With the electrifying tales of 15 survivors of catastrophic human cruelty at its narrative core, UNSPEAKABLE TRUTHS AND HAPPY ENDINGS journalistically explores the affects of survivors’ stories on compassionate listeners. The result is the first real thinking person’s guide to a topic of enormous emotional charge to the friends, family, and therapists of survivors of street crime, racial violence, family violence, sexual assault, incest, war, political terror, and Holocaust and to survivors themselves. Propelled by its riveting survivor testimony (juxtaposed with commentary by social critics and trauma therapists with sometimes uncanny precision), Unspeakable Truths asks indeed, at times forces, its readers to think through the prejudices, fears, and revulsions that most of us have about violence and its victims. By doing so, the book helps readers understand some of what it is that expert trauma therapists do well: Listen to the truths in survivors’ tales while accepting as uncertainties the inconsistencies and improbabilities that many contain; provide a rigorously examined trustworthiness upon which the betrayed can rely; and find enough ways to keep their own worlds habitable to provide survivors with honest assurances that life and human interaction can be worthwhile.
Its almost unfailingly optimistic look at (well practiced) trauma therapy aside, UNSPEAKABLE TRUTHS AND HAPPY ENDINGS departs admirably from what has become formula for authors of books for the survivor and pro-survivor markets. It clear-headedly examines the recovered memory debate, acknowledging that even the most distinct memories can be false and that bumbling therapists can, indeed, help people remember incidences that never occurred. The book’s stated goal in doing so: To guide survivors towards careful, ethical, and eminently sensible trauma therapy and to steer survivors clear of the significant ethical failures of some incautious trauma therapists.
From the American Library Association’s (ALA’s) Choice magazine: “In a word, this book is powerful! …Even those who read a great deal on the subject of trauma will be shaken by this book. And because of its raw honesty and integrity, Unspeakable Truths and Happy Endings will be one of the important books written on trauma in this decade, belonging in the same category with Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery.” (Choice named the book one of the outstanding academic books of 1998.)
From Independent Publisher: “At times the unspeakable truths of Coffey’s inquiry into survival by victims of the violence of crime, domestic abuse, and war threaten to eclipse this health writer’s conditionally optimistic prognosis of-if not happy endings-then at least the possibility of healing. Some readers, undoubtedly, will be repulsed by the nature of these revelations about homicidal encounters, sexual assault by family members and strangers, and the horrors of the Vietnam War and the Holocaust.However, that reaction illustrates precisely what the author considers the unfortunate revictimization of trauma survivors by even those closest to them and therapists, due to natural defenses against accepting our vulnerability to such brutal realities. Even a Holocaust survivor whom the author interviewed in a writing class expressly for such individuals admits that had he heard his own stories related by someone else, he might not have believed them. Coffey contends that her motivation in writing this well-researched book was to promote personal and professional compassion, to counter the current trend of distrusting survivors’ tales-due to the controversy over ‘recovered memories’ sometimes unwittingly instilled by therapists.”
Kenneth S. Pope, Ph.D., former chair, Ethics Committees of the American Psychological Association and the American Board of Professional Psychology: “This is a disturbing book, waking the reader out of tired assumptions. Neither a mental health professional nor a survivor, Coffey brings a fresh perspective to a topic too often ruled by predictable polemics. The accounts are harrowing, and Coffey has the courage to leave the reader without easy answers. This book is a valuable resource for those struggling to understand human cruelty and its consequences.”
Danny Brom, Director of Research of Amcha, The National Israeli Center for Psychosocial Support of Survivors of the Holocaust: “This excellent and well-balanced book shows how sensitive listening to traumatic stories can make them more bearable for the tale teller. The author’s lucid writing and her intelligent sensitivity make Unspeakable Truths and Happy Endings a most valuable tool for survivors, friends, family, and even therapistsfor anyone who must come to grips with their reactions to traumatic events. is an indispensable resource.”
Sandra Bloom, M.D., author of Creating Sanctuary: Toward the Evolution of Sane Societies; Executive Director, The Sanctuary, Friends Hospital, Philadelphia, PA: “This is not a book written from the perspective of the victim or the perpetrator, or even from the viewpoint of the therapist. Instead, the reader enters the narrative of a professional writer and we follow her on a journal of discovery as the unpalatable reality of trauma hits home. Through her vivid descriptions and interviews we get a sense of the price she has paid for listening. As she warns us, “trauma stories are inherently unbelievable” and yet the unfolding of her willingness to listen, to learn, to grapple with complexity, ambiguity, and horror provides us with a model of responsible and responsive engagement as the silent bystander is transformed into an articulate, compassionate, and committed witness.”
From the American Psychiatric Association’s Psychiatric Services: “Much of what has been written about trauma and abuse has been written either by professionals or by survivors. Rebecca Coffey is neither. She is a professional writer and … as a writer, Coffey recognizes the power of language and of well-chosen words to explain, to clarify, and to shine an illuminating light into dark spaces…. Coffey’s honest use of language is a model for what lies at the heart of trauma recovery work itself. Learning to call things by their right names and feeling strong enough and safe enough to see the truth are central to any process of healing and growth. The experiences and memories of survivors must by recognized and validated. Yet, as Coffey reminds us, it is difficult for us to hear the stories that survivors have to tell. We find ways to look away, to distract ourselves, so that we can avoid seeing the pain that many survivors carry inside them. Coffey’s book is filled with stories whose authors ask us to bear witness to the horrible, nightmarish realities they have experienced. Quoting Henry David Thoreau, Coffey tells us that ‘it takes two to speak the truth—one to speak, and another to hear.'”
MURDERS MOST FOUL: And the School Shooters in Our Midst (Vook Press, 2012.)
“Mostly by males, and mostly by gun” may sound too much like “One if by land, and two if by sea.” But it’s really the extent of the commonality that psychologists, sociologists, and criminologists have found in the 85-year history of school rampages in America. By mid-February 2012, twenty-five murderers had killed 165 people in 23 different multi-fatality bloodbaths at grade schools, middle schools, high schools, and universities. The attacks had happened in good neighborhoods and sweet towns easily as often as they had in bad neighborhoods and large cities.
But “guys with guns?” Without a more substantive profile, how are educators and law enforcement agencies to stop the next killer?
Rebecca Coffey’s MURDERS MOST FOUL: And the School Shooters in Our Midst examines the roster of America’s atrocities, and pulls into rhetorical light open questions remaining from rampages like those at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Cleveland Elementary School, and Westside Middle School. Is better gun control the answer? Can safety nets be woven tightly enough to contain potential school shooters? Is an entirely new approach to identifying potential mass murderers called for? Coffey’s MURDERS MOST FOUL identifies what Donald Rumsfeld might call the “known knowns,” “known unknowns,” and “unknown unknowns” of school slaughter, and looks at new glimmers of hope presented by psychologists and law enforcement officials who have made preventing school massacres their life work. Full of lively questions, MURDERS MOST FOUL contains no firm answers. For, truly, the debate must continue.
A “Readers’ Favorite” Review on GOODREADS:
“Rebecca Coffey explores the topic of school shootings and tragedies at the hands of seemingly innocent individuals, individuals we see and interact with on a daily basis. I remember Columbine very vividly, and reading the description of this tragedy and many others that span the years back to the 1920’s refreshes the horrible emotions I felt when word of Columbine circulated through the halls of my own junior high school. For all the bravado that my eighth graders demonstrate for peer approval and teacher disdain, their 14-year-old egos were shattered on that day. Suddenly we, the teachers, were no longer the “enemy,” but their protectors until the ringing of the dismissal bell. Unfortunately many of those students do not have the luxury of heading home to the comforts of a loving and secure family situation. So, where does that leave them? Where does it leave our innocent children who only want to feel safe in school as well as home?
“I commend Rebecca Coffey for her diligent research of the many situations of school/campus violence. Without stating so literally, she has made the fragility and vulnerability of our young people quite clear. –Lisa McCombs, GOODREADS.”