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When #MeToo Forgot About Retraumatization

Trigger warnings are controversial today. On the one hand, trigger warnings are celebrated as an act of informed empathy and proactive compassion for people who are working on restoring their mental health, recovery from which might be fragile. On the other hand, there is a condemning argument that people should have more resiliency and perseverance and that trigger warnings are a detriment to their ability to cope more effectively. Activism doesn’t often come with a trigger warning. Most often activism is spurred from a trauma of some kind, an injustice to humanity, and a push for awareness. Often, in the uproar of previously unheard voices, one voice is left behind: the voice of those who are drowning in the noise.

Alyssa Milano, an actress most well known for her starring role on Charmed, set forth a title wave of social media alcoholism when she asked women, who were willing, to simply repeat “#MeToo” to expose the magnitude of survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Within less than 24-hours the movement became viral, gaining the attention of major media outlets around the world. The movement was started in response to a growing public scandal against a Hollywood entertainment mogul by the name of Harvey Weinstein who in just a short amount of time found more than 30 allegations of sexual assault stacked against him. Evidence of payoffs, bribes, threats, and a damning audio leak lead to the demise of Weinstein’s lucrative career, Hollywood influence, and his marriage. In his wake are the women he assaulted and the women he did not. Each day brought a new woman or few women who had experienced his behavior first-hand or removed. As more women spoke out in the media, more women spoke out in social media and suddenly a movement began with content, headlines, videos, tweets, posts, and much more using words that glare like brightened headlights in the psyche of women: rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment.

Retraumatization, as defined by SocialWorker.com, “is a conscious or unconscious reminder of past trauma that results in a re-experiencing of the initial trauma event.” Women experience the retraumatization of their sexual assault as the result of varying triggers, which, the website lists, can include “…a situation, an attitude or expression, or by certain environments that replicate the dynamics (loss of power/control/safety) of the original trauma.”

According to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, “94% of women who are raped experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the two weeks following the rape.” PTSD is not exclusive to women who are raped. Today, there is a greater understanding that trauma symptoms can be severe without being PTSD. Symptoms of trauma can arise from any kind of sexual misconduct.

Many women turn to substance abuse to cope with the trauma of their sexual assault. Triggers from daily media onslaught can make the recovery process uncomfortable, bringing back sensations not just of her trauma but of craving the drugs and alcohol which once helped her cope. Finding the coping skills and forms of self-care that are best for you during this time are critical for making it through while maintaining your sobriety.

Every woman is worth recovering. After completing a residential or partial care program, the work is not yet done. Villa Tranquil offers women a unique transitional living opportunity to live in a clinical environment run on compassionate care, structure, and empowerment. Call us today for information:  (866) 697-7573