News you can relate to

WSCADV is mourning this week in the wake of the shootings of Alton Sterling, Philandro Castile, and the Dallas police officers who were protecting a peaceful black lives matter protest.

‘This is the brain on horror’: The incredible calm of Diamond ‘Lavish’ ReynoldsHopper, who studies the impact of trauma on the brain, compared Reynolds’s reaction to what he has witnessed among victims of sexual assault. When they report attacks to authorities, he said, they often sound like they’re reading from a grocery list. Trauma can trigger pain-regulating hormones, which can make a victim appear to be relaxed, even apathetic.”

Rape, Alton Sterling, And The Complexity Of JusticeDoes a rapist deserve support from Black women after his unjust murder? Were the police justified in killing him because of his past deeds? Are we willing to discard him solely on the basis of a conviction in a justice system we know to be deeply biased and anti-Black?”

We could be heroes: an election-year letter “Despair is also a form of dismissiveness, a way of saying that you already know what will happen and nothing can be done, or that the differences don’t matter, or that nothing but the impossibly perfect is acceptable. If you’re privileged you can then go home and watch bad TV or reinforce your grumpiness with equally grumpy friends. The desperate are often much more hopeful than that.”

News you can relate to

Some stories that caught our eye this week:

What It Looks Like When A University Truly Fixes How It Handles Sexual Assault “Could institutionally courageous statements and actions actually lessen the impact of sexual assault? Are some of these statements not just good PR, but actually public health intervention?”

Trauma Survival is Messy: Can We Have Good Memories of Our Abusers? “We had catches phrases and silly moments — lots of them. We had inside jokes about everything from soup to laundry. We went bowling and out to dinner. He was an incredible gift giver…. I don’t want to erase seven years of my life and I shouldn’t have to just because bystanders can’t understand that trauma victims — like all human beings — are capable of holding simultaneous, conflicting feelings and thoughts.”

How one professional baseball player from Venezuela gives back “Félix works closely with youth in the Seattle area promoting the power of education. He is also a voice for the Refuse To Abuse® campaign which raises awareness to prevent domestic violence toward women — an issue ignored by male sports leagues in the US for too long.”

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

I’m having a good chuckle over Caitlyn Cannon’s funny, feminist, and fabulous senior year book quote.

Great interview with three Seattle-area high schoolers who got free IUDs and birth control implants through their school health clinic.

And check out this moving trailer for a documentary on the first high school in the country to integrate trauma-informed and resilience-building practices.

Who’s the expert on your life?

On March 22nd my home flooded. Suddenly I lost my safe haven and my life became a ball of chaos and stress.

It was hard for me to focus at work, I was constantly on the phone with the insurance company, I forgot to pay my credit card bill twice, and I broke down crying about a dozen times. This was my experience despite having a loving partner by my side, a flexible job, and friends and family to offer their support. Which made me think about how much harder it is for those who don’t have support or resources.

Photo by Jett Loe
Photo by Jett Loe

Like this story of a survivor who was forced to choose between her housing and violence. Her abuser isolated her from friends, family, and social networks. She left with literally $4 in her pocket. She had nowhere to turn and wound up in shelter. She’s not the only one; domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness for women and children.

The survivors I’ve worked with tell me that folks tend to jump to problem-solving without taking the time to acknowledge how stress and trauma is impacting their lives. It is often the case that survivors are given lists of places to go and people to call, asked to identify goals, and then to “follow through” on them. I don’t know about you, but I would’ve been annoyed if someone told me to go to a support group to deal with my house flooding when I didn’t know where I was going to be sleeping that night. When we take more time to sit and listen we discover that survivors have the best solutions for their problems and that they are experts in their own lives, just like you are an expert in your life and I’m an expert in mine.

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

When survivors tell their stories, they can seem cold or indifferent, get details wrong, or be unable to remember everything that happened, which is then used as a reason to disbelieve them. But these are all common, predictable responses to trauma.

Become a Racial Transformer today! “Racial Transformers don’t fixate on who’s a racist or whether someone intends animus. For they know that the deepest racism lies not just in the hearts and minds of individuals, but in the roles and rules of big institutions.”

Two powerful stories of abortion, pregnancy, and parenthood: “I had such severe postpartum depression that I was afraid my baby’s head would fall off.” And “I really was not prepared to quietly accept a bunch of non-Black people using my race to guilt me out of getting an abortion.”

I will never forgive you

I have been hauling around a rotting corpse of an experience for 19 years.

I used to think that the only way to deal with the terrible and tragic thing that happened was to forgive the person who did it. My partner’s brother murdered his wife, then called our home and engaged us in a conversation that twisted and turned between reality and delusion for 45 minutes before he abruptly hung up and killed himself.

boyholdingheartIt was indescribably traumatic. Of course, I can only speak to my own experience of it.

I’ve heard lots about the healing that comes from forgiveness. The Archbishop of forgiveness himself, Desmond Tutu, who knows about atrocity, says, “To forgive is the highest form of self-interest. I have to forgive so that my anger and resentment and lust for revenge don’t corrode my own being.”

And I get that intellectually. But forgive? Forgive has not worked for me. Some acts are just unforgiveable. And he’s dead, so there is nobody to forgive.

Dead or not, I found myself spending a lot of life energy keeping the hell in my imagination fully staffed, and molten hot for one lone inhabitant. I could not let go, replaying the scenario ten thousand times over in my mind trying to work out an alternative to the reality—an increasingly distant history—that would not budge.

Enter meditation practice and some ancient (but new to me) advice about what to do when forgiveness is beyond reach. Over the course of the past four years, I’ve attended retreats and spent many hours cultivating a wiser way.

I discovered that I am far from alone. The more I explored my interior landscape, and the more I heard from teachers, the better I understood the universal nature of this kind of struggle.

The trauma blew a hole in my heart—and I could not come wholeheartedly back to my life without mending the wound. I found out it was not necessary for me to forgive, but rather to wake up to other thoughts and actions that would relieve the pain.

First among them: putting it down. Simply, carefully, putting it down. I do not have to struggle, repress, or resolve anything. Time has passed, things have worked out in quite miraculous ways—some of which I had a hand in, most of which I didn’t. Any time I even begin to think about the pain, I recognize that I can just let it go. If I find myself way down memory lane thinking sad or scary thoughts, I retrace my steps and get on a healthier path of more fruitful thoughts.

No forgiving necessary.

Simply, put it down.