Trauma Trigger Alert for Sexual Abuse Survivors! Cosby Conviction, Kavanaugh Hearing and Trump

Donald Trump holds a “Make America Great Again” rally in Mississippi and mocks Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

On October 2nd, 2018, at a political rally, the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, mocked Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony of her sexual assault while in high school. As I watched the video of Trump, I felt sick to my stomach. I felt for all of the women who have even been assaulted and were afraid to speak about it. I felt for all the people who spoke about it and were not believed. Was Trump really proclaiming that white males need protection from women’s allegations? It is a fact that twenty-two women have accused him of sexual assault. Does he want to try to convince the public that he is innocent and that every woman accusing him is just making it up? Not going to happen, Mr. President with your Access Hollywood remark and your payout to Stormy Daniels.

Fortunately, Republican Senators, Flake, Collin, and Murkowski publicly commented that it was “wrong” of Trump to mock Dr. Ford! Reports are that the F.B.I. was restricted in their investigation in scope and time allowed by the White House. A secret report to the Senate Judiciary committee will be delivered by Wednesday, but we are learning it was severely restricted in scope and time. Apparently, it is traditional to keep such reports confidential, but in these special circumstances, I believe it is a necessity for transparency. It is being reported that the person in the “room”, Mark Judge, agreed to speak with the F.B.I. provided everything is kept secret. At the same time, there is a counter-narrative being circulated saying Dr. Ford is not trustworthy.

The legal system gives a presumption of innocence. However, this was a hearing to see if Judge Kavanaugh is unfit to serve a lifetime appointment to the country’s highest judicial body. It was a high-stakes challenge to Kavanaugh as a member of the Federalist Society who has been groomed to represent their conservative positions in the legal system. Judge Kavanaugh’s rant, that there is a Democratic conspiracy to derail his confirmation, exposed this political bias and that he is not committed to the position that the Supreme Court was intended to be a check and balance on the White House as well as Congress. Perhaps, even more importantly, with incontrovertible proof coming forward of Russia’s involvement with the Trump campaign and the election, it is essential to know that Kavanaugh has written on his position that he would protect sitting President Donald Trump! Tuesday afternoon, for the first time ever, the White house tested an emergency alert system on everyone’s phones! This came at a moment when a New York Times article was published detailing his family’s history of wealth and schemes to defraud the U.S. Government. Do you believe a sitting President should be above the law? Our democracy depends on a system that says no one should be above the law. No one. The Constitution and our democracy and the good of our citizens must be protected.

Last week, Bill Cosby was sentenced to serve three to ten years for being a sexual predator. One of the most beloved actors and comedians, he was found guilty of drugging and raping Andrea Constand. Fifty-nine other women who alleged they were raped by Cosby were not able to file charges due to statutes of limitation for sexual assault. Currently, the time of ten to twenty years is determined by each state. Many people would like to see this limitation abolished. Cosby was the first high-profile perpetrator who was criminally convicted in this #MeToo period in American history. Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood mogul, was the first major figure to fall out of grace and is currently facing charges. As a counselor who is trained to help deal with severe trauma, there is a mixed reaction to legal cases. Over the decades, I have had to work with many women (and a few men) who were abused sexually. Many of these occurred while being a member of a destructive cult. With Cosby being led away in handcuffs, many people told me that they “couldn’t believe it” and that justice was done. Others told me he got away with too light a sentence. But for those who have been harmed and their loved ones, justice was done.

For those watching the Senate hearing and listening to the testimony of psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford and the questioning of Supreme court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, emotions ran very high. Millions heard statements from both of them, as well as, the questions and answers posed to them. Many people reported being triggered, not only by listening to Dr. Ford but by experiencing Kavanaugh’s angry denials and accusations. Over and over again, I heard from women who told me their ex-husbands or abusers would get angry at any hint of negative aspersions being cast on them. In the days since the hearing, I have learned that there are many people who actually partied with the Judge and said that he lied under oath when he said he never blacked out or drank to excess where he did not remember what had happened.

Thanks to Senator Jeff Flake, the committee has asked the F.B.I. to do a one-week follow-up investigation into the claims of three women against Brett Kavanaugh. Julie Swetnick, represented by Michael Avenatti, has sworn a statement that alleges Kavanaugh to be present and involved in house parties that engendered getting drunk and sexually assaulting women. Deborah Ramirez, a Yale University classmate of Kavanaugh, also will be interviewed by trained agents regarding her experiences. There is no indication that the F.B.I. plans to interview a key figure, Mark Judge but hopefully, this will be done.

I am grateful to be a member of the Harvard forensic think tank, The Program in Psychiatry and the Law. I have incredible mentors who are top psychiatrists, psychologists, and attorneys who are concerned about the interface of the legal system and the mental health system. I am also very grateful to have been trained by top forensic psychologist Daniel Brown, who served as one of the leading experts on sexual abuse and memory in the Catholic Church priest abuse cases. He and law professor Emeritus Alan Scheflin, along with psychologist Cory Hammond, authored the multiple award-winning book,  Memory, Trauma Treatment and the Law. I am currently doing research in a doctoral program at Fielding University on issues of influence.

I say all this to help establish how much reform the legal system needs in order to be aligned with the mental health systems “state of the art” testing and forensic evaluation. This is very complicated and cannot be rushed by simple law enforcement techniques and methodology. For example, one area has to do with the issue of alcohol and sexual abuse as is described by the Washington Post in this article.

The larger cultural issue is about morality, decency, and standards of conduct. As a man, I wish to stand up with other men who conduct themselves ethically. When a woman says “no” it means “no.” When traumatic harm is done, even if it was not malicious, it behooves us to listen and apologize if we did something that caused harm. If we are accused of doing something while we are inebriated by drinking a lot of alcohol, it makes more sense to say, “to the best of my recollection, I do not remember anything like that happening,” rather than categorically saying, “I am 100% sure such a thing did not happen.” I completely understand that Judge Kavanaugh is wanting to be confirmed for the lifetime position of justice of the Supreme Court. But in the court of public opinion, and my own personal opinion, the way he acted was not of a person who has the temperament of someone deciding matters of importance. I would like to see him undergo a vigorous forensic evaluation by experts in alcohol and sexual behavior. Unfortunately, this will not be done.

Women who were triggered but who never told anyone about their own history of sexual assault and rape are coming forward. Dr. Ford is being hailed as a hero. If you were triggered, find trusted family and friends and talk with them. There are hotlines and clinics and specialists. The focus should be on your personal healing and moving forward in your life. There are many people who do not choose to speak out and tell their story publicly and that is fine. They do not have to do so and should not be pressured to do so. Nor is there a pressure to remember details of abuse unless you are in a forensic setting. Get professional help! There are no absolute guidelines other than being true to yourself and healing. Live in the here and now and not in past abuse. Learn to be in your body and if you have dissociative symptoms, get diagnosed by someone trained in the SCID-D.

Where are the male role models in the halls of power? Where are accountability and responsibility? When mothers confronted Senator Flake in the elevator, it apparently nudged him to do the right thing to ask for the F.B.I. investigation. I am hoping that more people will follow their conscience. They will listen to the inner voice that guides them to do the “right thing.” Hopefully, a light will be shed and that people come together in this country instead of bitter partisan politics. At this moment, the White House appears to be more interested in pushing Brett Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court allowing the F.B.I. the time and ability to do a proper investigation. We must think of our children and revitalizing our democratic institutions from corruption, foreign influence, and partisan politics. We must invest in our future!

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Image of Steven Hassan from Freedom of Mind Resource Center

About the Author: 

Steven Hassan M.Ed. LMHC, NCC has helped thousands of individuals and families recover from undue influence (mind control). With over 40 years of experience, he is sought after as one of the foremost authorities on undue influence and controlling groups and individuals. Steve understands the subject from a unique perspective as both a former cult member and as a clinical professional.

Steven is the Founding Director of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center, a coaching, consulting, and training organization dedicated to supporting individuals to have the freedom to think clearly and to freely consider how they want to live their lives.  Steven pioneered a breakthrough method called the Strategic Interactive Approach (SIA), an effective and legal alternative for families to help cult members.  The SIA teaches family and friends how to strategically influence the individual involved in the cult.

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