PTSD: The Feminist Perspective

I am a feminist. If you asked me to describe myself, the first thing I would say is, “I’m a woman.” Many people are ignorant to exactly what feminism purports. . .especially those who fear it.


The Feminist Movement advocated for women’s rights and women’s sufferage: voting, equal pay, domestic violence and sexual harassment. The movement infers we must work to actively correct gender imbalances and abolish the exploitation of women.

by Instructor Kimberly Moffitt

Look at the world through a woman’s eyes and you will see what we deal with on a regular basis. The feminist perspective is to see things from a woman’s point-of-view in a society governed by men; also to be conscious, mindful and critical of men dominating women at home, work and out in the world.

My own Post Traumatic Stress has been compounded by acts perpetrated against me by men in my home (violent ex-husband), at work (sexual harassment), while running errands (humans without boundaries) and so forth. All aspects of my world, from childhood to current, were effected by the decisions and behavior of men. The first time I was five years old  [My First Kiss] and the last time was July 20th of this year. 

In college, I examined the history and psychology of women, and thus, am grateful to the women who endured before me; who suffered much of the same and worse at the hands of our male counterparts. Way back when, women who reacted to trauma were considered nothing more than hysterical. Today, society has so graciously begun to recognize that violence is a routine part of many women’s sexual, domestic and everyday lives.

Shortly before I was born, in the early 70s, post traumatic disorders were finally recognized more in women. I say “finally” because previously, our experiences as women were tenebrous; under the guise of “private life.”  The privacy society supposedly valued placed a barrier between HER and the rest of the world; rendering HER reality invisible, and HER voice silent. 

In my previous marriage, I was unable to speak up about my own life riddled by sexual and domestic violence. When I tried (a few times): his mother asked, “What did you do to make him hit you?” A friend said they did not want to get involved. A male marriage counselor said to me “Why don’t you give the guy a break?” A psychiatrist told me I was a Paranoid Schizophrenic. The psychiatrist asked if I had someone to watch my children because he wanted to hospitalize me for four to six months. He said it would take that long to see which medication(s) were right for me. This happened twenty years ago. At the time I didn’t know what a Paranoid Schizophrenic person looked like. I only knew two things: I was not mentally ill and the psychiatrist was yet another man who was trying to take or reduce my power. From early on I learned that speaking up about what was happening to me only served to invite further humiliation, and standing up for myself would not be permitted.

As a therapist, my goal is to design a confidential, validating, safe environment for one to speak their truth(s). I suppose I sought the career of a healer because no one offered me the space to overcome without re-victimization and further shame. I was rendered silent and could not point my finger at those who harmed me. I understand what it feels like to be prohibited from speaking about injuries.

A few years ago I had to go before my peers and state which theory/perspective I preferred to use in my work. My favorites are the psychodynamic and feminist theories. I chose to present the feminist perspective. That may seem odd, as my employ is within a male prison. Some presumed I did not know what I spoke of, but look at it this way: a feminist understanding empowers the marginalized to breach their barriers, to support one another, to take action and raise consciousness. My approach is to encourage the silenced; to give them a voice. 

I work with many traumatized people; individuals who have been physically, emotionally and/or sexually abused as children. The initial work on domestic violence and sexual abuse grew out of the feminist movement:when services for victims were organized outside of the traditional mental health system often with the assistance of professional women like Lenore Walker who inspired the movement [Lenore Walker].

Psychologist, Lenore Walker, began describing the psychological trauma of women who fled to shelters as “Battered Woman Syndrome.” In the early 1980’s when abused women and incest survivors spoke about their injuries, they were describing posttraumatic stress disorder; yet it was not clear that what was being observed in these survivors is essentially the same as what was seen in survivors of war.


The symptoms of shell-shock were due to psychological trauma and the emotional stress of prolonged exposure to violence and death. The symptoms produced in traumatized soldiers were like those seen in women who were exposed to continued physical, emotional and psychological abuse.

Who and how a person becomes  traumatized is irrelevant. A trauma is a trauma. . .is a trauma. If you want to be there for him or her do not shame them when they begin to speak their truths.  Treat them with dignity and respect. Do not silence them, rather encourage them to write and talk freely about their terrors. Invite them to feel safe. Do not question their overwhelming fears. Understand, they are haunted by unwanted memories. These things might protect your friends and loved ones against an acute breakdown; which can lead to rapid decompensation.

The focus from a feminist perspective would be to empower: I will not allow my truths to be forgotten. I refuse to be stigmatized. I do not need to convince others that my distress is righteous or justified. I will not be stripped of my dignity. Look at the world through my traumatized eyes when I am angry, crying, short-tempered, or lack affect and recognize that psychological trauma is a lasting legacy.

Comments

  1. Reading this is like a gentle stroll through your psyche, with a clear vision into the past that has gotten you to the place you are today. This photo was the perfect way to close. You look happy, peaceful, and truly so lovely. Just so proud to be a part of your life. Thank you for this.

  2. Once again you have shared your own experience to help, guide and gain insight for others. It is as professional as it is bold to open up your soul to empower others. This empathetic approach has healing and nuturing components.
    I know it is true to have the freedom/chance/permission to speak of traumatic experiences….it is the beginning of awareness and healing. The more chances/permission to vent/express the better the outcome and self-empowerment. Your pictures added a positive addition.

  3. There was a child born with a debilitating disease who struggled daily with enormous pain. At the age of 8, the child fell to the ground and cried out in physical and psychological agony screaming, “Why me?!” The mother’s response was life altering, “is this going to be a gift or a burden?”
    As a young man I felt embarrassed to belong to the male gender as I recognized the violence that men direct towards women. (Yes, I heard plenty from my mother, who shared more, perhaps than my young mind should have witnessed and later by other women in my life.) Men such as those you describe having mistreated you enrage me. But, they did not destroy you. Even now, you use your self to help men such as those. Like the child I described above, who also became a therapist, you too gift others. I’m saddened by the hurt you have endured. I admire the gift you possess, as illuminated in this and other writings found herein.

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