Logo for the Center for Victims of Torture
Expert Voices

Healing and Breaking the Cycle of Violence

By Medhanye Alem, Psychotherapist/Trainer
Published November 30, 2023

In my work as a psychotherapist, I have heard very difficult stories. I see how great a difference trauma-informed care brings to survivors. They tell me that with care, they are able to begin their lives again. It is important to me that my colleagues and I are able to provide care for survivors so they’re able to begin this journey of healing. And It’s also important for the world to know what my community is going through. Bringing these stories to the world is also a way of highlighting the trauma people have endured and learning from to it seek an end to the cycle of violence.

I recently spoke at CVT’s Restoring Hope Breakfast in Minneapolis, where I shared about the experience of our clients, many of whom survived deeply traumatic events since the outbreak of violent conflict in Ethiopia in late 2020. I spoke about a woman who had survived rape and struggled to get her children to safety. This client has such a strong and resilient heart, and many people commented to me that they were very moved and inspired by her story. They told me that hearing her story made them want to help. There are very many clients with similar cases, similar sufferings – and there are many additional ways that people can learn and help.

Bringing these stories to the world is also a way of highlighting the trauma people have endured and learning from to it seek an end to the cycle of violence.”

To me, lifting up these stories of suffering is part of the process of healing. It is a difficult process when there has been great pain. Nevertheless, looking at the nature of the conflict in the country, after the human suffering, after the days of many people being displaced and abused, then the fighting forces sat at the table. They were able to bring a ceasefire, to bring reconciliations. There has been agreement.

So within my community, they keep telling us, “Okay so we’ve lost everything. Now peace has come. The fighting forces have settled this, which is good, but how do we move forward now?” That’s the question that the clients keep asking us. They want to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.

The process of rehabilitation may not be easy. It’s going to take time.

It’s a gradual process, but as CVT, for example, as professionals, what we’re trying to do is to continue to integrate trauma-informed care in every sector. For example, school age children and their teachers have been impacted by the conflict. This means that the teaching and learning process may not be the same as before. Because of this, we’re working on trauma-inform teaching modalities or teaching approaches. We’re training teachers so that the future generation of these school age children will be able to learn in a trauma-informed way. This will mean that some of the impacts of the children’s trauma are validated and a nurturing system is also in place.

Another example could be in terms of some of the survivors of sexual assault. This is also an impact we’ve seen: there is social stigma from the community. We’re seeing that the social fabrics are not the same as before the conflict; many have been dismantled. By raising community awareness, by raising a strong social support system, we’re trying to rebuild the community’s connection to each other.

I do hope that from this trauma my community will be able to transcend and learn, that we can build resilience and not just be confined to the impacts of the conflict. I see a lot of hope in how the community is able to learn from this so that we break the cycle of violence we’ve lived through – we have lived in this cycle of conflict for years. In my age, I have witnessed three complete wars. And it’s a lot.

This has been a recurrent kind of phenomenon. My hope is that this generation will be the last to have witnessed, to have lived through, what violent conflict looks like, and that we’ll be able to resolve any disputes at the table in a peaceful manner. We need dialogue so that no child is exposed to conflict anymore, so no mothers cry and live in sorrow anymore.

We need dialogue so that no child is exposed to conflict anymore, so no mothers cry and live in sorrow anymore.”

And for this I believe we’ll be able to succeed by bringing trauma-informed rehabilitation, by highlighting stories of survivors of conflict violence and acknowledging the dignity of humans as humans. These efforts will support the breaking of the cycle of violence.

I’m very proud that I’m part of this team. Despite our personal struggles, despite our personal experience of trauma, we have remained resilient, we remain strong and able to deliver services to the beneficiaries, to the affected populations. My colleagues feel it’s their obligation to respond and to treat others humanely. The staff have been very resilient and courageous during this difficult time. Being part of this team is priceless. It’s amazing, and I’m really honored to be part of that.

About The Author
Medhanye Alem
Share this Article

Related Articles