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Bataclan survivor's testimony highlights importance of post-PTSD care

By Michael Fitzpatrick - RFI
Europe Bataclan survivor's testimony highlights importance of post-PTSD care
OCT 17, 2021 LISTEN

The second week of witness evidence from those who survived the attack on the Bataclan music venue has been full of grief, guilt and the seemingly endless struggle to turn the page emotionally. One young woman told two anecdotes, one grim, one heartening.

The president of the special criminal court, Jean-Louis Périès, frequently asks witnesses about the help they have had, or continue to have, from psychologists or psychiatrists specialising in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Most of those who escaped grave physical injury on the night have indeed accepted such assistance. Many say they have been greatly helped. Others are less sure.

One of this week's witnesses, shot in the leg and who lay among the dead waiting for her own end, explained that she had been referred to a psychologist after weeks of sleeplessness, paranoia, panic attacks and virtual inability to communicate.

"I told him that I was unable to deal with the fact that I had seen people my age killing people younger than me. It took a huge effort. And he had fallen asleep."

If this trial serves to change anything, then the way in which victim trauma is dealt with must be a priority.

As in every other profession, there are good, bad and indifferent psychologists.

Better training, more communication between colleagues, the creation of a specialised unit might be options worth trying. But no one should have to face ignorance and incompetence when their mental health is at stake.

The hug

The witness's other anecdote gave a more positive impression.

She told the court that she was being driven home in a taxi from the hospital where she had undergone a series of operations on her injured leg.

The taxi-driver was Muslim. They chatted and it rapidly became clear to him that she was a survivor of the so-called jihadist attacks.

She said he started to weep, to distance himself and the vast majority of French Muslims from the killings. So great was his emotion that he was obliged to pull over and stop the vehicle.

"We stood on the side of a Paris street, hugging one another," she said.

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