It is only later that the real horror starts

Front National

It is only later that the real horror starts. Image: Front National
It is only later that the real horror starts. Image: Front National

It so happens, from time to time, that you accidentally come across something that hits you right in the pit of your stomach. It leaves you breathless with shock and anxiety when you suddenly face the full horror of things that you usually merely take note of. Exactly that happened to me when I noticed an add on Facebook on a local Buy-and-sell page of a rural town this morning. The add said: I have a two year old border collie and a 7 year old daschund urgently looking for a home to stay. Their owners have been murdered in a farm attack and they have nowhere to go.

Those two dogs suddenly embodied to me the entire aftermath of a farm attack and the impact on a society. Their inability to understand where their people went. Who is coming to feed them? Who will speak a kind word, gently stroke the back of a faithful four-legged friend? The entire core of their being suddenly not there anymore.

Do we ever think, when we hear of yet another senseless and brutal farm attack, of those left behind? Family, employees, children, parents, siblings…the two dogs at the gate?

Lorraine Claasen wrote a brilliant report in November of 2012 on the topic of the psychological aftermath of a farm attack. Amongst other things she states:

Consequences of farm attacks may range from basic needs such as repairing damages to the property or having to make funeral arrangements for loved ones who lost their lives during an attack. It is therefore important not to forget the family who is left behind, but to provide them with help and support where they need it. Immediate needs may include, as mentioned, repairing structures damaged during an attack, assistance with police and insurance reports, replacing stolen goods and help with continuing production on the farm (if needed). The support of one’s family and friends of victims who survived the attack, or the immediate family of a loved one who lost his or her life during the attack, are extremely important for the recovery process. Weeks, months and even years after an attack, the victims might still suffer emotionally in various ways. Struggling with basic everyday tasks such as eating and sleeping may be challenges victims are faced with and victims may feel too ashamed to address these problems with their family, friends and peers. By trying to cope alone will prolong the suffering and trauma even more.

If a victim survives such an attack, they have to make serious decisions regarding their immediate future concerning basic needs such as security for example. Having to make these decisions while still feeling out of control and unable to cope may put even more pressure on victims.

Individuals who survive an attack or secondary victims are left to deal with various changes in their own environment. Trauma, as a physical stressor, not only affects the functioning of the body’s central nervous system, but may also lead to various mental reactions. These may include the following (Rosenbloom & Williams, 2002:120):

  • Changes in thoughts regarding the inability to control fate and feelings of
    fearfulness and vulnerability.
  • Changes in thoughts about the world due to trouble finding explanations for
    tragic events.
  • Disruptions in thought as uncontrolled unwanted traumatic images fill the
    individual’s mind.
  • Being overly alert and aware of surroundings
  • Experiencing disconnectedness from one’s self
  • Confusion and uncertainty
  • The inability to feel safe
  • Difficulty trusting other people
  • Diminished self-esteem/shame and/or self-hate
  • Feelings of helplessness

This merely applies to the people who were involved and those left behind. There is no reason to assume that the pets on the farm experience it any differently.

Nobody knows exactly how many of our rural farming community in South Africa have already been murdered. Nobody can actually count the victims any more. Only one figure I recently heard also hit me like a bucket of ice water: At the Nampo Agricultural Exhibition Site near Bothaville is a monument with names of farmers who have been murdered ….and names are being added to the plaques monthly, weekly…the name of Eugene Terre Blanche was number 3338. 3337 before him, God alone knows how many after. And it still keeps going on and on.

Only one thing we all now: A farm attack doesn’t just happen at night for an hour or three and then it is over. For some people, and for some animals, that attack never really ends. They bear the scars of it for the rest of their lives….

Read the original article by Daniel Lötter on Front Nasionaal SA – blad

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