Out of the Shadows
Nowadays, people are talking. Each day we are hearing the latest news of sexual “misconduct” as women (and men too) finally feel safe to tell their stories of assault and abuse.
Why has it taken so long for these stories to come to the surface?
Understanding the sequelae of trauma responses can help us understand why those who have been abused can remain silent, sometimes for many years.
Speak Truth to Power
When we feel threatened and our resources are tapped, we can also feel that speaking up or confronting an abuser could create further threat. In such cases, it is common to take the “side” of the abuser because this feels like the safer option. This is especially the case when the abuser threatens that “if you tell…” something worse could happen.
Or, sometimes not talking is a sign of shame. This kind of shame involves a core of confusion about who is to blame. The abused person takes undue responsibility. They might say, maybe it was my fault because…I smiled, I laughed, I led them on, my body said “yes” even though I said “no,” I accepted a drink.
Furthermore, feeling threatened can lead you to feel immobilized…at which point trying to speak out can be extremely challenging because it stands in contrast to a neurobiological, survival based “shut down”. (You can read more about the neurobiology of trauma here.)
The human psyche is very complex. We have great capacity for defenses that push our pain away so that we can survive. We dissociate from the trauma and compartmentalize our lives.
Most importantly, we will not tell any trauma story until we feel safe!
Safety involves knowing that someone has your back…that someone will support you, believe you, and protect you.
Perhaps we are in a new, collective phase of transformation. We are no longer willing to hold secrets for the sake of protecting abusers.
We are willing to speak truth to power.
*The term, “speak truth to power” is a phrase that originated with the Quakers that promotes the belief that love can overcome hatred.
Want to learn more about healing PTSD?
Looking for a way to heal from PTSD? The Complex PTSD Workbook, is available on Amazon! Click here to check it out.
Heal and Learn with Dr. Arielle Schwartz
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About Dr. Arielle Schwartz
Dr. Arielle Schwartz is a licensed clinical psychologist, wife, and mother in Boulder, CO. She offers trainings for therapists, maintains a private practice, and has passions for the outdoors, yoga, and writing. Dr. Schwartz is the author of The Complex PTSD Workbook: A Mind-Body Approach to Regaining Emotional Control and Becoming Whole (Althea press, 2016) and co-author of EMDR Therapy and Somatic Psychology: Interventions to Enhance Embodiment in Trauma Treatment (Norton, 2018). She is the developer of Resilience-Informed Therapy which applies research on trauma recovery to form a strength-based, trauma treatment model that includes Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), somatic (body-centered) psychology and time-tested relational psychotherapy. Like Dr. Arielle Schwartz on Facebook, follow her on Linkedin and sign up for email updates to stay up to date with all her posts.