As The World Processes the Partial Victory in the Harvey Weinstein Sexual Assault Trial
As the world processes the partial victory as the jury finds Weinstein guilty on two of the five charges against him, survivors of sexual assault are posting on a variety of social media outlets about the surge of anxiety, anger and shame they are feeling. Weinstein was convicted of committing a criminal sex act in the first degree and rape in the third degree involving another. He was acquitted of the more serious charges of predatory sexual assault involving the two women an done count of first-degree rape.
We are becoming a society that is more open to talking about all kinds of abuse and assault. If this trial took place ten or twenty years ago, the media may have given it very little attention. When I started counseling men and women in my Jersey based private practice twenty-three years ago patients rarely opened up about their earlier histories of buried abuse and assault. I sensed that some of my patients were holding deeply painful secrets as they were reporting many symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. They were in treatment trying to recover from severe eating disorders and addictions. They were telling me about the years of self-hatred and distrust they felt in themselves and others. Many of my patients were living incomplete lives, reporting that they never had had an intimate relationship or were afraid to have children because of “all that happened to me when I was younger.” As I sat in sessions with these brave men and women that reached out to me for help, I felt helpless as I could not be the one to find the words to speak their stories.
#Metoo followed by #Timesup opened the door for millions around the world to feel less shame about breaking their silence. Not only were people sharing stories of what happened to them, but they were also talking about the impact these traumas had on their lives moving forward. Every time a disgraced celebrity is in the spotlight with accusations of sexual assault or misconduct, survivors grapple with their anxiety and fears. PTSD recovery is complicated and at any time we can be hit with reminders, triggers and feelings associated with our trauma. I have been working through years of childhood sexual abuse and sexual assault for over twenty years. When I feel like I have no control over what was done to me or become crippled with the shame and fear I do the opposite of what was done to me. Instead of feeling at fault and silent, I speak.
During the last five weeks many of my patients and friends on social media have talked about how they have needed to limit how much they read and watch as the first of two Weinstein trial comes to a close . Harvey Weinstein has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex and pleaded not guilty in his trial. He was charged with being guilty on two of the five counts. Some survivors are enraged that he was found not guilty on predator sexual misconduct. Dozens of women have alleged he raped them over the last thirty years.
Rather than focus on the details of each of the victims testifying in this case, I am thinking about what their lives will be like moving forward after being humiliated and victim shamed on the witness stand. I think about some of the other Weinstein survivors who were not given the opportunity to confront Weinstein in a courtroom. How do they come to terms with what happened to them knowing they will never have their day in court because the time has passed that they can press charges? I think about the anxiety survivors of all types are facing as they are re-traumatized as images of a predator are flashing across all media outlets.
Survivors around the world are talking to each other about the verdict and what that means as we live in an era that says #timesup. Rather than get caught up in his fate, many of us have come to terms with the lack of control we have over how a jury finds an alleged predator. Letting go of the outcome of this trial does not eliminate the experience of suffering from PTSD. Many of the Weinstein accusers are reporting an increase in nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, panic attacks, shame attacks and depression. Therapists who treat patients with trauma histories are reporting that some of their patients are relapsing in their addictions and eating disorders as they followed the Weinstein trial and read about Weinstein’s accusers stories.
During the last few years I have connected with several women who have started foundations to support survivors or have formed groups fighting to end the time limit to report any kind of assault or abuse. Godbold, who founded a nonprofit that provides support for trauma survivors and their loved ones talked in one interview about how she has been practicing some of the tools she teaches others who have been assaulted. She told reporters that she has been reaching out more to people she trusts, is going on walks and doing other things to keep herself safe and in the present.
As the world waits for sentencing for charges against Weinstein, we need to support each other and continue having a dialogue to address all the feelings that get stirred up when we are triggered or in the grips of PTSD. We need to come together and keep fighting on behalf of survivors/thrivers everywhere who want to live a safe and happy life! As someone tweeted last night to survivors around the world we need to remember, “Your story matters. Your pain matters. You matter.”
Tweet by Danielle Campoamor (@DCampoamor):
For every Harvey Weinstein there is a devastating, untold number of abusers who will remain anonymous, unaccountable & free.
Thinking of every survivor who knows their abuser will never see the inside of a court room. Your story matters. Your pain matters. You matter.