How Survivors of Human Rights Abuses Address Trauma and Move Forward as Activists

Comments (10)

  • Brianna B Uhall

    Brianna B Uhall

    May 07, 2016 at 21:40 | #

    Every one handles trauma in their life differently. Through the different speakers that we had in HNRS 217 Human Rights and Voices, we were exposed to a variety of ways this was done. Some of these ways included running to cope with PTSD, or expressing ones self with music to spread their voice. Overall, all of the speakers that we heard from found a way to continue forward in their lives after the trauma and speak up so that others could learn about what they went through. This in a way, also helps some people. The action of telling their story to others, for some, is a way for them to get it off their chest. Others use this as a way to tell other people so that they know about what is going on so that they can see how horrible it is and maybe try and put forth effort towards stopping it from occuring. Overall, everyone address their trauma differently because all of the speakers that we listened to had been through and experienced different things. While running may sold PTSD for someone, singing may be the answer for someone else, and that is what is cool is seeing how people find avenues to overcome and move forward in their lives.


  • Eve Beauchemin

    Eve Beauchemin

    May 08, 2016 at 00:41 | #

    Trauma takes different forms in each person it affects, and can be devastating and all-consuming. However, it can also be handled in a healthy way, and lead to strength and empowerment of the affected individual. Two incredible examples of this latter response to trauma are Jany Deng--a Lost Boy of Sudan--and Brooke Axtell--a survivor of sexual abuse as a child and domestic abuse as an adult. They have both found ways to incorporate healing into their daily lives--Jany found his love for running, and has participated in many competitive races and even marathons; Brooke found how to appreciate herself by using her voice through poetry, songwriting and singing, and now speaks at events worldwide. They also both work to support the groups they represent--Jany through his work at the Arizona Lost Boys Center, and Brooke through the workshops she hosts to help survivors of gender violence find their voice through creative expression. A different example of a current human rights activist who handled their trauma differently is Shin Dong-hyuk. For a long time after his escape from a detention camp in North Korea, he did not want to speak about his time there. The torture he suffered, as well as the unloving environment he grew up in, warped his body as well as his mind. He admitted that he still suffers from frequent nightmares, but did not mention seeking help for this or the other symptoms of PTSD which he has. Thus, he unfortunately had a very difficult time trying to understand his past and live in the outside world. However, when he moved to the U.S. he did work as an activist with the non-profit organization Liberty in North Korea (LINK), and now advocates in South Korea for the closing of the North Korean detention camps. He mentioned that he tires easily when speaking of his experiences, but somehow he seems to have the strength and determination to fight his fatigue and share his experiences in an effort to make a positive difference for those who currently live as he once did.


  • Brooke Jundt

    Brooke Jundt

    May 08, 2016 at 05:26 | #

    I fully believe that everyone handles and deals with the traumas in their lives different. From the people that we have heard from, Semere and Jany come to mind, they had been through terrible life experiences, but they have realized that as activists for their community they can create change in the world. So they were and are extremely strong people that have figured out the best way everyday to deal with the trauma and possibly even PTSD that they have suffered to raise above and take what they have been through to help others in their same position. People like this are special because they have the desire to speak out about what things have happened to them, which is traumatic, so they can help others.


  • Ciara Ann Daniels

    Ciara Ann Daniels

    May 08, 2016 at 05:38 | #

    I think the way in which survivors of human rights abuses address their trauma is a very personal and unique thing – there is no one right way to address said traumas. Trauma is a very personal thing, and dealing with it is, too, it is vey subjective. Jany, one of the Lost Boys from Sudan for example, dealt with his trauma through running and working at the Arizona Lost Boys Center. The important thing here is the fact that is is being dealt with, even though it is very hard and painful.
    And when we say “deal” here, I do not mean getting over it and forgetting. “Dealing” with the trauma means finding a healthy way to face and acknowledge your traumatic experiences and to move on from it in a beneficial way – finding your strength, helping others, becoming an activist, etc.

    Once survivors have come to term with their trauma, maybe these survivors of human rights abuses are able to realize how important dealing with that was. By becoming a human rights activist, they can help other people deal with their trauma, too. Or sometimes, talking about it openly and expressing your emotions and thoughts is the best way to deal with trauma -- you can be an activist and a survivor struggling with the trauma at the sane time. Or maybe, I think survivors are able to move forward as activists, as soon as their focus changes from their trauma, to the strength and courage that came from such horrific experiences.


  • Amanda Tran

    Amanda Tran

    May 08, 2016 at 07:05 | #

    Trauma is dealt with differently depending on the person. The various speakers in HNRS 217 Human Rights Voices demonstrated that trauma can be dealt with by sharing stories, speaking about their experiences and ordeals, singing, writing, and creating art. Semere Kesete handles his trauma by sharing his story and by bringing awareness about the atrocities and violence in Eritrea. He believes that sharing his story accomplishes two goals. One is to spread the awareness about the human rights issues in Eritrea and to urge others to make a difference and bring change to Eritrea. The second goal of sharing his story is to get relief, emotionally and physically. Sharing his story gives him the chance to let his feelings out, instead of keeping it inside. Another speaker, Jany Deng explained that running and his religious beliefs helped him cope with his trauma. Brooke Axtell handles her trauma creatively and artistically through her music and poetry. Despite the various ways of coping with their trauma, all the speakers have a genuine interest in helping others who are or have gone through similar experiences. By coping with their trauma, these incredible speakers can move forward in their lives and can help other people's lives through their work and words.


  • Ali Angelo

    Ali Angelo

    May 08, 2016 at 18:48 | #

    I think as unfortunate as it is, trauma is an unavoidable part of life. Some peoples' experiences may be more intense than others. How we deal with it can really make all the difference. In our Human Rights Voices class, we have heard form many different people, each from different backgrounds and situations. I appreciated the way that everyone handled their trauma. For example, Jany found going on long distance runs gave him a time to think and clear his mind. Others have found that simply talking to others, sharing their stories, and helping people is enough to help themselves. This also can assist them in their human rights activism because if others hear their stories, it can bring awareness and have a snowball effect on the aid that is given to any certain situation.


  • Samantha Shea Getzen

    Samantha Shea Getzen

    May 08, 2016 at 19:48 | #

    Like Ciara said, Jany mentioned that he is a distance runner, and uses that as a sort of therapy as well. Being an athlete (Specifically a swimmer), I was intrigued by this. Of course I have heard it said many times that exercise can be used as a form of meditation. I can see how that would be true, although it does not really apply to college athletics. Not in the aspect of elitism, but just the mindset of competition. Jany said that when he came to the U.S., he didn’t know that running was something that people did for fun. I had such a different experience with athletics. From the time I was 6, it was all about racing and beating each other and being good. Now, after all this time, I along with many of the athletes that represent U of A have seen a sports psychologist to deal with the pressure and anxiety that we feel. I find it slightly ironic that someone like Jany who has experienced something so profoundly traumatic is able to use running as a form of therapy, while young adults who are in a system of organized competition constantly feel the need to seek counseling due to what they have experienced.


  • Vijay Karam Singh

    Vijay Karam Singh

    May 08, 2016 at 23:51 | #

    Darling with trauma is a very big hump to go over for anyone no matter what the situation is. Just like for Jany, he has been able to get through everything that he has gone through in his past by moving on here and obtaining a degree at ASU and also find hobbies such as running. I believe it is always best in a human rights context to find comfort and an escape out of these sorts of issues so that we can better understand what they have gone through and ultimately help them seize the new opportunities they have. It is always important to find joy and look forward to what the future holds because that is where all of these issues such s trauma can best be remedied.


  • Danielle Brianne Macias

    Danielle Brianne Macias

    May 09, 2016 at 03:15 | #

    Trauma due to experiencing human rights abuses is a difficult and complex problem, but some survivors who are able to successfully navigate their lives after experiencing such intense drama have much insight to offer into ways to heal and move on from such traumatic experiences. For example, some survivors of human rights abuses have successfully learned to deal with their trauma by staying active and having a safe space to talk about their experiences. Unfortunately, these methods are difficult for many people to achieve due to multiple obstacles, such as a hesitancy to speak about their experiences and the difficulty adjusting to life in a new country for refugees. It is important that survivors have easy access to resources such as therapy and community activities to help them overcome and heal. Additionally, creating networks with others who have gone through similar human rights abuses can be helpful and lead survivors to getting the help that they need.


  • Lindsey S Ganzman

    Lindsey S Ganzman

    May 09, 2016 at 04:37 | #

    Trauma affects everyone differently, and to a variety of degrees. Every person deals with trauma and the emotions that go along with trauma differently. Some people go to support groups and reach out for help. Others keep their emotions to themselves, and decide to write or meditate to release their pain. Other individuals express their emotions from trauma through different arts and media, to share their story. In any case, it is important for survivors to move forward and begin to heal. Many survivors work as human rights activists which enables them to use their strength and courage to help others in similar situations. I find this extremely important, to give back and stay positive, while working with other individuals and communities who have similar experiences.


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