I only watched portions of the hearing with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford yesterday because, as a survivor of sexual trauma living with PTSD (read some of my story HERE), I knew that immersing myself completely would likely be triggering. That said, the portions I did watch have had me and many of the other survivors I know vacillating between deep sadness and extreme anger.
I realize there will be those asking themselves whether coming forward is worth it. Whether telling your story out loud, giving it air, is worth the potential devastation that comes when you realize there are too many folks who won’t believe you, or who DO believe you but don’t care enough to lay down their own agendas to stand with you. Add to this the additional layer of this issue being an intersectional one, and that women of color—Black women, specifically—are less likely to be believed and/or less likely to be treated with compassion when we do tell, and I get why folks are hesitant to talk.
But Sis, I’m inclined to believe that it is critical to share your story. Not because of any external validation it might generate. Yes, courage is contagious and when someone shares their story, it often releases others to do the same because they realize they are not alone. The #metoo movement is certainly evidence of that. But even more than that, I believe sharing your story diffuses its power in your own heart. It breaks the chains of the traumatic memory; chains that can hold our bodies, minds, and destinies hostage.
That’s the M.O. of trauma. It festers. Especially if these things happen when you are very young. As we hold in our pain, year over year, we learn how to compartmentalize it. We put it away. Some of that is by necessity. We have jobs to go to. Kids to raise. We have to keep living. But at some point, we must be willing to dig it up if we truly want to be free. To heal. Because when we don’t, that pain and rage and sorrow HAS TO goes somewhere. And it can sometimes show up as these weights we can’t shake: depression, anxiety, mental illness, chronic pain, and disease. We may choose to forget but our souls, our bodies remember.
Bessel Van Der Kolk, in one of my favorite books on the subject, The Body Keeps the Score, helps us with this:
“We have learned that trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, brain, and body. This imprint has ongoing consequences for how the human organism manages to survive in the present…As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself…The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.”
Sadly, I think all of us need to prepare our hearts and minds for the possibility that Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed. We must accept that America is not yet a place that will uphold the safety and sanity of its women and girls—and especially its Black and Brown women and girls—above the agenda, privileges, and alleged entitlements of white men. Kavanaugh’s confirmation will certainly be a commentary on what those in power think about women. But it will NOT be any indication of our inherent worth. Let’s hold on to that truth. Even as courageous women continue sharing their stories and holding perpetrators accountable—as I hope we continue to do—let’s also focus our healing efforts on this: You are worthy. You are enough. You are not what happened to you. Your voice matters.
(I’ve started a private/secret online FB group for those healing from sexual trauma. If you are interested, please sign up by clicking HERE)