I’m not going to write about the Sandusky trial or the case, I just want to say that right away. I have a feeling that people are kind of overwhelmed by all of it and that’s not the focus of this post.
What I want to write about is my (surprising to me) reaction to the news coverage of the verdict. Again, I’m not going to talk about the verdict itself, but the feelings that came over me when I watched the news.
I’d read the verdict on my phone and I decided to turn on the news to actually watch what was happening. I really don’t watch the news anymore, I just use my apps for CNN, MSNBC etc. to find out what’s happening in the world. That night, I guess I was just curious.
My emotionally reactions absolutely staggered me, probably because of how unexpected they were. I imagined that I would feel happy that he was found guilty. I imagined that I would be relieved for the victims especially. That is not what happened and I found myself confused to say the least.
When I saw him being led out in handcuffs and being put into the police car to be taken away, I cried. I didn’t cry because I was happy. All I could see in my mind was my uncle and there was this terribly painful feeling accompanied by the thought that he would never be in handcuffs…he would never be put into a police car to be led off to jail. They replayed that scene over and over and every single time they put him in the car, at that moment, I would see my uncle again and again and again and again, I would cry.
Then the lawyers started doing the press conference outside. I don’t remember right now if I reacted to the defense attorney’s words. If I did it was only anger and disgust. But it was when the prosecutor and her team came out and began to speak that I really lost it.
By this time my husband had come upstairs once and seen me crying a bit. I was embarrassed and I don’t know if he knew that or what because he left and went back downstairs. Oddly enough though I was relieved that he left, I also felt rejected like the situation of the case and why I was crying was so disgusting to him that he didn’t want to be around me. I know…that’s my own feelings creeping in and it’s unlikely he felt that way, but that’s how it felt to me.
Anyway, when the prosecutor starting talking some of the things she said seemed to rip away at all my walls…the ones that keep me from falling apart…I began to weep, not just cry but weep. Thankfully I’m really good at being quiet even when sobbing, especially if someone is around. My husband had returned and decided to sit where I was while I watched the news coverage. He asked me if it was healthy for me to be watching it, I don’t remember what I said in response.
I don’t actually remember everything the prosecutor said that kept setting me off but a few phrases were ones that were about who would believe a child, and she said something to the effect of ‘We believe you’. The pain that rippled inside me at those words…I thought I would die for a moment, just from the pain I felt. It hurt so much.
She said something later about coming forward if you were abused and again that pain because that can’t happen in my case. My memories are fragmented and incomplete right now and even if they became more clear I wouldn’t go after my uncle based just on memory. There will be no justice from any human being on my behalf and that just sucked.
So instead of relief and happiness for the victims I felt overwhelming sadness and pain for myself. That kind of blows doesn’t it?
I wasn’t expecting any of that. I ending up going to bed exhausting because I had cried so much. I’m sure I looked ridiculous as well because my husband was to my left and so I kept my left hand up to hide my face from him so he wouldn’t actually see me crying, even though he totally knew I was.
Last week my therapist and I talked about some other reactions I’d had to news stories with details of some of the victim’s testimony, and she said something that kind of surprised me.
We were discussing a subject that a friend in the blogosphere and I had been talking about: purposely triggering yourself by reading/watching material about sexual abuse. I had been triggered a couple of times by certain details but along with the dissociation there was a certain relief that I knew I couldn’t be making up those reactions and therefore my experiences must be true. It was more evidence if you will, that the things I see in my mind are real.
However there was a danger because there was an almost self-injurious quality about how I felt afterwards. Yes there was validation of my emotions but it also hurt emotionally and psychologically. I began to be drawn to what I had discovered as a new form of pain, one that didn’t require any instruments other than the news. I was in dangerous territory and my friend was good enough to point out the danger to me. My therapist seconded that motion and warned me about the pros versus the cons of such behavior. Was it really worth it? She told me that I don’t need to purposely trigger myself; everything I need to know is in my head and will come out when it’s the right time. I agreed with her and my viewing the press conference after the verdict was honestly not an attempt to hurt myself.
My therapist told me during that last session that most people (she believes) do not really read many details about the case. They don’t want to go there. They read enough to get the gist of it and then they stop because they don’t want those thoughts in their heads. I told her that was precisely why I made it a point to read what the victims said; someone needed to hear them. They deserved that! But…in my case it’s not a good idea and I have to realize that.
What surprised me the most was that my therapist said that she wasn’t keeping up with the trial either. She said she was of course aware of it but she wasn’t reading the details. Now, at first I thought that was irresponsible of her because her clients may have been reacting strongly to what was going on and she would have no idea and therefore be ill-prepared to help them. BUT she told me something that made sense, which was that after all these years of practicing, she is very well aware of pedophiles do…the whole process and reading about the case wasn’t going to teach her anything new about that. I suppose that’s true. I also imagine that if you hear about sexual abuse as your work, you probably need a break at home. Fair enough and I understand that.
This post kind of veered off but I expressed what I wanted to. Crying is a huge deal to me because most of you know that crying was forbidden in my house. You cried, you got hit. I learned that crying didn’t help a damn thing and just caused you more problems. Crying in front of another human being is inconceivable to me so, the fact that my husband was in the room and I still couldn’t stop myself was jarring to me. I spent the last several days before the weekend actively fighting the impulse to scream out loud and literally beat my head against the wall. I didn’t understand what was wrong with me. My same friend reminded me that things haven’t been glacial these days.
All-in-all this past week or so has been really emotional and I don’t like it. Two thumbs down!
The case is far from over as he will be appealing etc. So…I’m going to have to try very hard to make healthy choices about what I do, what I read, what I listen to, and what I watch.
I hope we can all take care during this time when sexual abuse is being highlighted in the news more than ever before.