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Blindspots 1.4 Repetitive Acute Trauma Symptoms – Jail Trauma

Repetitive Acute Trauma (RAT) follows the initial shock of being that accused person who was in a crisis that led to an accusation, arrest, and now jailing.

Videos of Blindspots: Unexpected Findings from Jail Trauma Research – 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 discuss the initial Radicalized Acute Distress under Duress (RADD) feelings and symptoms that precede this video. Each of these videos relates directly to the emotional stress, that becomes distress and eventually total overwhelm to people who end up in the jail system the first time.

Joy Gilfilen, President of the Restorative Community Coalition, did a study of 79 people – 53 who entered the Whatcom County Jail and went through the courts and the justice system to find out what happened to them. Then interview 26 more who were family members, or people involved in the justice system.

These were intense conversations with people who had a tough time even talking about it – even after having been out of the system and were not technically at risk. Even discussing it years later causes re-traumatizing, and most people want to just forget and pretend it didn’t happen. The emotional trauma lasts a lifetime. The reaction is universal…each person was completely unprepared for the emotional assault on the physical, mental and emotional body, nor were they anticipating the after shocks.

Surprisingly, Joy found out in reviewing the data afterwards, all of those arrested were not considered “criminals” before they got arrested the first time. Their experience of going from innocent to instantly guilty and jailed in extreme hostile conditions as if guilty without any protection was mind-altering. It leads to people saying they felt they went into a vortex where there were “split realities” or like their minds just “shattered and broke”. It was surreal, where they could not comprehend or make sense of what was happening to them.

Joy did this study for many reasons, but when helping people at exiting the jail, she found that everyone pretty much says some version of: “I just can’t talk about it.” Or, “I don’t want to talk about it…I just can’t talk right now.” They deflect with “I’m ok. I just don’t want to talk about it.” And out of respect, we don’t ask. Joy found that the shock was so bad it was “unspeakable”.

Joy also interviewed 26 family members, friends, employers, 1st Responders, mental health professionals, defenders, prosecutors and others involved in the 911 incident or the process that followed.

She found that they too, pretend all is well, but that they are also disoriented and shocked from what happens to people. And they are shocked at what happened to them if they were the ones who called 911 for help for their loved one, or for someone in distress. To find their loved be arrested instead of helped is shocking. And to then themselves suddenly becoming the subject of an arrest – creates a similar disconnect from reality. In fact, it can throw the entire family into distress – which splits the mind of these who called for help, trusting the system.

This led to some people saying, “I will never call 911 to get help again.” The results are unspeakable. This summarizes what Joy learned from those 79 people.

Joy created this Blindspots – the Whatcom County Jail Trauma Chart – and the RADD-RAT chart to synthesize what happens.

It shows others the enormous emotions that many people exiting the jail system have gone through. This explains why many are radically traumatized and need help just thinking straight. And it is a clear indication of why people then cannot navigate the system, and why recidivism escalates afterwards. The arresting of people when they called 911 to get help destroys their belief that they are safe in America. It takes alot of work to recover that trust and to put families back together.

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