my body, my score

I’m reading, The body keeps the score: Mind, brain and body in the transformation of trauma (2014), by Bessel van der Kolk.

van der Kolk shows the differences to the recovery of those able to exercise the flight or fight response compared to those who are unable to.  He describes this as ‘effective action versus immobilization’ (p.54).  ‘Immobilization keeps the body in a state of inescapable shock ‘ whereas ‘effective action … ends the threat’.

van der Kolk explains that ‘being unable to move and do something to protect oneself is a critical factor in determining whether or not a horrible experience will leave long-lasting scars.’ (p.55).

Results include ongoing fear and disease.

I read this book with a mixture of shock and relief.  Shock to learn about how freezing to save yourself when attacked can later kill you anyway; relief to understand my reactions were normal for a person taught from birth not to defend herself against an abuser that is bigger and stronger and meaner.

Growing up subjected to domestic abuse, I could never have been able to respond in any other way than to freeze.  My attacker, who knew me and knew my family, had counted on this.




women write about violence against women


When I sat down recently and wrote a piece about the cultural causes of domestic abuse and other violence against women, I wondered if I was alone in wanting to continue to make this important connection see the light of day.  It certainly seems that way if I limit my reading to mainstream texts.

And then, while researching, I found reference to a book, ‘Fury – Women write about sex, power and violence’.  In this book, the editor, Samantha Trenoweth makes the same points as I had, and this made me realise that I am not alone, that my points are not new and they are being considered by other intellectuals.

What I find so appealing about the collection of stories in this book is that I can relate to some of them with such familiarity that I feel as if they are my stories.  Such is the talent of the writers, and such is the universality of the issues portrayed, that I feel even less alone in what I myself have experienced.  And this is a truly uplifting feeling.

In The Writing Project, I am creating a collection of pieces based around the theme of domestic abuse.  In Fury, the stories are collected from 16 writers.  I hope that my collection will live up to the high standards set by the writers in Fury.

I was able to access Fury from the library at the university where I teach.  I wonder how accessible it is to the general public?  A search of Brisbane Council’s libraries revealed four copies.  Not many for a city with over a million residents.  I would like to see this book available in recorded form and translated to other languages.

The underlying cause of violence and abuse against women is embedded in culture.  It is revealed in our language, our practices and our customs.  These cultural beliefs are passed down from one generation to the next, and continue to result in high levels of violence and intimate partner murder.  In order to make real changes, changes to beliefs must occur.  And this cannot happen until it is accepted at all levels of society, has become a commonly understood fact: abuse and violence is a result of the gendered nature of our culture.

I want to see this knowledge informing legislation, policy, and education curriculum and practice.  In brief, I want to see that it is used to inform the changes that will lead to real improvements in our culture and society.

Until then, I will rage and write and speak and get back up every time I am knocked down by those who claim that gender discrimination is no longer an issue in our society.  I will patiently quote statistics to convince my educated friends who tell me that sexism does not exist in their children’s generation.  And I will take on every woman who thoughtlessly repeats jokes that belittle, sexualise and demean women.  In short, I will join the Furies.

Fury – Women write about sex, power and violence, 2015, edited by Samantha Trenoweth. Melbourne: Hardie Grant Books.