Description: As a Psychologist I have to say that events south of our border over the past two years have a source of fascination, confusion and perplexity not to mention anxiety, fear and anger and that is just from considering the actions of the current president. This past week the confirmation hearings focusing on Brett Kavanaugh’s possible appointment to the American Supreme Court opened up a whole new universe of areas and issues for psychological contemplation. Rather than trying to focus too directly on any one area or issue (given the unfolding nature of this array of issues) I though I would just list a number of questions of psychological relevance that have arisen in the media and based on my own reflection on these recent noxious events. In each case I will point you to an article and/or two, but more information will likely emerge as the events and our reflection upon them unfold. As well, you can dig into the relevant psychological research literatures to see what research has been done in these areas. So, here are some questions arising from the American Senate hearings and from the contexts surrounding those events.
In her testimony before the Senate Committee, Christine Blasey Ford said she could recall every detail of Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged attack on her when she was 15 years old but had difficulty recalling related event details. Does this fit with what we know about memory for traumatic events decades past? The research says yes, see link 4 below.
How DO trauma and the passage of time affect our memories for the events they involve? Answers to this question can get complicated. See link number 3 below.
Does asking women to describe and discuss the impacts that alleged sexual assaults had on them have an impact on the likelihood that they will report such events in the first place? The answer to this question seems to be yes. See link 1 below.
Does the storm of media information and coverage of issues related to trauma and sexual assault have an impact upon those who have suffered such events? The answer to this question is most certainly, yes. The news is loaded with triggers for victims of sexual assault and related traumas. See link 2 below.
Source: Various (The New York Times) see links below.
Date: September 28, 2018
Photo Credit: Fox News
These events are occurring at an important time in the history of societal views and thinking about issues associated with sexual assault and gender-based issues. The #metoo movement has started to shine strong lights on issues of male and power privilege and on the fundamental imbalance between “innocent until proven guilty” and the huge burdens of proof placed on victims before they are believed. We do not just need more research in these areas we need more thought and more action.
Questions for Discussion:
- What are some of the psychological issues arising from, or brought out by, media coverage of the Kavanaugh Senate hearings in the United States?
- Can you think of any new areas where psychological research is needed? Are there any areas where it may be that some assumptions underlying past research or at least past research questions might need to be revisited?
- What approach (research, investigative, etc.) would be preferable in situations like this if senators were interested in understanding and properly addressing the sexual assault allegations in the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings?
References (Read Further):
Millon, E. M., Chang, H. Y. M., & Shors, T. J. (2018). Stressful life memories relate to ruminative thoughts in women with sexual violence history, irrespective of PTSD. Frontiers in psychiatry, 9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6134204/
Shields, C. (2018). The Traumatic Effects of Sexual Assault: A literature review of the effects of sexual assault on college students. Angelo State University Social Sciences Research Journal, 4(1). https://ssrj-ojs-asu.tdl.org/ssrj/index.php/ssrj/article/download/42/29
Treanor, M., Brown, L. A., Rissman, J., & Craske, M. G. (2017). Can memories of traumatic experiences or addiction be erased or modified? A critical review of research on the disruption of memory reconsolidation and its applications. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(2), 290-305. http://rissmanlab.psych.ucla.edu/rissmanlab/Publications_files/Treanor%20et%20al_2017_reconsolidation.pdf
Au, T. M., Sauer-Zavala, S., King, M. W., Petrocchi, N., Barlow, D. H., & Litz, B. T. (2017). Compassion-based therapy for trauma-related shame and posttraumatic stress: Initial evaluation using a multiple baseline design. Behavior therapy, 48(2), 207-221. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Teresa_Au3/publication/311089374_Compassion-Based_Therapy_for_Trauma-Related_Shame_and_Posttraumatic_Stress_Initial_Evaluation_Using_a_Multiple_Baseline_Design/links/599acf1fa6fdcc261588781d/Compassion-Based-Therapy-for-Trauma-Related-Shame-and-Posttraumatic-Stress-Initial-Evaluation-Using-a-Multiple-Baseline-Design.pdf
Bordere, T. (2017). Disenfranchisement and ambiguity in the face of loss: The suffocated grief of sexual assault survivors. Family Relations, 66(1), 29-45. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Tashel_Bordere2/publication/316346335_Disenfranchisement_and_Ambiguity_in_the_Face_of_Loss_The_Suffocated_Grief_of_Sexual_Assault_Survivors_Sexual_Assault_Loss_and_Grief/links/5a319729aca27271449f43be/Disenfranchisement-and-Ambiguity-in-the-Face-of-Loss-The-Suffocated-Grief-of-Sexual-Assault-Survivors-Sexual-Assault-Loss-and-Grief.pdf