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Mental Health Perspectives: Retraumatization in the Wake of Kavanaugh Allegation

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In the hallowed halls of Washington, DC, a drama is being played out for the entire world to witness; the confirmation hearing to the Supreme Court for Brett Kavanaugh. In the minds and hearts and bodies of sexual assault survivors, something even more powerful is rampaging through.

In increasing numbers, people are coming forward to share their #metoo stories following the allegations from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and now two other women who say that he perpetrated sexual assault in one form or another in his teens and early adulthood. He adamantly denies any wrongdoing, stating that he was a virgin “many years” into college even though none of his alleged victims have made claims of rape or sexual penetration.

As a result of being bombarded with this information on the news and via social media there is a heightened sense of anxiety and PTSD symptoms among those who report one or more assaults throughout their lifetimes. These triggers re-traumatize. The invasive encounters range from unwanted or coercive touch to violent penetration, from one perpetrator to gang rape, from stranger attack to date rape, from incest to on the job aggression. The gender of the perpetrators and survivors are across the spectrum, but the majority coming forth are female identified.

Clarifying Statistics

Less than one-quarter of sexual assaults are committed by strangers, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). Rather, 43 percent of sexual assaults are committed by friends or acquaintances, and 27 percent are committed by a current or former significant other, according to RAINN.

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