By: Selvi Izeti Çarkaxhiu – Psychologist, KRCT
Story from: ‘The diary of psychotherapy with survivors of sexual violence during the war in Kosovo.’
The survivors during the Pandemic – excerpt and summary from the psychotherapy sessions with one of the survivors of sexual violence during the war. The psychologist’s reflection of the work with the client during the period of COVID-19pandemic.
“I am a survivor!”
“I was merely 16 years old when they raped me during the war, but it took me 18 years to recover from the consequences. When the war ended, my friends continued their education, their lives, realized their dreams, while my own life got frozen in time, a part of me died, my dreams withered and I lived with my broken soul in a body that often felt as if it weren’t my own. After 18 years, with the help of the organization where I was given the opportunity to work on myself, on my pain and my crushing memories, to give meaning to what had happened, I gathered all of my strength bit by bit and began to return to life, within me a hope was reborn and I began to see things differently, I felt I was a survivor! I decided to let go of the bitter past and spread my wings towards the future, because it looked beautiful indeed. Precisely when I emerged from my spiritual isolation, I find myself today isolated within four walls by this damned virus. I feel like screaming at the top of my lungs and tell it: I am not afraid of you, I have overcome much more, even when I felt alone! I will survive you as well, because now I AM NO LONGER ALONE!
In my 13 years of experience working with war trauma, I have heard stories that were indeed horrible, that break your heart, some of which were so devastating that the brain no longer understands and finds it difficult to accept that the human hand is capable of doing so much harm. We, who work with the survivors of sexual violence know these stories, it is us who listen to them attentively ever day while they talk about their pain, fear and traumas. We are the ones who receive difficult emotions in the psychotherapy room, and try to contain them, which helps the survivors feel understood and supported.
By the end of a session we often feel deeply touched by the stories of the survivors, by their emotions and experiences. Even though in most cases we manage to separate their turmoil from our personal lives, it isn’t always easy. Sometimes I even allowed myself to shed tears in response to what I was hearing, because compassion doesn’t necessarily come from identification with the circumstances, but moreso from the connection, understanding and being with the survivors while they release the negative emotions that are associated with traumatic experiences. In our work, we console, calm and help people in using every resource available to them to cope with the trauma, even though these resources are often limited. But, stories such as HANA’s who despite the pain, finds the strength to cope with life and move on, further inspire and empower us to continue with our work. Hana, in the story she narrated during the online sessions, had decided to irrevocably pull herself out of the quicksand that would neither swallow her nor allow her to be free. From the quicksand of the trauma that kept her paralysed for all these years. Twenty years from the day when the clock stopped ticking for her, now it has resumed! She has stood up, has decided to live as she is ought to live, because she feels that she HAS SURVIVED THE TRAUMA!