The Battle Over Brett Kavanaugh Has Ended. But the Pain His Hearing Triggered Has Not

Since #MeToo went viral, survivors have been inundated with stories of sexual assault and harassment on a weekly — and for some stretches, daily — basis.

But nothing had evoked memories and pains of past traumas in some survivors, and particularly women, as much as the respective testimonies of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Survivors with histories of sexual abuse are at higher risk of exhibiting PTSD symptoms whenever a #MeToo story hits the news, according to Freyd.

The Kavanaugh story dragged on, with an apparent strain on many survivors that the Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby allegations did not inspire — and it will continue to do so as he takes his seat on the Supreme Court.

“When there’s a national disaster, there’s a period of aftermath,” says Dr. Jennifer Freyd, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon who specializes in studying trauma among survivors of sexual violence.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s story affected some survivors who had not relived their own rapes or assaults when reading or listening to other prominent allegations of sexual misconduct in the news.

One woman in New York, who requested anonymity because she has not yet shared her story of assault with her family, remembered the sexual abuse she suffered as a child for the first time in decades as she watched Ford’s testimony.

Though for many survivors, Kavanaugh’s enraged response was more likely to bring them back to the moment when an assailant has attacked them than Ford’s testimony.

While other people who have been accused of similar crimes have quickly departed the spotlight (even if they denied the allegations), Kavanaugh, who himself denies Ford’s allegation that he sexually assaulted her when they were in high school as well as the other allegations of sexual assault against him, sat behind the same desk as Ford to respond — with an indignation that stood out from the lawyer-approved statements that accused men usually issue.

Karestan Koenan, a Harvard professor who researches PTSD in assault and rape victims, said that Kavanaugh’s confirmation will make many survivors feel as if sharing what happened to them had no impact.

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