It's Urgent: Trauma, Rights and Justice

Cathy Cave
Keynote Presentation, NARPA Annual Rights Conference
September 19, 2019, Hartford, CT

Trauma has always been a human rights issue: those who recognize injustices raise the alarm to advocate for physical and emotional safety for populations we care deeply about. But how systems respond often does more harm to people already struggling for survival. Attending to the consequences of oppression and structural violence implicit in racism, sexism and heterosexism can be daunting. When these conditions are present in the lives of those who experience physical, sexual and emotional abuse, survivors may be supported only around the parts of their experience that providers are comfortable navigating. Survivors may also be judged unworthy of support, or complicit in what’s been done to them, or deemed to be beyond help because of providers’ lack of awareness, personal fears, and discomfort. The cost for survivors is extremely high. Providers need to hold the complexity of each person’s complete life experience. To support healing, this requires a shift in trauma responsiveness that moves from primarily a treatment focus to an approach inclusive of sustained social justice action