Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.
-2 Corinthians 4:2
Secrecy and shame are at the heart of sexual abuse. Even after Georgia, Olivia, and Nathan spoke aloud the things done to them in the dark, they continued to fear the light. Just as our eyes take a few moments to adjust when the light suddenly floods our darkened room, so our hearts must acclimate to the light-pouring reality of truth.
We knew that speaking the truth was vital to this process of healing. What we didn’t understand, and why I’m such a strong advocate for professional help in these situations, is how to bring about that cleansing stream of truth.
Trauma narratives are an incredible tool used by many counsellors and therapists to aid people in moving through the effects of PTSD. The brain needs to understand trauma within the context of linear movement. Experiences must have a beginning, a middle, and an end in order for the brain to transfer them to long-term memory and process their effects. However, when the brain is caught off guard by an event and must stop the processing of information in order to go into survival mode, then it fails to complete the linear sequence of the experience and it becomes stuck in the middle. This is why PTSD episodes feel so real for their sufferers. When a trigger reminds the brain of something that happened in the beginning or middle of that traumatic experience, it is unable to recognize that it is a memory and not the real thing. The real ending never “happened” for the brain, so it throws itself back into the feelings and sensations of that original experience.
Trauma narratives put the difficult experience within the context of the victim’s larger reality and show it to be what it is – an event with a beginning, middle, and end. By writing and then reading these stories, as difficult and painful as they may be, they provide the brain with the necessary tools to recognize the truth of the event and then process through it as something in the past.
Many people want to run as far away as possible from something so concrete. Writing out the words and even drawing pictures to reinforce those words can seem wholly unappealing. “Why can’t we just move on?” people are wont to ask. Because our family is more interested in healing than white picket fences. And we refuse to hide from this tragedy.
Either the grace of Christ is sufficient or it is not.