I have been a silent witness to the #Me Too and #Time’s Up movements, watching women and men come forward with their stories with both admiration and sorrow. I admire their strength for speaking up and I am sad for the sheer vastness of people, who have been victims of sexual violence. It was about time we face this problem as a society and do something about it. Listen to the numbers:
One in five Americans has a history of sexual abuse as a child, according to Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, author of “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.” 12 million women in the United States are a victim of rape, more than half of which occur before the age of 15. 3 million children are reported as victims of abuse or neglect each year in this country, one million of which are severe enough for the authorities to take action and remove them from their homes.
Over the summer, apart from being busy with family, work and professional development, I’ve been watching popular TV, Netflix and HBO series and reading books that address the complex and at times disturbing issues of childhood sexual abuse, rape, self-injury, bullying, domestic violence and the like. Though silent so far, I am an active listener and healer to many people, who struggle with the consequences of sexual trauma, and I address them on a daily basis in my clinical practice.
I have written other posts in the past that speak to the issue (How Does Childhood Trauma Affect Trust?, 11 Common Symptoms Experienced by Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse) but there is also something to be said about how topics like these are creatively depicted in the film industry, in literature and the arts. Since I cannot speak about any of my patients due to confidentiality, I figured I use names we can all see or read about to discuss the devastating impact sexual trauma has on people.
As you may already know, in psychoanalysis, we like to analyze literary characters, film heroines and music lyrics in order to explain complex psychoanalytic ideas and concepts. In the next several months, I plan on looking into popular TV series, Netflix shows, books and movies that address the issue of sexual trauma among other traumatic events. My goals is to draw your attention to others, be it real people or movie characters that have been through what you or someone you know may have been through.
We’ll talk about how to speak to your children about privacy, speaking up and staying safe; how to recognize that someone you love may be going through a rough time because of trauma and what you can do to start on the path of healing. I am hoping to touch on what we may want to do individually, as a family, as parents, to help us raise responsible and moral humans but also what we may want to do as a society to reduce the risk of sexual trauma for the future generations. Quite the undertaking, I know, but I am hoping that this is just the beginning of a larger conversation and bigger actions.
I know that many of you, who read this blog are also survivors. Many of you have been brave enough to write about it in the comments to my posts. Others have chosen to write me personally. With these series, I am hoping to bring a little hope in your lives – hope that you are not alone and many others out there have been through what you’ve been through. Hope, that no matter how terrible the past, it does not have to define your whole future.
If you want to get started on your binge watching and find some characters you can relate to, let me give you a list of some of the titles that I plan to discuss:
13 REASONS WHY – deals with rape, both male and female, as well as the topic of school violence and bullying in general.
BIG LITTLE LIES – deals with issues of rape, domestic violence, childhood violence, friendship, social class and murder.
SHARP OBJECTS – deals with the issue of sexual violence but also a rare form of child abuse, self-injury, murder and coping.
THE TALE – deals with childhood sexual abuse and is based on the real-life experience of the director Jennifer Fox.
These are all titles that deal with the question of sexual abuse or assault. We’ll look into other mental health topics that each show makes us think about. I will discuss one series or book each month. If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to post them in the comments below. Hopefully, by the end of these mini-series of the Practical Psychoanalysis Blog, we will all learn something new about ourselves and about a few well worth watching TV series.