There are probably as many reasons to read a book as there are books and people to read them and National Read A Book Day is a great opportunity to celebrate books and reading. At SurvivorsUK, we see many men who find reading about the experience of sexual abuse and how to cope with such an experience enormously helpful. To see one’s experience, in black and white, on a published page can be hugely affirming, giving one’s feelings legitimacy and a sense that one is not alone. We have a library of personal accounts, text books for those working to support survivors, books about how best to cope with such an experience and books on the impact of trauma on the brain and our functioning.
Here is a personal review of two books which I personally have found hugely helpful and informative. They address similar content in interestingly different ways:
The first is ‘The body keeps the score: brain, mind and body in the healing of trauma’ by Bessel van der Kolk. This appears at first sight to be rather a brick of a book and somewhat technical but don’t be put off! It is a seminal work on the way in which our bodies store trauma memories which can manifest as physical symptoms. It is packed with science but also many personal accounts which makes the book both highly readable and emotionally engaging. The shocking conclusion, which is well substantiated, is that trauma is one of the most significant health conditions of our time.
The second book, by Dr Nina Burrowes, who used to be a trustee here at SurvivorsUK, is called ‘The Courage to be me: a story of courage, self-expression and hope after sexual abuse’ and is a graphic novel of one person’s decision to come forward and seek support after sexual assault. Whilst the protagonist of this graphic novel is a woman, the content speaks equally to male survivors. The format, a graphic novel, is a daring one for this subject matter but the simplicity and starkness of the imagery is a powerful vehicle to portray the intensity of the emotional impact of post traumatic stress.
Both books explore difficult material – we are left in no doubt that trauma, especially sexual trauma, has a catastrophic impact on the individual. But they are also books of hope, of human resilience, of our capacity to grow and heal through new and renewed connections with ourselves and with each other.
Counsellor and Groupwork Coordinator, SurvivorsUK