Family of homicide victim hopes trauma therapy can help heal communities

Posted at 5:00 PM, Jul 19, 2019

CINCINNATI — Following a special Cincinnati City Council meeting intended to address the recent summer spike in gun-related homicides and violent crime, some Cincinnati residents have begun to work on a new way to address violence in the community.

The trauma therapy counseling at Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses helps local survivors of violence and their families overcome the trauma they've endured. The center is one of only eight like it in the entire state of Ohio. Shakyra Diaz helped establish the eight centers, with a program modeled after one in California.

Rukiye Z. Abdul-Mutakallim, whose son was murdered in 2015, spoke at the city council meeting Thursday, expressing her concerns for the community to the council.

"Hurt people hurt people," she said. "When you are hurting and you feel that no one cares and there’s no light… You lash out."

She and members of the Cincinnati chapter of Crime Survivors of Safety and Justice believe trauma therapy and recovery can help reduce violent crime overall. The organization wants to establish another trauma recovery program like the one at the Seven Hills rec center.

Shakyra Diaz helped establish the eight trauma recovery centers that exist in Ohio. She said they're modeled after one in California, which saw a 74 percent improvement in the mental health of its patients after its first year open on 2001. It also saw a 65 percent increase in sexual assault survivors receiving follow-up treatment.

"Restore the sense of hope," said Diaz. "That means the people are less likely to experience a lapse in employment, and are less likely to self-medicate."

Abdul-Mutakallim said income inequality extends to mental health care; poorer neighborhoods are often underserved when it comes to treating mental illness or trauma.

"We are human beings," she said. "Our emotions drive us and if somehow our emotions have been damaged, then we have this other side that is negative that is going to lash out, and our communities are reflecting it."

She hopes that Cincinnati can increase its trauma recovery programs and expand outreach into the communities that need it most.