Sexual Assault in America.

My work with survivors and our society.

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I’m a trauma therapist and I sit six days of the week with survivors of sexual assault, rape, sex trafficking, incest and any number of other sexual traumas that people can commit on one another.  I also work at length with personality disorders, especially the cluster B disorders like Borderline Personality Disorder and the attachment disorders that often result from such abuse.  I lecture regionally about these things on a regular basis to other therapists and mental health workers.

But I am tired.  Not of hearing the tales of horror or helping my clients survive the pain of reliving moments simply because they heard a car door or smelled the fresh grass.  I’m not tired of sitting with men and women who were treated like objects and helping them realize their worth has always been inherent and the abuser who told them otherwise was a liar and a thief.  I am tired of their not being heard.  

I am tired of feeling like there will be no end to the tears.  Not theirs, or mine.  

Mine because I grieve for them and the injustice they endure.  I grieve for a society that does not have the courage to protect the innocent and looks for reasons that they are not innocent so that they can protect the predator.  I am tired of the cowardice at the heart of a system that continues in this fashion.  Tired of sharing horror stories and hearing only “Yeah but….” in response.  

I am also frightened a little.  About the world that faces my grandchildren.  Whether it can turn towards compassion or will continue down a road that preys on the innocent and bullies the less fortunate.  

Recently the president, who previously bragged that he could get away with sexual assault because he was rich and famous, said that he felt sorry for his Supreme Court nominee.  Many representatives, politicians and pundits have come out and said they question the veracity of his accuser’s story because of her lapses of memory and the timing.  

First, let me say I have issues with the timing too and have no doubt that the letter received was held until (against the request of the sender) it was made public at an opportune time.  None of that speaks to the veracity of the claim made.

As to the memory issue when humans are faced with such horrible trauma the part of their brain known as the limbic region takes over.  The amygdala flips a fight or flight switch and short circuits the memory storage part of the brain because that part of the brain takes too long to decide what to do and safety demands a quicker response.  So the memory is stored in the body as a sensation.  A memory of feeling and sensory data without real recall.  It can lay there for years until something triggers recall.  

I have worked with patients who were trafficked from childhood through their teen years and did not recall any of it clearly until middle age.  All they knew was that people had done “bad things” to them.  Details were repressed and may never fully come.

So I find this and many other claims like it that are so easily dismissed by white men of privilege and power quite credible.  I hear it repeated all the time.  Daily sometimes.  

The defense that people should not be judged by their worst moments in their teen years is a good and valid one for people who show remorse and regret and efforts at change since.  It does not hold valid for someone claiming they did nothing wrong and refusing responsibility.  That behavior is indicative only of a lack of change. A continuation of the belief that their privilege is enough and that they have the right to what they want.

Feel free to make this a continued political battle on both sides, but be very clear about the world you are creating.  It is a world of bullying and violence that does not value really anyone.  It is a world stripped free of its humanity and sunken into the animalistic behaviors of might makes right.  It is a world where your children are no longer safe because they are no more valued than your women.

That is not a world I can be proud of, it is not one I want for my children or grandchildren.  

So I am tired.  I will rest.  I will fight some more.  

How about you?

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