Power-Under: Trauma and Nonviolent Social Change

"We are a society of people living in a state of post-traumatic shock."

-Aurora Levins Morales1



If trauma was not widely recognized before September 11, 2001 as an issue of urgent political significance, it certainly should be now. In the aftermath of the attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, massive numbers of people have experienced a bone-deep sense of violation, helplessness, powerlessness, terror, and rage. These are core phenomena associated with trauma. In turn, this mass experience of victimization has been mobilized politically in the service of counter-aggression, war, and a frontal assault on civil liberties.

One of the striking - though not surprising - features of the public response to September 11 is how little discourse we have had about traumatization and its political relevance. There has been fleeting mention in the media of a heightened level of psychological stress. The word terrorism is on everyone's lips; but, at least in the public arena, hardly anyone is talking openly about feeling terrified. We have seen rage displayed in all kinds of ways, from support for war to attacks against Muslims, but there has been virtually no conscious reflection about rage as a traumatic response to violation. Least of all has there been discourse about how trauma, in addition to causing intense personal distress, is a significant factor that shapes political behavior.

My central thesis in this book is that trauma plays a crucial role in the politics of oppression, domination, and violence. There is a strong tendency for traumatized people to internalize the experience of powerlessness, and then at critical moments to engage in desperate efforts at self-protection that are driven from that place of subjective powerlessness. This is a psychological and political place from which we are incisively aware of the ways in which we have been acted upon, victimized and harmed, but from which it can be difficult or impossible to gauge the impact of our enraged behavior upon others, or even to maintain our awareness of the core humanity of those defined

as Other. I attempt to describe and understand this phenomenon through the concept of power-under.

Power-under plays itself out in acts of violence ranging from the physical and sexual abuse of children to male battering, and in political stances ranging from racism to homophobia, from xenophobia to support for war. It is particularly relevant to a post-September 11 world in which many Americans perceive themselves as innocent victims, acted upon by forces of evil.

In the state of heightened vulnerability caused so prominently by the terrorist attacks, the psychological need for self-protection cannot be overstated. The ways that we attempt to defend ourselves psychologically against trauma can easily conspire to equate retaliation with self-protection. These include the demonization of the perceived perpetrator, our subjective immersion in powerlessness and lack of agency, the tendency for victimization to make us unaware of our own access to power and dominance, and the overwhelming need to give expression to unbearable feelings of rage. From the perspective of traumatized victims, we have been threatened with annihilation by inhuman monsters, and any actions "we" take against "them" (no matter how broadly the Others are defined) are readily justified as acts of self-defense rather than acts of aggression. When "they" kill it is terrorism; when "we" kill it is self-protection.

At its core, this book is about breaking cycles of violence and domination. In Starhawk's novel The Fifth Sacred Thing, the wise old woman Maya says, "The ends don't justify the means….The means shape the ends."2 Consistency between means and ends is the essence of nonviolence, and that is the value system from which I am writing. Political violence, whether in the hands of individuals who blow up planes and buildings or of governments that bomb countries, always rests on the belief that the ends justify the means. In a world that is literally rocking with violence and counter-violence, the need for new political forces rooted in the principles and practices of nonviolence has never been more urgent.

In order to promote the practice of nonviolence, we need as many people as possible to critically reflect on their experiences of traumatic powerlessness and rage. This is true not only in relation to the trauma of September 11, but also in relation to the extraordinary breadth and depth of traumatization in a society that is saturated with domination and brutality, at both the personal and institutional levels. It is not a new idea that brutality begets brutality. The question that needs much more conscious attention and investigation is exactly how this happens, both psychologically and politically. My contention in this book is that the internalization of powerlessness is a central link in cycles of violence. Becoming conscious of how our own subjective powerlessness can lead us to dehumanize and violate others is one of the keys to breaking these cycles.

As I have completed the final revisions on this work, a new peace movement has blossomed to oppose the Bush Administration's proposed war with Iraq. (I write this in March 2003, as we stand at the very brink of war.) Antiwar activism has grown exponentially in the last six months. This outpouring of opposition to war, both in the U.S. and globally, creates important new opportunities to engage people in the task of trying to understand how to break cycles of violence. Given the fluidity of events since September 11, how long those opportunities will last - and what direction they will take - is far from clear. But at the very least, we have fresh and compelling evidence of the human capacity and the political will to respond to violence with nonviolence.

Trauma is one piece of a much larger puzzle that includes factors from childrearing practices to the institutional arrangements of economic and political power that shape political values which legitimize violence and domination. But I believe that trauma is a critically important factor that is largely ignored from left to right on the political spectrum. My goal in this book is to raise awareness of trauma as a political issue and, above all, to stimulate dialogue about trauma and nonviolence. Far more than "expert" pronouncements or instructions, we need people critically reflecting on and talking to each other about our experiences of powerlessness, violation, suffering, terror and rage.

I write this book as a political observer and a mental health worker - but also as a trauma survivor. While this is not a memoir, later in this chapter I will describe my experience of childhood trauma; and the analysis I develop is at all times informed by the sensibility of someone conscious of having experienced severe emotional trauma.

Though this book is strikingly relevant to the political response to terrorist attacks in the U.S., it is not specifically about September 11. It was largely written before September 11, and it addresses issues that long predate - and will long outlive - our current crisis.

Trauma is both an effect and a cause of brutality and domination. If ours were a society that valued people over the accumulation of wealth, that raised its children nonviolently, that lived in harmony with the earth, that recognized the intrinsic worth of each life, the terrorist attacks in all likelihood would not have happened; and if they had, our response would have been far different. In a society organized around inequality, systemic oppression, and the legitimization of many forms of domination and violence, it is inevitable that people will experience the powerlessness, violation, and intense suffering associated with trauma on a massive scale. While a specific event such as the hijacking of a plane or the bombing of a building is not inevitable or predictable, patterns of violence which feed on the internalization of powerlessness are all too predictable.

The horror of September 11 resonates with and builds upon this deep underlay of traumatic powerlessness in people's lives; and the trauma related to this one event is the tip of an iceberg. It is the iceberg that I aim to address.


Creating a Radically Humane Society

The most important goal of this book is to contribute to our capacity to achieve a more just and humane society. A core contention is that if trauma were more widely understood and explored as a political issue, we would be better able to build effective movements working toward peace and social justice. I will outline the reasons why trauma is related to social change efforts shortly. But first, here is a brief description of the kind of society that I believe in - the values and vision that I hope this book can help to promote.

In a radically humane society:

·        The basic, intrinsic value of all life is recognized and affirmed. There is a core ethos of equality, based on each person's inherent worth rather than on ability, accomplishment, or such arbitrary tokens of value as race, gender, nationality, and so on.

·        People are valued more than the accumulation of wealth, status, or power. Promoting the well-being of each person individually, and of people collectively, is recognized and practiced as the greatest personal, social, and political accomplishment. Cooperation is valued over competition; mutual aid over "winning." Individual accomplishment is not at the expense of others.

·        Wealth is democratically limited and shared. The ideal of getting as rich as possible is replaced by the ideal of self-chosen limits on wealth at levels which are consistent with everyone having enough to meet their basic needs, and at levels which are consistent with ecological health.

·        Diversity is valued and celebrated along lines of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and ability. There is recognition of the richness of multiple cultures. Individual diversities based on the incredible range of human aptitude, personality, interests, and creativity are affirmed and nourished.

·        We live in harmony with the earth. The paradigm of exploiting the earth's resources for human benefit is replaced by the paradigm of interconnectedness between the health of the earth and the health of human life.

·        Power is shared through participatory institutions and practices. The democratic ideals that our current society preaches are actually put into practice in ways that give ordinary people shared control over their workplaces,3 communities, and homes through a proliferation of participatory institutions in which people learn and practice the skills of democratic self-management.

·        There is a revitalization of community life. As human interconnectedness becomes a primary societal value, and mutual aid becomes a social and cultural norm, community life flourishes.4

·        Society's key institutions are organized on a decentralized, human scale. In place of gigantic, centralized, bureaucratic economic and political institutions, economic and political life is decentralized through democratically managed small businesses and neighborhood councils. Federations of decentralized economic and political institutions coordinate and manage issues that must be dealt with on a larger scale.

·        Nonviolence pervades social, economic, and political relations. New norms emerge at every level of human existence which take violence off the map as an acceptable option for solving problems or resolving conflicts. From child rearing and gender relations to international relations, peaceful "win-win" conflict resolution methods are developed and practiced as routine aspects of daily life.5 To the extent that pockets and remnants of oppression and violent behavior persist, they are resisted through nonviolent means of struggle that respect the core humanity of those identified as oppressors.


Of course, I recognize that we are light years away from a radically humane society at present, and I have no illusions about the obstacles that have to be overcome and the degree of struggle entailed in moving toward such a society.

At the same time, it's important to also recognize that every one of the values I have described has actually been put into practice to some degree, either historically or currently. Ruth Benedict and Riane Eisler have written about "primitive"6 and historical7 societies which were organized around the alignment of self-interest with the common good. Even within our present society, in the face of a prevailing ethos that legitimizes greed and domination, there are large numbers of people who do not seek limitless wealth, who genuinely value human life and diversity, who try to share power and to live in harmony with the earth, and so on. These are ideals in the sense that they are not prevailing norms - but they are squarely within the range of human capacities.

It is especially important to hold these positive possibilities in view in the context of a book that delves into the politics of trauma. The study of trauma brings us face to face with human capacities for gross brutality and malevolence at levels which are extraordinarily difficult to take in and come to terms with. What may be even more daunting, particularly from a political perspective, is the extent to which the experience of traumatization itself can lay the groundwork for further acts of violation and dehumanization. Immersed in this kind of analysis, it is critical not to lose sight of the full range of human potentials - including our ability to resist the experience of violation and oppression in ways that move us toward the affirmation of life and the creation of humane social conditions.8


Trauma and Progressive Social Change

How can the study of trauma help us to move toward a more humane society of the sort that I have described? I believe that trauma is relevant both to mounting a critique of the existing society and to our efforts to build effective social change movements. A more broadly shared understanding of trauma as a political issue can help us to articulate and expose critical ways in which oppression harms people; it can also clarify key aspects of how oppression is socially reproduced and perpetuated. In addition, I will argue that trauma is critically relevant to overcoming divisions between social change constituencies and movements, and relevant to the central task of mobilizing progressive activism.

Understanding trauma can help us to articulate what is deeply wrong with the current society. Personal suffering is the most basic reason for social change. Trauma offers a conceptual framework for describing our most profound suffering9 - and for showing how oppressive social conditions degrade human experience and cause wide ranges of personal dysfunction. It is the fact that oppression wounds people so deeply that creates its magnitude as a social wrong.10 The study of trauma can help us to make those wounds visible and to show how pervasively, how systematically, and how deeply our society injures people.

Sandra Bloom and Michael Reichert, in their recent book Bearing Witness, call the U.S. a "trauma-organized society" in which people are routinely exposed to "traumatogenic environments."11 Over the last 30 years, since the women's movement began to unmask childhood sexual abuse, there has been increasing public awareness of the ways that violence against women and children cause trauma.12 There is much less recognition that oppression is generically traumatizing.

Racism, patriarchy, homophobia, and economic brutality all routinely violate people's integrity and repeatedly render people powerless in the face of overwhelming personal and institutional forces. The social experience of people of color, gay people, women, workers, poor people, children, and disabled people is saturated with abuse, humiliation, violence, and negation of personal worth. As Aurora Levins Morales argues, "abuse is the local eruption of systemic oppression, and oppression the accumulation of millions of small systematic abuses."13

Trauma belies myths that people are immune to destructive social environments, that anyone can emerge unscathed and through hard work succeed, and conversely that those who don't succeed are to blame for their own failures. The study of trauma can teach us that ours is a sickening society — a society in which toxic social conditions create psychological and physical illness by routinely traumatizing people. It teaches that a society organized around domination is bankrupt not only because it spawns enormous material inequality, violence, and oppressive power relations, but also because it degrades the quality of individual lives on a massive scale through the mechanism of trauma.

Understanding trauma can help us to analyze the persistence of oppression and the popular appeal of the right. In order to develop effective social change strategies, we need to understand the forces that sustain the existing social and political order. Left analysis has understandably focused on systems of power-over - institutions and structures built around class, patriarchy, and race that concentrate power and wealth in the hands of elites that are overwhelmingly white and male. As a foundation for effective social action, this kind of analysis is crucial. But in my view it is also incomplete.

The politics of powerlessness can add significantly to our understanding of why and how many people enact dominance personally, and can also help us to explain the popular appeal of the right. I will argue that it is common for traumatized people to occupy dominant positions - as parents, as men, as white people, as heterosexuals, as bosses, as Americans, and so on. When internalized powerlessness is paired with objective dominance, it creates a lethal dynamic in which we unwittingly respond to our own victimization by oppressing others. In Chapter Two I describe how power-under combines with objective dominance in examples that range from Holocaust survivors to male batterers.

Along exactly the same lines, right wing populism consistently appeals to ordinary people's sense of victimization and mobilizes traumatic rage toward the demonization of politically scapegoated groups (the welfare poor, gays and lesbians, women exercising reproductive rights, immigrants, and so on),14 as I try to show in Chapter Four. As Aurora Levins Morales notes, "If trauma distorts the ability of the subjugated to direct their desire to empower themselves and in fact tends to drive them toward assuming perpetrator roles, and if people in objectively dominant positions often perceive themselves as victimized and defending themselves as a result of unresolved trauma, then understanding how trauma works and how to undo its effects is one of the most critical issues we face."15

This kind of understanding is critical particularly because it can inform how we try to effect change among people identified as oppressors. If we view the oppressor as an inhuman Other - no matter how understandable this view is from the perspective of the victim and the oppressed - we rule out all possibilities for the kinds of dialogues that can win hearts and minds. If we view the oppressor as invariably acting from a place of subjective dominance, I believe that we will completely miss the deep and typically hidden suffering, the complex histories of violation and trauma, and the subjective experience of profound powerlessness that often go hand in hand with the cruelty and malevolence enacted by oppressors.

Conversely, if we are willing to recognize that "the oppressor" is not fundamentally different from us, and that the dominant behavior of oppressors is often embedded in personal pain and internalized powerlessness, it may help us to have the kinds of human-to-human dialogues that can reach people's hearts and minds. In Chapter Three I try to develop this kind of understanding specifically regarding gender-based oppression.

Understanding trauma can help us to overcome divisions that chronically plague progressive social change movements. The left has been repeatedly weakened by internal divisions and fragmentation,16 both in the form of in-fighting within social change organizations and through the inability of different oppressed constituencies to form robust and sustainable coalitions. There are many reasons for these divisions that have nothing to do with trauma. These range from principled ideological differences to unprincipled power struggles; from the complex ways in which multiple oppressions create divisions in our society to the divide-and-conquer strategies utilized by forces aligned with the status quo in the face of unrest and social change activism.

I believe we could benefit from adding trauma to this list, not as a competing explanation but as one that is typically ignored to the detriment of social change movements. If we can recognize that social change movements and constituencies are made up largely of traumatized people, many of the difficulties we encounter dealing effectively with difference and conflict become much more understandable. Internal conflicts blow up and become unresolvable in part because we lack a common language and framework for recognizing the effects of trauma, and lack practical tools for managing the traumatic rage that we all too readily direct at each other.

When trauma is unnamed and unrecognized, its presence - at once palpable and invisible - can cause an enormous amount of damage. We need to develop shared understandings of the politics of trauma that bring awareness of trauma into the room in the same way that feminism has brought awareness of power relations involving domination into the room. By this I mean an awareness that people may carry the effects of trauma - victimization, subjective powerlessness, traumatic rage, and so on - into any situation: any meeting, any organizing effort, any coalition-building project, any conflict.

It is only through the emergence of consciousness and a common language to describe the politics of powerlessness that we can create possibilities to interrupt and counteract the damaging effects of trauma within our social change organizations and movements. Developing language and a conceptual framework along these lines is the work of Chapter Two.

Understanding trauma can help us to mobilize rage in the service of nonviolent social change. As Allan Wade eloquently writes, "Whenever persons are badly treated, they resist."17 But how we resist oppression has decisive implications for achieving progressive social change. There are many inspiring examples of people who, individually and collectively, have responded to traumatizing conditions through acts of constructive resistance, including the mobilization of movements seeking to overcome and transform racism, patriarchy, homophobia, capitalist exploitation, war, and so on. In Chapter Five I discuss the civil rights movement in particular as an extraordinary example of the capacity of traumatized people to resist oppression through sustained commitment to nonviolent struggle.

But in the same breath, there is an equally wide range of examples which show how the psychological effects of trauma can profoundly obstruct social change. In the context of a society organized around domination, our resistance to victimization and trauma can readily be expressed destructively by being directed downward at others over whom we hold some modicum of power rather than upward at the sources of our own oppression.

We see this dynamic played out politically in the racism and homophobia of whites and heterosexuals who themselves are oppressed in significant ways; in class contempt directed toward working class and poor people; in the xenophobia which fuels anti-immigrant politics and popular support for U.S. policies of exploitation and aggression toward Third World countries; and in many other incarnations of right wing populism. We likewise see dominance fueled by traumatization in virtually every domain of personal politics, ranging from male battering18 and sexual violence to the abusive parenting practices of both women and men.19

When we view trauma from a political perspective, two truths emerge which stand in stark tension with each other: that trauma can psychologically debilitate people in ways that help to perpetuate domination and oppression; and that trauma can help to spark personal and political resistance to domination and oppression. I believe that it is critical to develop our understanding of both sides of this tension. It is in the push and pull between the ways that traumatized people are damaged and defeated by oppression and the ways that traumatized people stand up to oppression that our prospects for mobilizing effective social change movements rise or fall.

Traumatic rage is one of the keys to this tension and how it is resolved. On the one hand, people's rage in response to oppression is a driving force behind the mobilization of movements for social change. On the other hand, as I try to show in Chapter Two, when trauma takes the form of powerless rage, it readily slides into all kinds of destructive behavior. One of the central challenges of progressive social change efforts is to learn how to mobilize traumatic rage toward constructive ends through the use of nonviolent and humanizing means. Addressing that challenge is the central focus of Chapter Five.


Breaking Cycles of Violence

One of the keys to breaking cycles of violence is our willingness to acknowledge and come to terms with complexity. I am thinking specifically of the complex ways in which each of us can at once be both oppressed and oppressor, both victim and perpetrator.20 This complexity is hard to take in.

We all have an understandable tendency to be incisively aware of our own victimization and to deny our own capacities to cause harm.21 As a result, we tend to describe neat divisions between victims and perpetrators, between oppressors and the oppressed. But we do so at the expense of an accurate description of political and personal realities; and our perceptions of ourselves as pure victims, and of oppressors as inhuman Others, can set the stage for continued cycles of violence.

Conversely, if we can take hold of more complex versions of reality, in which we are willing to describe ourselves and others as both victims and perpetrators, both oppressed and oppressors, it can be a path toward the kind of awareness and compassion that we need to break cycles of violence. Let me offer my own trauma story as an illustration.

I experienced trauma as a child at the hands of my mother and my older brother, and also from my parents' treatment of each other.

One of my vivid memories from early childhood is of my mother's ritual of sitting me on her lap, telling me adoringly that I had her face, and then specifying each feature on my face and telling me that it was hers. Part of the clarity of this memory is the deep pleasure that my mother took in owning my face as hers. This dynamic repeated itself in countless other ways: my role in my mother's life was to be a vehicle to her pleasure. While this never took the form of overt sexual contact or stimulation, it had the emotional quality of a lover relationship.

I have a photo of my mother and me when I was seven which captures the essence of our relationship, at least as I experienced it, in stark detail. In the picture I'm with my mother on a couch. My mother has her arms around me, her left hand cupped over my left hand. She leans toward me at a 45 degree angle, kissing me at the corner of my mouth, and looking straight into the camera. She's beaming. It's as if she is so full of joy she's bursting with it. I am leaning away from my mother at that same 45 degree angle. My legs are stretched out behind me on the couch, almost perpendicular to my torso, my body impossibly contorted. My mouth is turned from my mother, my lips avoiding hers as much as they can. I'm looking away from my mother, away from the camera, off into space.

My expression in the photo is unspeakably sad. There clearly is a cold, silent anger there too. I'm trapped in her loving embrace, and every ounce of my body is straining to get away from her. My mother doesn't notice; she's too captivated by her love for me to notice my unmistakable body language, and by extension to have any sense of who I am. In response, in order to survive, by age seven I have learned to go off into space, to hide within myself - what I now understand to be the classic traumatic response of dissociation.

My mother treated me as an extension of herself rather than as a separate person. When I was little she insisted that I promise to "always stay good," which meant adhering to her wishes without any room for maneuver or exploration of my own potentials (for example, I had no permission to be messy, rambunctious, express anger, or make mistakes that I might learn from) - explorations which might cause her discomfort or might confront her with my reality as a separate self. I lived in constant fear of my mother yelling at me or calling me bad, which I saw her do on a daily basis to my brother. As a result, I learned to hide my real self. I learned to stay small and quiet, to numb out my feelings - particularly feelings of anger - and to live in a constricted world in which I was able to survive but at enormous psychological cost.

Meanwhile my brother, who was four years older, abused me physically. For a period of about six years, for me spanning from age four to ten, he repeatedly pinned me on the floor and clawed at my stomach until I was sobbing hysterically. This was a common event during those years, and while I am not sure of the frequency, I believe that it happened as often as once or twice a week - possibly even more frequently - during that entire period of time. My memories are of times when my brother and I were alone, having come home from school before my mother got home from work, or on Sunday mornings when my parents slept late. My brother would convince me to wrestle with him, promising to let me win, and eventually would pin me, claw my stomach until it was burning with pain, and then leave me sobbing on the floor. I would roll over, face down on the floor, and have vivid revenge fantasies of being old and big enough to beat him up - consumed with powerless rage.

There were also times my brother abused me when my parents were home and within earshot, when I would call for help and my father would come and take my brother off of me. Despite my parents' awareness that this happened, my brother and I were repeatedly allowed to be alone together; despite the times when my father did take my brother off of me, there were innumerable other times - I believe hundreds of times - when I was physically and emotionally overwhelmed by my brother and no one was there to stop him.

My brother would go on to become an adult molester of boys. When he was finally arrested and convicted of child molesting at age 55, the police found 1,200 audio and video tapes and pictures in his apartment depicting his sexual encounters with boys, as well as bags of boys' underwear, according to press accounts. While my brother never sexually abused me, the driving force, the persistence, and the intense violation I experienced in his physical assaults were all consistent with his later sexual behavior as an adult.

Finally, spanning my entire childhood it was commonplace for my parents to scream at each other. Though they were not physically violent toward each other, they were as piercing and verbally abusive as I can imagine two adults being. They yelled at each other in front of me and my brother and with no apparent regard for our presence. This was a terrifying event for me, and one which made me feel invisible and totally powerless. From a very young age I learned to shut off all feelings when my parents had their screaming arguments - to go emotionally numb, which again as an adult I have learned to name as a form of dissociation, but which at the time was an unarticulated and desperate mechanism for emotional survival.

When I was 17 I left home for college, hundreds of miles and several states away, and for a long time I believed that I had emerged from childhood and from my family relatively unharmed. Meanwhile, I developed political understandings that led me to view myself as someone with a great deal of access to privilege and power. As a white middle class man, as someone who is highly educated, as a heterosexual, as a program director at work, and eventually as a parent, I have occupied many positions of dominance, and many forms of institutional power are conferred on me whether I want them or not. I have defined an important part of my politics around awareness of privilege and commitment to struggle against it; I've reacted against privilege along the lines of class, race, gender, sexual orientation and age. For a long time I viewed myself as someone with too much power, not as someone who was oppressed or powerless, and in many ways I still hold to that view.

It was not until I reached my forties that I named my childhood experiences as trauma. I was led to do so by a depth and intensity of emotional pain which forced me to face and to understand my childhood in ways which enabled me to make sense of my experience and what had become glaring areas of emotional dysfunction. I began to acknowledge and to feel the full force of the ways that I was abused as a child - and I began to recognize myself as a victim.

My childhood trauma has stayed with me for the three decades of my adult life. For many years I blocked and numbed it out, as I learned to be a competent and functional person; but I was walking around with unhealed and festering wounds. When I reached the place in my life where I could no longer deny or minimize the depth and intensity of my suffering, I came face to face with the truth that I am an oppressed person - that I was dominated and abused as a child in ways that I was powerless to prevent, with effects that I have carried ever since and that can still render me powerless. Standing alongside all of the privilege and power in my life, there is a depth of powerlessness and victimization that at moments can debilitate me and can trigger an enormous amount of rage.

Standing alongside is the key. My oppression does not negate or in any way diminish my access to privilege and dominance. The two co-exist, and no matter how powerless and victimized I feel in the moments when my traumatic experience is triggered, the truth is that in those moments I continue to exercise power as a parent, to occupy a position of authority at work, to hold institutional privilege and power based on my class, gender and race, and so on. By the same token, my access to privilege and dominance do not negate or diminish the truth of my experience of powerlessness and its basis in the historical reality of my childhood trauma. I am at once an oppressed person and someone with multiple opportunities to act as an oppressor; and at the times when I experience profound powerlessness, I continue to hold power over others.

The greatest challenge that I face to break a cycle of violence is in my role as a parent, where the complexity of my position as both oppressed and oppressor is poignant and, at critical moments, overwhelming. Parenting persistently evokes my experience of victimization; and, for me, it can trigger incredibly intense feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, and rage. At one stage, this could happen when my son would wriggle when I would try to dress him in the morning; at another stage, when he would startle me by running up from behind me and jumping on my back; at another (current) stage when he talks to me in ways that I feel to be disrespectful. (These are three out of many, many examples.) No matter how much I know that the intensity of my feelings in these moments is rooted in my childhood trauma, I experience the feelings in the present; they are vivid and often overwhelming; they make me feel victimized and powerless; and they can lead me to lash out at my son - unless I can find a way to break the cycle.

At the moments when I am most triggered and feel the most powerless as a parent, what is truly poisonous is that I can lose all sight of the power that I actually hold over my child. In fact, there is no greater power imbalance in our society than that between parent and child.

It is true that a parent's power over the child is not absolute. Child abuse laws mandate state intervention in cases of severe physical mistreatment and assault. And there are all sorts of mundane ways that we often can't make our kids do what we want them to do - can't make them go to sleep, can't make them stop crying, can't make them obey us or respect us - and these are often the very things that make parents feel powerless.

But parents have an enormous range and magnitude of power over our kids that we simply take for granted. We can physically assault our kids by spanking, slapping, and various other forms of corporal punishment that fall short of the threshold for what is considered child abuse - and do so with legal and cultural impunity. We hold absolute control over our kids' food, clothing, and living conditions. We control the minute details of our kids' daily lives - what and when they will eat, whether they can go out to play, when and how often they have to bathe, when they go to bed, and so on. We exercise an incredible amount of power by the giving and withholding of praise, blame, acceptance and rejection. Even when we are not able to get our kids to do what we want, we have the power to wreak devastating harm through acts of physical or emotional aggression against children who are legally, culturally, physically, and emotionally at our mercy.

Because of the strength of my belief in nonviolence, I have never physically attacked my son. But there have been many times that I have responded to my own feelings of powerlessness and traumatic rage by attacking and hurting him emotionally. Sometimes I do this by lashing out at him verbally, blaming him for something that is as much my fault as his, not listening to or valuing his side of the story, and not acknowledging or validating his feelings. At other times I withdraw from him in a cold fury, for as much as a few hours at a stretch, leaving him completely stranded emotionally, my rage silently but palpably directed at him. The irony is that at the moments when I feel most powerless and overwhelmed, my behavior is most overpowering and overwhelming in its effects on my child. This is an example of the phenomenon that I call power-under.

When I am able to break this cycle - to cope with my own traumatic experience in ways that do not harm my child - it's because, in the first place, I'm able to recognize that I am still in a position of objective dominance even when I am internally powerless. It's because I'm able to recognize, to really believe in and honor the full humanity of my son, to really believe that his feelings matter as much as mine and that he still deserves to be treated with respect and kindness and concern, no matter how overwhelmed I am, no matter how victimized and enraged I feel. It's because I'm able to maintain an attitude of compassion toward myself as someone who is still suffering the effects of childhood abuse, and at the same time maintain an attitude of compassion toward my son as someone who deserves not to suffer childhood abuse. And it's because I have specific tools for managing and containing my feelings of victimization and rage.

For years I have carried a piece of paper in my wallet that lists "what to do when Steve loses it with Eric." It gives me simple, graspable options such as taking an adult time out, reminding myself that I expected this could happen, apologizing to my son for blowing up at him, telling him that when I over-react to what he does it's my problem and not his fault, offering him a hug, and attending to my own needs. More recently I have been using the "mindful breathing" practice described by Thich Nhat Hahn in his book Anger,22 which is also a very simple technique that I find extremely powerful and effective.

The very hard work is to actually mobilize myself to use these tools in the heat of the triggered moment. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don't. But I do have a framework and a strategy that allow me to make headway, to gauge my successes, and to keep working at it.


I have used my story as an illustration because I think it captures something common about cycles of violence and how we might think about breaking them. In order to view my experience as not simply personal but also political in a broader sense, we need to be willing to stretch it out in two directions.

First, I believe that it is fundamental to the organization of our society that most people occupy oppressor and oppressed roles simultaneously. This is what Aurora Levins Morales has called the "interpenetration" of oppressions.23 While the form that this takes in my story is limited to the realm of parenting, the oppressor/oppressed dynamic plays itself out in a maze of intersections and interactions of oppressions based on class, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and ability. This theme is central to every chapter of this book, and will be illustrated with a wide range of examples at each step of my analysis.

The second stretch is from the personal and private actions of a struggling parent to organized political action that seeks to break cycles of violence. While there are obvious differences of scope and scale, I believe that the essentials of (in my case) a personal strategy to manage internalized powerlessness without acting abusively carry over to strategies and actions on a larger scale. They are:

·        A basic belief in nonviolence and commitment to nonviolent action.

·        Recognition of simultaneous oppressor/ oppressed roles.

·        Willingness to humanize the Other.

·        Compassion for self and other.

·        Cultivation of accessible options for nonviolent action that manage and contain traumatic rage, and break the stranglehold of internalized powerlessness.

·        Clear understandings of power relations that enable us to distinguish between internalized powerlessness, shared power, and dominance, and enable us to constrain the exercise of objective dominance.

Developing these strategic points, and applying them to possibilities for large scale political action, is the work of Chapter Five.


The Prevalence of Trauma

If trauma were a rare event, it would probably not deserve much attention as a political issue, regardless of the power dynamics involved. In fact, there is good reason to believe that trauma is occurring at epidemic levels.

Sexual violence against girls and against women is probably the issue most commonly associated with trauma, and for good reason. A study published in 1986 by Diana Russell found that of a random sample of 930 women, 16% reported sexual abuse by a family member before the age of 18, and 19% reported incestuous abuse at some time in their lives; 31% of the women reported sexual abuse by a non-family member. Altogether 38% of the women in Russell's survey reported having been sexually abused by either a family or non-family member before the age of 18. When the criteria for sexual abuse were broadened to include exposure of genitals, unwanted nongenital touching or kissing, and sexual advances not acted upon, 54% of the women reported at least one instance of sexual abuse within or outside of the family before age 18.24

A 1985 national random sample of 1,374 women contacted by telephone found that 27% of women reported sexual abuse during childhood.25 The somewhat lower abuse rate found in this survey (compared to Russell's results) is probably attributable to the methodology: telephone interviews are less likely to elicit personal revelations than the in-person, in-depth interviews used by Russell.26 Another survey found that approximately 1 in 4 college women reported having been victims of rape or attempted rape.27 Both of these studies corroborate the essential point that sexual violence against girls and young women takes place at epidemic levels.

Violence against women all too obviously does not end with childhood or college years. Regarding physical violence against women, Neil Jacobson and John Gottman cite research finding that "each year at least 1.6 million wives in the U.S. are severely assaulted by their husbands"28 and that violence is reported by 36-50% of newlywed couples.29 Jacobson and Gottman conclude, "The domestic assault of women in the United States is a problem of epidemic proportions."30

While I am not aware of research which has attempted to comprehensively assess sexual and physical violence against women at any time in their lives, it seems reasonable to estimate that as many as 50% or more of all women have been victims of sexual assault at some time - a figure which is reached for childhood sexual abuse alone using Diana Russell's broad criteria for sexual abuse - and that the number of women who have experienced either sexual abuse or battering considerably exceeds 50%.

A survey reported by CNN in the mid-eighties underscores the prevalence of sexual violence against women and children. Male respondents were asked whether they would commit rape if they could be sure that they could do so with impunity; 30% said there was some likelihood that they would. The respondents were then asked if they would force a woman to have sex if they could be sure of no legal consequences (this repeated the first question, but without using the word "rape"); 50% reported some likelihood. Finally, the respondents were asked if they had actually molested a child, and 10% answered that they had.

Even though the first two questions were posed hypothetically, the responses provide a staggering view of widespread male attitudes and values about sexual violence against women - namely, that the only reason not to do it is fear of arrest and punishment. Given the plethora of opportunities for men to commit sexual assaults with no witnesses, and the extremely low rates of convictions for rape and other acts of sexual violence, there is every reason to believe that the attitudes revealed in the survey translate into action in many cases. There is also reason to believe that the self-reports by 10% of the men in the survey that they had molested children is an under-representation, given that it is common for offenders to deny their offenses and also that, even if anonymity is guaranteed to respondents, there would be a tendency to deny actions that are both criminal and socially unacceptable. Even if the 10% figure were accurate, it would probably be consistent with a sexual abuse rate upward of 20 or 30% for all children, given that a single offender may commit multiple acts affecting multiple children.

While sexual violence is widely perceived as an issue affecting girls and women, it also affects boys to a significant degree. The previously cited 1985 national telephone survey also contacted 1,145 males and found that 16% of the men reported sexual abuse during childhood.31 This is a stunning figure, particularly given that public attention to the issue of sexual abuse of boys is virtually confined to sensational cases involving priests or day care providers - cases which make up a fraction of the total indicated by this survey. A 1998 review of 166 studies concludes that "sexual abuse of boys is common, underreported, underrecognized, and undertreated."32 Underreporting is likely because men would tend to deny having been sexual objects and having been victimized in ways associated with helpless girls and women.33 Sexual violence against boys remains a vast uncharted territory.

There is another way that boys are traumatized, unrelated to sexual abuse, having to do with the crushing of boys' emotional capacities in the course of their socialization to male gender roles.34 This is a complex and, I believe, crucially important process in which the very means by which boys are taught to assume dominant roles also massively expose them to experiences of humiliation, shame, powerlessness, and profound trauma. I develop this analysis of male socialization and trauma at length in Chapter Three.

Yet another type of sexual abuse of children is what Judith Herman calls "covert incest."35 She defines this as "behavior that [is] clearly sexually motivated, but which [does] not involve physical contact or a requirement for secrecy."36 Herman cites examples including fathers telling daughters about their sexual activities, "ceaselessly interrogating" their daughters about the daughters' sexual activities, exhibiting themselves to their daughters, watching their daughters undress, and buying their daughters sexy underwear.

Alice Miller in her classic The Drama of the Gifted Child more broadly describes parents who seek to meet their own deep emotional needs through their children, and who therefore use their children as a means to their own pleasure.37 In a later work, Miller observes that adults who "experience their…child as a part of themselves…cannot imagine that what gives them pleasure could have a different effect upon the child."38 I believe that this is the dynamic that goes to the heart of a sexually abusive parent-child relationship, whether or not the sexual dimension is overt. While Herman confines her focus to father-daughter relationships, Miller's broader formulation can apply to parents and children of either gender, in whatever configuration the abuse actually happens.

There is probably no way to know how commonly covert sexual abuse occurs. It is not readily observed or commonly reported, cannot be verified by physical examination, and may not be perceived or identified as abuse by parent or child, either when it happens or in retrospect. But that does not necessarily mean that this type of abuse is rare. Nor does it mean that the damage caused by covert sexual abuse is insignificant (as my own experience indicates). Herman, based on interviews with groups of women who reported overt and covert sexual abuse by their fathers during childhood, concludes that while overt abuse is more damaging, covert abuse causes lasting harm: "[t]he pathological effects of overt and covert incest were similar in nature and differed mainly in degree."39 Miller describes lasting effects which include depression, "a sense of inner emptiness,"40 self-alienation, narcissistic disturbance and rage.

Physical (non-sexual) violence by adults against children - spanking, slapping, hitting, strapping, whipping and so on - is another vast source of traumatic experience. A 1995 nationwide Gallup survey asked parents if they had spanked, slapped, pinched, or hit their children one or more times in the last year. The vast majority responded that they did. Rates of parental violence varied for children of different ages, peaking at 94% among parents of four- and five-year olds. For every age between one and eight, a minimum of 65% of parents reported using some form of corporal punishment, with the rate dropping below 50% only from age 13 on.41 These statistics are consistent with findings from previous national surveys of family violence which lead Murray Straus to conclude that "almost all American children have been hit by their parents - usually for many years. For at least one out of five, and probably closer to half of all children, hitting begins when they are infants and does not end until they leave home."42

Subsumed within these statistics is a huge range of parental acts of abuse, in terms of both severity and frequency, from occasional spankings to repeated beatings. Neil Jacobson and John Gottman estimate that 20-25% of children in the U.S. "grow up in violent homes";43 if this figure is accurate, it indicates that a large number of children experience parental violence which goes beyond occasional spankings. Surely the degree of harm caused by parental violence can also vary enormously. But, with David Gil,44 Alice Miller,45 and Murray Straus,46 I believe that any adult act of violence against children should be considered abuse in the basic sense of abuse of power. This is a classic instance of might making right, and it is no coincidence that rates of corporal punishment begin to diminish abruptly as kids reach adolescence - not because they are better behaved, but because they begin to achieve the size and prowess to ward off attacks by their parents. As David Gil argues, parental violence is a concrete manifestation of societal values which legitimate domination and violence.47

From the point of view of the child, being hit by an adult means being physically and psychologically overwhelmed by someone who, at least in the moment of the attack, holds total power over you by virtue of superior size and strength. If it is your parent who attacks you, this is the person you rely on for your physical and emotional survival.

Consider the experience of a one year-old (an age at which the corporal punishment rate reaches almost 70%) or a two year-old (where corporal punishment passes 80%). Your parents are literally giants who hold total control over every significant aspect of your life - food, shelter, attention, activity, comfort, and love. Imagine the first time one of these giants strikes you. To begin with the blow causes physical pain which - even if "minor" in the eyes of adults - is likely to be overwhelming for a child of this size and level of development. But what immeasurably compounds the effect is that you have been betrayed by the parent you are bonded to: that your parent would intentionally inflict pain on you and expose you to what Alice Miller describes as contempt.48

This occurs at a stage at which the child not only is completely at the mercy of adults physically, but also has no psychological capacity for any kind of constructive self-defense. It is a moment of staggering destructive significance, despite the cultural normalcy of hitting children. As Straus argues, "Corporal punishment is deeply traumatic for young children.…For a child who can barely walk or talk (the age at which children are most likely to be hit), it can be truly traumatic if the most loved and trusted figure in the child's life suddenly carries out a painful attack. The consequence can be a post-traumatic stress syndrome that creates deep, lifelong psychological problems.…"49

The cultural normalcy of violence against children means that childhood trauma is a normal event. By ages four and five, at which corporal punishment is a virtually universal practice in the U.S., most children have become combat veterans.

There is a long and imposing list of other events which can traumatize children and adults. For children, this includes abuse by older siblings and unrelated older children; being yelled at and verbally demeaned by parents; verbal and physical abuse by teachers; witnessing violence; and witnessing verbal abuse. Adults experience trauma in the military (both through abusive treatment by superiors and through combat experience); in workplaces when they are treated abusively by bosses; through violent and/or violating crime; and through incarceration.

In addition, and critically, systemic oppression is in itself traumatizing. To be a member of a disenfranchised race or ethnic group or gender or class or sexual orientation, or to be a child confronted at every turn with an overwhelming system of adult power, is to be bombarded on a daily basis with messages that who you are as a person does not matter in the larger scheme of things; that you are not as good, not as smart, not as powerful, not as valid in the core of your being as the enfranchised others. Those messages are conveyed through acts of violence and gross brutality, such as sexual violence and gay bashing; they are manifested in material conditions such as severe poverty; and they are also encoded in countless mundane events which are invisible to the dominant group. The totality of these messages can be chronically traumatizing to the extent that they repeatedly create experiences of violation and powerlessness among oppressed people.

Linda Stout offers a compelling account of the traumatic effects of poverty. Writing from her own experience, she observes, "I often define poverty as a lack of options…Middle class people…don't understand that it is a privilege to have options, and that a lot of people don't have that privilege. They also cannot understand the intense pain and shame of not having those options available to you, and as a result, the sense of being a failure that it instills in you."50

bell hooks makes similar points about the impact of racism and about the interlocking impacts of race, gender, and class. She writes,

Many black people see themselves solely as victims with no capacity to shape and determine their own destiny.51…Life-threatening stress has become the normal psychological state for many black women (and black men). Much of the stress black people experience is directly related to the way in which systems of domination-racism, sexism, and capitalism, in particular—disrupt our capacities to fully exercise self-determination.52

hooks poignantly describes the effects of oppression in the lives of black women. For example,

[B]lack female students would come to my office…and confess the truth of their lives—that they were terrorized psychologically by low self-esteem; that they were the victims of rape, incest, and domestic violence; that they lived in fear of being unmasked as the inferiors of their white peers; that stress was making their hair fall out; that every other month one of them was attempting suicide; that they were anorexic, bulemic, or drug addicted…53

While neither Stout nor hooks uses the language of trauma, both describe how oppression renders people subjectively powerless - the experience of being without options, with no capacity for self-determination. Subjective powerlessness stands at the heart of traumatization, as I discuss at length in Chapter Two.

At the end of this long list of social conditions that cause widespread emotional trauma comes September 11. This was an event of such magnitude, creating the vivid experience of annihilation on a mass scale, that the terrorist attacks can by themselves by cited as a source of pervasive trauma. But September 11 occurred in the context of a society in which many of us had already experienced multiple traumas in our lives - through childhood abuse, through other experiences of sexual and non-sexual violence, and through the many manifestations of oppression; and that underlay of traumatization has made us far more vulnerable to the psychological effects of terrorism.

Objections to the banality of trauma may come from three directions. The first, which has attracted considerable public attention, is to question the reliability of accounts of sexual abuse - including claims of "false accusations" by children54 and "false memories" by women.55 While there may be isolated cases in which sexual abuse is reported when none actually occurred, in my view it is blatantly preposterous to suppose that sexual violence is really a minimal problem which has been grossly exaggerated by false reports - a contention particularly advanced by fathers accused of raping their children.56

Historically, sexual violence has been encased in denial and silence.57 There are persistent social forces which inhibit victims of sexual abuse from reporting it and prevent them from being believed. There are also significant psychological forces which lead victims to deny and repress memories of trauma. Given both factors, it is almost certain that any false reports of sexual violence are outnumbered by unreported incidents.

It may also be objected that rates of childhood sexual abuse are declining. David Finkelhor, who was one of the key researchers of sexual abuse during the eighties, more recently has reported that during the nineties there was a drop of as much as 40 percent in the number of child sexual abuse cases reported nationally.58 However, Finkelhor notes that this could reflect changes in reporting practices rather than an actual reduction in incidence. In addition, child sexual abuse is only one of many pervasive causes of trauma; and previous sexual abuse rates were so high that, even if there has been a 40 percent reduction (which is by no means certain), it remains an epidemic problem. Finally, and critically, women and men who were sexually abused as children prior to the last ten years are likely to carry the traumatic effects of those experiences throughout their adult lives, as I will try to show in Chapter Two. Even if child sexual abuse were completely eliminated, which we are very far from achieving, the trauma associated with previous occurrences would remain a pervasive social problem for many years.

The other objection that may be raised is that acts of abuse do not necessarily cause trauma. This is an empirical question, incident by incident, and one that in many cases is not easily resolved. Abuse is an observable act; trauma is an internal psychological effect - one that does not always manifest itself immediately in observable symptoms, or which may have symptoms (such as depression, substance abuse, or physical illness) that have many possible causes. Moreover, emotional trauma often is not consciously recognized or identified by those who experience it. While it is relatively straightforward to conduct surveys asking adults if they were sexually abused as children, or asking parents if they hit their kids, it is far more complicated to try to determine whether and to what extent the victims of these acts of abuse have been traumatized by them.

Common sense suggests that the intensity of psychological damage is likely to vary with the intensity and duration of someone's exposure to abuse.59 Other things being equal, a child raped once by a stranger is not likely to be as traumatized as a child raped repeatedly over a period of years by her or his father. As previously suggested, kids who are occasionally slapped or spanked predictably suffer a lot less harm than kids who are routinely beaten. It is more useful to think of trauma as encompassing a continuum of psychological harm, with a range of both severity and types of disturbances, than it is to argue over how much someone has to suffer in order to qualify as traumatized.

It remains theoretically possible, and perhaps empirically the case, that there are people who have enough internal strength and social support to weather abuse and emerge psychologically unscathed. For purposes of this book, it is enough to conclude that this is not the norm. Given the breadth of the types of abuse which I have noted, and particularly given the staggering rates of sexual and physical abuse affecting children - who are least likely to emerge unharmed - the conclusion seems inescapable that traumatic experience is widespread. Sandra Bloom and Michael Reichert draw the same conclusion, writing that "our society has become organized around unresolved, multigenerational traumatic experience."60 If, as I have contended, trauma has political implications, then the prevalence of trauma offers yet another important reason to pursue an understanding of this as a political issue.

Notes to Chapter One

1.      Aurora Levins Morales, Medicine Stories: History, Culture and the Politics of Integrity (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1998), p. 13.

2.      Starhawk, The Fifth Sacred Thing (New York: Bantam Books, 1993), p. 164.

3.      See for example Michael Albert, "What Are We For?" Z Magazine 14:9 (September 2001), pp. 51-56.

4.      See Steven Wineman, The Politics of Human Services (Boston: South End Press, 1984) for proposals for revitalizing communities around principles of mutual aid, and proposals for political and economic decentralization.

5.      Regarding win-win conflict resolution, see Roger Fisher and William Ury, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981) and Roger Fisher and Scott Brown, Getting Together: Building Relationships as We Negotiate (New York: Penguin Books, 1989).

6.      Ruth Benedict, "Synergy—Patterns of the Good Culture," Psychology Today, 4:1 (1970), pp. 53-77.

7.      Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995).

8.      C.f. Allan Wade, "Small Acts of Living: Everyday Resistance to Violence and Other Forms of Oppression," Contemporary Family Therapy 19:1 (March 1997), pp. 23-39.

9.      See for example Bessel van der Kolk and Alexander McFarlane, "The Black Hole of Trauma," in Bessel van der Kolk, Alexander McFarlane, and Lars Weisaeth, eds., Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body, and Society (New York: Guilford Press, 1996).

10.  Margaret Randall observes that "the sexual invasion of a child's body and the political invasion of a nation's sovereignty" are "profoundly related." Walking to the Edge: Essays of Resistance (Boston: South End Press, 1991), p. 115.

11.  Sandra Bloom and Michael Reichert, Bearing Witness: Violence and Collective Responsibility (Binghamton, N.Y.: The Haworth Maltreatment and Trauma Press, 1998), pp. 9 ff.

12.  See for example Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery (New York: Basic Books, 1992).

13.  Levins Morales, Medicine Stories, p. 4.

14.  See Jean Hardisty, Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999).

15.  Personal communication.

16.  See for example Linda Stout , Bridging the Class Divide (Boston: Beacon Press, 1996), especially Chapter 5, "Why Aren't We Winning?"

17.  Wade, "Small Acts of Living: Everyday Resistance to Violence and Other Forms of Oppression," p. 23.

18.  Neil Jacobson and John Gottman, When Men Batter Women (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998), report that vast majority of male batterers in their study presented histories of childhood brutalization and trauma.

19.  See Alice Miller, The Drama of the Gifted Child (New York: Basic Books, 1990), For Your Own Good (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1984), Thou Shalt Not Be Aware (New York: Penguin Books U.S.A., 1986), Banished Knowledge (New York: Doubleday, 1990), and Breaking Down the Wall of Silence (New York: Penguin Books U.S.A., 1993) regarding the link between traumatization and abusive parenting. See Murray Straus, Beating the Devil out of Them: Corporal Punishment in American Families (New York: Lexington Books, 1994) regarding the prevalence of physical violence against children by both mothers and fathers.

20.  See for example Levins Morales, Medicine Stories; Eli Clare, Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1999); Barbara and John Ehrenreich, "The Professional-Managerial Class," in Pat Walker, ed., Between Labor and Capital (Boston: South End Press, 1979); Barbara Smith, ed., Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology (New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1983); Stout, Bridging the Class Divide; and Wineman, The Politics of Human Services, Chapter 5.

1.      C.f. Levins Morales, "Class, Privilege and Loss" in Medicine Stories, pp. 93-95.

2.      Thich Nhat Hahn, Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames (New York: Riverhead Books, 2001).

3.      Levins Morales, Medicine Stories, p. 122.

4.      Diana Russell, The Secret Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls and Women (New York: Basic Books, 1986), pp. 60-62.

5.      David Finkelhor, Gerald Hotaling, I. A. Lewis, and Christine Smith, "Sexual Abuse in a National Survey of Adult Men and Women: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Risk Factors," Child Abuse & Neglect 14: 19-28 (1990).

6.      See Russell, The Secret Trauma, Chapter Two for a discussion of her methodology and its advantages relative to telephone surveys.

7.      Mary Koss, "Hidden Rape: Sexual Aggression and Victimization in a National Sample of Students in Higher Education," in A.W. Burgess, ed., Rape and Sexual Assault II (New York: Garland Publishing, 1988), cited in Jennifer Freyd, Betrayal Trauma: The Logic of Forgetting Childhood Abuse (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996).

8.      Jacobson and Gottman, When Men Batter Women, p. 26, citing Mary Koss et. al., No Safe Haven (Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association Press, 1994).

9.      Jacobson and Gottman, When Men Batter Women, citing unpublished data collected by Gottman and (separately) by Dr. Thomas Bradbury at UCLA, as well as published studies by K. Daniel O'Leary, "Physical Aggression Between Spouses," in V.B. Van Hasselt et. al., eds., Handbook of Family Violence (New York: Plenum Press, 1988); and by Kenneth Leonard and Marilyn Senchak, "Prospective Prediction of Husband Marital Aggression Within Newlywed Couples," Journal of Abnormal Psychology 105: 369-380 (1996).

10.  Jacobson and Gottman, p. 26.

11.  Finkelhor, Hotaling, Lewis, and Smith, "Sexual Abuse in a National Survey of Adult Men and Women: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Risk Factors."

12.  William Holmes and Gail Slap, "Sexual Abuse of Boys: Definition, Prevalence, Correlates, Sequelae, and Management," Journal of the American Medical Association, 12/2/98, pp. 1855-1862.

13.  See Lois Shea, "Fewer Males Will Report Sexual Abuse," Boston Globe New Hampshire Weekly, 7/16/95, p. 1.

14.  See William Pollack, Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons From the Myths of Boyhood (New York: Random House, 1998) and Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys (New York: Ballantine Books, 1999).

15.  Judith Herman, Father-Daughter Incest (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981).

16.  Herman, Father-Daughter Incest, p. 109.

17.  Miller, The Drama of the Gifted Child (New York: Basic Books, 1990).

18.  Miller, Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: Society's Betrayal of the Child, p. 6.

19.  Herman, Father-Daughter Incest, p. 125.

20.  Miller, The Drama of the Gifted Child, p. 21.

21.  Reported in Barbara Meltz, "Spanking's Punishing Lessons," Boston Globe, 2/4/99, p. F1.

22.  Straus, Beating the Devil out of Them, p. 3.

23.  Jacobson and Gottman, When Men Batter Women, p. 94. The authors do not cite any source and do not define "violent home."

24.  David Gil, Violence Against Children (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970)

25.  Miller, Banished Knowledge; Breaking Down the Wall of Silence.

26.  Straus, Beating the Devil out of Them

27.  David Gil, "Holistic Perspective on Child Abuse and its Prevention," in The Challenge of Social Equality (Cambridge, MA: Schenkman, 1976) and "Societal Violence and Violence in Families," in Beyond The Jungle (Cambridge, MA: Schenkman, 1979).

28.  Miller, The Drama of the Gifted Child, Chapter 3.

29.  Straus, Beating the Devil out of Them, pp. 9-10.

30.  Stout, Bridging the Class Divide, p. 25.

31.  bell hooks, Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery (Boston: South End Press, 1993), p. 10.

32.  hooks, Sisters of the Yam, p. 54.

33.  hooks, p. 12.

34.  See Louise Armstrong, Rocking The Cradle of Sexual Politics: What Happened When Women Said Incest (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1994).

35.  See Freyd, Betrayal Trauma.

36.  Armstrong, Rocking The Cradle of Sexual Politics.

37.  See Herman, Trauma and Recovery, Chapter 1.

38.  David Finkelhor, "Improving Research, Policy and Practice to Understand Child Sexual Abuse," Journal of the American Medical Association, 12/2/98, pp. 1864-1865, citing C. Wang and D. Daro, Current Trends in Child Abuse Reporting and Fatalities: The Results of the 1997 Annual Fifty State Survey (Chicago: Center on Child Abuse Prevention Research, 1998).

39.  Diana Russell's survey of 930 women found a statistically significant relationship between both the severity and frequency of incestuous abuse and the degree of trauma reported. See Russell, The Secret Trauma, pp. 142, 145. Russell reports inconsistent findings in other research regarding the severity of sexual abuse and the degree of trauma. Russell's own approach to assessing the degree of trauma is in my view problematic, as she relies on self-reporting regarding how upset women were by their experiences of sexual abuse and to what extent it affected their lives.

40.  Bloom and Reichert, Bearing Witness, p. 99.