Healing Trauma through Storytelling and ‘Becoming the Light’

Written by Written by Chisato Hotta, DSW, LPCC, LMFT

Trigger Warning:
This post discusses multiple forms of trauma including graphic descriptions of sexual trauma, physical trauma,emotional trauma and domestic violence/Intimate Partner Violence. If activated, TILA recommends incorporating healing practices such as moving, walking, running, pushing against a wall, connecting with people who are supportive and empathetic, and taking a break at any time.

When people hear about trauma in domestic violence/intimate partner violence and gender based violence, they often ask, “why didn’t they just leave?” Well… it is not that easy. Leaving can mean risking your life.

When I was 17, I fell in love with a sweet guy. He had his own trauma due to being abused by his father, and he had emotional scars. We started living together and we both realized that when he became angry, he became his father. He never received help–Japan, where we are both from, is not known for Trauma Informed Care.

Two years later, I left that relationship with a black eye, cigarette burn marks on my arms, and nerve damage on my back. He stalked me for about a year after that.

One day, I received a text from him with a photo of me coming out of a karaoke shop with a friend. That was terrifying. I went to the police and was asked, after recounting everything that happened, the question that I will never forget: “so what did you do wrong to cause him to do this?”

I didn’t know what to say. The officer then said, “do you really think he wants to kill you? It seems like he just loves you so much, and he can’t let you go.”

He had burned me with cigarettes, thrown knives at me, thrown a pot of freshly made rice at me, kicked me, hit me with a baseball bat, and more. So yes, he could have killed me. He may have loved me in his own way, yes, but his love was hurting me. But I didn’t know how to explain. My voice was taken from me, because I knew it fell on uncaring ears.

It has been many years since then. I went through a lot of struggles, but I also grew.

Looking back, I can see that I probably became his safe space. I treated him like a person and saw the hurt soul that he had. I didn’t judge him. I listened to his experience and was empathic. I was providing trauma informed care without knowing that was what I was doing.

One day, I realized something that continues to help me to this day. None of what happened was my fault. I was not the one who made the choice to hurt another person. I was not the one who allowed the anger to take over me. I was not the one who tried to take another’s voice away. That was him. So, why do I carry the guilt? Why do I carry the shame? It didn’t make sense.

So…I put those burdens down. I started looking and nurturing my strengths. The strength that I had to leave. The strength to go and talk to someone about what happened. The strength to not sit in the dark, but to be the light.

Please note: If you are experiencing domestic violence, intimate partner violence, gender based violence, please see our resources.