What Comes After

5 days ago
MeToo has brought the ubiquity of sexual harassment, exploitation, and assault to the forefront of public conversation. What's sometimes forgotten is what comes ...

English subtitle

- [Reporter] About 7% of
the U.S. population will
experience PTSD at some
point in their lives.
For these millions of
Americans, the fight or flight
response that helps people
survive dangerous or
difficult situations
doesn't fade.
They stay on high alert
for months or years
after a traumatic
event, often beset by
flashbacks or nightmares,
unable to sleep
and compelled to avoid
place or things that
remind them of their trauma.
The incident may be over,
but the fear and anxiety
keep coming back.
- For women, one of the
most prevalent ways that
post-traumatic stress
disorder occurs is not in
the military or combat
duty, it's usually
some form of
interpersonal violence,
whether that's rape
or molestation.
- The sound of a bathroom
stall closing is a trigger.
Certain smells are triggers.
Certain, you know,
touch is a trigger and
you never know when it's coming.
You never know when there's
a trigger around the corner
and it presents itself
and it just takes me
right back to the
trauma, right back to
the point where I feel
completely helpless.
- [Reporter] As a survivor
of sexual abuse and assault,
Danielle McFarlin faced
PTSD symptoms so severe
they drove her to attempt
suicide four times.
- Initially PTSD was like trying
to walk through quicksand.
And it didn't matter
what I tried to do,
it seemed like it just got
worse and I was getting
deeper and it was
harder to make any
positive changes in my life.
Everybody I knew was
going out and living this
amazing life and I just
would go to work and
I'd come home and I felt safe.
That was the one place that
I could go was my little den.
- For people who have
post-traumatic stress disorder,
one of the key things
is that their lives
become very constricted.
Almost like you've gone and
built a castle for yourself
and you're trying really
hard to keep things out.
So you create like a higher
castle, and then you do
a moat and the drawbridge
is up, and the castle gets
higher and taller.
But still things can fly over,
still information gets in,
so you just keep making your
castle bigger and taller.
What treatment does
is it comes in and it
knocks down the wall.
- [Reporter] Treating
PTSD is the same,
whether in veterans
or civilians.
It can involve medication
and other tools,
but the most effective
treatments force sufferers to
revisit their trauma
over and over again,
to seek out the triggers
they've been avoiding.
- So we might have a
person talk about from
when it started
all way to the end.
And then they repeat that
over and over and over again
so that it becomes
more like a file that's
filed in a filing cabinet.
- What I tell my group and
what I tell the people that
I see individually is the
trauma is never gonna go away
but you need it to
become a bad memory.
- [Reporter] Counselor
Kim Lindley leads
PTSD support groups and
has developed an intensive
trauma recovery program
that's focused on civilians.
But programs like hers are rare.
A 2015 study in the Harvard
Review of Psychiatry
found that treatment resources
for non-veterans with PTSD
are limited and hard to find.
- It is very hard to know
where to turn for this,
because it was an
invisible diagnosis for a
very, very long time.
- [Reporter] And the
stigma of seeking help
adds to the problem.
- [Kim] Trauma comes with
a lot of guilt and shame,
and so people don't like
to seek services for it.
So they don't even ask.
- [Reporter] Danielle McFarlin
found the help she needed
and it brought her
back into her life.
She learned that she had
no reason to feel ashamed,
and that seeking help
isn't a sign of weakness,
it's a sign of strength.
- I watched a documentary
many years ago where a
soldier shared his symptoms
and his experiences.
I remember him talking about
nightmares and waking up
and being curled in a ball.
It was like, "Oh my gosh, I've
been there, I've done that,
"that's happened to
me, I'm not alone."
You're not alone, you don't
have to deal with this
on your own, and
just don't give up.