How the Kavanaugh Hearings Made Some Sexual Assault Survivors Relive Their Trauma
“If I were you, I wouldn’t even turn on the TV,” my friend tells me. I smile at how well she knows me. For the last two weeks, I’ve had the feeling of being thrown back in the trenches, reliving my own rape, which happened 17 years ago. Hearing stories not only from Dr. Ford but also Judge Kavanaugh’s three other accusers, with details that hit so close to home it’s like they have been watching a reel of my past, has caused me to avoid all media as much as possible. It’s all too much; my only saving grace is that I am way stronger than I was exactly one year ago, when the #MeToo Movement triggered me so hard, it made me start telling my truth.
HEALING IS A JOURNEY
If the #MeToo Movement was the springboard to my healing, the latest onslaught of Kavanaugh-related news has been a constant reminder that true healing is never done. After I was diagnosed with PTSD this past January, I have been working through the stories I have told myself for years: my rape didn’t affect me, I’m fine, I’m so strong. All of those are bold-faced lies, and it wasn’t until the letters P-T-S-D came out of my therapist’s mouth that I started to own that maybe believing my own bullshit wasn’t really the best way to continue living my life.
Since I’m aware of my PTSD and what triggers can mean for my mental state, my friend’s warning made total sense. Last week’s 24-hour news cycle can be punishing, with constant reminders of my own assault. Seemingly every day since November of 2016 has brought a news story more shocking than the day before. However, barring 45’s Inauguration Day, I haven’t felt the need to hide from it, until the Kavanaugh stories broke.
Something about the accusations from Dr. Ford and the other women who came forward hit me so hard I couldn’t breathe. While reading reading one of the reports, I had to get up and walk away. It wasn’t enough just to close the app; I had to remove myself from the vehicle that delivered it to my eyes.
SEEING MYSELF IN THE NEWS
See, I was also raped by “the good guy on campus.” I could feel Dr. Ford’s pain as the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee told Dr. Ford over and over again that he didn’t deserve this; he was a good man. So, I knew what they had dealt with, as it was in the same deck of cards I was holding. As the days to the hearing drew closer, I knew I couldn’t watch it unfold. I’d have to support Dr. Ford from afar, while protecting myself and my sanity from the details that brought my own past flashing back, stretching it out from the box I had stored it in my mind, throwing it on display for me to relive.
I am a rape survivor. One of those statistics you hear about; a woman who was raped on her college campus and didn’t report it because her friends didn’t believe her. I am also a mother of three young girls who I am trying to raise to believe they breathe fire. My girls are too young to know my past, but when the time comes, they will. They will know how not reporting my rape, trying to outrun its traumatic reach for almost two decades, has led me to more problems than solutions. Not only has my body failed me in the grips of my trauma, but my mind also hasn’t been able to process all my long-buried truths, some of which still are buried to some of my closest confidantes.
It’s amazing how easy it is to lie about who you really are when you’ve already been lying for over half of your existence about the night that changed the trajectory of your life. My daughters will know how far their momma has come, and they will know that I have walked this journey to make sure they never have to—I will be the person for them I needed when I was younger.
SEXUAL ASSAULT SURVIVORS: IT IS OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY
Surviving sexual assault when you don’t speak it into existence and don’t seek support for the process is a lonely island to inhabit. I know I felt that way, but it is in speaking my truths and learning about others that I can see how common it is. In being open about what happened to me, I am making myself a cushion and a set of ears for friends who have gone through something similar. There are endless reasons not to report a rape or sexual assault, and I would never blame anyone for feeling that any one of them necessitated their silence. No one can tell anyone else how to begin healing, and sometimes the only thing one can do is hide from the news when the world starts to light itself on fire. It’s easier to unfollow, turn off notifications, and spend time away from television than to face the demons.
Some people can’t hide from them due to their careers or family situations. And if that is your case, know that the whole world holds space for you. Some of my friends and I decided to hold space for each other when we couldn’t watch, honoring those who were bearing witness to our pain by standing watch over Dr. Ford, reporting back to us through a filter they knew we could digest. In clips and sound bites, I was able to bear my own witness, not allowing the full tide of her words to wash over me. And, while I remembered to breathe and let the tears flow as they needed, I thought of how strong, beautiful, and powerful Dr. Ford was to the entire world.
I may not have been able to watch her testimony in its entirety, but I felt her holding the weight of so many of us on her shoulders, never wavering. She let us all know that whether we report or not, we are believed, our words were spoken to the world, and no one can take the truth from us. We are not alone.
Featured image by Matthew Henry
Author Bio Devon Anderson calls Northeast Ohio home. When not spending time at home enjoying her patio, she can be found at her spot on the rail at rock concerts. If she’s not at a concert, she’s probably at Target.