What NOT to Say About “Trauma”

When I was going through a very difficult time earlier this year and dealing with severe grief, loss, and ableism (as a person with PTSD/CPTSD, and thus, a person with a trauma history) a family member said to me:

“I understand PTSD because I have interviewed people with PTSD.”

Which is a bit like saying “I understand the experiences of Black people because I have Black friends” if you are white.

In other words, it’s toxic positivity horseshit.

Here’s a little video that explains it better than I can.


Never, ever be so arrogant and naive as to think you “understand” anything–at all–about someone else’s trauma.

Especially if you are also choosing to believe it does not exist and taking actions based on that belief.

2am, October 7th (#MeToo)


It’s two o’clock in the morning on Sunday, October 7th. The day after Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

My conscious mind got through yesterday just fine. I watched movies–had a movie marathon actually, starring one of my favorite actors–and blotted out the reality that was unfolding in the world.

But when I went to sleep, my brain betrayed me. I dreamed of being detained by corrupt police officers and of being in a situation where no one was listening to me.

And then I woke up. And here I am, at two a.m. Typing.

I’m typing because all I can think about right now is how I used to tell my boyfriend he was hurting me. And how he turned it around and made it my fault. I know now–as I should have known then–that consensual sex between two people shouldn’t hurt. Biologically, we aren’t built that way. He should have stopped when I told him he was hurting me.

But, like the senators on the Judicial Committee, he didn’t care. He heard me loud and clear, but he wanted what he wanted. He was bigger than me, stronger than me, and could get angry very, very quickly. He wanted sex, and he got it. That’s all that mattered to him.

And so, I am now left here with my memories–memories that I don’t really want to be thinking about at two a.m. Memories of a man who said he loved me, but who hurt me instead. And I carry those memories with me now into a world that has changed irrevocably. There is now an attempted rapist on the United States Supreme Court–a lifetime appointment. My lifetime.

I can’t do anything about my ex-boyfriend.

I can’t do anything about Kavanaugh.

I can’t do anything about my memories.

All I can do is continue to resist. And survive.

Partner Rape: Yes, It Does Exist


For me, growing up in the 1980s, rape was defined by what I saw on television–a man in black mask attacking a woman in a dark alley. It was always a stranger, a criminal, “the bad guy.”

But 72% of sexual assaults are committed by people who know the victim.

One category of this is partner rape, a much-misunderstood phenomenon that occurs when one member of a committed relationship commits sexual assault upon the other.

According to the Rape Prevention Education network of New Zealand, partner rape occurs when your spouse or partner “has sex with you without your consent.” This can mean “if you feel pressured, threatened, or coerced into participating in…sex when you don’t want to.”

I was in a relationship such as this for four years. The relationship was verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive. My partner used threats of violence and coercion to force me to have sex with him.

I did not truly realize this was rape until twenty years later.

At the time, I thought, “He always wants to have sex, and I never want to have sex. But we do it anyway.”

It was painful, but he always blamed me. I wasn’t “doing it right,” or some other nonsense. I was young and scared and believed him. After all, everything in the relationship was my fault.

The only time I had the conscious thought that I had been physically violated was when I woke up one morning and he was having sex with me. I hadn’t consented. That was clearly rape.

But I came of age in the 1980s, the era of TV rapists in black masks in dark alleys. No one ever told me my partner could rape me–such a concept didn’t exist in the early 1990s.

But now I know. Now I know that I spent four years in a relationship where I was raped dozens of times. And it has affected my life in the extreme. I am terrified of intimate relationships–after all, if the man who said he loved me and wanted to spend his life with me could treat me that way, how could I trust any other man to treat me well?

This past week has been tough. I did not watch the Kavanaugh hearings–I knew I would become too upset. I have been having vivid memories of my time with my ex-boyfriend, memories which I would rather leave buried.

But I am glad men are finally being called out for sexual assaults they perpetrated years ago. I know I will never be able to gain recourse for what happened to me, but perhaps other women can. And women like Dr. Ford, who step forward with courage and patriotism, are a role model for us all.

When I think, “I can’t do this anymore,” I think of Dr. Ford.

She’s doing it. And so can I.

Rape Prevention Education (New Zealand)

#MeToo: Why I Lock My Gate


This morning, Donald Trump tweeted:

“I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!”

Putting aside the fact that we can all agree that sexual assault in any form—rape, attempted rape, or fondling—is inherently bad, Donald Trump has done here what men throughout American history have done: minimized the female experience of sexual violence. He has blamed the victim. Why didn’t she come forward? Why didn’t she report it?

I’ll tell you why.

Women and girls who survive a sexual assault have many reasons for not coming forward, one of which is the fear of backlash, which Donald Trump himself has just provided a prime example of in his tweet.

Women are also subject to intimidation following a sexual assault, especially considering that 72% of women were acquainted with or in an intimate relationship with the man who assaulted them. They knew the perpetrator. That means he would be around after the assault, perhaps in the same classes, at the same job, or even in the same house.

I know of this first hand, and it is the reason why I lock my gate.

I spent four and a half years in a verbally, physically, and sexually abusive relationship. The reasons for why I stayed are many, and include the facts that I was young, I had nowhere else to go, and I was scared to leave—he was a police officer and former marine; he had guns and he was very possessive.

But I tried to report a rape once.

I told him, after he assaulted me, that I was going to call 911. He stood between me and the phone—all six-feet-four-inches of him—and put his hand on the police-issue utility belt that hung on a coat rack beside the phone. It held his Glock.

He said, “Go ahead. Bill’s on duty. He already knows you’re crazy.”

So, Mr. Trump, it wasn’t that the assault wasn’t that “bad”—it was. It was that I had to go through a big man, a Glock, and a 911 system that would have been answered by a friend of the man who assaulted me. And we lived together, I had nowhere else to go, so the assaults continued. I was afraid that if I reported him, he would have killed me.

I am still afraid, twenty-four years later. That is why I lock my gate. My fence is tall—six feet, but the lock makes it secure. It is a regular padlock, attached to the inside latch. No one can open my gate when I am home. I am safe.

Which is good, because he is now a chief of police three hours away, a member of Donald Trump’s darling “Law Enforcement Authorities.”

Yes, you read that right: a chief of police. He is in charge of investigating cases of domestic violence and sexual assault.

God help the women in his town. I hope they lock their gates.