As the nation watches Christine Blasey Ford testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee today about her sexual assault allegations against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, women and men who are survivors of these crimes are girding themselves against the pain of reliving their own experiences, according to a psychological trauma expert available for interviews.
“Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations – and perhaps more importantly, the dismissive and accusatory responses to them some have voiced – have the potential to evoke memories of similar trauma for the one in five American women who have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes, as well as men who have been victimized,” said Doreen Arcus, a UMass Lowell professor of psychology.
Forty percent of those women, she added, experienced their first sexual assault before turning 18, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Men also have traumatic memories to contend with, as the CDC estimates 1 in 10 men have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes.
“Sexual violence is an intimate and terrifying violation with potential re-victimizations awaiting those who come forward,” Arcus said. “The shame of being treated in such a degrading fashion, the terror of violence and coercion and the misguided but prevalent view that survivors should have been able to prevent the assault combine to make reporting sexual violence an extremely difficult decision, and one that many forgo, sometimes for years and sometimes for lifetimes.”
Arcus, an authority on family dynamics, relationships and childhood development, teaches about topics including how trauma affects young people. She is available for interviews in person, by phone or ReadyCam, which delivers high-definition video and sound live via Internet.