I write this post after a restless night playing over the Kavanaugh hearings and the numerous conversations I’ve had with women triggered by this painful spectacle. I’m sure others spent their night similarly.
Every woman I know—every single one—has been affected by sexual violence, either personally or through those they know well. This is because sexual violence is all too common in the US, with 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men reporting experiences of contact-related sexual violence in their lifetimes. The rate goes up when looking exclusively at the sexual violence experiences of women of color, LGB and gender non-conforming people, and those who live at the intersection of these identities.
This all means there is a large collective who is suffering deeply at this moment, many in silence. If you are one, I see you. Your response—whether sadness, disconnection, stoicism, denial, rage, anxiety, avoidance—is okay. You don’t need to be any other way than you are right now.
Healing is not a linear process. Strong winds have the power to push us off course, sometimes propelling us back to places we’d hoped never to revisit. And we’re in the middle of a particularly destructive storm.
The path (back?) to safer shores can sometimes seem impossible to find. This is understandable, particularly in a society that does much to increase survivors’ suffering through victim-shaming and blaming.
There are strategies, though, that can illuminate a way forward. This Lifehacker post* offers several that I wholeheartedly endorse, including setting boundaries around media consumption, grounding yourself, and practicing deep breathing. I invite you to read the article and experiment with some of the strategies as one way to gift yourself healing during this triggering time.
Whatever you decide, please know you are not alone. You are not to blame. Your trauma does not define you.
For those lucky enough to be chosen as a survivor’s confidante, you too have an important role to play in the healing process. Maximize this role by choosing to listen carefully to the survivor’s story. Avoid the pull to judgment or, worse, neutrality. Strive, instead, to be actively supportive, letting the survivor know you hear them, believe them, and will be there for them. Then, follow-up by checking in to reinforce your care.
If you have regrets about your previous responding to a survivor’s story, try to avoid a shame spiral. In the wise words of Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
In peace and solidarity,
*Thanks to Liz Roemer for sharing the Lifehacker post.