Reportback: Using Oral History with Trauma Survivors

Using Oral History with Trauma Survivors (Survivors of Intimate and Family Violence): Ethical, Practical and Personal Considerations

Reportback by Featured Practitioner: Alisa Del Tufo, Threshold Collaborative

The PSN videochat on April 18th was focused on the use of oral history with trauma survivors. Participants were a mixture of those with deep experience and others new to this work. It was, in many ways, an ideal group for a rich sharing of some key concerns and insights.

The basic framework for the PSN was to offer space for brief introductions along with a question or concern that brought the person to the call. Introductory remarks by the facilitator focused on specific experiences using oral history with trauma survivors and a brief overview of some core values to be integrated into this work. These were:

  1. Ethical concerns around safety, pace and use of the story itself
  2. Control as a central issue for survivors of trauma that require extreme sensitivity to issues such as where interviews take place, how long they will go on for, previewing questions, redacting content, etc
  3. Vicarious trauma of interviewers in particular if working with trauma over a long period of time. Various rituals and exercises were discussed including actual physical exercise, washing hands or showering, listening to music, seeking supervision or support from others with expertise in trauma
  4. Being the subject of an oral history interview oneself is a way to truly understand the impact of the interview; physically, emotionally and spiritually and was recommended as a way to develop a deeper understanding of working with trauma survivors

In the true spirit of Peer Support there was lively give and take that generated a positive learning environment for everyone. To continue building that community of support, one of the most experienced practitioners of work with trauma survivors, Elisabeth Pozzi-Thanner, has offered to continue providing support to others interested in continuing the conversation through monthly video conference calls.