Why I Try to Help Trauma Victims and Why I Want You To Help Me

I had plans to write a bit about the causes of PTSD, and the types of trauma that can precede it, in the weeks leading up to Agastock, the memorial concert that honors the memory of my daughter Alice.  The concert benefits the Southern California Counseling Center’s Trauma Training Program, which provided me with cost-effective, life-altering, treatment following Alice’s untimely, sudden and unexpected death.  The Trauma Training Program at this sliding-scale counseling facility trains therapists in trauma and resiliency treatment modalities, thus greatly expanding SCCC’s ability to treat trauma victims, regardless of their ability to pay.

I have suffered more than one trauma in my life, but the death of  Alice was by far the worst.  The trauma of finding my sweet two-year-old daughter dead preceded the development of PTSD for me, and led me on a path to seek effective treatment.  It also led me to become committed to helping other victims of trauma, and to do what I can to prevent trauma where that is possible.  Like I said, I planned to outline some of the traumas that can lead to PTSD in the weeks prior to the concert, in effort to bring awareness to the need for affordable, effective, trauma treatment. But this latest rape case, the Stanford rape case, has me so effing mad, I can’t focus on anything else, so I’m writing now.

I’m writing now because sexual assault and rape are traumas, something I assumed everyone knew, but the Stanford case leaves me doubting.  While PTSD is often associated with combat trauma, there are many other traumatic events that can lead to PTSD, including, but not limited to:  death of family member, physical injury, serious illness, natural disasters, war, parental abandonment/childhood trauma, domestic abuse, and sexual trauma/rape.

Some statistics:

  • Stats vary, but it is conservative to say that 60% of men and 50% of women experience at least one trauma in their lives
  • Roughly 7-8% of the population will develop PTSD at some point in their lives.
  • On average, 8 million adults develop PTSD during a given year.
  • About 10% of women and 4% of men will develop PTSD during their lifetime.
  • The most common trauma for women is sexual assault or child sexual abuse. One-third of women will experience a sexual assault in their lifetime. Women are also more likely to be neglected or abused in childhood, to experience domestic violence, or to have a loved one suddenly die.

A few more statistics:

  • One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.
  • One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years-old
  • 81% of women and 35% of men (who are victims of sexual trauma) report significant short-term or long-term impacts such as Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

These statistics are disgusting and shocking.  But when you consider that, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), only 334 out of 1000 rapes are reported in the first place, you can be assured that these numbers are likely much higher.

Why are do so few people report rapes?  In order for a victim to report a crime—knowing one is most likely going to have to relive the trauma many times in the process—one has to believe that the system will work for them, and not against them. When only three of every 100 rapists receive punishment, a victim is very unlikely to think the system will work for them. And when the victim is unconscious, well, it becomes he said-she said, or he said-he said, because yes, men and boys are raped too, tragically.

Look to the Stanford case for some good examples of why one may be led to believe that reporting a rape is useless at best, or will further ruin their life at worst:

  • Brock Turner was actually caught in the act, and still very little was done.  If those two heroic men hadn’t come upon him and stopped him, Brock Turner would have likely gone on about his life like nothing happened.   But they did catch him.  And he was arrested, thank God.  And then the police didn’t release the original mug shot for 18 months, so the media used a cheery, preppy, yearbook picture until today, June 7, 2017.  I wonder why the police wouldn’t release a mug shot of Brock Turner?
  • Brock Turner has the good fortune to be a white, male, athlete at a Stanford.  And we have Judge Aaron Persky, also a Stanford alumnus, who sentenced him to a fraction of the maximum charge because, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others” and “there is less moral culpability attached to the defendant, who is … intoxicated.”    It’s so strange.  Being intoxicated gives Brock Turner less culpability for his action OF RAPING SOMEONE and yet we constantly hear that being intoxicated makes the victim more culpable OF BEING RAPED.  Let me get this straight, Judge:  He was drunk, he can’t possibly be responsible for his actions.  She was drunk, she is fully responsible for her actions—or lack of them, because she was unconscious—AND she is fully responsible for the Brock’s actions.  That’s very interesting how you did that. If there has ever been a more infuriating statement from a judge in a rape case in this century, I haven’t read it.  And I don’t want to.  I never want to see this kind of shit again in my life.

Way to take this victim’s trauma and make it last right through the courtroom and beyond, Judge Aaron Persky.   Do you have a daughter?  Do you have a wife?  Do you have a mother?  A sister?  A female friend?  Can they even look at you right now?  Even if you have no close female relations, are you a HUMAN BEING?  Are you a human that just heard what that boy did to that girl?  Do you have a son?  Because, if you do, you just showed him, and millions of other people, a great example of how sympathetic you will be to him if he rapes someone.  Kudos.  It really helps create an environment where victims of rape and sexual assault feel safe reporting the crime.

  • We also have rapist Brock Turner vowing to redeem himself by speaking out about “alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.”   I almost hit the ceiling when I read that.   Sexual promiscuity implies folks that have agreed to get it on. It implies consent.  But Brock, you were found humping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.   I hate to generalize, but I am going to go on a limb and say there aren’t many women who are dreaming of making sweet love to a boy behind a dumpster while they are unconscious.  The victim had multiple abrasions.   Also, not generally a sign of consent.  Oh, and Brock, you tried to run away from the men that caught you humping an unconscious woman, also not generally a sign of consent.   Promiscuity?  Is that a joke?  If so, it is not at all funny.  Brock is going to have a hard time redeeming himself when, though caught in the act, he still cannot admit that he raped a woman.  An unconscious woman who clearly did not give consent.  And we are going to have a hard time convincing victims to come forward when people like Brock— people who were actually caught in the act and convicted—still pretend like they did nothing wrong, and have Judges that make this illusion easy to uphold.
  • Brock’s dad.  This letter from Brock’s dad is so infuriating, I couldn’t read it in one sitting, or even in one day.  You do not have to read far, however, to understand how Brock became such an entitled little criminal or why rape victims might be afraid to come forth when we have a culture that feels it is OK to say this (an excerpt, but definitely the most nauseating portion of the letter):

 

Gosh, Dan, what a bummer that Brock cannot enjoy steak anymore because he is so upset by the fact that he was caught brutally raping someone.   But being caught in the act doesn’t seem to stop you from helping your son put on the “we were just some promiscuous kids” front.  It was, after all, just “20 minutes of action,” what can be the crime in that? It is pretty easy to see how you may have produced a son that cannot take responsibility for his actions.

To add insult to injury, Dan goes on to say that Brock “has never been violent to anyone including his actions on the night of January 17, 2015.”  Are we talking about the same son and the same actions here, Dan?  Your son was caught raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, an act that left her with multiple visible and invisible injuries.  If this is not violent, what DO you consider violence, Dan A. Turner?  I’ll be over here crying and throwing up while I await your answer.

But the part that REALLY sent me over the edge, was the last part.  “By having people like Brock educate others on college campuses is how society can begin to break the cycle of binge drinking and its unfortunate results.”

I don’t even know where to start with all the things that are wrong with that sentence, or this viewpoint, so we might as well start with “unfortunate results.”   The “unfortunate results” are, in this case, that your poor-son-who-can-no-longer-enjoy-steak dragged an unconscious woman behind a dumpster and brutally raped her.  How unfortunate that this happened to your son.  One can only imagine how hard that must be for him.  I wonder how difficult it must be for the victim, Dan?  Has that thought crossed your entitled mind?  Furthermore, the thought of Brock Turner, or any other rapist, setting foot on another college campus to “educate” anyone on anything regarding sex, consensual or otherwise, makes me want to breathe hellfire right out of my nostrils.

Look, Dan, I get that you want to protect your son.  It’s part of being a parent.  But so is teaching your son right from wrong, teaching him not to take pretzels OR someone’s body, and teaching him to take responsibility for his actions.  You present this plea as if there is a question that your son did this.  YOUR SON DID THIS HORRIBLE 20 MINUTE (or more) ACT.  There were witnesses.  Man up, accept it, help your son man up and accept it, and then, if you’re going to force your public-speaking son on us,  have your kid go out and talk about how you should not RAPE.  EVER.  Not even when you’re drunk or she’s drunk or anyone is drunk.

But that would require that Dan A Turner acknowledge the fact that there was a victim here, which he has not done.  Nor has he demonstrated any remorse for the actions of his son,  concern for the future of the victim, or made any sort of public comment about helping his son take responsibility for the actions he took.   Wanna know why we have an unrepentant rapist in this case?  We have a father, a Judge, and other key players that dismiss Brock’s crime as “unfortunate results,” who believe that incarceration is a “steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action,” who seem more concerned with the rapist’s state of mind than that of the victims, and who seem to think that Brock has less of a moral culpability because he could swim real fast–and hey, he was drunk, what’s a boy to do?–YET, considers the victim’s testimony tainted because she was drunk.  We have key players protecting the rapist, not the raped.

I just screamed.  For real.

If you were the victim here, would you want to come forward and face a room full of men that shared these views?   Would you feel like the case would be taken seriously?  Would you feel like you would be treated like the victim who needed support and justice, or would you feel like the defendant in a system rigged against you?

Anyway, that was a long example of why victims might not come forward.

It’s also a long example of how the trauma of rape can continue long past the actual rape.  Every line of that father’s statement, of that Judge’s statement, and the other statements, traumatize that victim, and every other rape victim, all over again, as they realize, “By God, we really do live in a rape culture.   Shit.  I was so hoping that was just some media exaggeration.”  Having to go through months and months of trial where her genitalia are discussed in great detail while the unrepentant defendant just sits there, also adds to the victim’s trauma. The trauma goes far beyond 20 minutes, Dan A. Turner.  It lasts a lifetime.  And people like you make it so.

Day one of my Freshman year of college, the RA of our dorm called us into a room and basically said, “I’m not allowed to tell you this, but….” and then preceded to tell us where all the latest rapes had occurred, how to look out for ourselves, where not to walk etc.  I was shocked that the school would keep this secret, but I quickly learned that most of them do.  I hoped that things were better now, but it is clear that we have really not yet begun to fight this fight.

If I could single-handedly end all sexual trauma, I would.   But it’s going to take all of us.  It’s going to take educating people like Judge Aaron Persky, Dan A. Turner, and Brock Turner about consent, rape, keeping your hands to yourself, not taking what isn’t yours, as well as the results of trauma.  It’s going to take hard talks with our sons and daughters, and politicians, and friends and neighbors.  And until then, sadly, we have a lot of victims who are going to need help.

And I’m asking you to help the victim.

Here’s the Stanford victim’s brave impact statement.  Please read it if you haven’t already done so.  It’s not easy to read, but when we live in a world where something like this will happen to a third of all women, it means several people you know have already lived through this.  And we should know what they go through so that we can empathize with, and support, the victim.

PS:     For those of you who say, “well she was drunk…” There are a million things wrong with that kind of thinking, but it boils down to this: What you are saying is, she was drunk, so she DESERVES a crime to be committed against her.  Really?? If a man or woman is drunk do they deserve to have other crimes committed against them, or just rape? I mean, please do explain to me how that works. Can we shoot someone or steal their car because “well, they were drunk….?” I just want to be clear on this, because I’m racking my brain and I can’t think of one time that I have ever read, “Drunk man dies from being too drunk to run away after a gunman opens fire in a theater.”

And to those of you who are “sick of hearing about rape on Facebook/Instagram etc,” well imagine how sick we are OF BEING RAPED. Some of us, drugged, then raped. Some of us attacked, then raped. We are fucking sick and tired of getting raped, being afraid of being raped, being afraid our daughters and sons and friends and sisters and neighbors will be raped, and then watching as, not only does little to nil happen to the rapist, but people rush to PROTECT him. So, if you are sick of it clogging up your social media feed–which you can control, by the way–imagine how sick and tired we are of being forced to live through an actual rape, which we could not control.

2 Comments

  1. Colleen Kennedy
    June 9, 2016
    Reply

    Well said Melissa! You hit every point precisely. This piece needs to go viral. People need to understand who the true victim is here. How on God’s green earth did this kid get off sott-free? Yes, 6 month jail time is scott-free for this heinous crime. And mark my words, he will be placed in solitary confinement I’m sure, because they will want to protect him from well….. people like himself. Ironic. Yes, and also pure Elitism. Sickening.

    • admin
      June 9, 2016
      Reply

      Thank you for reading and supporting, Colleen. It means so much to me. xoxoxoxoxoxox

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