Some of you might have read Judith Hermans book Trauma and Recovery. I feel it is a beautiful work because she brings together so many different aspects of trauma. One of the things I remember from that book is that she describes how the awareness of trauma has varied throughout the last century.
Herman stresses how a greater awareness of trauma in society helps trauma victims to be able to look for help and to get heard in courts as well as in other places in society. The lesser the awareness of trauma in society at a certain time, the greater risk that trauma is not recognized by psychiatry. Traumatized patients might be diagnosed as borderline or schizophrenic instead.
Maybe some of you have followed the recent development in Sweden following the arrest order of Julien Assange. For those of you who don't, I would like to put it to your attention, because I think it is has a lot to do with mental health.
What happened was that when two Swedish women accused Assange of rape, and the Swedish police wanted to question him, several high profile writers in the US wrote ironic and condescending articles about these attempts to question Assange. Like for instance Michael Moore and Naomi Wolf.
As a Swede I was baffled by this. To me it seemed totally normal that the police and judicial system should investigate the accusations.
After a one week a reaction developed in Sweden on Twitter. People, mainly women, started talking about sexual experiences ”in the greyzone” on Twitter (under the hash-tag #talkaboutit - #prataomdet) and on blogs, and this also got a lot of attention in print media. This movement did not want to comment on the question of guilt of Assange, but felt that it was absolutely vital to support the alleged victims against the ferocious attacks nationally and internationally.
Now a few months later, I feel that very important things were debated in a very enlightening way. The Swedish word for rape is combination of ”take” and ”violence” - it means literally ”taken with violence”. So it is difficult for us to use the word rape for situations where no violence was involved. Maybe the relaxed and informal context of social media helped us to begin to talk about this greyzone where sex can be forced or coercive without any outright violence being displayed. Many brave people wrote about their personal experiences with these difficult issues. Both men and women told about their experiences about demanding sex in the wrong way and about having remorse and anxiety after going to far in sex.
These are complex issues and maybe the complexity of social media itself helped in reflecting this complexity. It was not one voice or one central point that developed, but hundreds of people that wrote at the same time, without any particular coordination except for the blog that collected these stories.
As I said earlier, I feel that this movement is very important in the greater context of how we talk about trauma in a society. When issues concerning trauma are brought to the foreground, the denial lifts (at least a bit), and it becomes easier for trauma victims to get adequate help, and to get recognition for their suffering.
Please comment and let me know about your thoughts about this. I am also curious to know how much of this that you have followed in the US and in other countries.