There is an expectation that women will be nurturers and carers. Women who have been judged violent, destructive and criminal and who are detained in the criminal justice system can find themselves perceived through a distorted lens as unwomanly. This book explains how they become hypervisible in their difference, while the histories of trauma and suffering that are communicated through their offending and other risk behaviour remain hidden, and so are unseen. 

Bringing together authors uniquely placed as experts in their fields, Invisible Trauma argues that it is essential to trace the traumatic roots of women’s violence and criminality. Powerful intergenerational factors perpetuate the cycles of offending and trauma re-enactment that current sentencing practice overlooks. The authors present a psychoanalytically informed account of the development of violence and other offending, identifying pathways for change to address trauma within the lives of these women and their children, and also to create a responsive, effective and sensitive workforce.

Invisible Trauma highlights the role of emotional, social and cultural forces in traumatising women who come into contact with the criminal justice system and uncovers areas of their lives that are all too often hidden from view. It will be invaluable to those working in clinical and forensic psychology, mental health nursing, psychotherapy, social work, medical practice and women’s health, as well as frontline practitioners in the criminal justice system, the health service and third sector organisations and for anyone with an interest in racism, equality and social justice.

chapter 1|16 pages


ByAnna Motz, Maxine Dennis, Anne Aiyegbusi

chapter 2|16 pages

Maternal violence

Ordinary and extraordinary
ByAnna Motz

chapter 3|21 pages

The criminalisation of blackness

ByMaxine Dennis

chapter 4|15 pages

Caught in the racist gaze?

The vulnerability of black women to forensic mental health and criminal justice settings
ByAnne Aiyegbusi

chapter 5|13 pages


Visible bodies, hidden lives
ByAnna Motz

chapter 6|18 pages

Self-harm, inscriptions and survival

ByAnna Motz

chapter 7|17 pages


Female psychopathy and sexual offending against children
ByAnna Motz

chapter 8|17 pages

Extreme violence and female terrorism

Restricted status and indeterminate sentences for public protection
ByAnna Motz

chapter 9|18 pages

Intoxicating states of mind

Violence and its impact
ByAnna Motz

chapter 10|16 pages

‘What happened?’

An attachment-based understanding of detained women with offending histories, extreme self-harm and diagnoses of personality disorder
ByAnne Aiyegbusi

chapter 11|19 pages

Imprisoned and in prison

Organised defences working against black women and girls
ByMaxine Dennis

chapter 12|13 pages


Why the caged bird sings
ByAnna Motz, Maxine Dennis, Anne Aiyegbusi