Breonna Taylor decision triggers trauma for Black community, other victims of police violence

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The decision not to charges officers for the police shooting death of Breonna Taylor is the latest in a series of traumatic events not just for the Black community, but also for families who have personally experienced a violent encounter with police.

"We're not safe in the streets. We're not safe in our own home. Are we safe in this country?" asked Justin Blake, uncle of Jacob Blake, who was shot by Kenosha police.

Blake said the grand jury decision not to directly charge the officers for Taylor's death was like reliving the first days of his family's ongoing nightmare all over again.

"It's another aspect of what we, as African Americans, have to deal with," he said. "The pressures that we're under."

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Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by Kenosha police last month after a domestic incident resulted in a call to 911.

For them and other African Americans, the Taylor case decision was not only another injustice, but also one of the latest events that some mental health experts say further traumatizes people of color.

"That's why you are seeing the protests, seeing the crying out, and there was so much pain, pain from the lack of what a lot of people say was lack of justice as it relates to Breonna Taylor," said Natalie Graves, licensed clinical social worker.

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Graves said stressful conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, racism and the death of George Floyd at the hands of police can have long-term negative effects on person's emotional, physical and mental health.

Dr. Inger Burnett-Zeigler, a licensed clinical psychologist and Northwestern University professor of psychiatry, said this type of vicarious trauma, or secondary trauma, can be adverse, causing anger and emotional fatigue.

"That event of hearing that news and watching the circumstances unfold over the past several months can be experienced as traumatic to people in general, but particularly as Black women who might see themselves and relate to Breonna Taylor," she said.

And while some wait to see what will happen next, others, like Justin Blake, said the hurt that fuels the wounds of injustice can't heal until there's real change.

"There should never be a time where somebody's in their pajamas, loses their life in their own house and there's absolutely nothing can be done about it," he said.
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