Trauma's secondary injury

  • October 1, 2010
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Author Jessica Stern

From Jessica Stern’s book, Denial: A Memoir of Terror:

“…when observers become complicit in the victim’s desire to forget, they become perpetrators, too…When authorities disbelieve the victim, when bystanders refute what they cannot bear to know, they rob the victim of normal existence on the earth. Bystander and victim collude in denial or forgetting, and in so doing, repeat the abuse. Life for the victim now begins anew. In this new world the victim can no longer trust the evidence of her senses. Something seems to have happened, but what? The ground disappears. This is the alchemy of denial: terror, rage, and pain are replaced with free-floating shame. The victim will begin to wonder: What did I do? She will begin to believe: I must have done something bad. But the sensation of shame is shameful itself, so we dissociate that, too. In the end, a victim who has suffered the denial of others will come to see herself as a liar.”

Close readers of Is It Night or Day? will see that Edith suffered a primary trauma in her permanent separation from her parents through childhood immigration and a secondary injury in being placed in an unloving American home.

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