Note: This is pretty raw, so if you’re on the other side of this from me, know that I still love you, and I want to have a cup of coffee to talk to you about this.
What has happened to Christine Blasey Ford this week almost exactly describes the experience of many people I know who have been sexually assaulted.
Here’s how the story goes, time and time again:
A woman (yes, it’s primarily women) decides to report being sexually assaulted, often at a steep personal cost. They often report years after the fact, sometimes after a galvanizing event, sometimes after they realize how much that event has shaped their lives and that they need to name their story in order to heal from it.
When confronted, their assailant angrily denies her experience with emotional sincerity, in a way that gaslights the woman so convincingly that bystanders are distracted from all the factual fuzziness at the edges of his heartfelt narrative. (e.g. “I was a choir boy in school!” “Boofing just meant farting!” “The Devils’ Triangle was a drinking game!” “This is just a plot from my enemies to destroy me!”)
The authority figures: be it parents, pastors, teachers, police officers, etc .often whom have other stakes in the process besides finding out the truth, dismiss her story, cast doubts on her courage, intelligence, or motives, and minimize the culpability of the offender (e.g. “How could she remember what happened when she was a teenager?” “Why did she wait so long to report?” “Who hasn’t done something stupid when they’re seventeen?”.)
The woman, having been re-traumatized through sharing her story, and now socially ostracized, learns to keep her mouth shut. (e.g. #whyIdidntreport)
And so the cycle continues.
I’ve worked with people who have spent their lives dealing with sexual abuse from their youth. I have friends who have struggled to define themselves by something other than those awful, obscene events that no one wants to acknowledge. And let me tell you: EVERY time you quarterback the hearings on Thursday like they were another political sporting event, EVERY time you say, “Don’t we all wish that we weren’t defined by the mistakes of our past?”, EVERY time you say, “Wow, her timing was just a LITTLE convenient?”, you’re telling every abused woman in your life (and I guarantee, you all know far more than you think) that their story and experience are not safe with you.
This is not about politics, my friends, this is about simple human decency.
I understand that some of you may not be convinced, and if that’s the case, that’s fine, but please, in this moment, stop talking and starting listening to people who have been through exactly what Dr. Ford has experienced; you may have no idea how much your words are harming people right now.