A high-school student was referred to a school-based counseling center for serious academic problems. She came across as serverly depressed in an initial clinical interview. When asked about stressful experiences she had been through in the past year, she described an incident in which she had been forced to watch helplessly as her girlfriend was assaulted by a violent gang of girls:
"They grabbed her by the hair and punched her and pushed her down on the sidewalk. Then a big girl sat on her chest and grabbed her by the hair and started smacking her head against the cement over and over again. I was just standing there and crying and wanting to help her, but I knew that if I tried to, they would just beat me up, too."
Subsequent interventions were focused on the therapeutically addressing her pervasive feelings of helplessness and guilt over her perceived disloyalty to her companion at a time when she desperately needed protection.