Types of Traumatic Experiences
The National Traumatic Stress Network has strived to provide definitions of types of traumatic events; differentiating them from one another based on the event, who is involved, and the interpretation of law. Below are brief definitions to capture the core of each type of trauma.
- Sexual Abuse or Assault: Actual or attempted sexual contact, exposure to age-inappropriate sexual material or environments, sexual exploitation, unwanted or coercive sexual contact.
- Physical Abuse or Assault: Actual or attempted infliction of physical pain with or without use of an object or weapon and including use of severe corporeal punishment.
- Emotional Abuse/Psychological Maltreatment: Acts of commission against a minor child, other than physical or sexual abuse, that caused or could have caused conduct, cognitive, affective or other mental disturbance, such as verbal abuse, emotional abuse, excessive demands on a child's performance that may lead to negative self-image and disturbed behavior. Acts of omission against a minor child that caused or could have caused conduct, cognitive, affective or other mental disturbance, such as emotional neglect or intentional social deprivation.
- Neglect: Failure by the child victim's caretaker(s) to provide needed, age-appropriate care although financially able to do so, or offered financial or other means to do so, including physical neglect, medical neglect, or educational neglect.
- Serious Accident or Illness/Medical Procedure: Unintentional injury or accident, having a physical illness or experiencing medical procedures that are extremely painful and/or life threatening.
- Witness to Domestic Violence: Exposure to emotional abuse, actual/attempted physical or sexual assault, or aggressive control perpetrated between a parent/caretaker and another adult in the child victim's home environment or perpetrated by an adolescent against one or more adults in the child victim's home environment.
- Victim/Witness to Community Violence: Extreme violence in the community, including exposure to gang-related violence.
- School Violence: Violence that occurs in a school setting, including, but not limited to school shootings, bullying, interpersonal violence among classmates, and classmate suicide.
- Natural or Manmade Disasters: Major accident or disaster that is an unintentional result of a manmade or natural event.
- Forced Displacement: Forced relocation to a new home due to political reasons, generally including political asylees or immigrants fleeing political persecution.
- War/Terrorism/Political Violence: Exposure to acts of war/terrorism/political violence including incidents such bombing, shooting, looting, or accidents that are a result of terrorist activity as well as actions of individuals acting in isolation if they are considered political in nature.
- Victim/Witness to Extreme Personal/Interpersonal Violence: Includes extreme violence by or between individuals including exposure to homicide, suicide and other similar extreme events.
- Traumatic Grief/Separation: Death of a parent, primary caretaker or sibling, abrupt and/or unexpected, accidental or premature death or homicide of a close friend, family member, or other close relative; abrupt, unexplained and/or indefinite separation from a parent, primary caretaker or sibling due to circumstances beyond the child victim's.
- System-Induced Trauma: Traumatic removal from the home, traumatic foster placement, sibling separation, or multiple placements in a short amount of time.
(Adapted from National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2008 - detailed descriptions)