There are many brave, courageous, heroic heroines…..and ‘she-roes’…. in my life.
After recently posting a blog describing my personal experience of having been sexually assaulted as a girl and again as a teen, the response from female friends has been overwhelmingly affirming, heartfelt….as well as stunning and profoundly sad.
Within a day or two, nineteen women connected by phone, text, email, in person, and by posting on my blog site….the majority sharing with me their own personal experience of sexual abuse, incest, sexual assault and rape….as children, while in their teens and as adults.
Some disclosing for the first time.
Each story vivid. Compelling. Laced with agony filled memories.
The post was read by all of my family ‘guys‘, who quickly responded with loving, supportive comments on my Facebook page.
I received an immediate call from my oldest son, expressing his anger at the thought of anyone inappropriately touching his Mom or causing her to experience fear or shame.
The primary hesitation I had in sharing my story was the potential impact it might have on my sons….on these thoughtfully conscious allies who have a history of not only respect and high regard for women, but who are unabashedly vocal and outspoken in their support.
But as a Mom, I have that innate desire to protect them from ‘everything’….especially from angst and concern relating to me….or their Dad.
My reason for hesitating reflected in his first few words….”I am so sorry that happened to you, Mom.”……soft, sweet and consoling, while also pricking that deep-seated shame and embarrassment.
As our dialogue continued via a Boston to Portland Facetime conversation…. a discussion which included his Dad sitting beside me on the couch….we ventured into a combined curiosity of questions on a cultural and societal level:
What are the detrimental messages of privilege…. in the form of power and control….being received by young boys/men regarding young girls/women?
How are boys/men bestowed a sense of entitlement over access to female bodies?
Have we developed and provided a common language of ‘consent’ for both sexes, and if not, how might we impart a respectful template of discourse to take the guessing out of potential sexual encounters?
How do we move forward shaping a culture of mutual respect and equality for men and women?
Much has happened in the week since our family discussion.
I watched a credible, respected, educated, anguished woman share her pained story of sexual assault….with the world watching. I ached for her, imagining myself sitting in her seat, facing a wall of men, many of whom had already discredited her publicly before she spoke a word.
I felt nauseated throughout her testimony. My stomach tight and in knots. I had to remind myself to breathe.
She, like me, is a sexual assault survivor, so I admit my bias in her favor….absolutely believing her testimony as she related a precise depiction of the actual assault. Her ‘foggy’ recollection and inability to recall day, perhaps even month…..and the loss of before and after details, made total sense to me.
I do not remember what happened before or after the first sexual abuse at age 11. I have no idea exactly when it happened….was it spring? summer?…. or at what point I walked back home after the assault, who I might have walked with, what happened the next hours, days. But….every moment of the assault is 100% imbedded in my brain…..I see him, I see me....what happened before and after, or even when exactly it happened….no longer reside clearly in my mind. They were not the important details my brain held on to. My mind held on to what mattered.
Last Thursday, I watched an equally well-educated, much respected man respond to accusations.
Admittedly, my pre-conceived notion was this candidate has not been supportive of the rights of women, the LGBTQ community or any marginalized group; he has been noted as someone in favor of expanding presidential authority; so for these and many other reasons, I was not in favor of his nomination. Regardless, I was open to giving Brett Kavanaugh the benefit of the doubt, and possibly my support of his appointment, based on his testimony.
He deserved to be heard.
Brett Kavanaugh was not on trial. This process was the equivalent of a job interview. We, the citizens of the United States, would be his employer for the rest of his life and assessing his ability to do a job, an assignment for a lifetime, someone who will be instrumental in decision-making impacting all aspects of our lives….required our minds be open, our time and attention riveted.
I watched. I listened.
I was not impressed.
I have been the recipient of male anger…it can be frightening, especially to women. Brett Kavanaugh was a man in a rage.
I had moments when I held concern that he would lapse into a break with reality….appearing incoherent, at times literally lost in a teen flashback….relating details as though they were happening in the moment.
This is not the demeanor or temperament of a Justice.
I observed a man of privilege and entitlement concluding he was justifiably owed a Supreme Court seat.
More disturbing than the fabrications he told during his testimony… (i.e., portraying himself as someone who worked hard to gain admission to Yale, when in fact he, like other students whose family members attended the University, would have received preferential treatment; characterizing himself as someone who spent his high school and college years only playing sports, studying or attending church, was in direct conflict with what many have described as an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and most likely a problem drinker; and purposely providing the Judiciary Committee contrasting definitions of sexually deviant behavior appearing in his high school yearbook) …are the partisan beliefs he conveyed during his statement and his insinuating a Democratic conspiracy against him…which raised serious questions of his ability to be bi-partisan and open in his decision-making on laws impacting every citizen of the United States.
His demeanor, his aggression, his verbal accosting of a female Senator, his misleading answers to questions at times falsifying information….are not, in my opinion, the characteristics required or desired of a Supreme Court Judge.
But my opinion will not matter much….my believing Professor Ford will not make a difference.
Brett Kavanaugh will be bestowed the position of Supreme Court Judge. I am certain. This is not a vote based on truth, it is one immersed in politics.
And…..I fear women will revert back to not reporting….and men will be emboldened to assault.
I am convinced in this current atmosphere that appears to prefer male aggression and dominance to equality and fairness; to admire leadership in the form of lies, bullying, name-calling and put-downs; that tolerates intolerance; that allows for attacking, discrediting and marginalizing women….going forward, Professor Ford and women like me….and you.…will not be respected, honored, believed or heard.
Our daughters, nieces….the next generation of our female family and friend communities….when attempting to speak their truth….are at risk of being marginalized, ridiculed, threatened and labeled…demonstrated by the appalling laughter and applause at a Mississippi rally yesterday, as the President of the United States mocked Professor Ford to the chant of “lock her up”.
We are in danger of being thrust into reverse, losing many of our hard-fought rights…..
….unless we march…en masse…to the voting booth on November 6th.
We can change the course of history, while proclaiming WE WILL NOT GO BACK!