FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – According to court documents from the death of 9-year-old Elijah Ross, the young boy’s siblings witnessed their brother being beaten to death.

Monday, WANE 15 reached out to a counselor who explained what kind of trauma that can cause to a child.

Jessica Zimmerman is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and the CEO and Founder of Willlow Center of Healing. She’s been practicing for 20-years and has experience working with children, teens, adults, and families.

She opened up about following Elijah’s story and said she is completely heartbroken for him and his brothers. Throughout her career, she’s worked with many patients who have suffered from traumatic loss, but she can’t recall coming across an incident this traumatic, with parents being accused of the abuse and the siblings witnessing it.

Zimmerman focuses on trauma in her practice and guesses this wasn’t a single incident and there is a likelihood of ongoing abuse.

She would use a treatment called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing also known as EMDR – which is an interactive psychotherapy technique used to relieve psychological stress. Zimmerman added that a case such as this one can cause extreme trauma- not only by witnessing it, but to also see the person who is supposed to be the provider and protector cause the pain. 

“Again, EMDR would be used to target that moment, or whatever visualization or image they have from the scenario in an attempt to help them recognize that they did the best they could, they did everything that they could, that it wasn’t their fault,” Zimmerman said. “Kids tend to blame themselves and that’s where the long-term trauma comes from. The goal is to really help them to recognize that it wasn’t their fault and that they did everything that they could” 

Other techniques Zimmerman would do is to make sure the child is in an emotionally healthy and loving home, where he or she can freely express their emotions. She would also coach the legal guardians on what to say and do with the children to help further create the bond and attachment.  

When it comes to what the community can do to help fight against child abuse, Zimmerman suggests people follow their gut feelings and be more vigilant about the well-being of children. 

“If you have that gut feeling that something is wrong, we often push it down and justify it as ‘oh, we don’t want to be overreactive, or dramatic or create a problem.’ But especially with the current times that we are in, people are stressed, people are overwhelmed,” Zimmerman said. “Unfortunately, when people are stressed, the rates of child abuse we know by history go up.”