Kavanaugh & Ford: Thoughts on Attempted Assault, Trauma, and PTSD

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The last few days, I have come across a lot of stupid, ignorant comments about attempted rape and its potential aftermath on social media. In case you have been living under a rock, people have gotten very passionate about the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court candidate and his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, who both recently testified in front of the senate about sexual assault charges.

I have seen many memes and comments about both the accuser and the accused, and while some of them are respectful in expressing their personal opinion, many have taken to maligning the accuser, calling her a liar, a political schemer, and even saying the assault wasn’t a big deal and couldn’t have been that traumatizing. I want to take a minute to say that just because an assault is not completed, does not mean it isn’t extremely traumatizing! I will use a couple personal experiences to illustrate why I feel this way:

When I was in middle school, almost every day I was chased by big, mean bullies who threatened to “kick my ass” or even “kill me”…they never did actually beat me up, but they TERRIFIED me. I was truly afraid for my personal safety. They made me dread going to school and I became hypervigilant about trying to avoid them. In fact, I remember having to time my afternoon trek to the school bus just right so that hopefully I wouldn’t cross their path, while also making it to the bus on time.

When I was 17, I was robbed at gun point while working at Burger King. It was the end of the night shift and the manager and I were leaving out the front door, when two males in black outfits and masks jumped out of the shadows, one of them pointing his gun straight at me. No, I wasn’t actually shot during the ordeal, but I had terrifying dreams and flashbacks long after. I could never work night shift there again. To this day, I am still afraid of home invasions and double or triple check the locks at night.

If I had been a victim of attempted rape, I’m sure that would have been another terrifying memory to live with. I wish people understood PTSD and how even attempted assaults can cause immense levels of trauma, depending upon the person and how they process events and react to them. Some of the events that I find most traumatizing, others might not understand, while other events I went through that didn’t phase me much (like my mother’s many divorces) would have rocked the world of other kids. I wish we didn’t feel the need to judge others for what hurts or scars them.

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Religion is getting harder to defend…but I still have hope.

"Blue Heart Sunrise"
“Blue Heart Sunrise”

I love God. I always have and likely always will. I’ve always had a deep interest in spirituality…even before I understood religion. As a small child I often had vivid dreams (that I can picture to this day) of both good and bad spirits visiting me. I was always glad that in these dreams the good seemed more powerful in the end, no matter how scary the bad might seem. I rarely have those dreams anymore, but once in awhile I still do and I’m always relieved to see that the good is still strongest.

However, aside from my own personal feelings and experiences, I am finding it harder and harder to defend manmade institutions of religion. I try. I know there is good in religion. There is truth to be found in the scriptures, metaphors, stories and myths. There is goodness in many of the people and religion in its healthier forms can help provide a deeper sense of community, family and belonging. It can make you feel closer to God and help you to grow spiritually. If done the right way, it can provide a chance to reach out to others in love and make the world better.

Unfortunately, more and more, I am seeing the dark side of religion and it breaks my heart. I grew up seeing this some in my own family where people were condemned to hell for simple things like cutting their hair, wearing the wrong clothes or watching tv. Luckily, I did not grow to follow that kind of fear-based faith but found a couple spiritual mentors who showed me true love and encouraged me to think for myself and research things rather than just believing what I am told. I thought growing up that the rest of the religious world wasn’t as fearful and judgemental as some of my family members, but I am seeing more and more that fear and misplaced devotion seem to be issues across the religious spectrum.

Where is this fear you may ask? It is in families fighting and disowning one another over varying religious opinions. It is found in people who want to discriminate against another group of people simply because those people are “bad” according to their religion. It is in women who are abused and made to feel like second-class citizens because of fundamentalism. It is in the belief that God loves some more than others and that this “God” approves when we bully or mistreat other nations or groups of people. It is in the torment that comes along with the belief that our loved ones are going to hell if they think differently than we do. It is in the blindness that results from believing we have the only truth and everyone else is wrong.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. I wish I had a solution. I sometimes wonder if John Lennon wasn’t right in imagining a world without religion. I don’t want to believe that. I don’t want to think that this is how religion has to be. Through it all, I still hope. I hope for a time that we will all come together in love. That we will accept and celebrate differences instead of fearing them. That families will not fall apart over differences of opinion. That we will work together to solve problems, not to force our personal convictions on everyone else. That we will help to comfort those in pain, but never help to cause that pain. I still hope.