moved to heal
movement for healing & resilience

Facts & Statistics

Complex trauma affects all of us

Complex trauma is widespread; evidence suggests that it affects all communities and reaches every corner of society in the form of domestic violence, systemic oppression (identity-based discrimination and intergenerational trauma), and childhood neglect and abuse.

Domestic Violence Statistics


  • In the United States, more than 10 million adults experience domestic violence annually.
  • 2% of women and 13.9% of men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime.
  • From 2016 through 2018 the number of intimate partner violence victimizations in the United States increased 42%.
  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the United States have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.


  • 2% of Vermont women1 and 30.9% of men experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner rape and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes.
  • In 2020, Vermont domestic violence organizations served 7,799 victims and answered 17,137 hotline calls.


In 1995-1997, Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda conducted the landmark ACEs study (with the CDC and Kaiser Permanente) to examine the long-term health effects correlated with adverse childhood experiences. They asked over 17,000 predominantly white, middle-class participants to self-report on whether any of a list of ten experiences had occurred during their childhood. 60% of participants reported having experiences that fell into at least one category from the Adverse Childhood Experience list.

Another way of saying this is that 60% had at least one adverse childhood experience from the following list:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional neglect
  • Physical neglect
  • Parental separation or divorce
  • Witness violence against mother
  • Household member with substance abuse
  • Household member with mental illness
  • Household member who was incarcerated

The study found that a higher ACEs score is correlated with increased incidence of:

  • Health risk behaviors, e.g., substance abuse, multiple sexual partners
  • Mental health conditions, e.g., anxiety, depression, PTSD
  • Physical health conditions, including the leading causes of death and disability in the US: heart disease, COPD, and cancer.

Adversity in the family, community, and systems

In 2012-2013, the Philadelphia ACE Project undertook to expand the list of ACEs to examine the presence of “community-level adversity” in an urban environment, including discrimination, feeling unsafe in your neighborhood, being bullied, living in foster care, and witnessing community violence. 

The findings from their initial study, which included predominately BIPOC, individuals from low-income households, show that the original, household-level ACEs inadequately depict the full range of childhood adversity when taking socioeconomic and racial realities into account.

The ACEs and expanded ACEs lists may have opened the door for researchers who study the impacts of systemic oppression to quantitatively demonstrate the mental and physical health effects of family and community/systemic adversity. The model of the ACEs study is being taken seriously by the medical, public, and mental health industries, and perhaps we can use this model to illustrate the far-reaching consequences of systemic oppression against people for reasons of race, class, ethnicity, gender identity, neurodivergence, ability, and more.

Complex trauma affects all of us

The impact of trauma shows up in behaviors and productivity even when the experiences causing the trauma are themselves hidden (as in DV) or not acknowledged (as in systemic oppression) or not recognized as traumatic (as in some types of childhood adversity). Ongoing toxic stress (trauma/complex trauma) shapes a person’s views about the world, themselves, and the future as illustrated in the below graphic from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Trauma-Informed Care in Mental Health Settings treatment improvement protocol.
How Trauma Exposure Affects Children

Below is an extensive list of ways trauma can harm child development from the National Childhood Trauma Network’s 2003 white paper on childhood trauma.


  • Uncertainty about the reliability and predictability of the world
  • Problems with boundaries
  • Distrust and suspiciousness
  • Social isolation
  • Interpersonal difficulties
  • Difficulty attuning to other people’s emotional states
  • Difficulty with perspective taking
  • Difficulty enlisting other people as allies


  • Sensorimotor developmental problems
  • Hypersensitivity to physical contact
  • Analgesia
  • Problems with coordination, balance, body tone
  • Difficulties localizing skin contact
  • Somatization
  • Increased medical problems across a wide span, e.g., pelvic pain, asthma, skin problems, autoimmune disorders, pseudoseizures

Affect Regulation

  • Difficulty with emotional self-regulation
  • Difficulty describing feelings and internal experience
  • Problems knowing and describing internal states
  • Difficulty communicating wishes and desires


  • Distinct alterations in states of consciousness
  • Amnesia
  • Depersonalization and derealization
  • Two or more distinct states of consciousness, with impaired memory for state-based events

Behavioral Control

  • Poor modulation of impulses
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Aggression against others
  • Pathological self-soothing behaviors
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Excessive compliance
  • Oppositional behavior
  • Difficulty understanding and complying with rules
  • Communication of traumatic past by reenactment in day-to-day behavior or play (sexual, aggressive, etc.)


  • Difficulties in attention regulation and executive functioning
  • Lack of sustained curiosity
  • Problems with processing novel information
  • Problems focusing on and completing tasks
  • Problems with object constancy
  • Difficulty planning and anticipating
  • Problems understanding own contribution to what happens to them
  • Learning difficulties
  • Problems with language development
  • Problems with orientation in time and space
  • Acoustic and visual perceptual problems
  • Impaired comprehension of complex visual-spatial patterns


  • Lack of a continuous, predictable sense of self
  • Poor sense of separateness
  • Disturbances of body image
  • Low self-esteem
  • Shame and guilt

trauma affects children

One thing adults fail to do for children is recognize that they have stress… the kids experience traumatic things that may not seem really big to us, but are important to them, and it could hamper their success.
- from "Resilience" movie 
When you are abused you feel small, even smaller than you are. … That was my experience as a child. I wanted to be small and invisible if possible. I wanted not to be seen, and I constricted.… I'd say the sense of being able to open up in this way physically [in yoga], as simple as it sounds, especially the upper part of my body--heart, lungs, diaphragm, shoulders-- all the parts that I had scrunched down, that seemed to make a difference. It allowed an overall expansion. … People are noticing it clearly. I have been invited to do more things. People seem interested in me in a different way. There is something that has changed because people are coming closer to me. I am able to tolerate that better. I am reaching out more in ways that I couldn't have done.
- Research participant, Rhodes 2015

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