Thursday, 6 August 2009

secrets and complexities

sometimes the support groups feel like entering another dimension. this is when i really love my job. hearing secrets shared and shame demolished. hearing what really happened, what we're not meant to hear. the simple act of creating a space where it's possible to tell the truth, the power of that bowls me over some days.

someone told us about holding her boyfriend underwater. because she knew he was just about to get her. i got leathered for it afterwards like but.. how pure her power was, for those minutes.. i had control.

these acts of resistance don't exist in normal discourse, can't be written in the magazines: already it's too complicated for the victim to fight back against the monster. so many lives contain these untold moments where the power dynamic was flipped. and yet the fact that she was violent in that moment has been used against her ever since by the abuser, eclipses everything he's done to her before and since. and our failure - as friends, family, community, media - to articulate what was really going on here: a moment of resistance against prolonged, calculated abuse of power, leaves her with a burden of shame and guilt that becomes weightier every time we refuse to engage with the complexities of that moment.
"The survivor's shame and guilt may be exacerbated by the harsh judgement of others, but it is not fully assauged by simple pronouncements absolving her from responsibility, because simple pronouncements, even favorable ones, represent a refusal to engage with the survivor in the lacerating moral complexities of the extreme situation. From those who bear witness, the survivor seeks not absolution but fairness, compassion, and the willingness to share the guilty knowledge of what happens to people in extremity."
Judith Herman, in Trauma and Recovery.

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