Cops and Sexual Abuse Trauma
By Kathleen Hoy Foley
Just the facts, ma’am.
Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts!
I get it. I get it! Nobody wants to talk about sexual abuse. Least of all cops. Especially when it’s personal. Especially when it sort of, maybe happened to you. Especially when it did happen to you. So here I am stuck with facts…only there aren’t any. Not the kind that can be quantified and measured and put on a stat sheet.
Sexual abuse is the type of criminal activity that sneaks through the sewers undetected. It starts with kids…boy kids, girl kids. The gender never makes a difference. It’s a matter of opportunity and convenience for the abuser. Every kid is vulnerable. Once you were vulnerable. If it happened to you…you still are vulnerable.
Every victim of sexual abuse—and I am one of them—wants to hide. Desperately needs to hide. Clings to the protection of personal privacy. Nobody wants their vulnerability exposed and exploited by the trolls and lowlifes who take pleasure in accusing and shaming, and in attacking with malicious judgment until both your personal and professional life are all but destroyed. I don’t need to tell you that cops are favored targets in the public sport of people shredding.
I was publicly shamed and accused--very publicly—over details of sexual abuse that I never wanted revealed, and sure as hell never wanted turned into fodder for strangers to gnaw on. No one wants that kind of scrutiny and blame. If I was noble, I’d say that I wouldn’t wish that kind of agony on my worst enemy. I am not noble.
I must confess, I don’t drink beer, way too many calories for me. But I know that beer talks. Drink enough of it and you’ll be telling your mother-in-law how much you’re enjoying her visit. Alcohol alters the brain chemistry and loosens inhibitions and starts those lips flapping. And soon inviting your mother-in-law to stay forever somehow seems like a really great idea. And you tell her so.
Trauma works the same way, only opposite. It too alters brain chemistry, but it constricts. Trauma blocks and suppresses emotions that demand resolution in order to clear out. Without resolution, the energy of sexual abuse trauma becomes imbedded pain: serious, dark pain that lumps in your stomach and amasses like deadweight in the center of your chest. And when that emotional pain is triggered and starts throbbing, trauma starts “talking”. Like how that beer magically pops somebody else’s dumb words into your mouth, trauma impersonates you as it directs your actions and behavior. It manifests as sickness. Reveals itself through injuries. Trauma uses anger to express itself through your mouth. It speaks through the depression it buries you in. Trauma wants you to hear it. It will not let up until you listen.
There is emotional risk in revealing something as explosive as being sexually victimized. Exposure carries with it the weight of humiliation over the act itself, over being rendered helpless, over the inability to physically and emotionally defend and protect yourself. In a profession where defending and protecting go with the badge, a cop who discloses such personal information risks being judged weak. Though actually, the weakness lies within those who mock and vilify. It’s a slight-of-the-hand trick used to deflect attention by those being strangled by their own dark secrets. But that’s little consolation when you’re on the receiving end of cheap shots.
In reality, confronting your past where the trauma of sexual abuse remains alive and thriving is a powerful, take-charge action that reveals authentic courage. It is one of the toughest jobs you will ever do. When you allow the victim hiding within you to speak bluntly, you will lose the weight of trauma and begin to build real muscle.
But I’m realistic. I know that a snowball stands a better chance against a blowtorch than I have of assuring you of these facts. Still, no matter how strong you appear outwardly, unresolved trauma will continue to generate inner havoc. It is relentless. Ignoring it only emboldens it and weakens you. That’s just the way trauma energy works.
Addressing trauma doesn’t have to be a big deal. You don’t have to announce it or talk about it. Or join a support group. Or make an appointment with a professional. You can start without a lot of fanfare right where you are. In the privacy of your own thoughts, in your own time, and at your own pace you can begin the process of healing simply by developing an inner pathway of compassion for yourself.
By silently acknowledging that yes, something happened, you take the first monumental step toward self-care. The next step, admitting that yes, something happened to me, is another huge step toward emotional relief and resolution. Strength is built one step at a time. Each acknowledgement builds on the one before it.
By using the discipline of your professional training—the process of creating order by asserting facts to calm the chaotic—you will build the inner strength to match your outer muscle.
The basic facts of sexual abuse are these: the victim of sexual abuse is never at fault. You were a victim of sexual abuse. You were not at fault. The pain is real.
It is a safe place to begin.
Sgt. Joe Friday lives…
(To schedule a confidential healing session, email PK@anunobstructedpath.net)