Before you read any further, you should know this whole post is about a comedy show about rape trauma performed by rape survivors. This post is not a critique or review of the show — in fact, we’ve never seen it. You can watch the same highlight reel that we watched to get an idea of the tone and content of the show, but that’s as much as we’ve seen. We’re not affiliated with the show, its creators, or the venue. We’re just… intrigued.
We aren’t critiquing or reviewing the show here, so why are we writing about it? Well, for one — it’s timely. The show, uncomfortably but boldly titled Rape Victims Are Horny Too!, is being performed live tonight at Houston’s The Secret Group. New York-based comedy duo of Kelly Bachman and Dylan Adler are showing what it means for trauma survivors to choose to use their own voices to write their own narratives — while not every survivor heals in this way, it can be helpful to some. We also think there may be some value in therapists who work with trauma experiencing this kind of performance.
Why Do People Laugh About Trauma — and Should They?
First of all, we work with A LOT of trauma. Heather’s been working with clients using EMDR and other therapeutic approaches for years, Flor is trained in Accelerated Resolution Therapy, and all our other folks work with clients of all ages experiencing varying levels of trauma (and some are currently working toward their EMDR certification, as well). For many survivors living with trauma, humor is a way of using cognitive reappraisal to make the traumatic event or its offshoots less threatening in our minds, and this can be a valuable tool in your toolbox of emotional regulation strategies. A number of studies have shown cognitive reappraisal to decrease negative emotion experience without increasing physiological activation (think increased blood pressure and other stress responses). Hey! That’s totally #therapygoals. So, some trauma survivors who feel equipped — and it’s OK if you don’t — might find it cathartic and helpful to connect with other survivors in a somewhat detached and humorous way.
How Can Traumatic Comedy Help Therapists?
On the other hand, we also recognize that being a therapist who works with trauma is not an automatic badge of comfort. Many of our clients themselves use dark comedy to talk about their trauma, and for some therapists that’s uncomfortable. What do you do when a client makes a joke about their trauma? That’s a post for another day, perhaps, because this is just about getting therapists comfortable with the idea of laughing about trauma — and perhaps dealing with their own vicarious trauma through humor.
It’s possible that watching a performance like Rape Victims Are Horny Too!, whose very title snatches back agency and power for the survivors, can be perceived as a kind of balcony effect, a vicarious trauma management tool that Anthony Freire, the clinical director and founder of The Soho Center for Mental Health Counseling in New York. With the balcony effect, a therapist replaces the tendency to put themselves in the shoes of the client — therefore experiencing the trauma themselves — and instead focuses on “imagining oneself ‘watching a movie’ play out as the client is telling the story.”
Transforming Fear Into Funny
Laughing at others’ trauma is not OK, but that’s not what we’re suggesting. We’re not even claiming this show is a good idea for you (or you, or you). We don’t have data to suggest this show has been helpful or harmful — we just know that it exists, and we think it’s worth talking about. The creators think rape is worth talking about — even in comedic form. A write-up in the Dallas Observer published yesterday discusses Bachman and Adler’s intentions and goals for the show.
“For us, we were just very excited to try working on material that felt very charged and very personal, like things that we were still processing and some things that we haven’t processed yet and making something that makes us laugh out of darkness,” Adler says. “Fear was really transformative, and I feel like people were very drawn to that, which meant a lot to hear.” Bachman says, “We’re not laughing at the idea of rape. We’re laughing at the experiences we’ve had with healing.”
For Bachman, it was important to confront the jokes being made in the wake of the #MeToo movement at the expense of survivors. She says, “I would rather hear jokes from survivors … about their experiences.”
Rape Victims Are Horny Too: A Comedy Musical Duo About Healing From Trauma with Dylan Adler & Kelly Bachman
Thurs. Nov. 18th | Doors 8:30 PM | Show 9 PM | $15 Day of Show | 18+ show | Buy Tickets Here