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with Rebecca Mandeville, MA, MFT

What Dr. King Understood About Rage, Riots, and the Trauma of the Unheard

As an adult survivor of abuse, including sexual abuse in both childhood and adolescence, I know what it feels like to not be heard, seen, or believed, and to feel deeply wounded because the truth of my experiences went unacknowledged and/or were outright denied and invalidated by those possessing the power to do so.

I come from a family that carries multi-generational trauma, which means I was raised to follow the unspoken “rules” common to most every dysfunctional, shame-based family system, these being “Don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel”.

Like many of the family scapegoating abuse survivors I work with in my therapy and coaching practices, I possessed an innate need to “talk, trust, and feel”, no matter the consequences, which likely contributed to my finding myself in the ‘family scapegoat‘ role, both as a child and as an adult.

As in my case, survivors of child abuse, and those who continue to endure various types of systemic (family) abuse as adults, typically have their truth and reality denied and do not have their pain and trauma recognized (much less validated) within their family-of-origin, with the exception, perhaps, of siblings who were also similarly abused.

This is because the abuser is most often a ‘power-holder’ in the family – the very person the child should be most protected, loved, and cherished by. And so, the pain and the trauma is ‘swallowed’, denied, and repressed, sitting in the abuse survivor’s subconscious like a ticking time bomb, damaging body, mind, heart, and soul.

This is true also for children who are abused by ‘outside’ authority figures, such as priests, teachers, and (as in my case) law enforcement figures (e.g., the perpetrator who sexually molested me in adolescence was a Deputy Sheriff).  I am therefore able to strongly relate and identify with the unrecognized, unacknowledged pain, anger – even rage – that is a direct result of existing within dysfunctional, abusive systems capable of violating and dehumanizing those holding less power whose voices (and cries) go unheard.

Hurt and Unheard: When Anger and Rage Surfaces

This past week, as I watched various peaceful protests transform suddenly into riots around the United States, I became curious as to what Dr. Martin Luther King had to say about dysfunctional, broken, and unjust systems, truth, rage, and violent acting out. My research led me to a speech he gave at Stanford University entitled ‘The Other America‘ two years after California’s Watts riots in August 1965. In it, Dr. King specifically addresses rioting:


Let me say as I’ve always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. … But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again.

(See The Other America video – Aurora Forum, Stanford University)


The protests and riots occurring this past week in connection with Mr. Floyd’s public murder serve as a public declaration that black Americans will no longer tolerate abusive, dehumanizing systems – Systems that fail to hear, support, or acknowledge their maltreatment, much less validate and appropriately address their legitimate grievances and concerns.

Are we listening?

First They Came by Pastor Martin Niemöller

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

Ways You Can Help

Join over 13 million others: Mayor Jacob Frey: Justice for George Floyd – Sign the Petition! via @Change

Please note that BLM is focused on systemic change (e.g., racism, privilege)



If you related to anything in this article, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. What you share may help others in their own recovery.

Photo by johnhain (Pixabay)






What Dr. King Understood About Rage, Riots, and the Trauma of the Unheard

Rebecca C. Mandeville, MACP, MHRS, LMFT

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Rebecca C. Mandeville specializes in recovering from the negative effects of being raised in dysfunctional / abusive family systems. She served as Core Faculty at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology teaching graduate courses on Family Systems, Multicultural Competence, and Diversity Awareness. Her clinical focus includes defining and describing what she named (for research purposes) 'Family Scapegoating Abuse' (FSA). Today she focuses on helping family scapegoating abuse survivors navigate the unique challenges they face.

You can email Rebecca at [email protected] to see if her counseling or coaching services are right for you. You may also purchase Rebecca's introductory eBook on FSA.

You are invited to visit Rebecca's website to learn more about Family Scapegoating Abuse as well as sign up for her monthly FSA newsletter and access resources, including her introductory eBook on FSA.

To be notified of Rebecca's latest Psych Central posts, as well as her full-length FSA Recovery book release date, follow her on Facebook.

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APA Reference
Mandeville, R. (2020). What Dr. King Understood About Rage, Riots, and the Trauma of the Unheard. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Jun 2020
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