Dear survivors: I see you, and I believe you.
September 25, 2018
This post may be triggering for survivors of rape and sexual abuse. If that is you, please guard your boundaries carefully.
So many of the women I know -- my friends, my loved ones, my congregants, my colleagues -- are survivors of rape or sexual assault. It's everywhere. It's an invisible epidemic that is only now beginning to come to light.
And right now the national news is so saturated with it that all of those women are navigating trauma all over again.
From a president who bragged about grabbing women by our private parts, to a potential Supreme Court justice now multiply accused of sexual assault, to Jian Ghomeshi's recent essay, to a long list of actors and comedians and public figures accused of sexual misconduct: our discourse is consumed by conversation about the damage that women endure.
Encountering this subject everywhere can be re-traumatizing for victims of rape and sexual assault. Making matters worse, the public sphere is full of argument about whether or not to believe women when we take the risk of telling the truth about the harm done to us. The excuses, the gas-lighting, and the victim-blaming compound the trauma and the damage.
I simmer with constant low-grade nausea and grief and rage about this. This moment in time is so hard for my friends and loved ones, congregants and colleagues, who are survivors. This moment in time is hard for me.
One woman who is dear to me tweeted recently, "My body is on hyper alert, absorbed with past experiences, and I wonder - how many of us are just battling to stay upright right now?"
Dear survivors who are reading this: I see you and my heart goes out to you.
I believe you.
I believe you, and I see that you are hurting now. I see you struggling to get through the day, I see you unable to sleep or plagued by nightmares, I see your body clenched and on hyper alert.
I recognize that you can't take a sick day from work just because the current news cycle is constantly triggering you. I recognize that re-activated trauma may be slowing you down, making ordinary things difficult, making every day a struggle.
I am sorry beyond words for what you endured, and for what you are enduring now as the national news cycle thrusts these subjects into your awareness again and again.
I also see that you are more than your victimhood, and I honor that, too.
Dear survivors who are reading this: please don't carry this burden alone. Post-rape PTSD is real and is deeply damaging. There are some suggestions in the article How to Cope with Rape-Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and I can offer anecdotal support for the positive benefits of several of the items on that list. I hope that you have (or will seek) a trustworthy therapist, ideally one trained in helping survivors navigate these issues. You might also seek a support group, so that you aren't alone.
(There's an excellent list of Resources for Sexual Assault Survivors and Their Loved Ones online at RAINN.)
I pray that something good will come out of this moment's painful focus on rape and sexual assault.
May we shift the broader culture so that the women's voices, experiences, and bodily integrity will be honored.
May we teach our children about active consent, and may we relegate "boys will be boys" and "this is just how men behave" to the trash. Boys and men can and should be better than this.
And may all who are survivors of rape and sexual assault find healing.