The hidden trauma

Updated: Feb 12

Have you had time to reflect on the press conference delivered by Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins this week? Two brave and bold women holding the government to account for the safely and wellbeing of women against violence and trauma.

Even if you didn’t you need to keep reading.

Having spent 14 years in the public service myself it’s hard not to resonate on some level with the message and experience of these women. Maybe you feel the same but can’t quite put your finger on it. After all, they suffered significant sexual trauma.

If you do, it’s likely you’re having a response to what they have said and/or what they represent. They may have triggered something in you that you have buried or not yet processed. When I reflect on my 14-year career in the public service, starting as an APS6 and working my way up to an SESB1 I am certainly reminded of situations where I was exposed to situations that I now see where gender-biased power play. Situations that caused me harm and that continue to have an impact on me, my self-esteem, and my sense of worth. I wrote about one such experience on LinkedIn yesterday.

The problem as I now see it is that I wrongly believed that this behaviour, while unacceptable, gave me the opportunity to build my resilience and prove myself as someone who can deal with difficult and complex situations. Someone who wasn’t weak or over sensitive. Someone who could be relied on to see hard things to their conclusion. I was stoic. I was never rude back. I remained professional. My "good girl" tendencies meant that I didn’t fight back or behave badly in return.

This belief overshadowed the behaviour of the perpetrator. It was a distraction and my way of coping with this traumatic event.

The thing about this behaviour is it is insidious and designed to remind us of our place. It is overt and yet it is hidden in acts that don’t quite go so far as to be able to label with something meaningful that others can relate to (is it really bullying or are they just passionate about the issue)? In the experience I wrote about yesterday, this same person nominated me to represent the agency at an overseas forum. Quite rightly, mind you as it was my area of responsibility. That act alone cast a shadow of doubt over the intentions of this perpetrator not only for me but others witnessing his behaviour. Maybe he wasn’t that bad?

What I now know that I didn’t know then is that this pattern of behaviour thrives in secrecy and darkness. It’s like a game. A torment as it comes into the light. Who is going to call it out? How far can it go before it’s seen to cross the line? The thrill of playing on the edge of decency. The waxing and waning to create confusion and doubt.

It's only when we start telling our stories and sharing our experiences that we can start to remove the stigma of these situations. The shame we carry that doesn’t belong to us. In telling our stories we start the process of healing. And, its women who heal, who can lead long lasting, sustainable change.

PS Want to know more about what it means to heal these wounds and trauma imprints? I have a FREE resource coming out soon. Email me and join my mailing list and become one of the first to receive it.

PPS I hang out mostly in LInkedIn. Lets connect. If you prefer Facebook, you can follow my page here.

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