*I am a therapist, but I am not your therapist. Therapy, in my opinion, is not just about the information I give, but also about the highly individualized relationship I build with each client, getting to know their unique needs, strengths, and challenges. This column is not meant to substitute individual therapy. And when it doubt, speak to a therapist about these issues — preferably someone who knows you, who you feel safe with, and is equipped to support you exactly as you are.
** All of the questions I received were complex, and profoundly honest. Thank you for your submissions. The questions answered in this month’s column were edited for length and privacy, while attempting to preserve the original question.
Dear Feminist Therapist,
After I was sexually assaulted, acquaintances talked about it on social media, at parties, and shows. People cracked jokes about the assault when I spoke out about it on my private blog. Then, my “friend” told people my story, without my consent or any consideration for how it would affect me. I even got a call from the lawyer of the person who assaulted me, threatening me and bullying me into recanting my story. Since then I haven’t been able to attend shows or parties. When I do go out people say, “Where have you been?” “You’re not on Facebook!” I need some advice on going out in public spaces and dealing with my anxiety after the experience I had.
Thank you so much for reaching out. It sounds like, in reaching out in the past, in order to process your experience and not feel alone, you’ve been hurt even more.
I have found that the general public does not understand trauma, how it works, how it changes your life, and how they are participating in the trauma itself by responding so inappropriately. It is a delicate balance when working to recover from a trauma, because sometimes things have more power over us when we keep them secret, other times it’s going to hurt us more when we share, especially if we get an ignorant and/or disrespectful response. Because of this, whenever I work with someone who has been through a trauma, we talk specifically about how to deal with OTHER people when it comes to that trauma. We will make decisions about who needs to know what in order for the person to stay healthy (and doesn’t feel alone in their experience), what are the best avenues to do so, and who does not need to know. We also discuss how respond to people in a way that is respectful, but fairly ambiguous, and in a way that doesn’t reveal too much, as a way of protecting the person from sharing the truth in a way that leaves them vulnerable.
Talking about the trauma is one of the healthiest things you can do, but it has to be with the right people: ideally that includes someone who’s trained to help you as well as listen to you. I’m glad you are going out again and doing things you like, but when people ask you where you’ve been, you are allowed to say simple things like, “I had some things to deal with” or “I just needed a break from that stuff for a while.” In those moments, with those people, you do not owe them an explanation, or an apology.
Read the full article here on The Feminist Current.