Accessibility links

Breaking News

'The Trauma of Terrorism' Addressed in New Book

(Washington, DC--April 7, 2005) Co-authors Yael Danieli, Danny Brom, and Joe Sills, joined by contributor and RFE/RL Associate Director of Broadcasting Joyce Davis, presented their new book, "The Trauma of Terrorism: Sharing Knowledge and Shared Care" to a recent RFE/RL audience. This book, which the authors describe as "an international handbook," promises to become a basic source for those dealing with terrorism, providing case studies to examine where terrorism comes from and how to employ a multi-dimensional approach to deal with its consequences. It is a comprehensive study that provides insight on a world-wide problem.

Danieli, Director for the Group Project for Holocaust Survivors and Their Children, said the idea for this book came to her on September 11, 2001 when, being in New York City, she "felt vulnerable [in the U.S.] for the first time; similar to how I felt as an Israeli in Israel." She gathered data from around the world, to provide the tools to "take action," because "where terrorism is concerned, no one is immune--every country is vulnerable." Danieli says that terrorism is also "psychological warfare on a community" so, the "intervention should be community based." The handbook should allow members of the international community to learn from the experiences of other nations, she said.

Danny Brom, Director of the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma, urged municipal and local leaders to develop "a terrorist response strategy before an attack occurs." Brom, who resides in Israel, has been "living under ongoing terrorist threat for years" and says research in the area of post-trauma treatment has been neglected. For example, data he has collected shows that, after international aid workers leave a disaster area, "victims are left with a sense of abandonment and lack trust." In his opinion, it is also important to bind first-responders, service providers and clergy together to help them deal with feelings of helplessness. All these aspects help in the development of "community resilience."

Brom also said attention must be paid to cultural differences. "A specific culture develops acceptable mechanisms" for dealing with traumas such as a terrorist attack," he said, "Not everyone needs, or has access to, a psychotherapist." Citing statistics from Israel Brom said, "50 percent of Israeli children personally know someone who has been injured or killed by a terrorist act. Of this fifty percent, 6 percent of the children exhibit signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Although this shows great resilience among children, it still remains a percentage of the population too large to help through individual therapy, so the school system is being used as a delivery system for care."

A large part of the handbook is devoted to the study of children and families. "Children are not little adults," said Danieli, "They have their own manifestations." The data also shows that the effects of terrorism can be passed from generation to generation, because "terrorist acts tend to trigger prior historic trauma." Danieli and her colleagues conclude that, it is necessary to take care of immediate victims to ensure that the effects of terrorist violence do not remain within a community.

Joe Sills, who is a recently retired United Nations Secretariat official, commended the United Nations which, in its Resolution 1566, mentioned the victims of terrorism for the first time ever. Since the 9/11 attacks in the United States, he said there has been an extraordinary response by the UN, which set up a counter-terrorism directorate and has continued to expand its efforts.

Joyce M. Davis, Associate Director of Broadcasting at RFE/RL, who joined the discussion via videoconference, said "there is a mirror image in terrorism that clearly hasn't been studied enough." Davis, who has studied the psychology of young terrorists, particularly Palestinian suicide bombers and the effects of terrorism on the communities that terrorists come from and the families of terrorists, noted that "There's an environment that praises and encourages these acts. They see bombers as heroes," she said, contributing to a mindset that continues the terrorist cycle.

To hear archived audio for this and other RFE/RL briefings and events, please visit our website at