The Right to Feel Safe: Trauma and Recovery
Of all the human rights of children perhaps the most important is the right to be safe. As we shall see in later chapters, this right is often a matter of physical safety—being spared mutilation, starvation, or murder, for example. But from the perspective of child development, some of the most important threats to the child’s right to be safe come in the form of traumatic experiences, experiences that threaten the development of heart and mind.
The word “trauma” has entered into common usage in America. Teenagers speak of a traumatic exam at school. Parents talk about the trauma of a child starting school. Young adults bemoan the trauma of dating. But the real substance of trauma is greater and deeper than these casual references would allow: Trauma is overwhelming psychological threat.
Susan Sgroi, a clinical researcher who specializes in sexual abuse cases, uses these words, saying that to be traumatized is “to come face to face with human vulnerability in the natural world and with the capacity for evil in human nature.” Perhaps the most powerful simple characterizations is an event from which you never fully recover. To use more conventionally psychological terms, trauma is the simultaneous experience of extremely powerful negative feelings (overwhelming arousal) coupled with thoughts that are beyond normal ideas of human reality (overwhelming cognitions).
KeywordsTraumatic Event Traumatic Experience Khmer Rouge Sexual Abuse Case True Believer
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