Category Archives: Sexual Assault

What is PTSD?

Here’s the problem. Most people believe that once you remove yourself from an abusive situation, everything will be fine. After all, it’s all downhill from there, right? Wrong. Even after ending the relationship, people who have experienced abuse at the hands of a partner can suffer from PTSD, a lifelong illness that never goes away. PTSD affects you for the rest of your life. And it’s not just for soldiers anymore.

PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Here’s a slice of criteria from the DSM-IV explaining the causes of PTSD:

“(1) the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others (2) the person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.”

PTSD causes physical damage to the brain. It’s literally a stress fracture. The stress imposed upon the brain resulting from the traumatic event causes damage to the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in learning and memory as well as in the handling of stress. As a result of this damage, people suffer from memory loss, flashbacks, and delayed comprehension. But that’s not where it ends. Other chronic symptoms of PTSD include insomnia, vivid nightmares, intense psychological distress at exposure to situations or objects that resemble any aspect of the event, depression, detachment from others, feelings of impending doom or imminent death, irritability, outbursts of rage, difficulty concentrating and exaggerated startle response. Typically, people experience all or most of these symptoms for most of the rest of their lives.

Some people need just one event to trigger PTSD. One of my close friends was slammed against the wall, punched in the eye and helplessly cornered when she smashed his glasses against his face in self-defense. He threatened to kill her and she hit him with a nearby coffee mug. She managed to get away and call the police, but it was too late. She was already destined to re-experience this trauma repeatedly, day after day, for years to come. She currently has difficulty leaving the house, interacting with an intimate partner, and dealing with crowds. Her awareness has been heightened to a state of hypervigilance as a result of the damage to her brain.

Unfortunately, deliberate acts of domestic violence that occur repeatedly (or a domestic situation that causes prolonged fear on the part of the victim, as in a constant fear of your partner’s reactions) will create a more severe condition than would an attack from a stranger. Not to mention, the closer you are emotionally to your assailant, the more severe your condition will be. Experiencing trauma at the hands of someone you formerly trusted or someone you currently love causes deeper injury and produces harsher symptoms as a result.

If you are involved with an abusive partner, you might think that “good guys” don’t exist. You might think that no one really has a good relationship. You might think that relationship equality is something out of a television sitcom; something that doesn’t exist in real life. I’m here to tell you you’re wrong. There are billions of men out there who will treat you respectfully every single day. There are billions of men out there who will love you for exactly who you are, whatever flaws you may think you have. There are billions of men out there who will sweep you off your feet and romance your socks off. (And women.) YOU SHOULD NEVER EVER BE AFRAID OF YOUR PARTNER, NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT. But if you are, consider the risks. The result may be more than you can deal with for the rest of your life. Just think it over.

Image from MediManage.com

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Heeere She Comes To Save the Daaaayyy!

Rosario Dawson, Hollywood starlet and activist extraordinaire – a thesbian who has involved herself in a plethora of admirable causes from environmental activism to racial equality, GLBT advocacy, women’s rights, global needs and domestic violence prevention – swooped in to save the day for embarrassed, close-mouthed molestees everywhere at the 2011 Independent Spirit Awards.

Image Courtesy of Famous Celebrities In The World Blog

Image Courtesy of Famous Celebrities In The World Blog

It all started with a joke. The setup was that Eva and Paul had a “really funny bit” planned where he was going to grab her tits, but they were running out of time… and that’s when Paul Rudd grabbed her tit, apparently going ahead with the plan – a long walk for a lame, shock-factor half-a-laugh. Then again, award shows have gone downhill in terms of entertainment value lately, and the pathetic, failed grasps at humor have come to be expected.

However, the flaccid drollery had already been shamefully executed and the lights had gone down… and still, as the clip montage was running, Eva’s breast continued to suffocate in Paul’s grasp. Dawson told CNN what she was thinking as the moments crawled by:

“He did this vice grip on her breast, and I was like, OK, it was funny for like a second. But then it kept going and going and going. And then the lights went down and the clip started rolling and he was still vice-gripping her! I was sitting there with my fork like, ‘If he doesn’t stop, I’m going to stab him with my fork.’”

Sure enough, Rudd didn’t release his grip, and – sure enough – Dawson leaped onstage and stabbed him with her fork! But Rudd wouldn’t have it; he remained fastened to Eva’s chest… so Dawson did what she had to do, in the name of equality and protest: she grabbed his package. Mendes’ laugh had a touch of hysteria as she squealed, “What’s happening?” and her hands fluttered anxiously on the envelope. She read off the winner, sounding stressed and flustered.

The boob-grab/crotch-grab incident was criticized by some as an overreaction by Dawson to the situation; by others, it was condemned as a disgraceful lowering of the discourse; and others disregarded Rudd’s offense entirely, pointing accusatory fingers only at Dawson.

Racialicious.com’s Latoya Peterson said it best: “Activism is about education – but it is also about protest.”

The problem is, we don’t know what Mendes was or wasn’t thinking or feeling. It’s our job, as activists, to err on the side of caution – whenever we see a citizen in trouble; whenever we sense danger or encounter fear; whenever we perceive a sister to be in peril – we will be there. We will not hesitate, we will not fuck around.

Superman never twiddled his thumbs and neither do we.

Go Team Dawson!!