Creating community from collective trauma

Authors: Rachel Pain*, Newcastle University, Paper Dolls Research Group, Independent Organisation
Topics: Social Geography, Gender
Keywords: trauma, domestic abuse, community, care, austerity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Washington 3, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As Morris (2015, 47) puts it, ‘the governing principle with social traumas seems to be the greater the intimacy, the greater the ‘dose’’. Trauma from intimate violence presents an endemic social ill, commonly subject to misunderstanding, judgment and silence (Pain et al. 2019). We report from participatory action research where domestic abuse survivors conducted multi-scalar analysis of trauma and co-designed a peer support group. We explore how trauma from intimate violence may be considered collective, and how survivors move to support each other from isolated and often fraught positions, situating our discussion in austerity’s own violence to domestic abuse services in the UK.

The idea of collective trauma arises from black, postcolonial and feminist literatures which critique the dominant idea of trauma as a condition of individual distress (BraveHeart 2000; hooks 2003; Root 1992). As geographers have charted (Coddington and Micieli-Voutsinas 2017), trauma also travels between places, is amplified or challenged (Pratt et al 2015), to the extent that context becomes as powerful in sustaining/healing trauma than internal psychological processes (Herman 1997).

But how do abuse survivors create community and access mutual support when the places, networks and resources needed for survival have been purposefully dismantled, sometimes with tacit support from the state (Fullilove 2005; Stark 2004)? We explore the nature of collective care: how survivors find and support each other, extending intimate activism (see Askins 2011). These actions bring to life latent communities that otherwise remain disconnected - below the parapet, but rich with possibility and capability.

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