You are not alone when dealing with traumatic stress

On September 4, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

mayor_webFrom Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone: Disturbing rape allegations stemming from an incident that may have happened at Somerville High School’s annual sports camp have shaken our community. Three students were arraigned on those charges this week, and city and school officials continue to cooperate and provide any resources and information needed for the ongoing investigation. Our immediate focus after reporting the incident to the appropriate authorities was providing compassion, support and services to the victims, as well as the students and families in our school community. Those support services for those immediately impacted as well as the broader community, as it comes together to heal, remain our focus. I have asked Health Department Director Paulette Renault-Caragianes and Somerville Trauma Response Network Manager Patricia Contente to write this week’s column and inform all of us of the services available to our community, and to encourage anyone who needs support to reach out and get the help you need.


When someone you care about reports being sexually assaulted, reaching out for help can be the first step towards healing. The impact of sexual assault is not confined to those directly impacted. News of sexual assault can trigger traumatic stress in people previously impacted by it. Even those who do not have a personal history that has been impacted by sexual assault can find themselves dealing with a range of emotions: anger, sadness and worry.

Anyone burdened by these normal reactions to a painful event must know this: You are not alone. There are experienced, trained people who will listen to you, believe you, understand and support you, and keep everything in confidence. The Somerville Health Department’s Trauma Response Network at 857-221-0942 can provide the support you need and connect you with other resources, such as the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC), which has a 24-hour hotline at 1-800-841-8371. The BARCC hotline is staffed by knowledgeable sexual assault crisis counselors who also offer support and educational information for parents, family and friends. More information is available online at

Trauma can impact people differently. You may have a physical reaction, like changes in appetite, sleeping behavior or feeling physically ill. You may feel frustrated, irritable, nervous or even guilty, with rapid mood swings. You may find yourself worried about your alcohol intake or drug use as you try to wend your way through a difficult and painful situation. You could have difficulty concentrating or making decisions, burdened by questions of faith, and changes in your social behavior, including isolating yourself from others or finding it hard to be alone. All of this is within the range of normal and can vary from person to person.

You may even find yourself feeling unburdened in the immediate wake of the news and carrying on, perhaps with magnified resolve and strength, only to find days, weeks or months later that you’re once again feeling deep feelings of sadness and fear, and that’s normal too. Whether you need help immediately or in the future, compassionate and understanding people are always available to give you the help you need, when you need it. Also know that calling for support does not obligate you in any way. When you make a call to an anonymous crisis line, you are in control of how long you talk and what you choose to disclose. Maybe you need someone to reassure you, or maybe you need to reassure yourself that the support is there. Whatever you feel comfortable doing, know that the door is always open and it does not close behind you.

In addition to reaching out for confidential support, there are other ways you can take care of yourself when dealing with traumatic stress. Because responses to trauma can be physical, remember to slow down, breathe and drink water to help clean out your system. Get as much rest as possible, but also get exercise and stay active while knowing your limits. Also take care of yourself emotionally and socially. Connect with people you care about, try to avoid stressful situations and be patient with yourself. Reach out to your spiritual or faith community if it feels right to you, or talk to someone else you feel comfortable with, and let people know what you need. Don’t be hard on yourself. Take time for yourself. A great resource for stress reduction strategies is

Healing is not only seeking the support you feel that you need and taking care of yourself. Regular day-to-day activities may feel funny to you, or you may feel guilty enjoying yourself, but these are important steps in healing as well. It’s OK to laugh. It’s OK to go to a movie, play with your kids or a pet, or whatever you normally enjoy.

Wherever you are in your healing process, remember that people react differently to traumatic stress, remember to take care of yourself and that whatever you are experiencing is normal. Above all else, please remember: You don’t have to go through this alone.

Important phone numbers:

Somerville Trauma Response Network: 857-221-0942

Boston Area Rape Crisis Center 24-hour hotline: 800-841-8371

Clinical Youth Specialist: 617-625-6600 ext. 4325

Somerville Teen Connection at SHS: 617-575-5690

Guidance Center Referral Line: 617-354-2275

Cambridge Health Alliance Referral – Adults: 617-591-6033

Cambridge Health Alliance Referral – Kids: 617-665-3458

Mass. Substance Use Helpline: 800-327-5050

– Patricia Contente and Paulette Renault-Caragianes


2 Responses to “You are not alone when dealing with traumatic stress”

  1. Jeff Eastman says:

    “44 veterans attempt and 20 veterans die by suicide every day.”

    PTSDSTRESS.COM is an anonymous, self-directed internet-based computer therapy website that reduces the symptoms of PTSD.

    Developed in part by a National Institute of Health PTSD researcher, the user follows programmed light movements on their computer screen while following easy-to-use instructions. Similar to EMDR, it costs $10 per session and accepts credit cards but does not require a cardholder name for further anonymity and confidentiality. Military and non-military men and women users report results on PTSDSTRESS.COM home page.

    Rape can also cause emotional trauma that may cause victims to suffer from PTSD symptoms.

  2. sarah zappa says:

    This is a very heartfelt, sensitive and compassionate letter from the mayor and I sense from his eloquent words that he feels this tragedy deeply and truly cares about victims of sexual violence.

    On the other hand, I am still wondering how this atrocity could have happened. Boy Scouts these days have a training for all adults who have contact with the children in the Scouts, and part of that training says that adults should always be “two deep”, meaning two adults with the children at all times – never one alone with them…and most certainly NEVER leave the children alone and unattended. Heads should roll as a result of this incident and people should be fired and expelled and all sorts of serious consequences should be felt for all the people involved in this trip.

    The truth is, Somerville has had a SERIOUS bullying problem for years and that is why some of the best and finest families and students have moved away. Posters that say “Don’t Bully” and pep rallies about anti-bullying aren’t doing it. The fact is, many of the worst bullies are from the “hippest” and “coolest” families. In fact, there is so much smug arrogance in Somerville, I bet that people there felt that this kind of thing could NEVER happen to them. But it did. I’m not surprised at all. I witnessed all kinds of horrible bullying when I was a resident there and it is one of the reasons I had to leave. My voice was not heard. The elite of the town do what they want and to heck with everyone else.

    I hope to God that the students have been expelled and that their faces are put in City Hall with all the other sex offenders. No children are safe when people like this are free. Imagine what these kids do to animals and their little siblings! This kind of behavior is so egregious, it is a sign of all kinds of torturous things they have done and do that we don’t know about.

    Don’t tell me that all the coaches and teen counselors and other students didn’t know these guys were bullies and evil all along! The fact is, there were many people in the room and NO ONE put a stop to it by beating the crap out of the perpetrators. Any REAL person of character would have jumped on those freak monsters and risked being tossed out of camp themselves or expelled from school just to fight them off and save the kids life. That poor kid is now scared deeply and probably has medical problems and can’t show his face in school or in town…his parents are probably shattered.

    I am surprised that the Somerville newspapers have been mostly quiet about this incident. It’s been all over the news including national news sites like Huff Post. Yet, the wagons are apparently circling in the Ville and the elite are trying to say this is all a big mistake.

    The mistake was leaving the kids alone unsupervised. The mistake was the arrogance of the families involved that thought they were above things like this. The mistake is to focus on how unfair the charges are and not look at how serious and evil this thing is. Somerville should be flying flags at half staff and in a state of mourning. I hope this is a real wake up call and people finally start realizing that the stupid pep rallies and posters about “no bullying” aren’t doing anything. Adults need to be on the ground and involved and know the children they are working with. Band Aids won’t fix this. It’s way deeper than that.

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