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Finding hope in shared struggle after trauma

  • 20 June 2018


In a sea of recovery memoirs, each one more determined than the next to provide a blueprint for how to recover from the unspeakable, Meera Atkinson's recently released Traumata stands out like a welcome sore thumb.

In tight evocative prose, it lays bare the mutually sustaining relationship between trauma and patriarchy and asks us to look at the ways in which patriarchy creates, sustains and feeds voraciously off the pains of those most impacted by misogyny, racism, and capitalism. Using memoir as a kind of litmus, Atkinson challenges the myth that traumatic events are socially 'out of character' and instead asks us to look at how by its very nature, patriarchy demands the abuse of its most vulnerable citizens.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, one of the most comprehensive investigations into the relationship between childhood abuse and adult health and wellbeing, found direct links between childhood trauma and a significantly increased vulnerability to a diverse range of conditions, including foetal death, heart disease, depression and alcoholism.

While this study helped to put child abuse and trauma on the mainstream health map, it also highlighted the role of structural inequality in entrenched ill health and repeated experiences of both institutional and interpersonal violence. It demonstrated unequivocally that abuse and neglect are both common and unequally distributed. It is the seeds of these structural roots of trauma that Atkinson seeks to bring to light.

But despite decades of evidence supporting the link between trauma and oppressive social systems, the medicalisation and personalisation of trauma persists.

It's only been a short time since Peter Miles allegedly shot and killed his wife, daughter and four grandchildren in Western Australia. If you read the major news outlets, you'll find explanations for his catastrophic actions nestled within the many column inches devoted to this story (mental illness? stress? easy access to firearms?), and you'll find helpline numbers listed at the end. Most include Lifeline, some also offer supports for specifically for men, and after recent criticism from feminist writers Celeste Liddle and Amy Gray, a few now provide the numbers of family violence support services.  On the ground in Margaret River, trauma counsellors are available to residents.

In the same week, a police car was filmed crossing the road and hitting 18 year old Aboriginal man, William Farmer. No support services are listed at the end of this article. It's almost as if in laying bare state-sanctioned violence, it would be disingenuous to offer the numbers