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.
I spent yesterday afternoon at a parenting seminar.
Correction: I spent yesterday afternoon at a parenting plan seminar. Because I am supposed to be preparing to design a co-parenting plan with the man who beat me, raped me, robbed me of the last few years of my childhood, and possibly even caused my son’s autism. And I am supposed to be doing this because he feels like it. And the fact that he feels like it matters because according to our judicial system, even a father who spent the last nine years completely neglecting his nine year old autistic son, who has never paid and still has not offered to pay a dime of child support, and who was charged with “Assault 4,” which means physical assault against a pregnant woman, even that guy has the right to make claims on his biological child.
There are a lot of things to celebrate about our judicial system. This past week, a judge from my hometown used the judicial system to salvage the lives and families of thousands of innocent people who were being detained and deported due to Donald Trump’s unconstitutional, anti-Muslim executive order. My abuser spent four years in a state prison because of our judicial system, and although I believe he deserved much more time, there are some countries in which he would have received no punishment at all. Some states, even. So I will concede that the judicial system can do a lot of good. But the lack of protocols in place to combat domestic abuse via Family Law court is an enormous failing, and one which is destroying my life.