“Why is she only bringing this up now?”
“This is political, nothing happened to her.”
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford did wait decades to talk, and I know why. So do millions of other women and men who have walked in her shoes or in an even worse pair.
A lot of people who have never been in Ford’s position seem to believe they’d know exactly what to do if they were a teenage girl who has narrowly avoided being raped. To hear these men explain it, they would’ve handled sexual assault with righteous ease. On social media, we’re treated to earnest explanations as to how they’d have gone to the police right away (or, as Donald Trump suggested, straight to the FBI) and gotten their attacker locked up. Forever.
Except, of course, it never happened and that woman is just a lying bitch.
This highlights once again how very little men understand about the reality of being a woman, no matter how often we try to explain it to them. The #MeToo movement had underscored this inability to listen to women to devastating effect, and this week has served as the exclamation point.
A new hashtag was born: #WhyIDidntReport.
I’ll tell you why I didn’t report.
As a high school student, I was assaulted by a family friend twice my age. He had zero compunction about shutting me up, pinning me down and raping me. In my own home.
Over the years I’ve heard so many men explaining that women should fight harder, dress more modestly, stay sober, stay with friends. Literally everything except expect men not to rape us.
So, why didn’t I report? Well, I tried. I told my mother what had happened. Our life was pretty tenuous — we lived hand to mouth, sometimes without electricity and, for my last few years at home with my family, without running water. Our hardscrabble existence barely functioned as it was, and as my mother pointed out, if I told my stepfather what had happened to me, he would kill the rapist.
Oh, a lot of folks like to hear things like that. Comments sections under stories involving rape always have their share of chest-thumping proclamations from men who would kill anyone who raped their mother/sister/spouse/friend. Without digging too deeply into a psychology textbook, this sounds very passionate and "alpha male," but also, it’s not helping anyone. At all.
My mother wasn’t wrong, however. My stepfather loved all of us as his own, and probably would have found himself in jail for trying to avenge me. That was Mom’s concern. Where would we be without him?
So, yes — as a frightened survivor, I didn’t report. Out of misguided fear on my mother’s behalf, and out of my own self-loathing, disgust and terror in the aftermath of being violated. I have never "gotten over" the experience. It shaped me in many ways for many years, none of them particularly good. I’m better today than I used to be, and that’s good enough for me right now.
But you know what? If my rapist were a wealthy, silver-spooned legacy hire on his way to a lifelong appointment sitting in judgment of all Americans and with an eye toward stripping women of the rights to their own bodies, you bet your ass I’d be telling everyone who would listen what he did to me.
Ford told her therapist years ago, in 2012, what Brett Kavanaugh did to her. How was she to know that America’s Humiliation would try to seat him on the Supreme Court of the United States in 2018? Was she to believe in the Obama era that a cabal of sexual predators would be running the show several years down the line? I didn’t see it coming. Most of us didn’t.
Anyone whose response to victims speaking out is to immediately snarl, “She’s just a dirty little liar!,” was never going to believe that victim, under any circumstance. Consider Republican congressmen like Mitch McConnell, who, according to information released on Sunday, September 23, knew that more Kavanaugh victims would be coming forward and tried to accelerate the vote. Consider that the very day after Ford made her accusation, those Republican congressmen immediately produced a letter from 65 women who hadn’t been raped by Kavanaugh — this explains what, exactly? They were in the room with Ford and Kavanaugh, saw the whole thing and thought, by God, that was gentlemanly?
No. Their letter is meaningless.
A third victim has come forward with the legal assistance of Michael Avenatti.
Why don’t we report?
Perhaps if people listened to us, we would. Perhaps if some of the first questions many rape survivors are asked weren’t “What were you wearing?” followed by “Had you been drinking?”
Perhaps if Republican women didn’t wave away attempted rape with “What boy hasn’t done this in high school?” and enthusiastic support for putting an alleged predator on the land’s highest bench. Perhaps if Republican men didn’t have a long and grim history of saying things like “Rape is like the weather. As long as it’s inevitable, you might as well lay back and enjoy it.”
Perhaps we’d feel more confident if reporting didn’t often result in harassment, abuse, further assault and death threats.
And maybe, just maybe, we’d report crimes against us more often if more people tried listening to women…and actually paying attention to what we tell you.
I won’t hold my breath.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.