Shelly Bonnah


Children’s Responses to Violence: Resisting Misunderstanding

Young victims of violence seek therapy for a wide range of concerns.  Some have been led to believe that they were abused because they were submissive, and so even deserved the abuse. Some have been labelled mentally disordered or dysfunctional because of the abuse. Some have been led to believe that there must be something wrong with them because they have been victimized by more than one person (e.g., they unconsciously seek it out, or they lack boundaries).  When young people begin to acknowledge their own history of responses to, and resistance against violence, they find that rather than pre-existing weaknesses and deficiencies they have many pre-existing capacities. 

In her research proposal “Children’s Responses to Violence,” Bonnah demonstrated the ever-present resistance and capacities of young people through their micro interactions with perpetrators.  Victims of violence always respond and resist, at all ages.  Through this work, there is interest to further integrate an analysis of the oppression of children in many of the assessment and therapeutic models commonly used.  Evidence of their capacity to act, care, and reflect as spirited beings can be found through their responses and resistances to violence, broadly defined.  We can take children’s resistance seriously, not as symptoms of mental illness but rather as clear signs of mental wellness.