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Is this election triggering sexual trauma memories?

This election is like no other and is stirring up concerns all over. Just this morning, at Starbucks, I overheard a woman talking on the phone about last night’s debate and how offended she felt about Donald Trump’s comments about women. Understandably everyone has a strong opinion about each candidate and their remarks. However, as a psychologist who has treated hundreds of sexual trauma victims, I find myself feeling particularly protective of all the women, men, and children that are victim’s of sexual abuse.

As a UCLA Rape Treatment Center on-call therapist I have met with hundreds of children, men and women who recently experienced a sexual assault. They often present with symptoms of acute stress, shame, denial, guilt, fear, sadness, and anxiety. As raw and vulnerable as they are after an assault, they come to the Rape Treatment Center to get support; however, that support includes very personal questions and a medical exam. These children, men and women are incredibly strong and brave to embark on their journey of healing. It is a hard and long journey and the memories will always be part of their story. These memories can be triggered by physical sensations, smells, reminders, places, people, and words such as the ones everyone is exchanging about the Clinton/Trump presidential election.

The recent election controversies can easily trigger a sexual assault victim to be reminded of their assault and how they have felt along the way. Feelings of shame, guilt, sadness, anger, and loneliness can surface and individuals can experience recurrences of PTSD, depression, and anxiety. In my Santa Monica psychotherapy office, where I provide long-term therapy for people who have experienced childhood or recent trauma, I am seeing just that. Women and men, who have endured a great deal of pain and fought for themselves to heal, are being reminded of how painful just words can be. It is so crucial that we as a community are respectful of one another and how we discuss sensitive topics. It can be so hurtful even damaging for a survivor to hear people making comments endorsing sexual assault and sexual battery, as well as questioning victim’s response to an assault. There is no right or wrong way to respond to a major trauma. It is a trauma, which will leave you speechless, confused, angry, ashamed, hurt, frightened and utterly shaken up. And it takes support to heal and recover.

If you need support in your healing process or if you know someone who has been a victim of sexual abuse or assault, feel free to reach out. You are always welcome to call my office at (310) 709-4582 or contact RAINN or the Santa Monica UCLA Rape Treatment Center.