“Trauma doesn’t disappear quickly. It is imprinted on the brain and reflected in the body. Trauma has a long life.”
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) manifests itself in a myriad of ways. In The Witness, Jenny experiences rape trauma syndrome (PTSD with a sexual element added) following an attack so brutal she is nearly killed. She has difficulty sleeping, and nightmares occur frequently. Her ability to concentrate is affected. She suffers from hypervigilance, an excessive awareness of danger, causing her to be jumpy and easily startled. Panic attacks unnerve her because during a panic attack she relives some of the original violent event. She has difficulty trusting men, even police officers, and is afraid to be touched, even by medical personnel.
As part of the police investigation, Jenny is interviewed by a specialist officer trained to work with sexual assault victims. This officer, PC Barry Bridges, also briefs the protection team about her condition. “Jenny’s trauma isn’t over just because the attack is over,” he reports. “In some respects, it’s just beginning…Rape changes everything about a woman’s world.”
Bridges warns the protection officers about their response to Jenny. “Don’t push her to get over it–you’ll wound her again…She’ll have mood swings, be numb, depressed, ashamed, embarrassed, upset. That’s all normal. She’s normal; it’s what happened to her that wasn’t. The problem is, she has to live with the consequences.”
And that’s the simplest definition of trauma: the consequences of being in a situation where you felt fear, horror, or helplessness.
Both Bridges and the senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sinclair, know that the road to recovery from the sort of trauma that Jenny experienced will take a long time. Both are careful not to mention her diagnosis to her, believing that a victim’s reaction to extreme stress is just that: a reaction, a response, and not a disease. Over time Jenny’s responses will alter and ease, although some may never be completely erased.
When Jenny is placed in witness protection, PC Bridges’ role ends, but DCI Sinclair needs her to recover sufficiently by the time the trial begins to step into the witness-box and testify against her attacker. So he endeavors to treat her with patience, reassurance, and restraint, three critical elements that will help her heal.
Here’s what Thomas Jennings recently said about The Witness:
When I saw that THE WITNESS was set in London, I immediately thought of two of my favorite authors, Anne Perry and P. D. James. I now have a new favorite author who, in my opinion, surpasses both. Characters have depth and, as the story progresses, the reader is drawn into the various venues as though he is part of the scene. This is a well-researched page turner. I eagerly await the sequel.