Confronting Traumatic Pasts
A firestorm raged in my head. After two months in Uganda, listening to horrific accounts of neglect, abandonment, witchcraft, abuse, poverty, and ignorance, I was unsure how to proceed. The tales I recorded sometimes jived with the narratives relayed from the staff charged with steering the girls toward healing, but more often than not, varied broadly.
My lofty intent when I came to Rahab’s Corner was to write the stories of young women rescued from life in the slums enmeshed in the sex trade to illustrate to them and my readers the redemptive power of confronting the past.
Slum mothers and grandmothers as seen by the Rahab’s social workers when present at all in these personal histories were drunkards, witches, prostitutes, or madams or all the aforementioned while their children portrayed them as long-suffering paragons of virtue. I suppose I’m heartened to think that children no matter what the sin tend to see parents as helpmates even in the direst of circumstances.
With plenty of blame to go around, males escaped most of it. Not to jump on board the perceived male-bashing going on in the States, but men manage to bob and weave through the narratives blameless while the females shouldered the majority of the burden. Sexual abuse is so commonplace here in East Africa that any tale lacking a rape or attempted rape is viewed with suspicion.
How does one go about honestly confronting a traumatic past?
How does one go about honestly confronting a traumatic personal past, a question paramount in the collective American mind these days? Memory is a curious amalgamation of fact and fiction. Where truth falls in the mix is subjective depending on an outcome conscious or not. No girl sat down to tell me a lie.
When I perceived I was getting less than the truth or I hadn’t achieved enough of a rapport to foster the trust necessary to expose their life story, I scheduled another interview. With one exception the second telling proved consistent to the first though often with more detail. With one young lady, sure that she was being less than forthright; I carefully confronted her lack of veracity. It took a lot of cajoling to mend the rift created. The second rendition varied only in more detail.
Since I didn’t speak the same language with some of the girls I had to rely on interpreters adding another layer to a saga. At first, I let my interviewees choose whom she wanted to interpret for her. The choice, I thought would be based on the trust that her life account would be presented as it was told. I only discovered later in the interviewing process that often times an interpreter’s own history colored a narrative.
I found my way by taking a less traveled route and following Jumah’s path. Peeling away the layers of a traumatic past is proven therapeutic for individuals and I suggest nations as well. The tearing-off-a-band-aide approach is not helpful no matter what the ultimate agenda. Storm trouping in with a closed mind proved to create nothing close to any truth.
Enable the healing process
Trauma has a way of curling around facts distorting the narrative. Direct confrontation only entrenched resistance. My task didn’t necessitate absolutes as if there were any. I could afford to take my time. There was no need to probe in ways that exacerbated the already painful memory. My goal was to enable the healing process not to inflict more suffering.
We strive to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a broken world which has roughly
200 million orphans crying out for help. Pure & Faultless connects with those
believers who are already in the country where the needs exist. Through God’s grace
and your assistance, we help those who help them!