With the upcoming Bill Cosby performances in Denver and in Pueblo, it is understandable that many people would have a variety of responses. Survivors of sexual violence especially are likely to have feelings arise amidst all the news coverage. It can be painful to see articles and interviews where people are challenging the claims of the victims and personally attacking these women. In no other crime is a victim routinely referred to as an “accuser,” which serves to undermine them from the start. It can be easy to feel like, as a survivor, my life is falling apart while the perpetrator’s continues on, life as usual. When statistically only 2 out of 100 rapists will ever spend time in jail, the thought of seeing justice for an assault can start to feel impossible. Seeing yet another famous person not only avoid conviction, but also a charge or a trial is disheartening.
When these triggers arise it is important that we allow ourselves the freedom to feel them. Many people try to bully the feelings away with justifications that often start with a variation of “I should…” or “I should not…”. We berate ourselves for feeling stuck and think there must be something wrong with us if we still have these overwhelming emotions. By taking contrary action and honoring those thoughts and feelings, we can go a long way in allowing ourselves to begin to feel safe and grounded again. There are no “shoulds” when it comes to healing, just compassionate acceptance of our own experience and trusting that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. That does not mean we do not continue trying to grow and evolve, but that will not happen as long as we are stuck in self judgment for our emotions and responses.
Some people like action steps for dealing with situations like the Bill Cosby performances in Denver and Pueblo this weekend. For those individuals, I recommend considering attending the “Teach In Speak Out” session hosted by Gloria Allred in the Crawford Hotel on January 17th. The event is free and open to the public, but attendees but RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with their name, phone number, and email address by 4PM on January 16th. Allred is an attorney from Los Angeles representing some of Cosby’s victims. There will also be protests outside of the Denver Performing Arts Complex before the shows. For some, it can be empowering to attend these events, but at the same time, it is important to note that they can also be triggering. Again, allowing these feelings to surface is useful, even though the process can at times feel intolerable.
When triggered, I have found that reaching out to friends and family members, going for walks or exercising in whatever way appeals in the moment, journaling, listening to music, meditation, prayer, reading, and zoning out to a Netflix binge can all be useful. Lastly, if you need to talk with someone about how you are feeling you can call the RAINN hotline at 1-800 656-4673, and you will be routed to your local sexual assault hotline where there are trained advocates standing by to listen. You can also visit CCASA’s website to find support in your Colorado community.