A Therapist’s Open Letter to Abuse Survivors Impacted by the Election

TRIGGER WARNING: This post is in support of sexual abuse survivors. For some, reading this post could be triggering.

We’re all surrounded by campaign slogans and hashtags.

Make America great again.

#nevertrump

I’m with her.

Today, I want you to know, I’m with you.

I will be at the polls, like many Americans, casting my vote. But I don’t want to talk about what candidate I will support. I want to instead say that I see you, I hear your silence, and I will continue to fight for your cause, no matter the results of this one vote.

I cannot imagine what it has been like to be you over the last several months.

No matter how much you try to get away from it, you cannot turn on your TV, open your social media feed, or go to a happy hour with friends without it being either right in your face, or bubbling just under the surface, taunting you with its ability to break through at any moment.

That message. That same familiar, haunting, and infuriating message.

The message that your body is for the powerful, and you are powerless.

That your “yes” isn’t required when their “yes” exists.

That your “yes” is implicit, that it doesn’t need to be said.

That something would be wrong with you if you had a “no.”

That your exploitation is something to be mocked.

That the language used in our society to covertly train men to exploit women isn’t actually dangerous.

He’ll make America great again, he says.

He can touch whatever body he wants, he says. Just because of who he is.

He knows ahead of time that woman will want him, before they decide if they want him, he says.

You’ve heard all of this before.

And when you hear it now, it’s like you are split in two. Part of you is full of unfathomable rage while the other part is pulled into the deep shame that comes from wondering if it’s all really true, if he can touch you and if you really do deserve a chance to say “no.”

It’s just “locker room talk,” he says.

It doesn’t need to be stopped. Because it’s harmless.

Except that it’s not. 

Because I know you can feel it.

You can feel it in your throat when your voice won’t come out, and in your body when the terror of the memories freezes you, and in your sweat when you wake up from the dreams, and in that hole in your heart that comes when you discover, once again, that you are utterly lonely in the pain of your story.

And you’ve tried before to hide from it all, but you know that there really is no way to isolate yourself completely, and that when you try, the isolation creates new problems and new pain.

It must feel like you have nowhere to go. Nowhere to take the story that it feels no one can help you hold.

I’m so sorry.I’m sorry for your pain, and for the fact that just living and breathing as an informed citizen has multiplied it. I’m sorry for the ways I have implicitly supported your trauma by not speaking up when I should have and not fighting against the forces in our society that continue to make exploitation possible.

Words are both empty and hold immeasurable power.

As you attempt to release and pour out the words that take life from you, I hope the following words can hold you up.

No matter what happens tonight, please do not let a bully define your narrative today. You’ve had to live in a bully’s narrative for far too long.

Use today to find ways to claim your voice, to break the silence of your own and other’s pain in whatever tiny way that feel right in the moment, take time to reflect on your own value and the fact that no one else can define it, and take care of yourself by continuing to find places where your story can be held in community with those who can tell you the truth, as many times as it takes.

Though it might not be obvious, today, you are seen.

Today, your story is heard.

Today, your pain is real, AND your continued healing is possible.

 

 

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