New book explores trauma and violence

Dr Sarah Henkeman unveiled her book at the Trauma Centre with book contributors, Fairuz Mullagee and Brenda Rhode.

A book about the many guises and effects of violence was recently launched in Woodstock.

Disrupting Denial: Analysing narratives of invisible/visible violence & trauma, by Dr Sarah Henkeman, is about the descendants of people who have been victimised by symbolic, structural, psychological and physical violence for centuries.

Roegshanda Pascoe, chairperson of the Manenberg Safety Forum, was one of the 42 people who contributed to the book. Several of them met with Dr Henkeman during the book launch, late last month, at the Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture.

“The book opened up a space to be able to speak to a broader audience on the pain that lies within and through that take one closer to healing,” said Ms Pascoe.

Dr Lucille Meyer, the CEO of the Chrysalis Academy, was asked to write a short story on violence she had experienced in her life.

“Storytelling assisted me to speak my truth in an unrestrained way. In some strange way, I felt that my story made it possible for others, like me, to share their stories, knowing that the stories of descendants of colonised, oppressed and enslaved people are very similar across the world,” she said.

Lorna Houston, director of Houston Initiatives, said Disrupting Denial was important in several ways.

“This book cuts to the heart, and shows us that violence is perpetrated upon the descendants of oppressed, colonised and enslaved peoples in multiple ways – symbolic, structural, psychological, and physical,” said Ms Houston.

Dr Henkeman, who holds various qualifications in the areas of psychology, criminology and conflict resolution, among others, said she regarded her lived and academic knowledge as carrying equal weight with regard to the analysis of conflict and violence.

She said she hoped the book would get people asking questions about why our society was so violent and not view violence as “only” visible and individual.

“The book provides the reader with a simple framework to critique, adapt, adopt or discard. Understanding violence is everybody’s business,” said Dr Henkeman.

Dr Henkeman is on the board at the Trauma Centre and a research associate of the Social Law Project at the University of the Western Cape and at UCT.

She has written academic articles on violence and restorative justice for The Journalist and The Conversation.

Visit for more information about the book, which is available at Clarke’s Bookshop, The Book Lounge, Tommy’s Bookshop and, from mid August, on Amazon. Another book launch will be held in the District Six Museum on Saturday August 18.