Andy's Story: Child Witness to Violence
Can healing be measured in hugs? Andy’s* grandmother, Lucille, asked herself this very question as her grandson toddled over and embraced her, something he had done rarely and haltingly in the last few months.
When Andy was 18-months-old, he watched as his father murdered his 6-year-old brother and then turned the gun on himself. Overnight, Andy became detached and unresponsive—isolating himself from everyone he knew and loved. He regressed in countless ways, and his playtime became plagued with brutality. He was prone to outbursts so violent and aggressive, Lucille worried that his father’s rage might be hereditary.
After three months of watching her grandson helplessly, Lucille reached out to Safe Horizon’s Counseling Center. Our mental health clinic works exclusively with people traumatized by crime and abuse and is renowned for its work with the youngest victims. There, Lucille learned that Andy’s violent outbursts were a natural reaction to an unnatural act—a way of explaining the horror that he had been subjected to, since he didn’t yet know how to express it in words. She and Andy attended every session together, working through his outbursts, learning new ways of communicating, comforting, and connecting.
Andy’s journey is far from over, but he is no longer isolated. He is speaking, pointing, playing, laughing, and, best of all, communicating with those who love him most.