Tag Archives: trauma

Survivor Cafe: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory

by Elizabeth Rosner

Everyone copes with trauma in their own way, including the way they share their (hi)stories of trauma with others. However, there does seem to be a generational pattern of how trauma is passed from parents to children to grandchildren, and so on throughout human history. As a member of the second generation after holocaust survivors, Elizabeth Rosner has the experience of living with stories told and untold about the horrors her parents experienced during WWII. Her own experience listening to her parents, traveling to holocaust memorial sites, and bearing witness to the stories of survivors and children of survivors informs her understanding of not only the way families understand their past, but also the way communities, societies, and countries make sense of their collective past. Throughout her writing, she focuses primarily on the experience of holocaust survivors, but also delves into the stories of holocaust perpetrators (and their progeny), atom bomb survivors, refugees and genocide survivors, others who have experienced collective trauma. The themes she finds throughout these (hi)stories testify to both the indomitability and fragility of the human spirit, and the way that, spoken or unspoken, trauma is shared by more than those who are directly affected.

“Survivor Café: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory” by Elizabeth Rosner is part memoir, part exploration of the limited research available on epigenetics and the generational transmission of trauma. Rosner’s writing is centered on anecdotes, her own experience and the experiences of others that lead to informed speculation about what happens when parents do and do not tell their trauma history to their children, and what pieces of the full story are told. She takes a holistic view by including the story of holocaust survivors, their children and grandchildren, and also holocaust perpetrators and their children and grandchildren, questioning not only the ways people are hurt, but also the ways people are hurt by hurting others. Her writing is full of prose and vulnerable honesty, making her anecdotes compelling and emotionally-laden. Although her honesty reveals deeply painful truths about humanity and society, it is also imbued with a profound sense of hope. At times the stories she shares are so overwhelming it can be hard to connect with the emotional content of the book, which emphasizes Rosner’s point that we must bear witness to the suffering of others if we are to collectively do anything to reduce the amount of suffering in the world.

I was expecting something with a little more research to it, but the human stories are always more compelling than the numbers and statistics behind research. This book reinforces many of the anecdotes I hear through my work, and many of the speculations I have about how trauma is held and shared both for the person directly impacted and by those close to the trauma survivor. Her holistic perspective, including holocaust perpetrators, feels neither forced nor contrived, but necessary and balanced. The whole book is authentic and compelling. I highly recommend reading this one. 


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Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault

By Justin Holcomb and Lindsey Holcomb

For most survivors of sexual assault, the struggle to come to terms with such a horrific violation of one’s personal and physical boundaries can present a challenge that seem insurmountable. For some survivors, this struggle is further complicated by questions of sin and how to reconcile Biblical teachings with the traumatic violation that occurred. This book aims to address concerns specific to Christian religious teachings about sin, morality, transgressions against others and God, and the possibility healing and recovery after having experienced sexual assault. The authors discuss the emotional impact of sexual assault and different responses victims may experience, and then offer religious interpretations and teachings that show the ways by which faith in God and Jesus Christ offer solace, healing, and redemption. Throughout the book and in each chapter, the authors return to the notion of grace and disgrace, emphasizing the unconditionality of each. Early on, the authors define disgrace as “one-way violence” committed against a person, and that person bears no responsibility for the pain caused to them. They also reiterate the healing power of grace, “one-way love,” offered unconditionally by God to provide redemption, healing, and hope of a better future.

“Rid of My Disgrace” by Justin Holcomb and Lindsey Holcomb offers thoroughly researched and clearly presented arguments about the possibility of redemption following the sin and disgrace of sexual assault. Both authors have experience supporting survivors of sexual assault, and their definitions and explanations align with the commonly cited examples of varied emotional responses to sexual assault. They also personalize the story, offering narratives from individual survivors at the start of each chapter in the section dealing with responses to sexual assault. This humanizes the information and helps make it more accessible to survivors by showing examples of how others have dealt with similar situations. The authors then follow up each response with clear connections to scripture and religious teachings that show how sexual violence is never the fault of the victim, offer examples of recovery, and express the importance of accepting unconditional love and grace from God as part of the recovery process. The chapters in the middle of the book follow a predictable pattern (personal story, emotional response, scriptural teaching), and the book itself flows nicely by starting with an introduction to the issue of sexual violence and closing with an emphasis on hope and healing.

As someone who currently has a fair amount of distance from Christianity, I still found this book to be relevant and applicable. The descriptions, definitions, and examples of sexual violence and the possible impact it may have on survivors matched everything I have encountered as an advocate doing this work, and their suggestions for supporting others or seeking support are spot on. Although I may not necessarily agree with everything presented in this book, I do feel able to endorse it as a source of understanding and help on the issue of sexual violence as it intersects with Christianity. If you have need of this book, it is would be a good resource.

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