Trauma can be devastating enough to cause a person to behave irrationally. Sometimes the irrationality hurts people the victim cares about. I had a friend like this back in the days before I knew I had PTSD.
Julie was a victim of rape when she was a young teen and never told anyone about it before me. She had no trust of men, even when a man was a mutual friend. No matter how much I would say that Joe is a gentleman and would not try to force his way into her apartment, she would go nuts on him if he offered to walk her home. She lived on an isolated street in Brooklyn in a neighborhood notorious for broken car windows and muggings. She kept pepper spray in her purse just in case.
Several times I tried to help Julie ease off her excessive vodka drinking, especially when she woke up hours after her phone rang incessantly from me trying to find out where she was. She was not a reliable happy hour partner. I also tried encouraging her to find a therapist and talk about the rape. I could not be the only one who knew. That’s too much responsibility for one friend to handle, especially for someone who had been raped herself. She was also suicidal.
One can help a victim only so much. After that, abuse and other trauma victims need self-care. Al-Anon does well teaching how to encourage self-care for alcohol and drug abusers. The same principles apply to helping trauma victims.
As months went by, Julie continued to get drunk, black out, and pass out. And she continued to lash out at innocent male friends from the neighborhood who genuinely cared about her well-being. They would come to me to find out why she behaved that way. But I was sworn to secrecy. Instead I spoke in general about how all kinds of abuse can be traumatizing.
Unlike Julie, I allowed men to be gentlemen and walk me home. Julie assumed that I took them home and called me “loose.” But in our neighborhood, there wasn’t much a guy could get away with. I’ve seen men get kicked out of a neighborhood restaurant for their poor behavior. Warnings about other abusive men get out like hot-off-the-press topics.
One day at our local happy hour location when I wasn’t there, a waywardly drunk Julie exchanged words with the bartender yelling out loud and referring to me, “She’s such a whore!” The bartender texted me about it saying, “You don’t need her in your life. She’s no friend.” The bartender was another gentleman who had walked me to the front door of my building, and who also offered to walk Julie home.
He was right. I didn’t need her “friendship” or her slander.
If Julie had apologized, maybe we would still be friends. Instead, I wrote her a song to say, “Goodbye.” Shortly after, she moved back home where her mother lived.
This is the song, Guarded Heart:
There is more to be said about how to help trauma victims. In the meantime, here is a link to a related, old post.
Note: Names have been changed.