SOUTHERN INDIANA — Jeffersonville resident Liv Storz said she hasn't put her life on hold due to the increasing instances of mass shootings across the U.S., but it has changed her perspective.
The 19-year-old, a recent Jeffersonville High School graduate, said every time there is another shooting, it broadens the scope of places where she stays alert for potential violence.
"It's never kept me from going anywhere, but it's definitely in the back of my mind," Storz said. "It just adds another place like 'oh it could happen here too' and when you get to those places, [you are] looking for exits and thinking about where you would hide."
Storz was a student when 26 young students and staff members were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012. She was affected when 17 students were killed and 17 others injured during the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
She was paying attention when on Aug. 3, 22 died after a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, followed less than 24 hours later by a shooting in a shopping complex in Dayton, Ohio that left nine dead and more than two dozen wounded.
"It's literally an epidemic that's plaguing our country," she said.
MENTAL EFFECTS OF THE SHOOTINGS
Ellen Kelley, clinical social worker and clinical trainer at LifeSpring Health Systems, said the violence can go way beyond those affected in the community where the shooting took place — people watching or reading reports of the instances can experience the events themselves.
"If someone watches television and sees the people in El Paso, and they see people crying and they see people upset and worried and show the police there, [that] can be traumatic in itself," she said. "We all feel this pain but it could remind me of a time where I was in a traffic accident and police were there and there were people crying."
She said for people who have already experienced past trauma, these events can compound things and lead to complex trauma
"If we experience something traumatic and don't deal with it fully — which most of us don't — then the next time something traumatic happens, we experience that trauma and and then we re-experience the first trauma," she said, adding that this could be common in an abusive relationship with recurring acts of violence.
"And then if something else happens we experience the third trauma and then re-experience the second and the first."
RAMPING UP SELF-PROTECTION
One local gun store has seen an increase in sales over recent weeks, which may suggest more people are investing in firearms for self-protection.
A representative of a Southern Indiana store that sells firearms said while there's usually a lull in sales over the summer months, there's been a spike over the past few weeks — way too early for the busy fall season.
"I see people of all different ages and an [uptick] in women too," the staff member, who did not want to give her name, said, adding that the stories she hears from customers show they have many reasons for wanting to own a weapon.
"Some people have had things happen to them, some people just see the stuff on the news and think it's hitting a little too close to home," she said. "People just want to protect themselves, you know?"
Under federal law, no firearm leaves the store without the prospective buyer undergoing a background check, which the staff member believes is a great idea. The application itself is done electronically and doesn't take long, but it may take up to three business days in some situations to have results that clear the person to purchase the weapon.
Added to that, she has the right to refuse to sell to a person if something seems off.
"I have the right to turn anybody away that I feel necessary," she said. "If they say something wrong, if they're acting weird, if they've been drinking or I smell marijuana, I can turn them away."
PRACTICING SELF CARE
Kelley, of LifeSpring, said some of the most obvious, simple things can make a big difference in taking care of oneself after experiencing trauma — either directly or as experienced through media. Getting enough rest and eating well are big, she said.
"If you feel like talking about it, talk about it," Kelley said. "Find someone you can talk to about it even if it's a good friend."
She said it can help to also limit the amount of exposure a person has to the media reports — ones which can trigger those traumas as scenes are replayed. And she said while people may want to try to shield their children from the information, it's best to let them express themselves if they choose to.
"If kids want to talk about it, let them — that can be a way they're processing those feelings is by talking through it," she said. "I get it — we would rather our kids didn't know about it and we'd rather just kind of say 'oh no let's talk about something happy,' but it really can be helpful to let them express their feelings on it."
Other things that could help children and adults avoid the fear is by making note of security measures around them. This could mean listing things that make them feel safe in their home or car, such as a lock on the front door.
"Reassure them that they're safe," she said.
Kelley said she believes the biggest thing people can do right now is to maintain control over that which they can.
"I really wish that we could have a magic wand and take away the pain, but we just can't right now," she said. "What an individual can do about that is just take care of yourself and your family.
"An individual can't solve this right now."