Trauma has undoubtedly existed since the beginning of human experience.
The American Psychological Association (APA) has defined trauma as an individual’s emotional response to an extreme negative event. Dr. Sigmund Freud was one of the first to initiate psychoanalysis of trauma as far back as the late 1800’s. Some of what we’ve learned over centuries is that trauma can stem from many life experiences such as war, rape and other violent acts, significant losses in life, natural disasters, as well as physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. Being a witness to an act of violence can cause trauma. At any age, trauma can leave lasting psychological injuries such as disassociation, PTSD, and depression to name a few. The effects can scar an individual emotionally impacting self-worth, feelings of guilt and shame, struggles with intimacy and substance abuse, trust issues, self-harm and even suicide. Also signs of physical and emotional trauma can be individualistic and manifest symptoms such as anxiety, withdrawal, anger, denial, gloom and emotional upheaval.
Studies on sexual trauma have shown its effects can appear years after the abuse happened due to a defense mechanism called Repression which can block memory. Research indicates many reasons for this neurological process but a basic explanation is during or after a traumatic event, certain parts of the brain become overactive and other’s become underactive. This physiological mechanism floods the brain with hormones like adrenaline to help keep us alive during a life-threatening encounter. Many kinds of trauma can be threatening and can cause repression interfering with the ability to recall certain details of the injury. There can also be many triggers in everyday life that can ignite memories, causing a survivor to re-live parts of, or the entire traumatic episode throughout their lifetime.
Sadly, the News coverage of a confirmation hearing to appoint a Justice has unearthed a deeply-rooted, ugly legacy of our country’s history with sexual trauma. This very public political display may have been damaging not just to the positioned participants, but to the collective consciousness of our culture. It is disheartening to imagine how components of our Democracy could pierce traumatic memories of millions of women and men who have been victims of sexual assault. Stunningly, this governmental process seems to have revealed that in the year 2018, our society appears to not fully understand or grasp the realm of wounds rooted in sexual trauma. Whether you agree or disagree with the actions or outcomes of our political theater, hopefully we can all agree what took place in our political arena was at the very least, disturbing.
If you have experienced triggers that have provoked flashbacks of sexual trauma and it’s causing you severe distress, it is important to seek professional support. Attempts to process such painful experiences on your own or with loved ones can be risky, and is best under the supervision of a psychotherapist or another healthcare professional who can provide the appropriate care. Or, if someone has had the courage to share their traumatic experience with you, believing them can show your backing and compassion, while encouraging them to seek help from a professional. There may also be little comfort in knowing you are not alone as there are millions of people all over the world who share a profound social movement called #METOO, which has been rising out of the secrecy and shame of sexual trauma. People can find strength in numbers and sharing something so painful can be a catharsis for oneself and for others; but facing trauma privately or publicly can be frightening and strenuous, and should only be encouraged when an individual is ready to cope with the pain and emotional earthquakes that can come in the aftermath of trauma’s legacy.
If you are a victim of sexual assault or sexual abuse, report it as soon as possible. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at: (800)656-HOPE (4673). Operators provide confidential support and can direct you to local service providers in your area. Also you can find resources online at: www.rainn.org. If you are under the age of 18 or are aware of sexual abuse of a minor contact your local authorities and Department of Children and Families.
Due to recent inquiries, Lori Sarvis and Associates wants to extend our help by offering a safe place for healing. We have therapists who provide confidential treatment for trauma that you may have sought help for in the past but that is now resurfacing, or a trauma that has not been addressed in therapy before. We provide individual treatment such as EMDR, Hypnosis, and are now forming a Trauma support group. If you or anyone you know is struggling with Trauma, please call our office for further information. Kelley Kraushaar will be leading the group as well as guest speakers and other therapists. Please join our group and healing those wounds. For more information call (954) 426-0410