Are you feeling on edge, tense, irritable, anxious, fatigued? Have you been preoccupied recently by unpleasant memories from the past? Have you debated whether to type into your search engine the name of that guy? You know, the one from high school or college who you’ve desperately tried to forget?
If you answered yes, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re one of thousands, maybe tens or hundreds of thousands, of women who all have in common this fact: you once attended a party where people were drinking a lot, and something happened to you there that you’ve never forgotten but may never have told anyone about. Or if you did tell someone, it certainly wasn’t your parents or the authorities.
And now you’ve been triggered, by the news coverage about Brett Kavanaugh, and yet you can’t turn it off, or stop reading, nor can you escape the memories. I know, because I am one of you.
It happened to me when I was a junior in college, and although my roommates had some idea of what had transpired, since the party was at our apartment, we didn’t really talk about it afterward. I didn’t report it because first of all, we weren’t supposed to have alcohol in our apartment, and weren’t legally old enough to drink. Secondly, I was drunk, so I don’t remember clearly everything that happened, and therefore I couldn’t be absolutely certain I hadn’t done something to invite it. (That’s how people thought back then – has it changed?)
But the real reason I didn’t report it, or talk about it, is because of the shame. I was mortified. In fact that incident remains the most mortifying event of my entire life. I absolutely blamed myself, for making the decision to get drunk that night (the first, and the last, time I ever got blackout drunk). For it was obvious that if I hadn’t been drunk, I wouldn’t have even talked to that guy, never mind let him touch me.
He was a roommate of one of our friends, but none of us really liked him. He was socially awkward, the kind who just tagged along, I’m not sure if he really had any friends. Not that I felt any pity for him, because he was kind of obnoxious and creepy. And to think about him lying on top of me in the bathroom, where I think I may have gone to throw up, and he had followed, is just as revolting now as it was then. The thought that maybe he was too drunk to do anything doesn’t help me feel better.
So when I hear the stories of Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers, it’s easy for me to believe that they are telling the truth. I simply can’t imagine that any woman would be willing to come forward under these circumstances – knowing that she will be doubted and called names, subjected to social media smear campaigns, and lose her and her family’s privacy – unless her truth simply must be told.
But whether or not you believe these accusations, and no matter your political stance, if something like this happened to you, and if you too have been triggered by recent events, then please take care of yourself. Ideally, talk to a therapist who is trained in trauma response, because even your best friend may not know what to say or how to help relieve you of your painful memories and shame. Be kind to yourself, and tell yourself, it was not my fault. Even if I’d been drinking, I did not ask to be sexually assaulted, just as I didn’t ask to be reminded of this now. It is not my fault and I don’t need to keep carrying this secret. I can tell someone, get support, and stop feeling ashamed. I am not alone.