Cynthia Langtiw – Session I

The traumatic betrayal of American and Dominican Haitian Youth: Lessons in combating structural violence

Cynthia Langtiw, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Chicago Campus

In the past two years (2015) I have been jarred by disturbing images of assaults on young Black bodies in the American media. Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Dajerria Becton to name a few. In recent news (June 2015), I was jarred by another image: Dominican born youth of Haitian ancestry protesting their impending statelessness. In September 2013, the court delivered a ruling now known as La Sentencia, or the Sentence. La Sentencia ultimately revoked the Dominican citizenship of those born after 1929 to parents not of Dominican ancestry. In each tragedy, I am saddened and troubled that the representatives of the very system intended to protect Black youth instead violated these individuals’ corporal integrity. Our law enforcement system did not view them as children to be protected, but as the enemy from which society necessitated protecting. Psychologist Jennifer Freyd (2008) has identified betrayal trauma as a type of trauma that occurs when the people or institutions on which a person depends for existence significantly violate that person’s trust and wellbeing. Betrayal trauma is particularly harmful because one’s sense of trust, connectedness and psychological wellbeing is compromised. In this presentation we will discuss the psychological concept of betrayal trauma as related to black youth in the United States and the Dominican Republic. We will discuss specific strategies youth are using in the liberation process and how we can/ought all participate in the liberation process.