“We Need To Learn How To Be Better Parents, Siblings, Partners, Friends And Even Better Children Of Trauma Survivors,” Says Diane Young, Addiction And Trauma Specialist At South Pacific Private.
Grace Tame hit out at the Australian media this month following days of national news coverage of a photo which appeared to show her seated next to a bong.
Tame, a survivor of child sexual assault and an advocate for the survivor community, was 19 at the time the photo was taken.
In an open letter published on Twitter, Tame called for Australia to have “an open and honest discussion about trauma and what that can look like.”
“It can be ugly. It can look like drugs. Like self-harm, skipping school, getting impulsive tattoos and all kinds of other unconscious, self-destructive, maladaptive coping mechanisms,” Tame wrote, detailing her own openness about coping mechanisms.
“At every point – on the national stage, I might add – I’ve been completely transparent about all the demons I’ve battled in the aftermath of child sexual abuse; drug addiction, self-harm, anorexia and PTSD, among others,” Tame wrote.
Young, a trauma and recovery expert at South Pacific Private, says that Grace Tame’s call for more awareness and understanding of trauma and trauma responses was long overdue.
“Whether it’s drugs or alcohol or self-harm or other destructive and addictive behaviours, there’s often this reflexive blame that society throws at people, as though it’s an issue of willpower or indulgence,” Young says. “In reality, addiction is often driven by experiences of trauma, dysfunctional relationships, abuse, neglect or mistreatment.”
Shame, Guilt And Worthlessness
Young says that the shame and guilt people experience can often prevent them from seeking help, and that when societal responses blame the individual, it can often compound that shame and push the trauma further down. The dynamic of the victim-blaming that Grace Tame is currently experiencing is extremely unhelpful for recovery, Young says, but it’s also extremely common.
“Shame is embedded in the experience of child sexual abuse. It survives in every part of your being long after the physical acts have ceased,” Tame wrote on Twitter. “In the years that followed, I beat myself up relentlessly. I thought everyone else around me blamed me too. To cope, I engaged in activities I deemed befitting of a person as worthless as I deemed myself to be.”
Young says that feelings of worthlessness, guilt and self-blame are extremely common among both trauma survivors and individuals experiencing addiction.
“When we’re experiencing extreme pain, we can turn to substances and addictive behaviours to numb the pain, and then fall victim to an escalating, addictive cycle which only ends up pushing support systems away, compounding the guilt and worthlessness, and making things worse,” Young says. “Part of recovery is taking responsibility and holding yourself accountable, but it’s also recognising that unhealthy forms of guilt and shame often only make things worse.”
A More Trauma-Aware Australia
Young says that as a whole, our society could do far better to educate ourselves on these dynamics so that we don’t become part of the problem. Part of that awareness needs to be arming Australians with the ability to recognise and understand trauma-responses, to continue to love and support survivors, and to have the skills to set healthy boundaries and avoid unhealthy relationship dynamics.
“There are survivors out there who are terrified of seeking help because they’re afraid they’ll be blamed for what has happened to them,” Tame wrote. “They are afraid they’ll be chastised for their coping strategies instead of being offered support and treated for the cause of their suffering.”
“As a country we need to be more willing to recognise addiction as a trauma response, and to discuss and treat trauma and addiction compassionately,” Young says. “We need to learn how to be better parents, siblings, partners, friends and even better children of trauma survivors.”
Young says that the best rehab and treatment centres acknowledge that their role isn’t just to help clients detox and get clean short term, but to acknowledge and address the underlying trauma fuelling the addiction. It should also include an effort to educate and equip loved ones with the tools and understanding they need to be able to offer meaningful, healthy forms of support.
“At South Pacific, identifying and addressing trauma drives everything we do. It’s why we have so many clinical experts and actual survivors on staff,” Young says. “If you don’t address the underlying issues and give folks the tools they need to address trauma in healthy ways, the cycle just starts again.”
“Healing, self-love, triumph and total transcendence are all possible” Tame wrote. “But they require patience, compassion, encouragement and forgiveness. They require ongoing community support.”
“She’s exactly right,” Young says. “There’s a reason she’s such a powerful and respected advocate.”
Learn More About South Pacific Private’s Approach to Trauma, Addiction and Recovery here or call our Intake Team to discuss the support available to you on 1800 063 332