Christine Blasey Ford Testifies That She Experienced PTSD After Alleged Assault

Photo: Erin Schaff/Pool/Bloomberg.
On Thursday, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford delivered a powerful testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee regarding her allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who she says sexually assaulted and attempted to rape her at a house party in the early 1980s.
During her testimony, Dr. Ford said that she suffered from long-term mental health effects after being sexually assaulted, including anxiety, claustrophobia, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. She also said that she did not talk about the details of the assault until a couple's counseling session with her husband in May of 2012, but doing so — and subsequently discussing it in individual therapy — caused her to relive her trauma.
"After the counseling session, I did my best to ignore the memories of the assault because recounting them caused me to relive the experience, and caused panic and anxiety," she says. "Occasionally, I would discuss the assault in an individual therapy session, but talking about it caused more reliving of the trauma."
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), it's common for survivors of sexual assault to experience PTSD and to relive the event. Survivors may experience uncharacteristic feelings of stress, fear, anxiety, and nervousness. A 2001 study found that PTSD onset occurs in approximately 94% of survivors within 2 weeks post-assault and 47% of survivors within 3 months post-assault.
And while the likelihood of developing mental health problems after assault might vary from person to person, a study from earlier this year found that 80% of teenage girls who had been sexually assaulted suffered from anxiety, depression, PTSD and other conditions months after the event.

I have had to relive my trauma in front of the entire world.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford
Dr. Ford, who says she was 15 years old when she was sexually assaulted, says that many of the mental health effects that the incident had on her have persisted long term throughout her adult life.
"For me personally, anxiety, phobia, and PTSD-like symptoms are the types of things I've been coping with," she said. "More specifically, claustrophobia, panic and that type of thing."
Dr. Ford continued to say that she had a "fairly disastrous" four years after the incident: "When I was 17 and went to college, I had a very hard time, more so than others, forming new friendships, and especially friendships with boys, and I had academic problems."
Her testimony is consistent with evidence that sexual assault can have both immediate and long-term effects on a survivor's mental health, especially when they come forward about their experience.
"I have had to relive my trauma in front of the entire world, and have seen my life picked apart by people on television, in the media, and in this body who have never met me or spoken with me," Dr. Ford said. "Those who say that do not know me. I am a fiercely independent person and I am no one’s pawn. My motivation in coming forward was to provide the facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged my life, so that you can take that into serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed."
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
If you are experiencing anxiety and are in need of crisis support, please call the Crisis Call Centre’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.

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