun violence was in his community. “As a kid, I could tell you the street corner where one of my classmates was killed. That still sticks with me to this day. There are certain blocks you don’t go.”
Images from his friend’s murder came to mind whenever he passed that corner, and with them, feelings of intense fear or anxiety. Sometimes Troy would start sweating, his heart would beat faster, and it was hard for him to focus. The therapist helped him recognize these feelings as trauma reactions. A trauma reaction can happen when the brain perceives a situation as dangerous because it or a similar situation was dangerous before.
For Troy, seeking help was difficult. “Growing up where I did…asking for help was something nobody would do. Especially guys, like, it just doesn’t happen,” he explained.
To help Troy cope with trauma reactions, the therapist taught him grounding techniques that he could use when feeling overwhelmed. Grounding techniques can help survivors connect to their physical body and stay in the present moment. This technique can help the survivor recognize the experience as a trauma reaction and help the moment feel more manageable. This is one technique that helps Troy cope with the emotional pain caused by both witnessing and experiencing gun violence.
Troy’s memories of the past can’t be changed, but he now has the tools to work through the trauma he experienced. As his recovery process unfolds, his experiences are likely to improve. Troy also says he looks forward to living a happy and healthy life with his family.
If you or someone you know has been impacted by gun violence in New York City, please call our Crime Victims Hotline at 866-689-HELP (4357)
* Client names and identifying information have been changed for privacy concerns. The Image used is stock imagery.