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A Lesson About Sexual Assault Survival

The recent exchanges regarding the sexual assault scandal surrounding our Supreme Court nominee have stirred a lot of passion in my heart.  I am struck by how many politicians haven’t a clue what is going on.  Or, maybe it is that they just don’t care.  Either way, I need to try and bring attention to facts surrounding sexual assault survival.

Why don’t assault victims come forward sooner to confront their assailant?  Are you kidding!?

Let’s just start with the obvious, shall we?  If a victim of assault dares to stand up to an assailant with any sort of power, she (or he) risks her life coming under scrutiny like no other.  For a person dealing with the shame (that is always present) after being assaulted, is so difficult.  To then have to be exposed to shaming by people accusing her/him of “asking for it” or “making it up” or “being confused as to what really happened” is called, re-traumatization.  It is a real thing.  It happens every day.  Why would anyone knowingly expose themselves to further trauma reliving what happened so many years ago.

Which brings me to my next point – the time it takes to regain personal power.  This point is one that is especially infuriating to me.  When someone is assaulted, it takes away that person’s sense of personal power.  Their voice has been taken away.

Please understand that assault’s overall message is, “You are not valuable as a person.  You have so little value, that I can do whatever I want to you.  I can take whatever I want from you and if you say, ‘No’ there will be hell to pay.  So…shut up, don’t say anything and just do what I want you to do.”  That is what every person who is victimized feels. “I am not worth treating like a human being.”

So, with that belief now firmly implanted in a person’s mind, why in the world would anyone expect the subject of assault to stand up and say “Yes, yesterday this guy assaulted me.” (I use “guy” because the vast majority of assailants are male.)  A person who has been victimized always feels shame and as if they are less than.  They do not believe that anyone will believe them. They do not believe that anyone will care.  How in the world can anyone expect them to stand up immediately to face their assailant – if ever?

Which leads me to another point.  Unless you are the survivor of assault or you work with victims of assault, shut up! You don’t have a clue nor do you have a right to have an opinion about when or how he/she should report the assault. Did you know that most people victimized by an entitled jerk do not have the courage or self-power regained until years later to speak about the assault – even to a therapist.  It is quite common for women (and men) to be in their 40’s, 50’s or 60’s before they can talk about what occurred?  Did you know that?  Then shut up!  You don’t get to have an opinion on how it should be reported!  You do not have a right to judge!  You really don’t know what you are talking about.

Ahhh…judgement!  The next point that infuriates me – so many feel they are judge and jury about a person victimized by another.  The entitled always believe that this ugly story of assault is uncomfortable or is getting in the way of their agenda, so they start minimizing the reality of what has happened.  “Well, she must be confused.”  “Too much time has passed, she can’t remember.”  “She doesn’t remember all the details so it must not be the truth.”

Speaking of that, let’s talk about trauma and memory.  The entitled are spending so much time saying that because she doesn’t remember many of the details,  it must be a made up story.  Again – shut up!  You sound like an idiot!  Please take 5 minutes and learn about memory and trauma.  Did you know that professionals who deal with trauma understand that when there are blocks of details that are missing, that the story is more than likely true.  When a person is assaulted, the brain goes into survival mode – also known as fight-or-flight.  During this state, our capacity to remember all details is severely challenged.  People don’t remember everything.  So stop saying that details are missing or fuzzy.  Or if you recognize that, please understand that this brings credibility to the person’s story, not discredit.

As a professional who works with trauma recovery every day, I am infuriated at the harm that this kind of rhetoric does to anyone who has been assaulted.  Those of you who are saying that Dr. Ford has to testify on Monday or we won’t hear her, do not understand trauma survival and talking about it.  Why are you not calling upon some professionals who do understand trauma recovery and how it works.  Why don’t you?  Oh! You really don’t care!

Which brings me to my final point.  When as a nation we elect a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women, it should be no surprised that the party in power doesn’t want to hear about sexual assault.  Too many people in this country don’t care about it and too many people live in the denial that it exists and happens every day!  It is time to change this lack of concern.  It is time that we regain a position of compassion and care. It is time that we regain everything we have lost in the form of human rights over the past two years.  It is time we stand in opposition and vote on November 6th.

I am tired of “alternative facts” running the political and social agenda.  I am tired of having people of color, women, children…treated as less than.  We are all God’s children and we are all entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…without fear of discrimination, humiliation, ridicule. It is time we come together in love again!

Posted in Abuse/Assault Survival.

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