Dear sexual trauma survivors,
This post is in acknowledgement and support of you, as you have been and will continue witnessing sexual trauma survivors discreditation campaign conducted by the Senate Judiciary Committee and supporters of Judge Kavanaugh. It is very easy to get overwhelmed, disconnected and lost during times like these, when you hear voices doubting credibility of survivors’ stories. I am really sorry that you continue experiencing consequences of cultural denial of sexual trauma, which is not new. Generations of survivors before you have experienced this phenomenon. As a trauma therapist, my hope is that, as society gets more aware and educated about high prevalence of sexual trauma and its severe impact on the lives of survivors, we will be able to develop higher level of cultural sensitivity and, at least, protect survivors from the secondary wounds of not being believed and being blamed for the attacks.
Today, however, I would like to acknowledge your pain and talk about the ways to soothe it.
When we are triggered by a public discourse of disbelief and denial, it is our younger wounded parts that get confused, ashamed, and hurt. For them, it is really hard to see and understand the issue of sexual trauma denial as a systemic issue that has absolutely nothing to do with them. Young parts tend to believe that it is their fault and that something is wrong with them. They may start flooding you and then you may experience shame, hurt, sadness, anger, confusion, and other negative feelings in your body as your whole self. Response of our younger parts is very understandable and very normal. Here is what we can do to help them and ourselves:
1. Acknowledge thoughts and feelings of the part(s) no matter how “irrational” they might seem to your adult parts. Just let your wounded parts know that you see and love them no matter what and that you have their back.
2. Ask triggered part(s) to not flood you and give you a little space so that you can care for them. Explain that when you do not have any separation from them, you cannot really see, hear, and validate them.
3. Once the part separates, even if only a little, notice how do you feel towards it. If your feeling can be described as one of the following: compassion, curiosity, understanding, appreciation, concern, then proceed to let the part know that you are here and you are listening. If you have any negative feelings towards the wounded part, acknowledge those feelings and ask the parts that carry them to relax back. Look for a place inside where you have a feeling of acceptance or curiosity towards a hurting part, even if it is really tiny. From that place, acknowledge what the part is communicating to you. Validate its thoughts and feelings.
4. Ask the part what it needs from you in order to feel better, even a little. Acknowledge expressed needs and (here is a crucial piece) do your best to meet them.
When our wounded parts feel that they are important and their thoughts and feelings matter to us, they are willing to collaborate and contain pain and shame that they are releasing into our psyche. When they feel cared for by us, their pain diminishes significantly.
To illustrate how this might look, here is an example from my own life. I have a number of wounded parts that are struggling and in pain right now due to my personal history. Those are young parts that historically felt that they are not seen by others and that their feelings don’t matter. In the past two weeks, I have been paying special attention to these parts of me, listening to their whispers, asking them how they are feeling. The parts have been letting me know that they are starting to feel invisible again and it is hurtful and confusing. So, I have been consistently reminding my parts that I see them, I love them, and I appreciate them, even when and if no one else does. I have also been speaking on their behalf in several relationships in my life, setting firmer boundaries with people, who are likely to ignore my wishes. In addition, I have heard requests from my parts for more hugs, affectionate touch, physical care. So, I have been taking longer showers with nicer cosmetic products, giving myself self-massage, initiating more hugs in close relationships, doing specific yoga pose that these parts like and sending them compassion and warm wishes. My parts have been responding with feeling happier and calmer. In addition, I have been reminding my parts that they are welcome to go to the internal safe place, when I am reading news and encountering hurtful statements, because they do not need to deal with any of those things. My adult parts can take care of this dysfunctional business as needed.
With lots of love, compassion, and light,