"This is not something that is commonly talked about in the profession," a conversation with therapist Andrew Pari

Originally published at: "This is not something that is commonly talked about in the profession," a conversation with therapist Andrew Pari - Prostasia Foundation

Andrew Pari is America’s leading authority on the arousal response in sexualized violence and related taboo topics in the sexual assault field. He is the founder and director of Sexual Assault Awareness. And he’s also a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating sexual assault survivors. We spoke to Andrew about his work on researching…

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Listening to this discussion my thoughts go racing back to ‘Ria Parkinson’ (Wendy Craig) in the 1978 BBC TV series ‘Butterflies’:

“I might kill myself today. No, I’ll go shoplifting instead… then I’ll kill myself. Are you listening to me? Does this cry from the heart meaning [sic] nothing to you? I am bored. I am frustratingly bored. I want to pull life through the letterbox. I want someone to meet me from a train. I want to go running across a field, barefooted and knickerless, treading on buttercups. I want to be raped”.

Some people may be surprised that this line was written by a woman (Carla Lane), but then again perhaps some women might not be. To be fair, Lane was trying to use that idea simply to give the viewer a feel for just how “unfulfilled” the character of ‘Ria’ was, but it has upset alot of feminists to this day who insisted it trivialized rape.

Talking of upset feminists…

The immediate gut reaction to that line is that that is not how someone should feel about being raped. Which I guess is understandable. However, should the priority be to emphasize the damage and encourage victims to relive their suffering whenever they are confronted with any relevant situation (ie: “triggered”), or is it not instead more ethically humane to attempt to help them overcome those frightening reminders so that they can have as close to possible a normal life with normal functioning relationships?

It would be fantastic, perhaps, to have it both ways, but the truth of it is they’re mutually exclusive; you can’t have someone both terrified and at ease in any given situation, and it’s kindest to help someone face the future with a rational and self-confident demeanour.

I’d also like to acknowledge the demeanour of Andrew Pari. I’m not sure I would be so self-restrained when faced with an interviewer who seemed so unprepared and taking such an interminably long time to ask his questions. It felt, to me at least, that Berlatsky came over with the same hesitant awkwardness as that of a preteen boy trying to get attention from his classmates in his first ever sex ed’ lesson.