Since the #metoo campaign went viral, many necessary and important conversations have begun. We dragged the truth about sexual harassment and assault into the light of day, exposing the fact that a disturbing amount of people–especially women–have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetimes. Discussions about support and awareness have taken beautiful seed. Rape culture is finally being acknowledged on a wide-spread scale. But there’s one discussion that, while important, has not been able to take place without sounding horribly offensive. That is the conversation about the fact that not all traumatic experiences are the same.
Let me start by saying this: trauma is subjective. The development of post-traumatic stress disorder and other traumatic responses is not only determined by the inciting event. The victim’s biological makeup, personal history, and support system also play a significant role. As do the nuances of the event, which may not appear in the categorizing of the event. It is possible for one person to be more traumatized by having her breasts fondled on a bus than another person who was forcibly raped–really–simply because of all those factors; even though most people would likely say, if made to choose, that they’d rather have their breasts fondled than be forcibly raped. Our anxieties and personal biases create hierarchies of trauma, but that’s not how trauma actually works. There is no way to say that “my trauma was worse than yours,” and even if there was, it would be a silly, disrespectful thing to say. Take it from someone with PTSD: being traumatized is not something to aspire toward.
This month, Betty’s Battleground is talking about sexual assault and its aftermath. This is something that has been planned for months, but as it happens, the nation is (finally) joining this conversation as well. Today, I’m sharing with you some of the stories I’ve read recently that I think you should read too.
On another note, if you’ve been seeking a place to share your story of surviving sexual assault, or loving someone who has, Betty’s Battleground has some openings this month. Check out my guest post info page and shoot me an email.
The #MeToo hashtag campaign has exposed the fact that sexual violence is a significant event in the lives of most women. One of the most common forms of this violence is sexual harassment. A few examples of sexual harassment are catcalling, suggestive comments at school or work, and unwanted sexual advances. Many women have experienced at least one instance of everyday sexual harassment.
But one in five women will also experience a major act of sexual violence, like rape. Many of those women will also develop posttraumatic stress disorder. This means that female survivors of rape and other major acts of sexual violence are forced to experience comparatively milder forms of sexual harassment before and after the major trauma. Can the prevalence of PTSD among female sexual assault survivors be related to the commonality of sexual harassment?