It’s interesting the things that stick with a person. For instance, there’s a line in a Laurell K. Hamilton book that keeps repeating in my head years after I first read it: “If they can live it, I can watch it.”*
The book was about Anita Blake, vampire hunter. In the scene, she and another person had been captured and tied up. The other person was being tortured. The protagonist, Anita, analyzed the situation and her feelings. She constantly wanted to look away. She wanted to turn off her emotions. She wanted to pretend that she wasn’t seeing what was happening. She, however, was determined that she would watch. That person was living this torture, the least she could do was watch (when she was physically able to do nothing else).
“If they can live it, I can watch it.”
I think about this in my work. Sometimes, people do very bad, even atrocious, things to other people. My job is to protect people in my community and to hold accountable the ones who hurt others. This often requires me to read, hear and sometimes watch what happened.
This week, I prepared for a hearing in a particularly heartbreaking and horrific case. It put me in a very bad mood. Secondary trauma is very real. I had to care for myself through the process. I had to take breaks. I had to check in with my coworkers to decompress. I needed extra cuddles from my husband and my cat. I reached out to a friend for support. Throughout the whole process, those words from a fantasy/mystery book, a book that should be merely entertainment, kept repeating in my ears and those words kept me going.
If they can live it, I can watch it.
If they can live it, I can hear it.
If they can live it, I can read it.
They survived it. I will survive this.
*That may not be an exact quote. I’m not even sure which book the phrase is from.