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You Don't Need "the" Answer

By Jenny Horsman

You Don’t Need “the” Answer


Messages for Victims and Survivors of Crime Week – Part 4 of 7 in series

A Learning and Violence Stance is a place to stand with curiosity, connection and conscious awareness, before the colonial gaze of judgments, diagnoses, labels and standard stories shape and limit our view.



Whether we have had, or have complicated experiences of violence or are seeking to support others who have, we are more effective when we don’t believe we have THE answer. When we are open to possibilities, we are more likely to find valuable ways forward to address whatever the current challenge may be.


I love trauma therapist Babette Rothschild’s words: “Everything works for somebody; nothing works for everybody.” She reminds us to be curious instead of certain. I have seen the value of musing out loud, of offering possibilities that others have found useful, but with a light touch, with no attachment to outcome, and with a reminder to myself that I do not know better than the person I’m trying to support.


We do not need to have “the” answer in order to be an ally to ourselves or others. In fact, things usually go better if we don’t. Then we can be open to exploration, to collaboration, to playfulness and surprise.


What does this kind of open-minded allyship look like in your life or work?

About the Author

I am an educational researcher, a white first-generation settler in Canada, a migrant from England by way of Sierra Leone, where I spent nearly four years beginning to unlearn much I had been taught about the world in England. In Sierra Leone I absorbed new awareness of colonialism and white privilege, though I didn’t really understand the significance of those lessons until years later.

For more than thirty years I have been studying the impacts of all forms of violence on learning, and exploring how to support more effective and joyful learning of the things we choose to learn, at any age and in any setting. I first stumbled over the connection between violence we experience and how and what we learn during my doctoral research in the 80s, and later came to understand that what I heard resonated with some of my own childhood experiences.


I have learned a lot over the years, from research, experience, the wisdom of colleagues and students of different races, religions, cultures, and socioeconomic locations from my own, and a wide variety of training and study.

I prefer the language of a Learning and Violence Stance to the commonly used “trauma-informed”, in order to stress this point of view that recognizes the multifaceted nature of violence in society, and the correspondingly complex pressures when any one of us try to support learning, our own or others,’ within colonial institutions and an unjust society founded on violence.

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