Trauma and Recovery

Posted on June 2, 2012


In ‘Trauma and Recovery,’ psychiatrist Judith Herman says that one way people can overcome trauma is to go to court to be heard, to put their abuser on the public record with the risks of retraumatisation, increasing symptoms such as arousal, hypervigilance, insomnia, anxiety and somatization. It is very interesting that in court, this is called a “hearing.” Whichever way the magistrate decides in the judicial process, for the survivor the main point may be that she has told her truth publicly and as a final vomit this puts her case as one more example which may be used to change the socio-political history of abuse in her country. This can be a great act of empowerment, despite the legal costs involved, to take back her power from her abuser. Once in the public domain, it is taken out of the domestic sphere and put under a spotlight for all to see. Hidden no longer, the survivor may then be able to walk out of her history and into her future with a sense of achievement.

“Pursuing justice is holding the perpetrator accountable not only for her well-being but for the health of the larger society. Making a public complaint or accusation, the survivor defies the perpetrator’s attempt to silence and isolate her, and she opens the possibility of finding new allies. Her actions may benefit others as well as herself.” (Herman 2001:209-10)

“There’s a sense of power in a legal battle with the perpetrator from a position of strength … She knows the truth is what the perpetrator most fears.”

“Simply through her willingness to confront the perpetrator she has overcome one of the most terrible consequences of the trauma. She has let him know he cannot rule her by fear, and she has exposed his crime to others. Evil has not entirely prevailed.” (Herman 2001:211)

Herman, J. L. (2001) Trauma and Recovery. Pandora, London.

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