Categories
Understanding Trauma

The history of Traumatic Stress


Although trauma has been with us throughout history, (war, disaster, violence) the concept of trauma or traumatic stress has only been acknowledged or named as such in the last 150 years or so. According to Friedman, clinical attention only began to focus on the psychological impact of war among veterans in the 19th century. Here the focus was on cardiovascular (soldiers heart) or psychiatric symptoms (nostalgia, shell shock, combat fatigue, war neurosis) (Matthew Friedman, 2006, p. 3)

Judith Herman writes that “Trauma has a curious history- one of episodic amnesia.” Periods in our history, where there is “active investigation alternating with periods of oblivion” (Herman, 1992,p.7) The field of trauma has a “rich tradition… But has been periodically forgotten and must be periodically reclaimed.” It is interesting to read of the story of Sigmund Freud and Jean-Martin Charcot and their study of “hysteria” amongst the women of Vienna, this study captured the imagination of the public: “a venture into the unknown” (Herman, 1992) the women being studied had been victims of rape, violence and exploitation and who found refuge in the Salpetriere (an asylum transformed by Charcot into a modern hospital dedicated to studying neurology and psychiatry)

It was here that in following up Charcot’s foray into hysteria, that Freud released his Theses “The aetiology of Hysteria” a study of 18 case studies, concluding with a thesis that “ at the bottom of every case of hysteria, there are one or more occurrences of premature sexual experience” (Herman, 1992, p. 13) A startling conclusion for the people of Vienna, for the inference was that there were “ perverted acts against children” not only among the people of Paris, but also the bourgeois families of Vienna. Suffice to say, Freud within a year “privately repudiated the psychological origins of hysteria” and so, the study of trauma relapsed into another period of amnesia until the First World War, when the study of the impact of war on veterans began as mentioned above. This study of war neurosis and shell shock reached new heights after the Vietnam War with the development by anti-war veterans of “rap groups”, meetings where veterans relived and retold their experience of the Vietnam War. (Herman, 1992, p. 27) Within these groups, a sense of legitimacy was lent to the experience of the Vietnam veteran. They were allowed “the dignity of their distress”. A marine veteran, Michael Norman wrote:

Family and friends wondered why we were so angry. What are you crying about? They would ask. Why are you so ill-tempered and disaffected. Our fathers and grandfathers had gone off to war, done their duty come home and got on with it. What made our generation so different? As it turns out, nothing. No difference at all. (Herman, 1992)

Through their political consciousness, awareness about the psychological effect of war was raised.

A third wave of consciousness in the history of traumatic stress that began to rise up was during the 1970’s with the beginning of an acknowledgement that “violence is a routine part of women’s sexual and domestic lives” as the women’s liberation movements grew in strength.

It is interesting to note that this acknowledgement took place in groups that provided a sense of intimacy, confidentiality and truth telling. This sense of safety allowed for women to overcome the “barriers of denial, secrecy and shame that prevented them from naming their injuries” (Herman, 1992)

As we move from the international context and history of traumatic stress, and turn our attention to South Africa and its history fraught with violence and brutality, at times legitimized by a uniform, policy, and regime, we need to be asking ourselves the question:

“Is there a wave of consciousness that needs to rise, in South Africa, that questions our violent history and asks whether we have healed, are healing or still need to heal?”

Perhaps, the answer or solution lies with those who are trauma practitioners who must continue raising awareness about the effect of trauma and the healing value of “the truth must out.”

Philip Stoneman

Categories
Understanding Trauma

CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE :- AND THE ROLE OF VICTIM “ GROOMING”


By Pat Kingsley: B.Psyche intern

The sexual abuse of children wreaks lasting damage in the lives of victims.

If survivors are not given the necessary physical, emotional and psychological support and treatment after such an event, a person can experience ongoing re-victimisation and debilitating symptoms for years. These symptoms may also include depression, guilt, anxiety, shame , humiliation, post-traumatic stress disorder, personality disorders, negative self-image, alcoholism , drug abuse and eating disorders to name but a few.

Paedophilia can best be described as a strong sexual attraction to children and/or early adolescents.

Grooming” is a term used to describe the emotional and/or sexual engagement process that occurs between a paedophile and his/her victim. The main purpose of “grooming” is to break down any form of resistance that a victim may offer; to soften up a victim and convince them that sexual engagement is normal and desirable.

Paedophiles tend to use a combination of enticement and entrapment.

– These methods could include the use of deceit, rewards, merit systems , secrecy, private letters and messages between the child and the paedophile , exposing the child to pornographic material and / or including the child in such, blackmail, threats of exposure to parents and friends.

This process tends to escalate in intensity, until full sexual engagement has occurred.

There must be opportunity (privacy) if the abuser is to be successful. Be aware of the whereabouts of your child. Only allow your child to be in a trusted adult’s company. Be especially aware of who they are talking to over the internet. The internet has proven to be a very useful tool in the “grooming” process.

Grooming

While there are many ways in which paedophiles track and start relationships with children, the following information may be useful for parents and teachers alike.

§ Children can be groomed over many weeks, months and years.

§ For paedophiles, age, physical attributes, personality and degree of vulnerability are important when choosing their victims.

§ Grooming often involves targeting the intended child’s family which is also befriended and groomed to trust the paedophile completely with the child.

§ Paedophiles find families by looking for single parents on dating sites and in the personal section of newspapers.

§ They also trawl adverts of people looking for babysitters.

§ Because paedophiles pay attention to children’s interests (current bands and TV shows, as well as fashion trends and language), they are able to engage with children and gain their trust.

§ When looking after the child, they allow the child to eat things they’re not supposed to, let them stay up late and watch TV programmes there are not normally allowed to.

§ This gets the child to start keeping all kinds of secrets and show the child that they can trust the paedophile with their secrets.

§ The paedophile becomes the child’s ‘special friend’ and they do ‘special things’ together.

§ The paedophile will show the child lots of affection, starting with hugs and cuddles, and slowly becoming more sexualised like kissing and touching.

§ The paedophile may introduce the child to pornography to show the child that it is normal and something ‘everyone’ does.

§ Throughout this process, the paedophile will assess the child’s ability to keep all these things secret.

§ The child starts to need this ‘friendship’ and will be willing to do things to keep up the relationship.

§ Even though the child is being sexually abused, they will return to the paedophile because they don’t want to lose the friendship and are afraid that if they don’t obey the paedophile, there will be negative consequences.

§ The paedophile will play on the child’s emotions and thoughts, because in some cases the child may even become sexually aroused. This will make the child feel guilty because if they are aroused, it means that they must have wanted it.

§ Eventually the child will go beyond the preferred age and the paedophile will then reject the child, or get the child to ‘recruit’ other children.

WARNING SIGNS

There are a few signs parents, guardians and teachers should pay attention to which may reveal that the child is being sexually abused:

§ Scratches, bruises and complaints of pain in the genital area.

§ Sexual knowledge that is inappropriate for their age, such as words they use to describe their private parts.

§ Drawings of a sexual nature, such as people without clothes or showing private parts in detail.

§ Inappropriate sexual behaviour such as rubbing up against people and excessive masturbation.

If you need assistance

Please contact us on our Trauma Support Helpline

0861 467 348

0861 HOPE 4 U