Ex-FBI agent meets community members at Carter County Library, talks childhood trauma

When people think trauma, typically mental images focus on adults or the testimonies on Facebook, but just as much trauma takes place at much younger ages, even in the child’s own home, and learning how to address these issues early on can stem a world of issues when they grow older.

Former Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Christopher Freeze visited the Elizabethton/Carter County Library Tuesday afternoon to talk about his experiences with the Adverse Childhood Experiences system during his time with the FBI and how it impacted the way he interacted and responded to communities.

He related trauma to encountering a grizzly bear in the woods.

“You are terrified, you run home and you are safe,” Freeze said. “You are safe. But what if that bear came home every night?”

He said many officers who served neighborhoods with higher crime rates do not even want to live in those cities themselves, using Memphis and Jackson as an example.

“They want to go home, where the school system is better and the crime is less,” he said.

According to the Center for Disease Control’s website, ACEs include a variety of experiences, including injury, mental health, disease but especially different forms of abuse.

He said these adverse experiences all relate to the concept of trauma, the “bear” children have to come home to every day.

“We say kids are resilient, they will get back up,” he said. “Kids are like a lump of clay. What happens when you press down on a lump of clay?”

Freeze told a story of how he met with ten young boys at a school several years ago. Some of the windows were broken and the school overall looked worse for wear. When he talked with them, he found these kids lacked a solid foundation to succeed.

One student said they had been in detention longer than he had been in school, and it was not even Christmas, while another said it had been a really long time since he had seen his father.

“It is hard for me to see their world,” Freeze said.

Freeze also pointed to people’s perceptions of childhood trauma, and how separating the different kinds of trauma forces people to prioritize certain kinds of trauma over others, weakening their efforts overall.

He said this kind of trauma leads to crime people can easily predict in communities.

“Everyone knows which communities where the crimes happen,” Freeze said. “You hear them on the news, and they occur on the same blocks.”

This is part of the motivation for the ACEs study. The CDC’s website links childhood trauma with more problems in their adult life, therefore requiring a broader approach to the problem.

“If we all talk about it separately, we miss the larger scale,” Freeze said.

More information about ACEs can be found at cdc.gov.

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