It is also important to remember in thinking about your own childhood traumas or a trauma experienced by your child, that children define events differently than we do as adults. I think back to an incident in my own childhood where I was playing outside and went in to the yard of a house near by to say hello to a dog in the yard. The dog jumped on my back, bigger than I was, and knocked me down. For some, this incident might have instilled a lifelong fear of dogs, but in my 5-year-old brain I defined the event as the dog giving me a hug.
Since graphic allegations have come forth from victims assaulted and harassed by film industry executive, Harvey Weinstein, many women have been sharing their own stories of sexual harassment and assault. Assault and harassment appear in many forms--from microaggressions of a co-worker commenting on your looks to street harassment and rape. We have heard from many celebrities over the passed weeks expressing that they knew about Weinstein's actions, so why did they stay silent?
Harassment and assault can be traumatizing for the victim. The fear harassment and assault creates is enough to silence us. As it happens so often, the burden of speaking out falls on those who have been victimized. It takes bravery to share your story, or even chime in on the chorus of #MeToo. Harassment and risk of assault is something ingrained in us from a young age. Like many others, I remember being catcalled for the first time at 11-years-old; the harassment, and later, assault, would only progress as I got older.
In the latest episode of the podcast, Call Your Girlfriend, hosts Aminatou Sow and Anne Friedman delved in to the allegations. You could hear Sow get choked up as she spoke about how unfair it is that it should fall on the victims to have to tell their stories to raise awareness and that with each new "scandal," those who have not been victimized (mostly men) seem surprised. What struck me most was what Sow pointed out about catcalling-- it is not the words that are so upsetting and traumatizing--it is the fear of what could happen next, the fear of being assaulted. I had never thought about it like that before, but she was right.
Men using their power and strength to take advantage of women is not new. The stories coming from women who have been taken advantage of are not new. Women have been living with the memories for years, though perhaps we have tried to forget.
Each time assault and harassment is featured prominently in the media, I feel my own triggers rising. I admire the courage of those who share their stories but feel angry that we still have to lay every detail on the line to make others believe us. It makes me angry and sad that we should have to defend ourselves to others who question what we know was harassment or assault. It makes me sad and angry that others still don't believe us.
We are in a time where activism is more important than ever but sometimes the act of self-protection is activism enough. If you have shared, or thought to yourself, "me too," the news has likely been triggering for you. Protect yourself and each other. Take care of yourself and each other.
1. Media Blackout
You've heard the news, now it's okay to turn off the TV and disappear from the internet for a few days. It won't go away, but it will give you some time to heal.
2. Self Love
Go ahead, love on yourself. This could mean daily lipstick affirmations on your mirror, or getting that fast food milkshake you've been craving. Whatever it is, you deserve it.
3. Bodily Love
Love on your body, remind yourself that you own it!
4. Go Outside
Breathe in the fresh air, feel the sunshine on your face or rain on your skin, and notice at least 5 pleasant things around you. Seriously, pick out 5 pleasant things that you see and count them, this helps to ground you.
This can be harder to remember than one might think. Find a comfy spot, close your eyes, and notice your breath. Practice this each day to help with staying grounded and being present.
6. Cater to Your Needs
Sometimes it's hard to remember our needs are more important than obligations. This might mean breaking plans with a friend to stay in and rest or putting off work to have coffee with someone who fills your bucket.
7. Remember, Her Too
Remember you are not alone. Talk if you need to talk. Share if you need to share. Stay silent if you need to stay silent.