The First Steps of Exposure Therapy

The men who attacked me were trying to make me small. They wanted to keep me quiet. I was a reminder to them that strength knows no gender, and neither does intelligence. Regardless of their race, orientation, age, and class, they all shared a contempt for women. They resented any woman they perceived as “withholding”Continue reading “The First Steps of Exposure Therapy”

Exposure Therapy

I was an exposure therapy skeptic. What I knew of exposure therapy came from abusers. More than one had justified their abuse by claiming it was helping me “face my fears” or “making me tougher.” This is nonsense. Such inhumane behavior will only make someone’s fear less manageable, even potentially debilitating. Research shows fear andContinue reading “Exposure Therapy”

Sexual Assault and the Slow Erosion of Self-Efficacy

Impact statements have revealed the many self-defeating, destructive lessons that sexual assault taught me. In the ten years between 16 and 26, I survived four sexual assaults. The assailants were a high school classmate, a man ten years older than I was who hired me as his English tutor, and my own father. At 20,Continue reading “Sexual Assault and the Slow Erosion of Self-Efficacy”

Trauma Stuck Points

Between my twelfth and thirteenth birthdays, I became a different person. At 12, I was still skipping down the corridors at school, shouting jokes to friends. I was the kid who helped new students adjust. Who tutored classmates when they fell behind in spelling. I was generous, boisterous, and fun-loving. I was also boastful, cocksure.Continue reading “Trauma Stuck Points”

Writing the Impact Statement

Pine needles drop from branches out my window. First, they grow brittle, fading from green to ochre. Then, all it takes is a breeze, and they let go. They swirl up into the air and settle into gutters. They pepper the shingles with orange. I used to think the only way to heal from theContinue reading “Writing the Impact Statement”

What Are You So Afraid of?

If I’m being honest? Well, everything. Let’s start with coconuts. If you’ve never spared a thought for what can fall out of trees and kill you, maybe you should. In 1777, a woman in the Cook Islands was killed by a falling coconut. In 1952, a coconut murdered an infant. In 1966, a perfectly innocentContinue reading “What Are You So Afraid of?”

Commonality

I cannot thank you enough. For in reading my story, you have become part of it now, too. All survivors need to be heard. Need to be believed. It is part of how we can heal each other. It is a gift. Thank you. But my story has only been a grain of sand inContinue reading “Commonality”

Reconnection

One morning I woke up, and my teeth were not clenched anymore. My face wasn’t twisted by nightmares. I had grieved for more than a year, and I felt cleansed. I could shelve books beside men in the stacks, and I no longer wanted to punch them. I no longer imagined a knife in myContinue reading “Reconnection”

Mourning

The first thing it makes space for is sorrow. As the rage and terror ebb away, the grief can overwhelm us. For me, I think it was the grief, more than anything else, that I feared. I had lifted my rage against it like a shield. Hadn’t trauma cost me enough? How dare anyone, evenContinue reading “Mourning”

Remembrance

In many faith traditions, remembrance is a sacred act. A devotion to God. Buddhism in particular offers a definition of remembrance that echoes this stage in trauma recovery. The Pali term sati can be translated as both mindfulness and memory. The Satipatthana Sutta teaches that sati enables us to see the true relationship between all things. We must awakenContinue reading “Remembrance”