Guide Witnesses to Terror: Understanding the Meanings and Consequences of Terrorism

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For others still, PTSD is the 'medicalization' of what they understand to be a natural Research conducted on the effect of terrorist attacks on victims has revealed that One explanation for this is that any victim of crime may suffer consequential Societies that witness the perpetration of atrocities such as war rape and.
Table of contents

Besides the loss-of-life and sometimes life-changing injuries for the victims, terrorism leads to significant economic effects, with businesses, cities and nations losing billions in the aftermath of attacks. Calculations show that terrorism has a large negative association with economic growth in Europe. The threat posed by terrorism in Europe is one which feels very real to EU citizens and residents. Since , attacks in Madrid, London, Paris, Brussels, Nice and Berlin and other European cities mean that the phenomenon is at the forefront of the minds of citizens and policymakers alike.

Assessments by intelligence and law enforcement authorities in many EU member states indicate that a terrorist attack is highly likely or expected immediately.

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Therefore, national governments, politicians and policymakers are constantly looking at responses to these increased threats. Besides the obvious emotional trauma caused by terrorist attacks due to the injuries and deaths to civilians, there are a range of other impacts that occur, from EU states' economic losses to the pronounced psychological effects on EU citizens who witness these attacks. Despite the infrequent nature of terrorist attacks, the range of impacts on EU citizens remains significant. This covered the following areas:. The human and physical costs of terrorism, which focused on the costs of homicides, injuries and property damage following a terrorist attack; and.

The wider psychological effects of terrorism, such as life satisfaction, happiness and trust among populations of EU member states. The study used econometric modelling techniques to quantify the impact of terrorism on the economy by looking at the effect on GDP growth per capita during the year period between and The human cost of terrorism was calculated using the Institute for Economics and Peace's cost-of-violence methodology , which includes lost life-time earnings and cost of medical treatments from incidents of terrorism.

Working with victims of crime: A manual applying research to clinical practice (Second Edition)

The wider psychological effects of terrorism were explored through investigating the associations between terrorism activity within a country and the average levels of self-reported life satisfaction, happiness and trust among the populations of the EU member states. The majority of the policy recommendations outlined in the report suggested stepping-up the use of existing measures and powers, or ensuring full implementation of changes and measures already proposed, and in some cases underway. These include:. However, the report notes that some of these policy recommendations could have implications for human rights legislation and data protection across the EU.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum. I accept. International Security Fragility, Violence and Conflict The financial cost of terrorism in Europe Beyond its human toll, terrorism has profound economic effects. Workers can teach parents what signs might be related to trauma or other reactions to terrorist attacks, such as those listed above. Professionals or paraprofessionals used to working with children may also be needed to help the child feel safe, understand and accept the attack, work through issues and cope effectively to return to normal age-appropriate activities and daily living SAMHSA Caregivers themselves may need support to deal with their reactions while creating a home life that is healing SAMHSA As Neria and Litz, indicate, the victims of terrorism need to rebuild their lives and reconnect to feelings of safety, comfort, and protection in order to recover.

How do you use the GTD?

Workers can help victims of terrorism reach this goal. As with other crime victims, this is not a matter of returning to a pre-crime state, but, rather, fitting the experience into their new reality Casarez-Levison We can view victims of terrorism, like other crime victims, as moving from a previctimization status to victimization, transition and, eventually, reorganization Casarez-Levison Workers may want to refer to earlier chapters to help match victims to key services.

Further along the recovery path, there may be more need for meaning-making efforts or grief counselling. In other words, workers need to attend to their assessment of the victim, matching interventions to identified needs. International and local businesses have been employing staff training around dealing with traumatic events e. Given the wide range of possible reactions it is challenging to fully prepare people for the chaos Hall et al.

However, the public expects government and community organizations to have a clear and effective plan Lahad ; Laor et al.

Islamic terrorism

Since this public health approach uses the same method of service delivery as the terrorists use to spread fear, it should reach much the same audience Ross ; Thielman Recall the model in Part One and the fact that crime victims need to understand and make meaning from what has happened. Successful meaning-making among victims of terrorism can result in increased appreciation for life, a reorganization of their priorities, and a realization that they are stronger than they had thought Danieli et al.

Through telling their story, the terrorist victim can begin to make sense, in a controlled way, of what has happened Kutz and Bleich and also reinterpret the situation Adessky and Freedman Unlike uncontrolled reliving of the event, the retelling helps regain a sense of mastery over their life Amsel et al. It is important for all crime victims to be able to express their feelings in an open manner. The victim might express anger, sadness, hopelessness, or any range of emotions and the role of the worker is to allow this expression but also to help to make meaning Kutz and Bleich Note that trauma victims may receive both direct and indirect messages from people in their lives that they should not express their feelings and emotions Danieli et al.

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Thus, it becomes even more important to provide an environment that encourages and supports such sharing. Workers also need to be aware of two aspects of trauma with victims of terrorism: previous trauma and repeat trauma Adessky and Freedman Thus, in seeing a more severe reaction, workers may want to get a trauma history from the person since only some of the current symptoms and issues may be related to the terrorist attack.

Second, once traumatized, the person is more vulnerable to re-traumatization by other events Kinzie During this confusing and sensitive time the victim can be quite vulnerable. Of particular note, watching television coverage related to the terrorist event can have a negative effect on the trauma reaction of both adults and children Delahanty ; Miller and Heldring Many researchers and clinicians focus on strengths shown during and after the terrorist attacks Danieli et al.

Others point to resiliency in coping with the attack, as well as, meeting the needs of the victims and community Fredrickson et al. Spirituality, either through participating in religious activities or more private approaches, is often mentioned as a major coping strategy in dealing with terrorist attacks Berger ; Nader and Danieli ; Pat-Horenczyk ; Sofka ; Thielman ; Yeh et al. As noted earlier, victimization occurs on a continuum.

The victim of a terrorist hostage taking may be seen as a primary victim. Research shows that seeking support is a successful coping strategy to address ongoing distress Miller and Heldring There is a consensus that most victims of terrorist attacks do not seek professional help for psychological reactions to terrorist attacks Adams et al. Victims prefer not to talk to professionals, but rather to rely on their natural support network Leymann and Lindell The stress of helping the victim cope can become overwhelming Mikulincer et al. Furthermore, natural supports themselves may be struggling with the terrorist attack and not be as helpful or available SAMHSA Thus, workers may find that they are working with an identified victim, but have many other victims in the background, struggling with issues.

This may require working with many people and you as the worker taking a variety of supportive roles e. Self-care for those working with victims of crime is exceptionally important, as discussed in Chapter one. After a terrorist attack, self-care habits are even more important because of the initial crisis atmosphere and later service needs Waizer et al. Many professionals report having trouble coping with their reactions to terrorist attacks Colarossi et al.

Recognizing early symptoms of distress, talking to others, recognizing your skills and limitations, building personal resources and building an acceptance of the difficulty of the work are all important Danieli This section focuses on key areas for workers to understand when working with victims of terrorism.

Although this may be a difficult issue for some to grasp, all those working with victims of terrorism need to examine their views on the political goals of the terrorists. As a person who works with victims, there is little doubt that you have empathy for the victim and a negative reaction to the criminal. On the other hand, you may disagree with both their actions and their goals.

Either way, these personal feelings may influence your work with victims.

Transnational Terrorism

Furthermore, you may have strong views, either positive or negative about the reaction of other authorities or governments to the terrorist attack. The political nature of terrorism makes it much more complicated to process. Your role is to help the victim deal with being victimized. Ignoring your own personal reaction to the efforts of terrorists not their actions , however, could interfere with your effectiveness.

Like other crimes, the violation associated with terrorism can have a profound impact on you as a worker. You may want to explore the personal impact of the terrorist attack on your own life Danieli Depending on the nature of the terrorist attack, you may be dealing with a mass tragedy or ongoing incidents, which can create vicarious trauma Fraidlin and Rabin You can discuss these issues on teams, in consultation or supervision. If you feel your reaction is interfering with your ability to do good work, then it makes sense to seek therapy to deal with these feelings. Danieli noted that to heal and grow we need to accept that our lives will not be the same.

As those who work with people experiencing distress from a traumatic event crime or otherwise , we see many people dealing with challenges to their view of a safe and just world. The types of supports needed will be more similar to those needed by victims of other violent crimes.


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Often the person has a break in his normal way of thinking, memory, identity or view of the environment. This seminal research examines what it means when terrorists and the mass-media are inextricably intertwined. Howie brilliantly frames terrorism within the sense of uncertainty that it creates. Terrorism's power does not depend on damage or the number of casualties alone it depends on who is witnesses.

Undoubtedly, Witnesses to Terror, is an all-encompassing view of terrorism, which I must confess is one of the best book I have read on the subject. Korstanje, University of Palermo, Argentina. JavaScript is currently disabled, this site works much better if you enable JavaScript in your browser. Publishing With Us. Book Authors Journal Authors.


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