Community leaders raise awareness about childhood trauma in abusive households

SEGUIN, Texas – Community leaders are raising awareness about the trauma experienced for a child after being removed from a home due to abuse.

The latest case happened Sunday when Danilo Coles, 12, was allegedly beaten to death by his father and stepmother. The boy’s siblings, who were present during the abuse, witnessed the events and have since been placed in Child Protective Services.

“Anytime someone has witnessed something horrific or abusive happen to a person, that is a trauma, and that is an abnormal event that our brain has difficulty processing, especially when it comes to a person inflicting trauma on another person or an adult inflicting pain on a child,” said Dr. Lindsay Bira, a clinical psychologist. “Something like witnessing someone else being abused or even witnessing or hearing about another child, friend, or sibling being abused in a horrific way causes symptoms of PTSD and could lead to post traumatic stress disorder.”

PTSD can vary, especially for children.

“You might not see what we would label as PTSD,” Bira said. “It may look like behavioral issues, depression, physical symptoms like stomach aches, nausea. Over time, this could lead to interpersonal issues. Having trauma early in life can change how the brain relates to other people, which could cause relationship problems emotional dysregulation and overtime things get worse and worse.”

“People forget that kids who are removed from abusive homes, they don’t just lose their house,” said Sondra Ajasin, CEO and Founder of TruLight 127 Ministries. “They lose their parents, they lose friends, neighbors, schools, counselors, teachers. They lose everything when they come into foster care.”

Ajasin and her organization see children ages 1-18 who have been removed from their homes due to some sort of abuse or death.

“They have a lot of weight on them,” Ajasin said. “They come in feeling guilty sometimes because they weren’t the one being treated as bad, so they deal with a lot when it comes to watching each other go through situations they go through.”

Ajasin said as an organization, they do their best trying to provide positive and productive environments for children.

“We want to keep them active and physically going because depression sets in when they are alone,” she said. “They need to understand positive ways to get that anger and frustration out where they are not hurting themselves or others.”

Ajasin added that she is thankful for their foster parents and hopes people understand normalcy is very important at this time in their lives.

“They have to remember that these are kids,” she said. “They are not statistics or a name on a piece of paper. They are kids with lives. They need as much normalcy in their life as they possibly can have, and they deserve to be kids.”

Bira listed the following tips on how to help children manage traumatic experiences such as this.

1. SAFETY: Stay safe. That is #1 always. Talk to them about telling a teacher or another adult if they feel unsafe. Remind them they always have a choice to tell. Never tolerate abuse or harm. Gravitate to friends and people who give love without abuse. That’s how we stay healthy.

2. KEEP GOING: Keep kids going with normal life as much as possible. This cues the brain to stay healthy. Your brother or sister would have wanted you to keep going & do well in school, sports, and have fun. For them. Create purpose in that message.

3. FEEL: Allow yourself to feel sad when it comes & encourage your child to connect with you on that. It’s also ok to feel numb or if it feels unreal. There is no right or wrong way to feel. Any reaction is normal because trauma is an abnormal event. Just allow emotions to come up when they do and cry hard when you need to, encourage your kid to do the same.

4. SUPPORT: Utilize resources at school - make sure their teacher knows what happened … teachers are often the touch point for kids when things aren’t right. Also get them connected with a school counselor. Make everyone aware and on your side. The biggest predictor of resiliency is social support. If it’s been 3 months and you still feel like you can’t get back To normal, it might be time for a therapist who specializes in what you need went through.

5. TRAUMA-FOCUSED CARE: After 3 months, if issues persist, contact a good therapist who is trained in trauma treatment so that things get moving quickly and long term struggles are reduced. Www.psychologyToday.com therapist finder tool, use the filters to find the best provider

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About the Authors:

Japhanie Gray joined 10 News as an anchor in March 2022.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.