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The aftermath of genocide and mass violence has become a popular topic of interest over time. Genocide and episodes of mass violence have the ability to impact relationships between diverse groups of people and conflict. Genocide has a major impact on nations, ethnic group and families even after the violent episodes occur and over the years that follow. There are three social classifications of people involved in genocides which are perpetrators, bystanders and victims.
After Genocide occurs, the mindset of individuals can be altered negatively which can be crippling. When it comes to moving forward after enduring genocide or mass atrocities, resources are available that can aid an individual with their healing process mentally and emotionally. When it comes to genocide, prevention is important. Educating others on genocide prevention is the first step in early prevention tactics and practices.
Genocide is a crime that affects the lives of everyone involved. Not just one particular group of people are traumatized, but instead everyone that it effects both directly and indirectly. While there are many lives affected by genocide, there are also many consequences that each party is left to deal with after the violent occurrence such as mental, emotional and physical trauma. These factors all affect an individual’s daily life and creates an impact of the lives of those who may stem from them in future generations. As survivors deal with trauma, there are resources available that can help survivors process through their emotions and help them fully process the events that transpired as well as coping mechanisms that can be utilized as a means to lessen the mental and emotional trauma experienced.
When studying genocide, most researchers have categorized different roles involved in a genocide. These roles, as mentioned above, are perpetrators, bystanders and victims. However, a factor that is important to note when thinking about separating people into categories is that these labels often don’t show or provide enough background information about an individual’s behavior and their role during a genocide. When studied, it has been shown that people classified as perpetrators viewed themselves as victims when the true victims were merely just fighting back against them. Often times, bystanders were also seen as potential victims or even as an accomplice to the perpetrator which creates a triangular link between all parties. Individuals may be classified in those three categories; however, it is possible for someone to have played all three roles.
Research on psychological consequences of genocides involving perpetrator groups in many cases has placed focus on the victims. After a genocide has been committed and time has evolved, the mindset of those associated with the perpetrator fluctuates. Some use personal bias and try to clear their ancestors of their crime by blaming anyone or anything else. When attempting to clear the name of someone in a perpetrator group, exoneration strategies are often their first line of defense. Utilizing exoneration strategies is their way to justify what occurred or try to place the blame anywhere but on the perpetrators themselves. They manage to persuade themselves that acts of genocide was the result of external factors and even go to the extent of blaming the victims for their own fate.
However, not all people associated with perpetrator groups wish to clear those involved in a genocide. For example, children and even grandchildren of Nazi perpetrators may engage with other genocide survivor relatives, for example like those from the Holocaust (Bar-On & Kassem, 2004). Through these interactions differences can be discussed and an understanding of each other can be learned. Although it may be difficult for members of a specific party to listen to a viewpoint they may disagree with, the door can be opened for reconciliation down the line by recognizing the viewpoint of others.
Although there may be apologies offered both personally and publicly, not all are sincere. Some apologies may only be made for the sake of a groups image or reputation. Perpetrators may believe their actions were justified given a set of circumstances, however, violence is never justified nor is it the correct way to handle personal conflict with a large group of diverse people.
A crucial aspect studied amongst genocide survivors is the trauma associated with mass violence. For example, a common condition that stems from such trauma is PTSD. Trauma can come in all forms such as PTSD, flash-backs and many other emotionally and mentally charged reactions Most survivors need assistance after a genocide which can be quite intense, however, it’s what is needed to help victims suffering from extreme trauma take their lives back.
One question that has raised many questions is whether or not signs of trauma can be inherited by next generation offspring or family members of genocide victims. Research has found that the transferring of trauma is supported within first generation offspring from the survivor, but there is less research to provide clarity on the effect that trauma has on second and third generation family members other than accumulated knowledge. However, it is studied that there is an impact made on the second-generation survivors as well as the third.
Second generation survivors may especially struggle with separation anxiety and controlling aggression while third-generation struggle with anxiety, drug use, depression. Those who are part of the third generation however tend grab onto memories that belong to their ancestors and as a result create false memories for themselves which can contribute to a form of PTSD.
On the topic of bystanders and their role in genocide, they can either intervene or do as the name implies–standby. When bystanders do nothing to stop the genocide, they are allowing the perpetrators to commit these crimes and this can serve as motivation for perpetrators to continue their horrendous behaviors because they feel that they aren’t in the wrong. It’s important to not, however, that bystanders aren’t just those who are present and spectating during the time of genocide, but includes anyone who is allowing it to happen (Woolf & Hulsizer, 2005).
Bystanders themselves if bearing witness are considered just as much participants by allowing harm to come to others. Bystanders may in the long run develop feelings of guilt for the actions of their past relatives based off of their ability to understand from the perspective of someone else. By taking the time to intervene or see a different perspective from the lens of a victim there can be an overall change in how a bystander reacts during the time of a genocide. Bystanders, even if it’s just one person, can make a difference and implement change.
When acts of genocide and mass atrocities are committed, they are attacks that are intended to inflict pain and harm onto others. The consequences of genocide vary from person to person and by groups as a whole who share a common perspective of another group of people (Imhoff et al., 2013). Victims of a genocide are forever impacted. Not only physically and mentally, but emotionally. These negative consequences for the victim linger and can never be erased. However, with the impact made on victims, their pain can in turn begin to affect the perpetrator and make them question their motives and the reason behind their actions.
From this, feelings of guilt may creep up on perpetrators and even bystanders which can become haunting and never ending. While victims work towards healing from the trauma that they’ve endured, perpetrators are also now being recognized for their harmful and shameful roles. After a genocide, when trying to insert themselves back into a society where they’ve done wrong, perpetrators are not always welcomed back into a community that they called home before they took part in mass atrocities. All three parties, bystanders, victims and perpetrators experience trauma whether it’s the perpetrator or bystander never being able to get the image of someone dying out of their head or the victim struggling to carry on with their life post-conflict (Scarlett, 2009).
Difficult living conditions, disagreements with others or hatred of another group of people paves the way for genocide to occur. The way people perceive others and the way they are currently living can lead to chaos throughout an entire society. People blame other groups of people for problems that arise and use violence as a means to be superior and gain control. When discussing genocide prevention, it’s important to state that education is key in instilling knowledge in people about violence and the negative marks it will leave on many people.
Educating others on tolerance is an important skill to teach at a young age. Parents and educators have a moral and ethical responsibility to teach children how to be accepting of other people regardless of differences in perspectives. Teaching adults and not just children or teens these important skills can be the difference between conflict and no conflict in a society where there are many diverse groups of people. Teaching children and influencing adults that intervening when they witness conflict can pave the way for change is a way that can make a difference is crucial to their own personal understanding of conflict and conflict resolution. If they don’t do or say something when involved, they too are a bystander who is allowing the negative behavior to continue.
Another key factor in preventing genocide is advocacy. It’s not enough to just wait until there is an active conflict to work towards a resolution. Advocating for change is important even when there is no conflict because it promotes the stages of early prevention which can ultimately decrease the chances of conflict altogether. Education and advocacy are the two most important prevention methods. Both of these methods send the message that violence shouldn’t be encouraged and that there are better ways to deal with personal conflicts then participating in genocide and mass atrocities.
After experiencing trauma related to genocide or any form of violence for that matter, resources such as therapy and small groups are available to help victims or anyone affected by violence. It’s normal to not want to discuss traumatizing events that were witnessed, however, having a conversation with the people around you may open the door for further conversation and coping strategies. The mind of those involved will be altered due to stress and fear, but showing interest in helping those affected can ensure that a positive change will occur. Allowing for an open conversation can help ease the mind of victims and help them clear their souls, however the trauma will never fully leave them, but can lessen (Shakespeare-Finch et al., 2014).
Recognizing that what happened did in fact happen is the first step to being able to fully heal. Although emotionally painful, being able to move forward can only happen if faults are recognized and methods to implement change are created. Seeking out necessary help can assist in the healing process and also provide a sense of comfort and reassurance for victims suffering after being involved in a genocide or mass atrocity.
When it comes to life after a genocide, there have been many ways that people have coped with their trauma. A few of commonly utilized methods for coping include religion, seeking support, relying on family, expressing emotion or not talking about the trauma. Religion was one factor that brought many genocide survivors some sort of peace. Relying on prayer and the guidance from something greater than ourselves is what helps many people get through the pain of their experiences.
Another two commonly linked strategies are seeking support from others such as therapists and focusing on family. When seeking support, family often become the primary target. When someone has been through a traumatic experience they seek help where they feel the most comfort which is in the company of those they trust and love. Falling into this category also is utilizing the expertise of a therapist. Therapists are able to provide those who experienced trauma with tools to help them psychologically and mentally which family members don’t always have the resources to do.
More coping strategies that are unique to the victims and other survivors includes expressing emotion, working and also keeping to themselves. In order for a victim to truly move on and be able to heal in a healthy way, they need to recognize what happened and let themselves feel their emotions and express them. Showing emotions and allowing yourself to feel those emotions will provide a freeing feeling even if temporary for the victim and allow them to be vulnerable. Also, every victim is different so expressing emotion may be difficult for them so they may choose to not talk about traumatic events they’ve witnessed at all. Some people can’t deal with rehashing painful experiences so they keep in tucked away in the back of their mind and work to suppress those memories.
Genocide and mass atrocities have many effects on a variety of different people ranging from perpetrators, bystanders and victims to anyone associated with them in later generations. Regardless of a person’s role in a genocide, everyone is involved in some way. Even if you’re not directly involved in the behavior and action of it all, just knowing what’s occurring and not doing anything makes you just as big a part of it. It takes a voice and intervention to truly create change.
Genocide is a term used that describes acts of violence against groups of people who come from different ethnic or religious groups with a motive to hurt the entire group. When dealing with genocide, there are multiple perspectives involved. People are people, however, some struggle with power dynamics and living within a diverse community which is a contributing factor in why genocide occurs in the first place. The aftermath of genocide is very traumatic and has the ability to cast a dark shadow on an entire society.
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