I’ve been quiet about the Brett Kavanaugh and Dr.Christine Blasey Ford situation, not because I don’t believe it’s true but because it probably is. Kavanaugh aside, this story is not a new one or even an unusual one to any woman.
My girls are 11 and 13-years-old and I’ve already told them to never leave a drink alone with a guy or to take a beverage that’s already open. I’ve taught them not to walk with headphones on and to always be aware of their surroundings, especially at night. I’ve taught them how to fight back. I’ve taught them that no always means no and if someone ignores their no, fight, run and report. It sucks that we live in a world where I have to teach my girls to be on the defensive so that they can try to stay safe but it’s even sadder that we live in a world where victims are shamed, blamed and not believed.
Christine Blasey Ford is my hero and a champion for all of our little girls. A true hero is one who stands up in the face of conflict and puts it all on the line for the greater good. She came forward because she felt it was her civic duty and the price she has had to pay is nothing short of everything.
“You’ve never been afraid to walk outside alone at night?” This is the question that I asked my husband.
“No.” He looked baffled at the idea of a grown person afraid to walk outside in the dark alone. He was completely unable to relate.
My husband is a 6’5”, college-educated, Caucasian man who weighs about 250 pounds. There’s not much that scares him and certainly, walking after dark alone, even in foreign countries, does not cause him any hesitation. I, on the other hand, have never felt comfortable walking alone at night. Even when I’ve had to do it. It’s done very quickly, hyper-aware of my surroundings and terrified of what could happen.
Yet, every young girl and woman that I’ve ever known is trepidatious at the least and more so terrified. There is an entire market based solely on this premise; pepper spray, female defense classes, Tasers and little pink guns. We are born into a world with a vagina and a knowing that this very fact makes us vulnerable.
We live on the defensive. We are taught from a very young age to protect ourselves, from the clothes we wear to where we go, what we do and how we behave. It is inferred that sexual assault is preventable if only we do all the right things but the moment we step out of those lines, we have put ourselves in harm’s way and we are, in some way, to blame. We knew better. We knew we weren’t supposed to walk alone at night. We feel shared guilt and shame as if we willingly participated in our own attack by simply being born a woman.
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If you were to talk to a million women, privately with promised anonymity, every single one could recount at least one time (but I’m betting from my own experiences, many more) that she was sexually harassed, assaulted or raped. I don’t know a single woman who has not been, at some point or another, pushed into a corner and been made to feel threatened and unsafe by a man. Not one woman who isn’t afraid to walk alone at night.
The saddest part is that we live in a world where powerful men, which are all men by the way, are given a pass. Somehow the world roots for the rapist like he’s the wronged. He is the underdog. We are ruining his life. Yet, women are cast as the villains who are destroying their attacker’s life by bravely recounting their truth in detail.
We are less than. We don’t matter. This is the message that we are perpetuating to our little girls and women. So we stay silent out of shame and knowing that we will be humiliated more than our abusers.
Do you know how many rapes go unreported in the United States alone each year? It is estimated that only 310 out of every 1000 rapes will get reported. That’s 2 out of 3 rapes that don’t get reported. Of those 310 reported, only about 6 rapists will be incarcerated.
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Christine Blasey Ford has risked everything to warn the world of the moral fiber of a man who is in contention to hold the highest moral position in the country. She has not only painfully recounted her story of an attempted rape which, in case you’re not aware, is just as scary as the real thing because the intention was the same. The feeling of being overpowered is the same. The feeling of helplessness and your own sexuality being used against you is the same. You are changed forever. The only thing that stood between Ford and a drunk Kavanaugh raping her was a one-piece bathing suit and a fluke interruption.
Ford walked away from that night, at just 15-years-old ( almost a child), feeling afraid, terrorized and never feeling safe again. She walked away grateful that he could not complete. She walked away feeling shame and guilt. She told no one because she felt like she bore some responsibility for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. She chose to be there, therefore she feels like she contributed. Which is insane.
The thing is Kavanaugh walked away laughing. Stumbled away drunk with his buddy. No remorse. HE felt entitled. He felt like he didn’t do anything wrong. He might not even remember it because it was so insignificant to him. He continued on with his life, kept walking around alone at night unphased or changed by the experience because he wasn’t the victim. He wasn’t then and he isn’t now. He is a criminal who wasn’t reported; nonetheless a criminal. How can he be considered to uphold the law when he himself breaks it? How can he pass judgment when he can’t even recognize that he committed a crime?
You see, sadly, the Kavanaugh’s of the world are not few and far between and rape is not just between strangers, behind dumpsters and in alleyways. Just because we know our abusers doesn’t make it less abusive and doesn’t imply consent. Men are not entitled to women’s bodies. Little boys are not just being little boys. No means no and rape is rape.
The sad thing is that we put the onus on girls, from a very young age. We teach them to cover themselves; to hide their bodies. We teach them to feel shame when they are the slightest bit sexual. We teach them that good girls don’t get raped. We teach them not to fight because no one will believe them. We teach them to judge and be judged by other girls.
I have a young teenager and in the past few months, I have heard several stories that have made me cringe because even in 7th grade, they were being groomed to be victims. The schools are telling our girls explicitly to hide their bodies because they are distractions to boys. A little girl was run out of our school because the bullying became so bad when she refused her attention to a boy. She was relentlessly called a slut and whore (at a Catholic school) and eventually she changed schools and her family moved away. Nothing happened to the boy.
Another girl was texting a boy all summer, when he tried to take it further and she refused, he told the whole school it was a joke. She was a joke. She thought he liked her. It was implied to her that if she did what he wanted, he would recant and she could be his “girlfriend.” Another girl, kissed a boy back this summer who was “dating” another girl, he told everyone. She became known to everyone as “the side piece” even to the girls.
Another 13-year-old girl, spent the entire summer fighting off the aggressive advances of her “boyfriend”. He spent the summer being the model citizen in front of her parents all the while trying to force himself inside their daughter. She was afraid they wouldn’t believe her. She eventually broke up with him but she no longer trusts boys.
These girls tell no one but one another; the keepers of their secrets. In some cases, they tell no one. I was harassed and assaulted on various levels throughout my life and I never filed a single report because maybe I was at a party? Maybe my dress was revealing? Maybe I had something to drink? Maybe I agreed to the date? Maybe I knew the guy? Maybe we were friends? Maybe we grew up together? Maybe I misunderstood? Maybe I was a prude? Maybe no one will believe me because he’s the star football player? Maybe he was cute and I flirted with him? Maybe I let him buy me a drink? Maybe I went into the room alone with him? Maybe I was walking alone in the dark at night? Maybe it was my fault? These are some of the things that go through our heads when we’re assaulted.
Or maybe he raped me? Violated me? Assaulted me? Pushed up against me? Tried to push inside of me? Maybe he grabbed and groped me? Maybe I was frozen in fear? Maybe I was sleeping and woke to him on top of me? Maybe I was just at work minding my own business? Maybe I trusted him and he locked the door and overpowered me? Maybe the only thing that saved me was a one-piece bathing suit or a knock at the door? A stranger walking by? Maybe I should have reported it because he’s probably doing the same thing to someone else’s daughter? Maybe I should have been brave for my someday daughters? These are the things that go through our mind when we are older and removed from the situation and find our voice and move past the fear of what people will think about us and move toward trying to stop it from happening again. There is power in numbers and sometimes we just need to know that we are not alone to know that we are not less than.
I have shared my Me Too stories, there are more. More than I can count. Starting at a very young age. I believe Christine Blasey Ford because I know it happens. Her story sounds like a thousand other stories. That’s the true crime; it’s a recurring scenario that happens probably daily to women and girls around the world. We stop it by telling our stories. There is no shame or guilt that any victim should ever bear. Her life should not be destroyed for telling the truth while our President makes excuses and supports a rapist who he calls a victim; who he calls a good man. Good men don’t lock young girls in a room and grind into them while their friend cheers them on and watches. I don’t care if he was a teenager, he has no remorse and there’s no reason he would ever stop because he can get away with it. Appointing him to the Supreme court is sending the message to women everywhere that we, as a nation, don’t care about you. As if that’s not glaringly clear from the government always trying to have one hand in our uterus, now they will have a judge holding us down by the throat while they shove their hand into our uterus.
Walking alone at night in the dark without fear may be a dream never realized by myself but I will fight for it to be a right my daughters can have. We need to teach little boys to respect little girls and to know what consent is. They need to know that little girls have human value and intelligence and needs. We need to teach our little boys that little girls are equal to them and it’s not okay to just take what you want. We need to teach them that there are not two sets of rules, there is only one and that is to respect one another.
My question is why do we live in a world where a victim is put on trial to prove her allegations and the world wants to give her assailant the benefit of the doubt? Why does it take a sacrificial lamb like Christine Blasey Ford to risk everything to inspire a nation to give women human decency and respect? I hope she inspires them to stop a monster.