The Kavanaugh allegations of attempted rape are triggering for so many women, and I know this blog post of mine will be just one in a crowd. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to tell my story. I would say stories, but it’s the story of what I’ve experienced, in my life so far. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is quoted as saying,
“I ask no favor for my sex; all I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”
(Watch Ruth Bader Ginsburg Talk Sexism, Equality in New Doc Trailer)
The biggest part that is so triggering for me, and so many other women, is that there is debate at all. An incredibly brave woman came forward with a horrifically serious allegation of sexual assault and attempted rape. She was so young when it happened, of course she didn’t feel strong enough to say anything to an authority. I don’t blame her. She was over-powered by extremely privileged white boys, who had money and power. I wouldn’t want to go up against that kind of power, for fear of getting attacked any more than I already had been.
I’m not trying to speak for her. She has every right to speak or not speak, for herself. I am simply empathizing with her experience, and putting all my understanding where it should be; with the person saying they were assaulted. By virtue of it being established fact, that they knew each other at the time, that makes this a credible enough allegation that there has to be an FBI investigation. If not, our Senate, our President, and our government will be failing one of our citizens, in dismissing the justice Dr. Ford seeks. There is no statute of limitations on this. There is no deadline for vetting a nominee. McConnell reinforced that precedent, with Judge Merrick Garland.
There is a duty, of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to thoroughly and extensively vet any nominee for the Supreme Court. It isn’t supposed to be as incredibly partisan as it is. Republicans are forsaking their duty to remain impartial in this process, and they are acting in bad faith, by not requesting the FBI do a thorough background check, to determine the veracity of this claim.
The hardest part of watching this all happen, is seeing all the men rushing to defend Kavanaugh. They want to discredit Dr. Ford’s claims, by mistaken identity, and suggesting that she should have reported it sooner. I decided to write this, so that I could stand up and in front of Dr. Ford, even if just in my own small way. I will recount all the times I have been put upon, by a man. All of the times, I have had a man’s foot on my neck, at least in a sexual way. Where a man treated me as an object, or as a gender he had a right to take ownership of. To touch, feel, grab, push, pull, overpower.
When I was 5, I was raped by a family member. I have not confronted that person, and have little reason to believe he will ever read this post. We don’t keep in touch with that side of the family, and didn’t much back then. That’s likely why he did it. He figured he would get away with it. I had blocked it out, a while after it happened, and it came flooding back to me, one day, when I was at the gym, in my late 20’s. I remember doing sit-ups and all the sudden, all the memories came flooding back.
The dress I was wearing. It was white and yellow. My mom had made it for me. I remember my underwear, because he had pulled them down. They were white and had frilly lace on the bottoms. I remember the desk he had put me on. I remember when he picked me up, hurriedly sat in the chair, and whisked me onto his lap, because there was a knock at the door. I remember him whispering in my ear, “If you tell anyone, I will kill your mom, your dad, and and your brother.” I was terrified. I know I tried to tell my mom a few times.
Because I was terrified that he would somehow find out, and would kill my mom, my favorite person, I always chickened out.
By the time I was 12, I had blocked it out, and didn’t really remember what had happened. That doesn’t mean the trauma didn’t affect me. I acted out a lot, and was most certainly being affected by the trauma, but I was blind to why, because I had never been able to process what happened to me. I had buried it, along with my childhood.
When I was 12, I would go with a friend, to help her deliver her paper route after school. We lived in a small town, so we were allowed to hang out in town alone. The plan was to go to her place after we finished her route, and do our homework. It started raining, so we ran into the Nice ‘N Easy. My friend told me to wait there, and she would run to drop off a few of the papers, so I wouldn’t get so wet. She knew the store clerk, an older guy.
After she left, he chatted with me. Small talk, really. He then told me, that I could come back behind the counter and see what it was like back there. I was so young and naive, I just thought that was so cool. It was like getting to go backstage in a show. Once I went back there, he cornered me, and started trying to feel me up. I was so scared and uncomfortable. I hadn’t even hit puberty yet. I was still playing with dolls and didn’t understand what was happening. He had cornered me into an actual corner, between the doorway to leave the behind the counter area, and the rest of the back area. He had his arm up to block me, so I couldn’t get away.
All of the sudden, my friend came back in. I screamed her name, and he got distracted. I dodged under his arm, but had to go toward the counter, because I couldn’t risk not being able to get out the door, on the other side. I jumped over the counter, like a hurdle, and we both ran out of there. I will never forget how terrified I was, and how much I wanted to punch him in the throat, as much as I needed to get away. I was infuriated, but he had all the power.
When I was a teenager (about 14), I was in and out of trouble with my parents. Because my dad was a psychologist and my mom was a nurse, they were well versed in the importance of mental health, and wanted me to go to counseling. For a brief while, I saw a psychologist. I didn’t get a great feeling from him. He made me uncomfortable. During one session, he got up from his seat, and sat next to me. He was trying to get me to open up. He put his hand on my thigh. I shot up off the couch and sprang to the other side of the room. I was still fresh from the experience in the convenient store. I was so done with men being gropey with me, that I told my mom, and she let me get a new counselor. This time, I got to pick a woman.
When I was a senior in high school, I worked full-time at McDonald’s. I met a lot of great friends there, and ended up moving in with one. My parents were divorced, both in a battle over child support money that they both needed, because we didn’t have a lot of money. I was caught in the middle, and since I worked full time, I really just waned to not be involved in the drama. The friend I moved in with, lived in a double-wide trailer, about a town and a half away from my town and school.
She lived with her boyfriend, and 2 other guys, who were crashing with them. One of the guys apparently liked me a lot. He constantly remarked at how pretty I was, to the point that it got incredibly uncomfortable. When my friend gave me the choice of the spare bed, couch or recliner chair to sleep in, I chose the chair. It really was comfy, but also made it way harder for that guy to try anything. Anytime we would be hanging out, he would poke me, and try to be handsy with me, and I cringed every time. It got so bad my friend finally told him to leave me the hell alone. He knocked it off after that, but it wasn’t until my friend told him to respect my boundaries, to be left alone, that he was finally called out to a level that made him stop.
I was raped, when I was in college. Yeah, I know. Why does this keep happening to me? This was before I had unblocked being raped as a child. This wasn’t a violent rape. It was the type of “acquaintance” rape, we are talking more and more about. I had had way too much to drink, which many might blame me for. It’s certainly why I never reported it. I knew I would be told I drank too much, and it was my fault. I was hanging out in front of the off campus apartment, where I was living, during my senior year. I met this cute guy, hanging out at my neighbor’s.
He invited me to walk back with him, to his place, to hang out. I said sure. It was the weekend, and like I said, he was cute. On the way, we took shortcuts through yards and over brick walls, because they were just shortcuts he knew. I sprained my ankle at one point, and he was a complete gentleman. We got back to his place, hung out for a while, and then got on the top bunk of his bed, to make out. Once it started to go too far, I told him to stop. I said the word “stop” and “no” multiple times, while trying to push his body off me, but he was too heavy for me to over-power him, and I was too drunk.
I did the proverbial walk of shame, later that next morning. I had to go to the health center to get crutches, the morning after pill, and the doctor told me I would need to wait about 3 months to be tested for HIV, and then I would want to keep getting tested every 6 months, for the next year or so. I saw him out at a bar a week or so later, when my friends encouraged me to at least come out to have a drink with them. He apologized profusely and said there was no excuse, not even him being drunk, but he really didn’t even remember what had happened, until one of my friends told him. I’ll never forget, since that was the moment I thought I lost my virginity, in the last way I ever hoped to lose it.
Years later, when I finally remembered the childhood trauma that I had blocked out, I eventually realized that my virginity had never really been mine. It had been taken from me long before I ever even thought of giving it away.
Seeing what the men in the Republican party are doing to Dr. Ford now, disgusts me. It also confirms my suspicions, that if I had ever come forward with any of these allegations, toward any of the men who had put themselves upon me, I would have invited myself to be attacked by more men. Not sexually, but it would result in me reliving those horrible experiences again and again. That’s why so many women are exulting her bravery. It is not to be understated. It is no small thing, to come forward with a claim of sexual assault, attempted rape, rape, or molestation. You will 100% be told you are lying, don’t remember details correctly, should have reported sooner, and are making it a bigger deal than it is.
Dr. Ford has no reason to lie, and nothing to gain by this, other than justice. What I can’t stomach, is that I see so many women standing up for Dr. Ford and so many men standing up for Kavanaugh. Senator Grassley and Senator McConnell should be shamed from the Senate, for not taking this seriously. This is not Democrats trying to discredit their nominee. They didn’t do this. Kavanaugh did this, when he put himself upon Dr. Ford, when they were teenagers. It doesn’t matter that it has been 35 years. It does matter, that he has never accepted responsibility for his actions, and it matters a lot that the Republicans backing his nomination to the Supreme Court are more concerned with confirming him, than they are at fully vetting him.
That’s not the way our Senate is supposed to work. Just as they are supposed to check and balance abuses by our Executive branch, they are supposed to check and balance the Judicial branch. Extensively vetting a nominee for the highest court, is part of that duty. It is a sacred duty, and it is a higher calling. It cannot be all partisan politics. It has to be public service, for the greater good. The greater good absolutely, must include full agency, autonomy, and justice be preserved not just for men, but for women.
Her life was permanently marred, by Kavanaugh’s actions, in high school. I’m sure he thought he would never be caught or held responsible for pushing himself on her. To quote his own thinking, “What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep” (‘What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep’: Kavanaugh remarks in 2015 speech get renewed scrutiny)
I don’t know what other American women see, when they see the pictures of Kavanaugh, in his heyday. To me, he looks like the epitome of rich, entitled, white prep boy. This is a class of boys, who grow up so rich, they have no idea that most of the world has no where near the privilege they have. They aren’t raised to care about others, only about getting what they want, because they are rich and entitled to it. They take what they want. They have the most decked out locker rooms, to talk about any kind of locker room talk, they desire.
Is this an unfair characterization? If women all women reported all sexual assault, you would be shocked to find how many girls have been raped by boys fitting that description. It’s an epidemic, and the worst part is, grown men in the Senate are perpetuating that culture. They are excusing it any way that they can, and they are doing everything they can to cover it up and sweep it under the rug. If they weren’t. Grassley and McConnell would both be requesting an FBI investigation and they would subpoena Mark Judge, before asking Dr. Ford to testify. They would have sensitivity to what she is saying happened, and they would take her claim as credible, for no other reason than she has no reason to lie. If they cared about the justice of it, they should want to know if it is true, and that would mean a proper investigation, and it would not mean putting the onus on Dr. Ford.
My story and the different things I went through are so commonplace, that they won’t make much noise. That’s because there are so many worse stories out there. That doesn’t make the trauma or the pain less, but it does make you feel the weight of the history of women being oppressed. Yes, this happens to boys and men too. The problem is, that in the history of man-kind, men typically have full agency, autonomy, and power. They have historically over-powered women in a systemic way. It seeps into every part of every culture. We go from being our father’s daughters to our husband’s wives. We go from belonging to one man, to belonging to another man. That used to mean as real property. Women were literally given their hand in marriage, to the best buyer. The dowry was a bribe. Money, livestock, and anything else that made the woman have any value at all, being that she was not endowed with power or worth of her own making.
Yes, we have long since left those days, but that doesn’t mean men have fully gotten the memo, that women don’t owe them anything. If a guy buys a girl a drink at a bar, does she owe him something? If he buys her dinner? Where is the line of demarcation? At what point does a woman lose her autonomy and agency? When she becomes pregnant and loses the right to chose what happens to her body? When she’s walking down the street and a man decides her butt looks good enough to slap? When a guy decides she is sleeping, so she won’t even know?
When Anita Hill showed the world what courage looks like, I was still very young. I was 13, and my parents were in the middle of getting divorced. I remember her raising her hand. I remember the hearings, with mostly old white men starring her down, and thinking how terrified she must have felt. I didn’t know much, but I remember the feeling in my gut. I knew she was going to get clobbered by those men. I ached with sadness, that she wasn’t better protected at the time. I’m grateful that she is speaking up again now, considering she is certainly well versed in the attacks Dr. Ford is now receiving.
If we are truly going to learn a lesson, from what Anita Hill went through, then I say it’s time we put it to men to stand up and say what kind of man they are. Hence the title of this piece “Quiz – What Kind of Man are You?”. I chose that title, because I keep seeing the same patterns of discourse from men. “Geeze! What are we supposed to do? Can we even say hi to women, without them crying rape? What the hell?” These men need to take a seat, read more stories, like mine, and hear more women. They need to stop putting their “fun” ahead of the full equity and equality of women.
Here is a starting point. Pick what type of man your are, and then we can work on how to proceed:
It’s Not That Big of a Deal, Man
This type of man will always put all the responsibility, on a woman. If a woman is put upon by a man, she welcomed it, she didn’t do enough to prevent it, and she didn’t report it fast enough. It’s never the fault of the man, and if it was, it was either a long time ago, or she should have done something differently.
Your remedy: Stop doing that. Sit down and listen to more women. A lot of women don’t report, and your perspective, your rhetoric is the problem. You may not have committed assault against a woman, but your excuses inflict damage, and allow assault to be explained away.
It’s None of My Business, Man
This type of man will always try to say this is a private matter. It’s none of his business, and we shouldn’t talk about it. This type of guy will also encourage girls/women to pretend it never happened. Just don’t talk about it and move on.
Your remedy: Stop doing that. Period. You cannot sweep this under the rug, and you disservice all women. Imagine every woman you care about, has been raped. I know, it’s a really horrific and uncomfortable feeling, right? Now imagine that she can’t say anything, because she has seen you suggest that we shouldn’t talk about it. You have shown her how you’ll respond. She knows she won’t have your support, which means she will never get the support she needs.
He’s Got a Bright Future, Man
This type of man will excuse what happened, as not as of big a deal as the woman is making it out to be. He was drunk, or it was a long time ago, or it was just horseplay. Your bottom line is that this guy has a bright future, and you don’t want to see it ruined. To you, the man is more important than the woman. Not just more important. He is the only one, who’s future you seem concerned with. Her justice is never as important to you. Her injury is more an inconvenience to you, than anything else. Her past and future take a back seat to his past and future.
Your remedy: Stop doing that. Anytime there is an allegation of sexual assault, take it seriously. Spend at least a little time, trying to imagine someone else having power over you. Their breath on you, their hands on you, and their whispers in your ear. You have to remember, that in this reality, you have no power. Now, imagine telling the world, just to have them say the person who did that to you has a bright future. How much does that matter to you? What about your future? Now go walk a mile in high heels, and do that, every time you start to think the man’s future is more important than ensuring justice for the woman. Imagine every woman who comes forward, is the woman you care most about in this world. If that woman is your mom, imagine it was your mom, when she was young. If it is your sister, your wife, or a really close friend, imagine them being handed these excuses. You don’t have to be the father of a daughter. You just have to care about at least 1 woman. Imagine it happened to them, and then consider how much you care about the man’s future.
The real remedy, is for men to condemn other men who perpetuate locker room talk, especially when it includes talk of “she wanted it”, “she was so drunk, she didn’t even know”, and “I just grabbed her by the pussy”. This is a problem, that women have been grappling with, since the dawn of time. I say grappling, because it is as difficult as rock climbing a treacherous cliff. One slip and we will get seriously hurt. We shouldn’t have to carry pepper spray, adjust our clothing, cover our drinks so they don’t get spiked, walk in groups, pretend we are on the phone with a boyfriend or a man who will protect us, but we do. This is a problem that women have always had, and it won’t stop being our problem, until men make it their own problem to fix. Women need men to be the men we need them to be. Ones who have our backs, as much as they do their “bros”.
He’s Got My Back, Man
I don’t know Dr. Ford or her family, but from what I’ve read, she spoke about this attack, in therapy with her husband. I’d wager her husband falls in this category. I have seen many men on social media saying that they have her back. I see a lot of men standing up and saying we should believe her. I see a lot saying that we need an FBI background check done immediately, that Mark Judge should be subpoenaed to testify, and that if the claims have merit, the nomination should be withdrawn. I’ve seen quite a few of these men, recently. I would like to see a whole lot more. If you aren’t this kind of man, then you are, by default, one of the types described above.
In today’s society, men hold power. If you don’t believe me, check the organizational chart at the company you work for. Just look at the executive board. I doubt 1/2 the companies out there have even 50% of their board led by women. Then look at a map of Congress; House and Senate. Check how many men represent us, and how many women. This country is 51% women, but our government is mostly run by old white men, many of whom came from rich, entitled prep-boy upbringings, where what happens in their rich, secret clubs, stay there.
In order for society to do right by the women, who keep coming forward in this age of #MeToo, we need the men to stand shoulder to shoulder with us. Either you have our back, or you are just another man, with your foot on our neck.