…and she has written a fine piece for a survivors of sexual assault. Here’s just a taste. Read the rest here:
I’ve spent the last decade working in the field of mental health, focusing the last few years in particular on helping people heal after sexual assault. I’ve spent 6 years of study to learn how to do what I do and a crap ton (there’s my mountain roots coming out) of continuing education hours learning an even deeper understanding of trauma, sexual assault, and how to help people heal. Because of that, the vast majority of my experience has been working with survivors, hearing their stories, bearing their pain with them, and trying to help them work through the various layers of trauma they experienced as a result of what someone did to them.
It’s because of these beautiful people who I care so much about that I can’t stay silent. If you haven’t experienced sexual assault, it may not be obvious to you that some of the things being thrown around so carelessly in the media would be so shaming and further traumatic to someone who’s survived such a trauma. That’s why I have to speak up. To help others understand and to help protect the innocent who may otherwise be further traumatized.
When a person experiences a sexual assault, it’s important for people to understand that one of the most common responses a person has is to freeze. We’ve all heard of fight or flight but few people realize that there is a third biological response that people experience in the face of any traumatic event. To freeze is perhaps more common than either of the other two. When this happens, it’s an indication that the person is so overwhelmed by what is happening that the logical thinking part of their brain basically short circuits, goes offline, whatever analogy works best for you here…Many have described this almost like being in shock: their body went numb, their brain felt like it was swimming in mud, they couldn’t comprehend what was happening, and some have described feeling as if they aren’t even real in that moment.
So when people say, “Well, if that had happened to me I would have..(insert self protective ninja move here)” they are saying that with full access to the logical part of their brain in a situation in which they are not in danger and have not been traumatized. Thinking that a victim can’t be a victim if they didn’t try to fight is a very shaming thing to say about something that you don’t fully understand (and are thus very wrong about). Add on top of that the fact that victims often blame themselves for not fighting back and have a hard time understanding how they could have just frozen like that adds to the trauma. Hearing other people questioning how it could be rape if she didn’t fight just makes it worse.Let’s say you’re at a party and you go looking for the bathroom, only to be grabbed by someone and well, you know the rest… As that happens, you find yourself in shock, feeling like you’re going to pass out or throw up and you aren’t sure which one is going to happen first, meanwhile you can’t seem to comprehend what just happened and suddenly nothing feels real. Emotionally, you’re confused, terrified, overwhelmed, and already beginning to feel shameful and dirty. Disgusting, like you need desperately to take a shower but still just can’t seem to make sense of what just happened. Your first thought isn’t likely to be “hey, I’m going to go tell people what just happened to me.” Out of the hundreds of people I’ve worked with, I can count on one hand how many people told someone immediately. The majority waited years before telling anyone. Even children don’t often tell someone what has happened to them right away. We tend to hide things that hurt us, make us feel ashamed or dirty and we’re often terrified that if we say anything, someone is going to tell us that it was our fault. So we just don’t tell.
Many of the survivors I’ve worked with didn’t tell anyone until they had a strong enough reason to brave the fear. First time moms suddenly experience terror that the perpetrating family member will harm their little one and so they tell. A person has spent years running from the reality of their experience in the hopes that it will just go away and at some point realize that they will need help facing it in order to overcome it. So they tell. They experience a situation that has them so scared that they will be abused again that the terror of that prompts them to tell. I can’t tell you the number of times a person told me that I was the first person they’d ever told about an assault that happened when they were a child.
People don’t always tell their parents, their friends, or even their spouses. Parents who think, “Oh, my child and I have a great relationship, they’d tell me if that ever happened” are often floored to find out that it did happen and their child didn’t tell them. It happens every day. I’ve experienced it more times than I can count.
There are two more myths she covers. Please read the whole thing. In the Age of Trump, where conservative “prolife” brutalists trample victims and say, “Who cares? We won” it is vital to put those victims first and not the lies of the swine mock them in the public square.