“[Childhood trauma] is the thing that happens to you that you’re supposed to get over and move on from. Really… It’s 20 years later still not being able to reflect on that day without feeling like that scared 5-year-old all over again,”

~writes Sukhmani Kaur, a trained domestic violence victim advocate, a survivor of a domestic violence home, and a member of the Sikh Panth. Childhood trauma is a reality for many Sikhs, but there is hope for survivors. Healing is possible.

Sikh Childhood Trauma Statistics

According to The Guardian, research by UK-based Sikh Women’s Aid revealed that 70% of almost 700 respondents surveyed said they had experienced domestic abuse. And more than a third of respondents said they had experienced child sexual abuse. One in seven of those incidents involved more than one perpetrator, most victims knew their abuser, and almost 50% of those incidents happened at home.

The U.S.-based Sikh Family Centre’s research found that one in four Sikh women and one in 10 Sikh men experienced family violence at some point in their lives, including as children. Childhood trauma is not limited to physically violent or sexual abuse, and it can have far-reaching effects on survivors.

Types And Effects Of Childhood Traumas

Children can experience different types of traumas. According to Verywell Mind, some of the most common types include maltreatment such as abuse and neglect, exposure to domestic violence, community violence, being bullied, car accidents, and natural disasters.

The first signs of the effects of those traumas show in childhood and continue into adulthood. Some of the effects of childhood trauma include difficulty establishing healthy relationships with others, depression and anxiety, high stress levels, emotional distress, psychotic disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sexual abuse also has other hidden impacts, such as feelings of betrayal and powerlessness, feeling isolated or alienated from others, and premature sexualisation. Survivors may also struggle to see themselves in a positive light and to criticize themselves harshly.

If you experienced childhood trauma, it’s important to recognise that the effects will not resolve themselves. As much as anyone wishes they would simply go away, they won’t. We have to take steps toward healing.

4 Steps Toward Coming To Terms With Trauma

Some Sikhs who experienced childhood trauma might feel like the effects will never be healed, but there are steps you can take to move toward coping and healing. According to BetterUp, those steps begin with recognising the trauma. Acknowledge the experience as trauma and accept that it has affected you.

The next step is to be patient with yourself. Remind yourself that you were not responsible for what happened to you. The experience scarred you, but you are trying to heal, and that takes time. Be loving and patient with yourself and treat yourself as you would treat your best friend.

The third step is to reach out for help. Reach out to family and friends you love you and support you, as they will help you to feel heard, validated, and understood. It’s also important to reach out to a mental health professional, such as a counsellor or counselling psychologist who can help you identify the best course of therapy.

Last but not least, Sukhmani Kaur recommends that, whether you experienced childhood trauma or not, help create a Sangat that offers a safe space and support for survivors. Educate yourself on the signs and triggers of trauma survivors, learn how to support them, and be part of the Sangat becoming a force of support rather than judgement. There’s power and healing in community.

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