Dr. Blasey Ford’s opening statement proved that she was traumatized by the sexual assault experienced in high school. Since high school, she had consulted a counselor and shared the story with peers but rarely named the assailant. She was scared, frightened, terrorized by the memories of what happened, what could have happened then, and what could happen if she were to name him now. Sadly, she received her answer…re-traumatization.
Trauma can have long-term effects on an individual. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), trauma can cause fear and anxiety, affect sleep patterns, mood, and the ability to carry out daily tasks. Trauma does not only affect the survivor but partners, spouses, children, and peers. In addition, the effects can be passed down from generation to generation.
When Dr. Ford says in her opening statement, “I was pushed from behind into a bedroom” and “I was pushed onto a bed” and “I yelled…and I tried to get away from him but his weight was heavy”… that is trauma. When she says, “I am terrified” or “I requested a second front door” out of fear of the assailant or “recounting the details caused panic attacks and anxiety”… that is the effects of trauma.
When I say I have experienced sexual harassment more times than I care to admit…that’s trauma. When my friends (male and female) recount their sexual assault experience…that’s trauma. When I change the way I carry myself due to the previous sexual harassment and my friends spend years recovering from sexual assault experiences…that is the effects of trauma.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center suggests 81% of women and 35% of men report significant short- or long-term impacts of sexual assault such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In 2013, The National Crime Victimization Survey found that 38% of rape and sexual violence incidents were against men.
The End Rape on Campus organization suggests that while 80% of white women report sexual violence, women of color are more likely to be assaulted. In 2015, the U.S. Transgender Survey reported that 53% of Black respondents were most likely to have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
The May 2018 California African American Policy Priorities Survey suggests that respondents consider it an extremely high priority to expand access to mental health services. Rightfully so, if we pay attention to the rising rates of reported sexual violence against women and men. And again, if we pay attention to the way individuals are being triggered by the recent confirmation hearing, we will notice how important access to services are at this time.
What we have seen this week, throughout the #MeToo movement, and since the Anita Hill hearing is the resilience of survivors. Their ability to recover, ability to adjust to changes, willingness to report, and willingness to share with others as a form of empowerment and/or healing. The hope that if we speak up the incidents are less likely to happen. Or, that when women and men report, the matter will be addressed appropriately, and the perpetrator pressured with consequences. This confirmation hearing has shown that we have a long way to go in understanding the effects of trauma however, the survivor stories, protests and social media posts show survivor’s resilience and hope for a different future.