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I have heard from survivors who were not encouraged to, or felt they should not, seek medical care when the police dismissed their assault as less problematic owing to the lack of obvious physical injury.
Similarly, many people with chronic post-trauma pain are often afraid to report it because of their lack of visible physical injuries.
I assume the “not physically injured” line is intended to ease the distress of the readers who may feel relieved to read that the victim wasn’t physically injured.
The result, I believe, is that the survivor’s experience of trauma is harmfully minimized. I also believe such language has contributed to the broad-based stigma around mental health and removes the ability of survivors to feel, express and seek support during times of distress and vulnerability.
While I have no interest in over-pathologizing the experience, it strikes me that we never hear news stories of these same people 10 years later. We never hear or read a followup, detailing nightmares and sleepless nights, the chronic pain, sexual dysfunction, depressed mood or financial stresses since encountered by survivors.
I suspect these stories would make reports of gender-based violence far more difficult to hear. But they need to be heard.
I call for an ethic of empathy in reports from the media and police. At a time when empathy for one’s neighbour, community and world seem in short supply, changing a few words in these all-too-common news releases and media reports feels like a good first step.