Life Advice


Health & Spirit

News reports are triggering my memories of sexual assault

Carolyn Hax on

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

With all the talk of sexual assault in the news [this year], I am having a lot of trouble. In addition to reliving my own assault, several childhood friends have disclosed their own assaults on Facebook. I want to be there for them -- and everyone who is coming out with their stories now -- but I am overwhelmed with sadness, rage and frustration.

I am going to see a counselor for the first time in many years, but I think I need to take a break from both the news and social media. The issues are: 1. How do I explain why I am taking a break without telling my own story? My family doesn't know and I'm not ready to open that can of worms. 2. I feel guilty that I am not being there for the women I love who ARE brave enough to come forward.

Am I being a good steward of my mental health or just copping out? -- Triggered By the News

Good steward. Take your break from news and social media, take care of you. Anyone who thinks this need to skip a couple of news cycles is unusual is either living under a rock or ... well. No explanation is required.


And while I am grateful for the support opportunities available through social media, I am not comfortable with any implied or perceived obligation for any individual to provide that support. Certainly not to the degree that you feel guilt for not adding your thumb/teary face/heart or sympathetic comment. That's internalizing someone's business model to an unhealthy degree, so a step back could benefit you in that regard as well, by breaking the spell so many of us are under that tells us a social media presence is a requirement or a virtue.

Give yourself what you need. Don't explain or apologize or beat yourself up.

And, for what it's worth: These people "who ARE brave enough to come forward" need breaks themselves, for one -- everyone does. And they chose their moments when they were ready, which is your right as well, just as it's everyone's right not to come forward if they never feel ready.

I hope you'll internalize this in place of your current sense of obligation: When you've been through hell, it's OK to say a silent "thank you" to all the people who are doing the brave work of coming forward. They're doing it for you, too.


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