The Republicans let Trump off the hook, even though the Impeachment managers made a damning case against the former President and Trump’s lawyers did such a lousy job defending him that Congress literally laughed at them. This is so terrifying to so many of us, not just because of what we fear could happen to this country if the message we send Trump and people like him is that they can get away with anything- lying to the country about a stolen election, inciting insurrection, and even egging on those who planned to assassinate those charged with protecting and defending democracy, like the legislative branch, former Vice President Mike Pence, and the Capitol Police.
Why is this so terrifying? Well, it’s shockingly scary in its own right. Our country is under assault by political forces that threaten to tear apart democracy. But I’ll leave that historical explanation to Heather Cox Richardson, who I’m sure will unpack it better than me.
What I want to talk about is somewhat different- how seeing abusers get let off the hook is likely to trigger old traumas in anyone who has ever dared to speak up or stand up against an abuser and been shut down, silenced, lied to, discredited, or otherwise failed to see the abuser be held accountable. Usually, these people are women or Black people or Indigenous people or LGBTQIA+ people or those who are otherwise marginalized, oppressed, or lacking in the “power over” or privilege the abuser might have.
Who might have PTSD triggers lit up today? I’m talking about every family of every unarmed, innocent Black person who was killed by a police officer who got off scot-free in court- and every BIPOC who protested against it. I’m talking about every rape victim who pressed charges and was humiliated in court while her rapist walked- and every #MeToo victim who walked in the Women’s March in 2016 or posted their own #MeToo on social media. I’m talking about every child who was a victim of incest or sexual abuse who dared to tell her (or his) family and her (or his) abuser was not held accountable. I’m talking about people like Karena Virginia and all the other women who took a public stand to tell their stories about how they were groped by Trump, who has yet to be held accountable for these accusations of sexual molestation. I’m talking about people like Christine Blasey Ford who accused Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault and watched our government ignore her story and put a man who hurt her in office.
And that doesn’t even begin to touch all the Black people whose ancestors were enslaved and every Indigenous person who had their land stolen and their people killed by a race of people who have never even apologized and acknowledged the slavery, land left, and genocide, much less made things right. That doesn’t come close to accounting for all the European Jews people or South African people oppressed under apartheid or American Blacks oppressed under Jim Crow who never saw their abusers held accountable.
It also doesn’t account for all the people who never even speak up about their abuse or just accept it silently, hiding their pain privately and suffering alone.
So are we terrified today when we see that someone as abusive and criminally negligent as Donald Trump walks- and could hold office again some day? Hell yeah, we’re scared. Because this is not the first time in history that authoritarian dictatorial types have not been held accountable for institutional abuse, and it won’t be the last.
With that said, if you are one of those people I described who has been brave enough to stand up against your abusers- and you never got to see your abuser held accountable, please be very gentle with yourself today. And if you’re someone who never even told anyone about your abuse, please give yourself extra tender care today. If you’re noticing that any PTSD triggers are activated or any mental health issues get worse, please, if you have anyone you trust who you can call to express your terror or anger or grief or rage or disappointment today, please reach out and let yourself be heard and comforted. And if you’re privileged enough to have a therapist, give your therapist a call. This is big stuff, and as scary and triggering as it is, we can lean into each other, those of us who have been victims of abusers who got off scot free in the past, and know that we have each other, and together, we are powerful.
How do we cope? First, let yourself feel all the feels. Don’t hold back. All emotions are meant to be felt and moved through you without being repressed. Hold the part of you that got abused in the past with an abuser who never got held accountable. Shower that part with love, compassion, and understanding, showing it you’re here, and you get it- and those feelings are totally valid. All emotions are welcome. Don’t bypass any of them or bully yourself into some toxic positivity or spiritual bypass. It’s okay to be scared, angry, sad- whatever.
Then, if you need to, turn off the news. Get out in nature. Call a friend and rant and cry if you need to. Breathe. Get therapy if you can. Make art. Listen to music. Dance. Go for a hike. Meditate. And carry on, as we do…because we can do hard things with great love. We’ve got this- and we’ve got each other.
PS. If you need support from our Healing With The Muse community to learn how to practice Internal Family Systems (IFS) to heal inner child parts that get triggered by current events, and if creativity sounds like a tempting way to calm your nervous system as uncertainty escalates, we welcome you. Join us here.