This is not part of my “Do One Thing” crusade. But this thing is important so it counts as something that scares me and inspires me.
I’m not big on getting vocal on political shit because I know I don’t know all the sides when debates get started. I like to look at issues from all angles before weighing in. But this whole Ford/Kavanaugh thing has me shook.
Brian came in the kitchen the other evening and asked me “Why would she wait 30 years to say something? Who does that?” I stared at him in disbelief. My blood boiled over. In a split-second I launched a fiery rebuttal. DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE ASSAULTED? IF YOU DID, YOU’D UNDERSTAND WHAT IT TAKES TO COME FORWARD! He didn’t say anything more and walked out of the room.
Shit. An instant later I realized I’d missed a teaching moment. I realized I was reacting to the words and not the question. What I heard was an accusation and not an honest inquiry. I wished I would have given him a better answer. So, I’m gonna give that better answer now, here. Sometimes I write better than I speak but also because there are so many other good men out there who honestly don’t know why a woman just wouldn’t address something so awful in the moment it was happening.
The calm me – the one AFTER the angry answer – would say “of course you don’t know.” That is your privilege. It’s not his fault that he doesn’t inherently understand why women don’t come forward. But I can educate him. WE can educate all of them. And I can start now.
I was 19 years old. I had just gotten back in touch with a boy that I had casually dated nearly a year earlier. We barely dated. I was never really into him and there was no sex during our relationship. It ended because I had reached my limit of his bad attitude. He was self-absorbed; entitled. He had the propensity to be disrespectful and really mean. How I ever thought reconnecting was a good idea is beyond me.
He invited me to see a band at a bar with him and his friends. So, one weekend I made the trip down to visit him at his college. We were all underage at the time, so before we headed out to the bar, we plied ourselves with alcohol. So. Much. Beer. I remember playing some kind of chandelier quarters game. I wasn’t keeping up with the other players. I’ve never been good at chugging beer. Mostly everyone offered me passes when it was clear I couldn’t finish my beer. Except him. He taunted me. When he had to assign a beer to someone, it was almost always me. Make no mistake – he was bullying me. And I took the bait. I drank. And drank. And drank. I was tough. I was going to play and win.
By the time we set out to the bar and the band, I was easily drunk. He had buddies that got us into the bar and able to drink because I clearly needed more. But none of that factored for me. I was actually having fun. I was meeting new people – guys and girls. We were laughing and dancing. When it was time to go home things start to get fuzzy. I couldn’t find my coat. It was February. He put his arm around me in the car ride home. I don’t remember much after that. It’s in and out. Drinks in the kitchen. His living room. Kissing. Then darkness. When I came to, we were in his room. He was on top of me. Grinding. Not even kissing me anymore. I was half-dressed. I think at that point to him I was just some faceless body. I looked around the room to get my bearings. I felt sick. I shook my head and tried to move my arms. I tried to shimmy out from under him. Did he notice? No. Then I heard it. Foil ripping. I was still trying to understand where I was and what was going on. I felt him. And I knew what was happening. The voice in my head was screaming NO, NO, NO, NO. But I couldn’t make my body do what my mind insisted it do. Flee. Was it the booze? Was I scared? Was I immobilized by shock? Likely a combination of all of it. And then I gave in. I let it continue. I disconnected from my body and let my mind go somewhere else, somewhere safe until it was over. Until he was finished with me.
The next morning was uncomfortable. Awful. Suddenly I was a stranger to him. His disinterest in me was palpable. I was clearly an unwanted reminder of the prior evening. So, after some awkward parting “pleasantries” I headed back home. I cried the entire way. But by the end of that car ride, I had recreated the events in my head.
It was my fault.
But these things happen all the time.
So really it was no big deal.
I was fully participating in how I got there, how much I drank and what happened with him. I wanted it.
Truthfully, I never believed this new story. But I had to repeat it to myself. Every hour. Every day. It was my coping mechanism. It was how I survived. And know I never told anyone about what happened. Not a single person. Not for a long time. I was ashamed. Embarrassed. Hurt. Humiliated. Scared. Disgusted.
For me it was an experience that haunted me for years. For him it was probably a blip, a forgettable lay. Every time I hear about a woman coming forth with a story, a revelation, I relive that night. He, however, has probably moved on – gotten married, had kids and never thought of me again.
So why do women wait so long to say something?
Because we aren’t surrounded from birth by reinforcing messages that ensure we understand and demand our value in this world. Because it isn’t until we are older that we can see past messages like “your skirt is too short” or “you wear too much makeup” or “you asked for it” all for the sake of “boys being boys.” It takes decades get over the PTSD of such events and accept that those messages were wrong. That you have value. And that value deserves the respect of every single fucking person on this planet. That person disrespected you, but it wasn’t your fault. It was theirs.
And when we come to that realization – it is liberating. And for us – those coping – it is cathartic and empowering. But it’s not everything. It is not enough. We may begin to heal but that does not cure the disease. Because we soon understand that if we do not share, if we do not speak up, assert our value, demand their respect, we are dooming the next generation of women. Our daughters. A thought that sickens me. One that shakes me to my core. I don’t know about you, but I plan to fight for my daughter. I would burn every transgressor to the ground if it created a safe environment where she believed in her value and that value was honored unconditionally.
However, we have demonstrated time after time that we are willing to look beyond those transgressions against women. They blatantly brag that they can do “whatever they want” to us and we elevate them to this highest position in our country. They are found guilty of drugging, assault, rape and at the very best they receive a brief time in prison and at the worst they are given large lump-sum payouts. And now, we will appoint a man, who very likely did these unthinkable acts, to a position in which he can have more power over the rights of women. He did not have respect for those rights before, why would we believe he respects them now. What makes him deserving of MY respect?
The women coming forward now face public ridicule, death threats, disbelief, and ruin. So why are they doing it? Because they are sacrificing themselves so that no other girl, woman, mother, wife, sister or daughter questions their value and falls prey to those that would take it from them. That’s why.