Beyond the Casting Couch - Part 2

Sexual predators in the news and the impact of media-fueled disclosures.

Posted Nov 30, 2017

Breaking News!

We seem to hear this almost every day now. As soon as we posted "Beyond the Casting Couch - Part 1," many more men in a wide range of positions of power were accused of sexual assault and sexually inappropriate behaviors. I believe there will continue to be an opening of the floodgates, as more victims and survivors feel supported and encouraged to speak up and speak out. 

When victims are able to use their voices, it’s often the first step towards taking back the power and control that perpetrators took from them. Having worked for many years with trauma survivors, I understand the inherent need they have to break the silence, put words to a horrifying experience, and finally get the compassionate witnessing and responses they deserve. I sincerely hope that for every survivor who has publicly come forward, their act of courage is adequately rewarded. The fact that there are actual, swift consequences for perpetrators -- more of them are getting fired once disclosures are revealed -- gives me hope that our society is finally putting its foot down and saying, “Enough!” aware that repeated exposure to these news stories is probably not in your best interest.

What I’d like to address in this piece, is the potentially adverse “triggering effect” public disclosures can have on the millions of other traumatized men and women who are being bombarded with the endless cycle of news reports, Internet headlines, and magazine covers that in some ways perpetuate the exploitation and voyeurism already experienced by victims when they were initially violated.

If you are a survivor and have either processed and healed your trauma, or have not yet felt safe enough to reveal your experiences, be aware that repeated exposure to these news stories is probably not in your best interest. As you listen to or read about sometimes graphic descriptions of sexual victimization it’s possible that it will rekindle your own experiences in ways that trigger you and impact your functioning. Here are some common triggered responses that are important to monitor as they might indicate the need for additional support:

  • An increase in sleep disturbance, nightmares, inability to fall asleep or repeated awakening during the night.
  • Increased feelings of helplessness or hopelessness.
  • Increased feelings of agitation or rage.
  • A pervasive sense of dread, anxiety, or fear accompanied by increased hyper-vigilance and scanning of your environment
  • A pervasive sense of sadness or despair.
  • A feeling the need to isolate or “cocoon” at home while declining invitations to connect socially with others.
  • Intrusive images or flashbacks -- either visual, emotional, cognitive or somatic- that reconnect to memories of your own trauma.
  • Noticing an increase in “zoning out,” “feeling spacey” or dissociating        
  • An increased experience of body pain.
  • An encompassing sense of outrage coupled with a demand for justice or vindication.
  • Thoughts and feelings about ‘no one” being trustworthy and an increased sense of suspicion about other people’s agendas.
  • An increase in self-medicating and the desire to be numb with drugs, alcohol, food, acts of self-mutilation, or other addictive and compulsive self-destructive behaviors.
  • Feeling an “obsessive” need to read every article and follow every story online about sexual abuse allegations, to the detriment of your life responsibilities or emotional. 
  • Noticing a loss of faith, increased anger towards G-d, or the desire to disconnect from your religious community.           
  • A global sense of “giving up” on mankind.

Individually, any of these experiences can be challenging.  A cluster of them can feel completely overwhelming. These symptoms may be important red flags, signaling the onset or exacerbation of Depression, Generalized Anxiety, or the indicators of the activation of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. If you are emotionally, cognitively, physically, or behaviorally reacting in any of these ways, you're not alone. Survivors of trauma are vulnerable to getting triggered when they hear about other scenarios of abuse, even many years after their own trauma has ended.

This post is not intended to discourage anyone from coming forward or to disparage those who already have done so. Rather, it’s intended to normalize the fact that these news stories can evoke a state of emotional overwhelm, and to describe the common red flags that are indicative of triggering so victims can begin to assess their responses and make sense out of them.

In the third installment of this series, we'll focus on specific strategies designed to increase self-protection and self-care to help mitigate the impact of a tragic societal phenomenon and the inappropriate ways in which it can get processed in the media.

Missed Part 1 of Beyond the Casting Couch? Read here.>>