Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection

By Michael Wessells | Go to book overview

6
The Invisible Wounds of War

War creates long-lasting wounds, both visible and invisible. Most conspicuous are the physical wounds. Less visible are the hidden wounds of the mind, heart, and soul. For many children, these wounds include the pain of multiple losses and their difficulties coming to terms with searing memories of past horrors. However, the hidden wounds often relate as much to children’s current living situation as to memories of the past. Many former child soldiers experience shame and guilt or are stigmatized and isolated. Many others experience enormous stress due to poor health and joblessness, or have difficulties regulating their behavior in ways required by civilian life. The stresses of war and postwar life arise through the dynamic interaction between psychological, physical, social, and spiritual processes. Collectively, these stresses are called “psychosocial” (Williamson and Robinson 2006).

When psychologists look at former child soldiers, they often focus on trauma, which Arroyo and Eth (1996, 54) defined as “a sense of profound helplessness in the face of overwhelming danger, anxiety, and arousal” associated with life-threatening experiences. In many conflict zones, child soldiers do show signs of trauma (Mocellin 2006), and psychologists provide trauma counseling and community supports to the survivors. However, numerous analysts question the validity and utility of both the trauma concept and the Westernized practices it encourages (e.g., Bracken 1998; Summerfield 1999). To appreciate the limits of any one model or approach, one must recognize the diversity of child soldiers’ experiences and situations.*

*. Though suhscquent quotations from child soldiers are direct reports from individual in-
terviews. the following three narratives are composites created from interviews with a large

-126-

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Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Child Soldiers - From Violence to Protection iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Abbreviations xv
  • 1: Child Victims, Young Combatants 1
  • 2: Entry into Armed Groups 31
  • 3: Inside Armed Groups 57
  • 4: Girl Soldiers 85
  • 5: Health and HIV/AIDS 107
  • 6: The Invisible Wounds of War 126
  • 7: Putting Down the Gun 154
  • 8: The Transition to Civilian Life 181
  • 9: Community Reconciliation, Justice, and Protection 208
  • 10: Prevention 232
  • Reference Index 259
  • References 261
  • Index 277
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