Recovery can take place only within then context of relationships; it cannot occur in isolation. In her renewed connection with other people, the survivor re-creates the psychological facilities that were damaged or deformed by the traumatic experience. These faculties include the basic operations of trust, autonomy, initiative, competence, identity, and intimacy.Just as these capabilities are formed in relationships with other people, they must be reformed in such relationships.The first principle of recovery is empowerment of the survivor. She must be the author and arbiter of her own recovery. Others may offer advice, support, assistance, affection, and care, but not cure.Many benevolent and well-intentioned attempts to assist the survivor founder because this basic principle of empowerment is not observed. No intervention that takes power away from the survivor can possibly foster her recovery, no matter how much it appears to be in her immediate best interest.
Underlying the attack on psychotherapy, I believe, is a recognition of the potential power of any relationship of witnessing. The consulting room is a privileged space dedicated to memory. Within that space, survivors gain the freedom to know and tell their stories. Even the most private and confidential disclosure of past abuses increases the likelihood of eventual public disclosure. And public disclosure is something that perpetrators are determined to prevent. As in the case of more overtly political crimes, perpetrators will fight tenaciously to ensure that their abuses remain unseen, unacknowledged, and consigned to oblivion.The dialectic of trauma is playing itself out once again. It is worth remembering that this is not the first time in history that those who have listened closely to trauma survivors have been subject to challenge. Nor will it be the last. In the past few years, many clinicians have had to learn to deal with the same tactics of harassment and intimidation that grassroots advocates for women, children and other oppressed groups have long endured. We, the bystanders, have had to look within ourselves to find some small portion of the courage that victims of violence must muster every day.Some attacks have been downright silly; many have been quite ugly. Though frightening, these attacks are an implicit tribute to the power of the healing relationship. They remind us that creating a protected space where survivors can speak their truth is an act of liberation. They remind us that bearing witness, even within the confines of that sanctuary, is an act of solidarity. They remind us also that moral neutrality in the conflict between victim and perpetrator is not an option. Like all other bystanders, therapists are sometimes forced to take sides. Those who stand with the victim will inevitably have to face the perpetrator's unmasked fury. For many of us, there can be no greater honor. p.246 - 247Judith Lewis Herman, M.D. February, 1997
Her KindI have gone out, a possessed witch,haunting the black air, braver at night;dreaming evil, I have done my hitchover the plain houses, light by light:lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.A woman like that is not a woman, quite.I have been her kind.I have found the warm caves in the woods,filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,closets, silks, innumerable goods;fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:whining, rearranging the disaligned.A woman like that is misunderstood.I have been her kind.I have ridden in your cart, driver,waved my nude arms at villages going by,learning the last bright routes, survivorwhere your flames still bite my thighand my ribs crack where your wheels wind.A woman like that is not ashamed to die.I have been her kind.
George is very far, right now, from sneering at any of these fellow creatures. They may be crude and mercenary and dull and low, but he is proud, is glad, is almost indecently gleeful to be able to stand up and be counted in their ranks—the ranks of that marvelous minority, The Living. They don't know their luck, these people on the sidewalk, but George knows his—for a little while at least—because he is freshly returned from the icy presence of The Majority, which Doris is to join. I am alive, he says to himself, I am alive! And life-energy surges hotly through him, and delight, and appetite. How good to be ina body—even this beat-up carcass—that still has warm blood and semen and rich marrow and wholesome flesh! The scowling youths on the corners see him as a dodderer no doubt, or at best as a potential score. Yet he claims a distant kinship with the strength of their young arms and shoulders and loins. For a few bucks he could get any one of them to climb into the car, ride back with him to his house, strip off butch leather jacket, skin-tight Levi's, shirt and cowboy boots and take a naked, sullen young athlete, in the wrestling bout of his pleasure. But George doesn't want the bought unwilling bodies of these boys. He wants to rejoice in his own body—the tough triumphant old body of a survivor. The body that has outlived Jim and is going to outlive Doris.