Traumatized teens deal with aftermath of horrific events

Charlottesville High School guidance counselor Sarah Elaine Hart says more than 1,750 individual student sessions were logged the first six weeks of the school year. Photo by Eze Amos Charlottesville High School guidance counselor Sarah Elaine Hart says more than 1,750 individual student sessions were logged the first six weeks of the school year. Photo by Eze Amos

Young people in Parkland, Florida, are dealing with an unspeakable act that killed 17 people and destroyed countless lives and feelings of safety in their daily routines, much like what students in Charlottesville had to cope with at the beginning of the school year after the August 12 white supremacist invasion left three dead and a community grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sarah Elaine Hart, a guidance counselor at Charlottesville High School, saw the effects firsthand. “We held freshmen orientation on August 14. Some students walked in to the building with physical and emotional wounds from the terrorist attack and violence on August 12. Other students were trying to comprehend events even the adults in their lives found incomprehensible. Still others appeared most worried about starting high school, nervous about navigating a new place.”

“We had students involved in the resistance,” says Fré Halvorson-Taylor, co-editor of CHS’ The Knight-Time Review. “Many felt incredibly unsafe and unsettled. It was a reminder people hate them because of their religion or race.”

CHS counselors logged more than 1,750 individual student sessions in the first six weeks of school, with about one in three for personal emotional support, a ratio that has continued, says Hart.

Six months after the Unite the Right rally, some students are still healing, physically or emotionally, she says. And some are thinking about how they can make their world better than they found it.

“The violence and hatred they witnessed on August 11 and 12 has inspired many teenagers to take action, whether by becoming more involved in causes within our community or by dedicating themselves to become better informed citizens,” says Hart. “As the CHS staff processed our own sorrows following August 11 and 12, many found inspiration in our students. In the midst of challenging times, our students remind us that the future is bright.”

There’s help

It’s not easy being a teen. Luckily, our community has a plethora of free resources to help you through whatever you’re dealing with, from finding a doctor who won’t deny your sexuality to connecting with a counselor who can help with family drama.—Erin O’Hare

Charlottesville Pride Community Network

Click on the website’s “resources” tab for information about LGBTQ-friendly and -affirming doctors and counselors, support groups, social events, housing resources, places of worship and service organizations, plus a list of local businesses with gender-neutral bathrooms.

Ready Kids


24-hour Teen Crisis Hotline: 972-7233

The Ready Kids counseling program supports children and teens (and their families) seeking stability. It is equipped to help teens who are vulnerable to running away or being kicked out of their home.

Sexual Assault Resource Agency

24-hour hotline: 977-7273

SARA serves anyone who has personally experienced or has been affected by any kind of sexual violence, including rape, stalking, sexual assault, incest, sexual harassment or unwanted touching. This group offers trauma-informed therapy, support groups, emergency room and legal system advocacy and more.

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