Understanding the actions sexual assault victims

Moments after the news broke earlier this month that Bill Cosby would be returning to court for a retrial on Nov. 6, social media exploded with comments of joy, elation and relief.The first trial began on June 5 and following a two-week hearing Judge Steven O’ Neill declared a mistrial when the jury deliberated for more than 52 hours and could not reach a verdict. Cosby was accused by Andrea Constand of being drugged and sexually assaulted at his home outside Philadelphia in 2004. Different advocacy groups and Cosby accusers have already set up Facebook and private message threads with plans of being present at the second trial. For some, it is a second chance to confront their alleged abuser. For others it is an opportunity to connect with women who have experienced some type of abuse or assault in their lifetime. And for some, it is just a chance to be present and offer strength and hope to anyone affected. I have been counselling survivors of sexual assault and abuse for more than 20 years. I am also a childhood sexual abuse survivor.After attending most of the first trial I began thinking more about how I can educate our society about post-traumatic stress disorder and the complexity of recounting assault in court after living through such a horrific experience. Article Continued BelowDuring the proceedings I found myself feeling like I was going to jump out of my skin. Over and over parts of the deposition were read in court. Specific details of Constand’s account were repeated and comments made by Cosby were also read several times. The defence team went after Constand’s inconsistencies in her account of the night she was allegedly attacked.I have been listening to patients tell me stories of their abuse, assault or childhood trauma for years. I have never met a patient who came to therapy and was able to tell me his or her story from beginning to end. On most occasions, the uncovering of the trauma is like looking at a jigsaw puzzle scattered around my office. Rather than finding the edge pieces to start the puzzle, patients will pick random parts of the story to begin. A lot of times patients will tell me something that happened right after they realized they were raped, and then act like it was not so.