Understanding primary and secondary trauma

By Christine Salzer
Victims’ Advocate, Moms on a Mission
Updated 9:00 a.m., September 3, 2019

(VNO) – Everyone already knows that parents and families of the missing suffer trauma when their loved one goes missing, and then suffer even greater trauma when their earthly remains are discovered. On top of dealing with the grief of losing their loved one, parents of high profile missing and murder cases endure TV trucks outside their homes, people staring in public, invasions of privacy by overzealous “searchers”, loss of friends and jobs, and outright stalking.

What gets forgotten when we get involved in high profile crime cases, is that there are people on the periphery that also get traumatized: the neighbors that saw something funny before the murder but didn’t think it was anything dangerous at the time. The friends that the victim confided concerns to, but they didn’t think to report because they didn’t seem THAT bad at the time. The neighbor who has to dodge reporters every day to get in and out of the driveway knowing someone died in the house next door. The person a block away who didn’t open the door in the middle of the night for a half-naked girl, assuming she was ‘just a drunk’. The guy who is out hunting and finds a body in the woods. All of these situations involve people who are also damaged during situations like these.

Our team refers to the bystanders that get damaged by cases like these as secondary victims. We deal with families and friends of victims every day, and know well the trauma they suffer; as do many of you. If you have been affected by a disappearance or murder and would like assistance getting some help to feel better, please do not hesitate to message us. This includes advocates, too. We aren’t therapists, but we can help you figure out how to get in contact with one. No one should suffer in silence.

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