I get questions about why I don’t focus more on Crystal’s abuse. Honestly, it seems odd to me that I would want to focus on one of the lowest points of her life. It is a significant event that happened in her life, but it doesn’t define her character or her as an individual. She is Crystal first, an African-American college student, an intelligent young woman, a caring friend, someone who wants to learn about life, a future music therapist who wants to help children with her work in the field of social services. She happens to be all of these things with an injury that scarred her yet opened her eyes to the type of trauma many of her clients will have faced. She’s Crystal – not the poster child for domestic violence.
That’s not written to be rude. It’s to point out that people want to be seen as individuals first – not by their limitations, disabilities, infirmities, challenges, or struggles. Acknowledge them? Yes. However, I am people-focused. I want to see the person in the wheelchair and not the wheelchair with the person on it. I speak to the person walking on crutches. I never address the crutch and ask it how it’s doing.
I’ve spent many years working with or just hanging out people who have lived through abuse. If they choose to share their stories with me, I listen. I pay attention. I try to be cognizant of things I do that may bring up horrible memories. I don’t spend every encounter trying to get more details, find out how their treatment plan is going (unless they’re clients), or ask them to relive the scenarios. The goal is to help them find a way to work through, heal, and move forward without the incident(s) crippling them.
The point is to show that people process and work through things with the methods that work for them. What works for one doesn’t always work for someone else. Violence affects people of all ages, gender, economic status, race, etc. Some people get help while others may be too embarrassed to seek professional assistance and may suffer alone. The idea is to be willing to listen to the victims/survivors when they’re ready to talk and continue to be their friends.
I wanted a story that is realistic but focuses on rebuilding and hope. Her past is written so the reader has an understanding of why she reacts the way she does. However, I start seven months post incident because I don’t want the trauma to be the thing that receives focus but Crystal and the effort that she makes to recover and continue with her life.