I’ve read books about complex trauma before. Most focus exclusively on those who have experienced trauma, classifying them as victims or survivors. They tend to talk about what happened to people and then discuss the various short and long term impacts, and offer suggestions for managing them.
I’ve also read books about perpetrators before, although these reads generally focus on serial killers, a result of my interest in criminal profiling. More often than not, a perpetrator is painted as only that. If mention is made of any victimisation that they have experienced, it’s in a reductive manner. This happened to this person as a child. Therefore, this person acted in this way as an adult.
This book is designed to be a guide to evidence-based psychological frameworks that can aid in understanding the nature of complex traumas, the tasks of recovery, the nature of those who perpetrate abuse, and broader issues involved in service provision and trauma management.
What drew me to this book was the fact that its author works as both a clinical and forensic psychologist. As someone with a trauma history, I’m always looking for new, better ways to manage its impacts. As someone with a psychology degree (the most expensive piece of paper I own), I am interested in the why behind the what when people act in ways that victimise others.
I love that this book delves into something that most people conveniently ignore: sometimes a person is both victim and perpetrator.
We have neat binaries in our minds: victims and perpetrators. Some people are both, and we struggle to know where to place these people and how to respond to them.
One of my favourite parts of this book was its exploration of the way the media highlights the stories of survivors of trauma whose impacts are socially acceptable; these are usually young, attractive, educated, heterosexual, white women. What’s lost in the narrative is everyone else, including those who are incarcerated, homeless, struggle with addiction or virtually any other impact that makes it easier for us to focus on someone’s behaviour at the risk of ignoring their underlying trauma.
When we think about complex trauma it is essential to hold all survivors in mind – not just those we judge to be worthy of healing (typically those we see as being most like us).
I also appreciated the acknowledgment that many perpetrators are very skilled at hiding their true colours from the people they’re not victimising. So many times when I’m reading news articles about a horrific crime, I see quotes from people who know the alleged perpetrator, who talk about what a nice, wonderful, community minded person they are. They can’t believe that their friend, coworker, family member or acquaintance would be capable of such violence.
People who engage in abusive acts often demonstrate situation and context-dependent behaviours, so that people who are not being victimised by them will often see very different behaviours.
A blend of theory and case studies (composites so as not to breach confidentiality), this book would be of interest to both trauma survivors and those who work in helping professions. I anticipate that readers who work with trauma survivors will find the information relating to managing vicarious trauma particularly helpful.
Content warnings include mention of addiction, bullying, child abuse, coercive control, death by suicide, deaths in custody, domestic abuse, eating disorders, emotional abuse, mental health, physical abuse, self harm, sexual assault and stalking.
Thank you so much to Scribe Publications for the opportunity to read this book.
Once Upon a Blurb
A groundbreaking book that will broaden and expand your thinking, whether you are a trauma survivor, a clinician, someone who loves a survivor, or someone seeking to understand abuse.
The relationship between trauma and mental health is becoming better recognised, but survivors and professionals alike remain confused about how best to understand and treat it. In Reclaim, through a series of case studies and expert analysis, Dr Ahona Guha explores complex traumas, how survivors can recover and heal, and the nature of those who abuse. She shines a light on the ‘difficult’ trauma victims that society often ignores, and tackles vital questions such as, ‘Why are psychological abuse and coercive control so difficult to spot?’, ‘What kinds of behaviours should we see as red flags?’, and ‘Why do some people harm others, and how do we protect ourselves from them?’
As a clinical and forensic psychologist, Dr Guha has had extensive experience in working with those who perpetrate harm – including stalkers, sex offenders, violent offenders, and those who threaten, bully and harass – and she has a deep understanding of the psychological and social factors that cause people to abuse others. In turn, her clinical work in the trauma treatment field has led her to recognise the enormous impacts of complex trauma, and the failures of systems when working with those who have been victimised.
By emphasising compassion above all, Dr Guha calls for us to become better informed about perpetrators and the needs of victims, so we might reclaim a safer, healthier society for everyone.