We’re publishing an original piece by Dr. Gary Sidley, a retired clinical psychologist with over 30 years’ experience working for the NHS and one of the founders of the Smile Free campaign, on the traumatic impact of mask mandates on victims of violence and sexual abuse. Here is an extract:
For those who have suffered traumatic events in the past, masks can escalate painful emotions in a number of ways. Victims of previous physical and/or sexual abuse that involved an assailant’s hand over their mouths can be particularly sensitive to the somatic sensations associated with the wearing of a face covering, the tactile feel of them typically evoking ‘flashbacks’ and the reliving of the assaults. If the violent perpetrator wore a mask, merely the sight of someone wearing one can trigger the same disturbing memories. Jenny describes her trauma-driven torment as follows:
“Mandated mask wearing has caused me numerous problems. I was sexually abused for years as a child where I was smothered and muffled, anything to stop me crying out. So mask wearing has been a trigger for me, both wearing and seeing people in masks… particularly children.
“Many weeks ago I went into a shop and was aggressively followed by a man who wore a mask under his nose! It was very intimidating and luckily my husband was with me and it did not escalate. Hence also my reluctance to go into shops. They give me a feeling of dread and depression and panic.”