Navigating the Epstein Era: Why Is My Trauma Resurfacing?
The recent revelations surrounding the case against sexual offender, Jeffery Epstein, have undoubtedly sparked distress. This is especially true for individuals who endured sexual abuse – whether in the form of childhood sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, sexual assault, rape, human trafficking, and/or sexual harassment.
As a therapist who works extensively with survivors of sexual violence, I’ve already been hearing the impact that the media coverage is having on survivors.
My intention with this blog is to normalize and help you understand why memories, emotions, and thoughts related to your own traumatic experiences may be resurfacing in light of the recent media coverage. Please remember that blogs are not therapy. If you’re struggling, reach out for help.
Before you keep reading, take a moment to honor the difficult emotions including sadness, betrayal, and injustice that you may be experiencing. These are all valid.
Normalizing Delayed Responses: Why Is It Coming Up Now?
If you’ve been reminded of past traumas since hearing the recent updates, you are not alone.
Traumatic memories are complex and it is not uncommon for other people’s traumatic experiences to be triggers for our own traumas; bringing up memories, emotions, and thoughts associated with our own trauma.
Common Themes and Triggers
While no two experiences are ever the same, there are common themes linking traumatic experiences. When we learn about someone else’s experience, it may contain elements that resonate with our own, acting as a trigger for memories to surface.
Exposure to themes of manipulation, exploitation, vulnerability, and injustice associated with the Epstein case/recently released documents, can bring about empathy. Empathy is defined as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another” By vicariously feeling another’s feelings, thoughts, and experiences related to a trauma, we can be triggering our own memories or thoughts.
Connection to Unresolved Emotions
We spend so much of our life pushing unpleasant emotions away yet, paradoxically, doing so causes us to get stuck in them. Unresolved emotions continue to live within us until we allow ourselves to feel and process them.
Regardless of how well our brains pushed those emotions aside, when something that resembles our own experience or that brings around difficult emotions comes up, such as the Epstein case, those unresolved emotions come to the surface.
For example, if I notice feelings of betrayal when exposed to the media coverage, it could be because:
- I feel betrayed by those who were complicit – many of whom were in a position to use their power for good,
- The betrayal of those individuals triggered the feelings associated with me being betrayed during my traumatic experience,
- A combination of 1 and 2.
Taking time to reflect on the connections between our current emotions and prior experiences can provide clarity.
Timing and Readiness
If you’re becoming aware of a trauma that you’ve long repressed, you might be grappling with confusion, overwhelm, and a sense of betrayal by your own memories. Please know that our brains are do the best they can to protect us. Repressing or temporarily forgetting memories protects us from the painful emotions associated with them.
Sometimes things come out because a trigger is closely tied to our own experience. Other times our nervous system feels safe enough to begin the processing work. It can also be both – the Epstein case hit close to home and we’re in a place of readiness to do the work.
Healing is not Linear
If you’ve already processed the trauma and you’ve been triggered, it makes sense that you would be feeling disappointed, sad, discouraged – even angry. You likely put a lot of work into your recovery and hoped to not be back at this point.
Please believe me when I say that the resurgence of memories does not diminish the strength you’ve shown and the progress that you’ve made in your healing journey.
Healing is not linear! New triggers can evoke emotions that require acknowledgement and care.
The good news is that you’ve gotten through all the triggers you’ve experienced so far. How can you apply your prior helpful ways of coping, towards this situation? How can you take care of yourself when experiencing difficulty?
I hope that this blog provides some validation, understanding, and comfort to your experience.
To all survivors – those who were exploited, who were silenced, who were forced to grow up too fast:
We believe you, it wasn’t your fault, you can heal 🧡
If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide, Talk Suicide Canada is available 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566 and if you aren’t feeling safe call 911 or visit your local emergency department.