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Here’s how #MeToo is impacting the mental health of sexual assault survivors

By on April 19, 2021 0

A year later, mental health professionals claim that #MeToo has resulted in a mix of sexual assault survivors and women in general.

The global calculation of sexual harassment and assault – and the accompanying discussions about limits and consent – has prompted many to re-evaluate past sexual interactions in a new light. Thirty-seven percent of women and 7% of men surveyed Women’s health and men’s health / SurveyMonkey, for example, said they now viewed a past sexual relationship as inappropriate as a result of #MeToo. And for 83% of women, thinking of a previous encounter that “crossed the line” caused feelings of anxiety, depression or regret.

“Overall, the women I talk to are happy that (#MeToo) is happening, and they feel like it’s been a long time coming,” registered psychotherapist Stacy Kaiser told Moneyish. But the move also rekindled traumatic memories for some, she said, and made others question past experiences that they perhaps considered correct at the time – for example, “Experiences of men grabbing them, of men repeatedly telling them inappropriate things, being pressured into sexual activity when they said no and giving in under the pressure.

“People are definitely thinking about situations that maybe weren’t so clear,” licensed clinical psychologist Lisa Herman, founder of online mental health therapy services site Synergy eTherapy, told Moneyish. “People are very confused when there is a power differential, in particular – I think people are trying to figure out, ‘Was that me too? Have I experienced it? Have I seen him? Have I witnessed it? Was I personally involved in it? ‘ “

Read also :Campaigners like Rose McGowan tell Moneyish what #MeToo’s next year needs to do

Therapists and trauma psychologists who spoke with Moneyish say they haven’t necessarily seen an influx of new or existing patients who have had such revelations in light of #MeToo. Steven Gold, professor of psychology and director of the Trauma Resolution Integration Program at Nova Southeastern University, suggested that there may be some disconnect between this awareness and the search for mental health services. It takes time to come to terms with the realization, he said, and “therapy is a last resort” for many people.

“I think it’s very, very, very rare for someone to recognize that they have a problem and immediately seek a therapist,” Gold said. “It is usually only after trying other pathways, sometimes over a fairly long period of time, before making the decision to go into therapy.”

Further, said clinical social worker Marianne Silva, therapy and mental health in general are “still in many ways stigmatized.” “Talking about trauma, especially sexual assault … is therapeutic and, if done the right way, can be very healing,” she added. “But it can be very difficult to know who or where to go to talk about it in the right way.”

Meanwhile, survivors of sexual assault may feel excited about the momentum of the movement, its ability to de-stigmatize the problem, and its role in helping people feel safe, said Silva. But they also have to navigate a world in which stories of misconduct or sexual assault frequently dominate the news cycle and provide emotional triggers. “It can increase the feeling of being more nervous,” said Silva, “because this constant flow of reminders they face can make it impossible to pause in that direction.”

Read also : Why we always ask why survivors don’t report sexual assault – and how we can change

Clinical and forensic psychologist Dawn Hughes has called the coverage across the board “an added stressor.” “If they try to tame the intrusive, involuntary and painful memories and now it’s all over the news, it becomes very difficult to exercise that containment,” she said.

“The #MeToo movement has been very useful to them in terms of validation; giving them enough courage to go talk to someone, ”Gold agreed. “The flip side … is that much of the self-doubt and hostility they see people who go public to confront them can discourage them from asking for help or opening up to someone. else.” He described feelings of “desperation and rage” among survivors over expressions of disbelief in the sexual assault allegations by Christine Blasey Ford against Supreme Court candidate Brett Kavanaugh. “It’s incredibly crippling and hurtful for the people who have been through this,” Gold said.

In fact, an unprecedented number of people have asked for help after Ford’s public testimony in the Senate on Thursday, according to the National Rape, Abuse and Incest Network (RAINN): The organization reported a 338% increase in hotline traffic this week between Thursday and Sunday, and said Friday was the busiest day in the 24-year history of the National Sexual Assault Hotline, with more than 3,000 calls. A wave of survivors too called to C-SPAN during the hearing to share their own stories of sexual assault.

“History shows us that when high-profile allegations like these make the news, it often causes others to reach out as well,” RAINN Chairman Scott Berkowitz said in a statement. “This story clearly resonated with survivors and led thousands to seek help for the first time.”

Read also : People raised over $ 200,000 to help Kavanaugh’s accuser Christine Blasey Ford

For those struggling with negative feelings from a past experience that crossed the line, Silva advised to “talk to someone you trust, talk to a good therapist, (and) really explore those beliefs and be able to start blaming where it belongs “- not on the victim of the abuse, ie on the perpetrator and the systems that made it happen. Limiting media exposure in favor of healthy, productive activities can also help: “It’s good to turn off your notifications and quit social media for a few days,” she said.

And if the calculations of the past year have made you feel ashamed, guilty, or angry about something that has happened to you or has happened to you, Hughes stressed the importance of acknowledging that shame does not belong to you. “Maybe because people are ashamed, they don’t talk about it and they don’t tell anyone,” she added. “You don’t have to go to the New York Times or the New York magazine. This could be talking to a trusted confidant; someone you know will hear and believe you.

Survivors of sexual trauma may also benefit from evidence-based treatment such as cognitive processing therapy Where prolonged exposure therapy, two types of cognitive behavioral therapy recommended for the treatment of PTSD, NYU Langone Health clinical psychologist David Austern told Moneyish.

The media coverage of #MeToo may also give some survivors hope and help them get into therapy, Hughes suggested. “If they have the opportunity because of this to see that help is available, and that they don’t have to suffer alone and in silence, and that their stories will be heard and believed, no matter what point that may sound unbelievable, “she said,” so I think that’s a positive point.

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