Beth is thirty-five and very thin, weighing only about 100 pounds; her face is hollow and pale. Her legs are drawn tightly against here chest in a fetal position. She is unwilling to make eye contact with me as she tells me her story.
She was sexually abused by her father and raped several times in her adult life. She was married and had a daughter, whom her husband abused sexually. He admitted this abuse to the authorities. Beth and her husband were separated and, yet, after a while, she let him back in the house. He told her that the problem was hers and that, if she weren't so depressed, things would work out. Beth eventually entered treatment, but she was so rooted in her denial about her husband's behavior that she left her child alone with him in the house.
As she sits across from me in the fetal position, she finally makes eye contact. She has piercing eyes. She says, "What I need to know, Maureen, is can I trust him?"
I look at her, cup my hands around my mouth, and say as loudly as I can, "NO!" And then I say loudly, spacing out each word with staccato emphasis: "He is a perpetrator!" I am trying to shock her back to reality, to break through her denial. If Beth is unable to break through, she will be unable to heal.
Trauma is a profound experience that affects all aspects of our lives. In his book Waking the Tiger, Peter Levine describes trauma's and the possibilities it solicits:
Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence. Not only can trauma be healed but also, with appropriate guidance and support, it can be transformative. "Trauma has the potential to be one of the most significant forces for psychological, social, and spiritual awakening and evolution. How we handle trauma (as individuals, communities, ans societies) greatly influences the quality of our lives. It ultimately affects how or even whether we survive as a species."