The news right now, for me, and I would bet, for a lot of women who have been, have had fear of being, or who love someone who has been sexually assaulted, is not comfortable to listen to.
While I am so thankful to Dr. Balasey Ford for her immeasurable bravery and for shining a light on what happens all too commonly, and I know it is very important for the masses to hear, I have personally struggled since the first Kavenaugh allegations came out. This post is for me, for those who also struggle, and for those who question assault allegations.
These necessary reports of sexual assault have opened up old, scabbed wounds of mine and further shined light on an unfortunate societal construct of questioning victims. —and as a directly physical reaction to this stress and anxiety I have experienced a fairly constant tightness in my chest, feeling of unease and anger, and have developed a tremor in my left eyelid. Maybe I’ll just try to smile more...(sigh)
When the first accusations came out a woman close to me, who doesn't know my assault experience said "I'm sure it's fake. What coincidental timing that someone would come forward now, and do so anonymously, right before he's about to be confirmed. I don't believe it." My eye twitched. I didn’t really notice it at the time.
My first thought was, shock. I didn't even know what to say in response because the idea that someone who I loved and trusted would question this kind of assault charge was inconceivable to me. Because I didn't know the right thing to say in that moment, and because I couldn't articulate any it in a logical or calm manner I stayed silent, and politely changed the subject.
The interaction struck me wrong, but I couldn't quite articulate why. It just sat with me and I felt betrayed. By someone I love.
I wish I had said, "Well, if it was me, and my rapist were about to be handed a job for life that could affect ALL of America, I might do the same..." In fact, twice I picked up the phone to call her and tell her that, but then I thought I might not, because I'd be ruined personally and professionally...and put my phone back down. With a tight chest and exhausting and heavy feeling of sadness. It was like I was still paralyzed. I am so thankful to Dr. Balasey Ford for her bravery.
The news continued, and has kept playing in my home every night. We learned Dr. Balasey Ford's name, more accusations came to light, drinking problems and horrible high school rape culture became apparent, Bill Cosby was sentenced, the hearing began, Dr. Ford was so disrespected, more and more and more assault has been everywhere one the news.
My unease persists. My chest tightens. My eyelid twitches.
A day later another dear friend [male] said "oh well it was so long ago, maybe she's remembering things wrong. Maybe something bad happened, I definitely believe that, and yeah Kavenaugh is a jerk, but I'd bet that the trauma got to her head and she's mistaken about who it was or how it happened. There’s not enough evidence.”
I wanted to scream. To shake him. I was attacked over 12 years ago and I can tell you every detail of that evening with unfortunate detail. I promise you I'll be able to do the same in 20 more. I also promise you I am not, nor is Dr. Ford, confused about who the assailant was.
We do not forget these traumas.
But of course, I smiled, my eye twitched, and I simply bottled my feelings up and held them close in my ever-tightening chest.
While my friends likely do not actively intend anything malicious or hurtful by these dismissive and questioning remarks, the mere fact that we live in a world where the first place people go is to question the validity of an assault accusation troubles me. It incenses me. It terrifies me. It dismisses me. It deflates me. It is wrong.
Last night, I didn't want to listen any more, and was still feeling wounded by the comments from my loved ones as they brought back bad high school fears of speaking out against my assailant. So I took a hot bath and thought. What it came down to, was that a woman who I know, love, and trust, did not believe the truth that a brave, intelligent, well qualified, and articulate woman stated as fact. A Ph.D. and professor who analyzes data for a living said with 100% certainty that Kavenaugh committed this atrocious act, but none of that mattered to my friend. Further, another dear friend questioned Dr. Balasey Ford's recount of what I know from personal experience is traumatically unforgettable. And in many ways, those dismissals made me feel as if my own experience was being invalidated by my loved ones.
I kept watching the news. Kavenaugh continues to blatantly lie to the court. I kept feeling uneasy. I kept smiling. My eye kept twitching.
Tonight, the television was on once more. An account of Dr Ford’s assault being at a high school party where she was attacked from behind, shoved into a bedroom, made to be quiet while music was turned loud was being recounted - read from the victim's words.... over and over and over.
I could feel myself physically reacting and still sitting frozen. Part of me felt like I needed to be brave. To sit there, to listen to this news and support this woman and her trauma. Just as I had laid there that night and listened to the jokes told about it the next day.
But then, I had a moment of clarity. My eye stopped twitching and a physical weight lifted in a moment of clarity that I can only equate to walking out of a noisy, cigarette smoke-filled bar and stepping alone into the silence of crisp, clean winter air: I inhaled deeply and released my tension, disappointment, and deep sorrow.
It is okay to turn off the news. It is okay to protect myself.
It is okay to preserve my well being. I need not subject myself to this bullshit.
I control my thoughts, I control my actions. I control my healing and my processing. While I was not in control during my assault, I am now. I get to decide, as Dr. Balasey Ford has decided to protect America, I have chosen to protect myself. So I left the room and sat down to write to you and to process. I believe Dr. Ford. I believe women who have the courage to speak out against their assailants. There are so many like me, and we all deserve compassion for each other and ourselves.
What I ask of you to consider is this: Before commenting on the recount an assault victim shares publicly, please pause for a moment...Ask yourself if you would use those same words, if you knew, without question, that the person with whom you are speaking had experienced a very similar kind of trauma.
I would bet you might be kinder, more thoughtful, or softer with your words.
Please also know that one in three women are sexually assaulted and that only 3-5% of all assault reports are false.
We all deserve respect and compassion as we share, when we share, or if we share.
Do not judge us. Support us. Believe us.
For those who have been assaulted and for whom the news is troubling for you as it has been to me: It is okay not to listen. It is okay to turn the channel, turn it off entirely, call a friend or trusted confidant, ask someone to mute the TV, or otherwise detach from the reporting. If these shocking allegations cause you to feel uneasy in any way, it is okay to protect yourself. You don't have to listen to every report to support your sisters. Leave the room or turn it off. Do something good for your soul. Connect with yourself and tell yourself why you trust and love the person you are today. Write. Walk. Take a bath. Step away. You can stand in solidarity without suffering with them.
It is important that we listen to these women. It is important that we respect them and trust them. It is necessary that we love our sisters, mothers, daughters, nieces, cousins, friends, and fellow women, and ourselves for we speak to protect ourselves and to protect you.