Research-Based Insights about School and University Massacres

The Author

Rebecca CoffeyRebecca Coffey is a frequent contributor to Scientific American and Discover magazines, a broadcasting commentator on Vermont Public Radio, and she blogs for Psychology Today. Coffey is also an award-winning video documentarian and the author of Unspeakable Truths and Happy Endings: Human Cruelty and the New Trauma Therapy, which received abundant praise and an Outstanding Academic Book award from the American Library Association’s Choice magazine.

Praise for Coffey’s UNSPEAKABLE TRUTHS AND HAPPY ENDINGS: Human Cruelty and the New Trauma Therapy. (Sidran, 1998):

  • From the American Library Association’s (ALA’s) Choice magazine: “In a word, this book is powerful! …Even those who read a great deal on the subject of trauma will be shaken by this book. And because of its raw honesty and integrity, Unspeakable Truths and Happy Endings will be one of the important books written on trauma in this decade, belonging in the same category with Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery.” (Choice named the book one of the outstanding academic books of 1998.)
  • From Independent Publisher: “At times the unspeakable truths of Coffey’s inquiry into survival by victims of the violence of crime, domestic abuse, and war threaten to eclipse this health writer’s conditionally optimistic prognosis of-if not happy endings-then at least the possibility of healing. Some readers, undoubtedly, will be repulsed by the nature of these revelations about homicidal encounters, sexual assault by family members and strangers, and the horrors of the Vietnam War and the Holocaust. However, that reaction illustrates precisely what the author considers the unfortunate revictimization of trauma survivors by even those closest to them and therapists, due to natural defenses against accepting our vulnerability to such brutal realities. Even a Holocaust survivor whom the author interviewed in a writing class expressly for such individuals admits that had he heard his own stories related by someone else, he might not have believed them. Coffey contends that her motivation in writing this well-researched book was to promote personal and professional compassion, to counter the current trend of distrusting survivors’ tales-due to the controversy over ‘recovered memories’ sometimes unwittingly instilled by therapists.”
  • UTHEKenneth S. Pope, Ph.D., former chair, Ethics Committees of the American Psychological Association and the American Board of Professional Psychology: “This is a disturbing book, waking the reader out of tired assumptions. Neither a mental health professional nor a survivor, Coffey brings a fresh perspective to a topic too often ruled by predictable polemics. The accounts are harrowing, and Coffey has the courage to leave the reader without easy answers. This book is a valuable resource for those struggling to understand human cruelty and its consequences.”
  • Danny Brom, Director of Research of Amcha, The National Israeli Center for Psychosocial Support of Survivors of the Holocaust: “This excellent and well-balanced book shows how sensitive listening to traumatic stories can make them more bearable for the tale teller. The author’s lucid writing and her intelligent sensitivity make Unspeakable Truths and Happy Endings a most valuable tool for survivors, friends, family, and even therapistsfor anyone who must come to grips with their reactions to traumatic events. is an indispensable resource.”
  • Sandra Bloom, M.D., author of Creating Sanctuary: Toward the Evolution of Sane Societies; Executive Director, The Sanctuary, Friends Hospital, Philadelphia, PA: “This is not a book written from the perspective of the victim or the perpetrator, or even from the viewpoint of the therapist. Instead, the reader enters the narrative of a professional writer and we follow her on a journal of discovery as the unpalatable reality of trauma hits home. Through her vivid descriptions and interviews we get a sense of the price she has paid for listening. As she warns us, “trauma stories are inherently unbelievable” and yet the unfolding of her willingness to listen, to learn, to grapple with complexity, ambiguity, and horror provides us with a model of responsible and responsive engagement as the silent bystander is transformed into an articulate, compassionate, and committed witness.”
  • From the American Psychiatric Association’s Psychiatric Services: “Much of what has been written about trauma and abuse has been written either by professionals or by survivors. Rebecca Coffey is neither. She is a professional writer and … as a writer, Coffey recognizes the power of language and of well-chosen words to explain, to clarify, and to shine an illuminating light into dark spaces…. Coffey’s honest use of language is a model for what lies at the heart of trauma recovery work itself. Learning to call things by their right names and feeling strong enough and safe enough to see the truth are central to any process of healing and growth. The experiences and memories of survivors must by recognized and validated. Yet, as Coffey reminds us, it is difficult for us to hear the stories that survivors have to tell. We find ways to look away, to distract ourselves, so that we can avoid seeing the pain that many survivors carry inside them. Coffey’s book is filled with stories whose authors ask us to bear witness to the horrible, nightmarish realities they have experienced. Quoting Henry David Thoreau, Coffey tells us that ‘it takes two to speak the truth—one to speak, and another to hear.'”

For more information about Rebecca Coffey, please visit