The Secondary Trauma of Doubt

I’m not talking about my doubt here. I’m talking about yours. Which in the sad circular way of emotional/psychological dynamics, can easily become mine.

Doubt that what I experienced was real, that is. Doubt that it matters enough to talk about it. Doubt that the healing process of dealing with what happened is fundamental to emotional wholeness. Trauma survivors already tend to question and second-guess themselves constantly: “what did I do wrong?/ what’s wrong with me that this happened?”, riffs on the “it was my fault” so common with battered wives. How much easier to yield to the powerful and popular attitudes of “it was a long time ago; the past is past; just let it go; aren’t you over that yet?” of those who have no experience–or understanding–of trauma.

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Fear of not being believed is almost as traumatizing as whatever happened in the first place. Being doubted shoves the survivor further into isolation, when already one of the hardest parts about being a trauma survivor is the loneliness of the condition. Not only do you already carry the guilt and shame that “something must have been wrong with me that this happened,” which is the norm for victims of physical, sexual, emotional or psychological violence, you regularly face, if you are able to go public with your experience, the doubt, disbelief and, almost as lethal, minimization of it by those around you. It’s usually easier to say nothing, which means you continue on with a life where you live one way on the surface and a whole different reality inside. Which means you continue to feel different; estranged; less than.

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Just as you did when you were a victim.

Is it any wonder survivors don’t speak openly about their experiences, even with those closest to them? Let alone speak specifically against the abuser, let alone do that in a public way.

All reasons it galls me, the doubt we’re hearing from those who are convinced the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh are fabrications because they are only now being brought forward.

Who in their right mind wants to go through the public trashing given to those who, to steal a saying of the Quakers, “speak truth to power?”

It takes more courage than you can imagine to open up about abuse of whatever kind. Survivors are extremely good at sensing the thoughts and feelings of those they interact with. For those who endured extended childhood trauma, for instance, safety and sometimes survival depended on reading every mood shift of the adults around them.  The least hint of a negative response in a listener–boredom, indifference, disbelief, rejection–and communication shuts down. Survivors expect rejection, and with good reason. Again, it’s no wonder that so many choose never to tell anyone about what happened. It’s also completely normal, so to speak, that decades would go by before speaking out. It can take that long to attain sufficient trust in a world that before proved nothing but threat or terror.

I’m sure people are tired of hearing about abuse, harassment, assault. Imagine living with the scars of the above for a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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