Emotional Triggers

September 27th was a bad day for survivors of sexual assault.  That makes 1 in 6 women and 1 in 10 men, who may have been negatively impacted by the televised testimony of a victim of sexual assault and her accused assailant.  Of course, I’m talking about Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

I watched the spectacle on and off throughout the day.  When my anxiety level became unbearable, I bolted and took a brisk walk around the block, leaving my cell phone and earbuds behind.  I, like countless other women and men, became triggered.

Emotional triggers are events or comments that remind us of experiences that robbed us of feelings of security, safety, and respect.  Typically, such experiences created pain and suffering at a time when we were not equipped to handle the pain and manage the suffering sufficiently.  For this reason, childhood traumas are some of the most difficult experiences to process.

Hearing about someone else’s pain and suffering can be a trigger for those who suffered similarly.  When Christine Blasey Ford struggled with the very public recounting of her trauma, many of us struggled alongside her.  When Brett Kavanaugh displayed his misplaced rage, we were reminded of those in our past who had uncontrolled anger.

I was assaulted when I was in 4th or 5th grade.  Similar to Dr. Ford, I can’t remember the exact date or even the exact year, but I can remember the exact location and, of course, my attacker.  In my case, my attacker, CZ, was a classmate, assisted by his buddy (whose name I can’t remember). CZ was someone I had to face year-in and year-out until we both graduated from our Central Jersey high school.

My assailant, CZ, and his henchman/boy, grabbed me during recess and dragged me to an isolated part of the playground.  While his henchboy pinned me to a wall, CZ groped and fondled my undeveloped breasts and genitals.  When the bell rang, they ran.

Like Dr. Ford, I can still remember my assailants’ maniacal laughter.  I never reported this incident to anyone.  This was the late ‘50’s --no one would have believed me, I’m sure, and would have likely blamed me.  I carried feelings of great shame and humiliation with me for many years.  Inexplicably, I thought I had caused the attack. Why I was targeted, I have never determined.  I was small and rather shy in elementary school, not exactly the sex pot that I NEVER became.

I recently googled CZ, expecting (hoping) that he had been incarcerated.  Instead I discovered he became a high school principal.  I imagine he has no recollection of this incident and would vehemently deny it ever happened.

Since the Ford-Kavanaugh hearing, many women have come forth to talk about their trauma.  The lingering pain as they relate their stories can be seen in their faces, heard in their voices, read in their words. 

Dr. Ford’s display of courage under fire inspired me and many others to speak our truth. I’m certain this an important step on the road to recovery.