Witnessing Trauma: A Counsellor’s Reflections on the Effects of Working with Survivors of Sexual Violence
In this chapter, Lisa Spriggens discusses the praxis of “witnessing” in her counselling work with survivors of sexual violence. She argues that sexual violence desecrates the sanctity of humanity, violating relationships with self, others, the cosmos, and God. Drawing on Rambo’s theology of witnessing, as well as theories of counselling, she explores the practice of witnessing as a form of meaning-making, and as a therapeutic act which promotes survivors’ healing; she also discusses the personal effects of this for the counsellor, as she experiences her “self” as a woman in a society which creates, and recreates, gendered violence. As she encounters this work, Spriggens finds herself asking, “What kind of person do I want to be in light of this work?” Considering the necessary call to social justice that follows witnessing, Spriggens invites readers to consider the small, and not so small, acts which take a stand against gendered violence. In attending to both the wellness of the survivor and larger societal change, she also explores how these different sites of working towards social justice might be supportive and generative in ways which counter some of the effects of witnessing to sexual violence.
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