I’m sick and tired of hearing the same talking points over and over again:
- Why didn’t she report it at the time?
- Why did she bring it up now? Isn’t the timing of this suspicious?
- Look at this coordinated effort to smear his character!
- If is was as bad as she says, why didn’t she call the police?
This is the same tired playbook that has worked for decades and continues to work today. Where’s the evidence blah, blah, blah. It’s been so hard for me to follow the news this week due to the Kavanaugh situation. It has been equally difficult to articulate why it has been so hard. So, the best thing I can do to communicate my frustration with the situation is to breakdown some of the assaults in my own life.
It started at home.
I was sexually abused repeatedly and continually as a child by my stepdad. From as early as I can remember to the day I moved out at 18 years old. It wasn’t always big things, but it was always there. I was trained to believe that my self worth was tied to how attractive I was to a man. Where did I land on the sex appeal scale? That’s all that mattered.
It wasn’t just him.
At twelve years old I was at a swimming pool with my mom. I was running around, jumping in the water and playing like kids do. My mom called me over to tell me that there was a group of older guys watching me. She then told me that it was important that I move like a woman when guys are watching me. You know, keep your back straight when you bend over, always pop a hip when standing still, bite your lip when they are looking, you know this kind of stuff.
Now, of course at the time I had no idea the advice she was giving me was abuse in itself. I trusted her to lead me down the right path. I began taking her advice right away. I stopped running, I stopped splashing, I stopped acting like an innocent 12 year old without even knowing it.
This wasn’t the only time I received coaching like this. In fact, this was probably as consistent as my stepdad’s abuse. I really didn’t figure out my life was weird until I was sitting in my 8th grade health class. I got a little older and one day I exploded at my mom telling her I needed him to stay away from me. I’m done with him! She said I was being silly and I needed to deal with it, he’s just a touchy guy.
People always criticize victims for not telling anybody.
Victims just need to tell somebody, right? Everything would be solved if they would just tell somebody when it happens. Well, I told somebody. I learned at a very young age that telling somebody, or complaining about it, was a reflection of my own weakness. This stuff is no big deal. You’re just being silly.
After this, I did just learn to deal with it. I started to believe that the only thing of worth I possessed was my sexuality. I learned to use it to manipulate people. I learned to use it to get what I want. I don’t think people realize how big of an impact these things have on a child’s brain. Not only did it permanently alter the way I thought about sexual things, but it impacted my entire world view. Nothing seemed trustworthy. I constantly questioned the motives of others. I didn’t trust my own instincts. I believed I was a terribly weak person that would never amount to anything. Those were the days, huh?
It’s not about rape or no rape.
Ok, what’s next? I was working at a small start up clothing company in California. I was sitting at my desk when a sales guy came down and whispered in my ear. And I quote,
‘Don’t worry, I have an 8 inch tongue and can breathe through my ears.’
Charming. It’s important to point out that by this time in my life I was very desensitized to things of this nature. My upbringing taught me to deal with this stuff. I felt sick, but this is what happens, right? This small, but growing company had just hired an HR person. They were doing interviews with all the employees. When it was my turn I told them about the comment this sales guy made to me. I didn’t really have an idea about what I wanted to happen, but I was asked if I had any concerns and I just blurted in out. I went home thinking I had done the right thing for the first time in my life.
Well, I got fired the next week. I asked why. The reason given was and I quote,
‘You just don’t fit in around here.’
Wow, that was quite a change of heart. Victims just need to tell somebody when it happens though right? ‘Tell the proper authorities and they will handle it’ is the mantra we always hear. Well, I told somebody and they handled it.
Sexual abuse causes long term impacts on everything.
By this time in my life I was angry, particularly at men. I worked retail and was disgusted by the lewd comments, the ‘accidental’ brush ups against my butt or boobs, the whole ‘I need a different size routine’ in the fitting rooms. I gave into the ugliness of this world. I was drinking every night and having frequent one night stands. I felt some kind of satisfaction treating sex like it meant nothing. I felt an odd sense of control. Until the day I lost control.
I was raped at a house party. It was a surreal experience. I’d heard stories of women getting raped and now here I was. I fled the house with my roommate trailing behind. I got into my car and started to drive. I quickly realized I didn’t know where I was and called a friend to figure it out. (this was before navigation was widely available) I got pulled over because I wasn’t using a handless phone. The cop came to the window and asked why I was pulled over. I told him I was using the phone because I didn’t know where I was and was trying to get home. He asked me why I was so frazzled. I said I was leaving a situation that was unsafe for me. “Have you been drinking?” he asked. I answered honestly, yes. At this point he raised his walkie talkie and said,
“Hey, we’ve got a girl over here walking the line. You should come over.”
I stepped out of the car and I didn’t have my shoes on. He looked inside and saw my shoes and said, “you better put those heels back on.” I put them back on obediently and did all the drunk driving tests while him, his partner and two other cops stood by chatting away about the night.
Now, I wasn’t a danger to anyone at that point, I had no weapon, I was being compliant. Why was it necessary to have four cops here? They just wanted a show. I was arrested and put in the back seat of the car. Only at this point did he ask me, “Do you want to tell me what happened tonight?” I looked down at my jeans and noticed the button and zipper were ripped. I replied no.
Part of the punishment for a DUI in California is completing a course about alcohol and drug use and mandatory counseling. I arrived at my first counseling appointment eager to get the process started. My assigned counselor was a male which I thought was interesting. I had only had female counselors in my life. He closed the door and started talking to me about how he had recently been divorced. He explained that he was really struggling and lonely. I told him I was so sorry, I know how he feels seeing as how I had just been through a divorce recently myself. He then offered up a deal. He would sign off on all my hours in exchange for oral sex. I was shocked. I played it off in the moment telling him I would think about it. I went home mortified and didn’t return to another class or counseling session.
I received a call from the director of the program a couple months later. He explained to me if I didn’t complete the hours I was going to jail. Could I explain why I wasn’t coming in? Was it a transportation issue? No it wasn’t. I told the director about the incident with the counselor citing it as the reason I wasn’t completing the program. He told me he was sorry to hear that. He then told me that he had received a similar complaint about this counselor a couple months earlier. The counselor was on his last chance, but he would have to be let go now. On his last chance?!, I bitterly thought to myself. Somebody said something and he got another chance. How many chances did he get and how many women didn’t say anything? Unbelievable.
Rape isn’t always strangers.
During this same time I found myself to be in a very abusive relationship. I was pushed around and raped on a pretty regular basis. When it would happen I would think to myself, I deserve this. This is the punishment I get for becoming the monster that I am today. Did I ever think to report him? Ha! Of course not! Everything in my life had proven to me that when you say something it just brings more pain. After a few months I decided I needed to do better for myself. I moved home to be with my dad, the one person in the world that I could trust.
And again, I told somebody.
The first time I ever told someone about the childhood abuse was when I moved home from California. I told my dad everything from the beginning, all the way to what lead me to sitting on this porch with him. It was emotional. It was hard for me and for him. He brought up going to the police about my stepdad. At first I said absolutely not. I have no proof, I have no desire to relive it, I’m ashamed, the police wouldn’t believe me. But it’s the right thing to do he said. He was right.
He drove me to the police station the next day. I sat in a room writing my statement. I was questioned about the allegations and why I was coming forward now so many years later. I answered all the questions and left the station feeling closure. I didn’t expect anything to come of it, but I felt good about doing the right thing.
Long story short, the state took my case. We went through a painful 4 year process that ended in a jury trial where we, me and my sisters, testified in open court. The defense strategy was to call me a liar, cite things in my past that made me look bad, painted me as not credible. Maybe we were coordinating this between the three of us to get some sort of revenge? There’s no proof. How come this report didn’t come sooner? Can you really ruin a guys life over a ‘he said she said’ situation? The whole nine yards. Sounds eerily familiar to the news right? And guess what? It worked. We lost the case. But hey, I told somebody. That’s all victims need to do, right?
Sexual assault/abuse is a real cultural problem.
Basically, I have figured out that if you’re on the receiving end of some kind of sexual abuse, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t when it comes to ‘reporting’ it. The impacts are the same whether you report or not also. There are still hardships I deal with to this day because of the things I’ve experienced making them extremely hard to forget. Trust me, I’ve tried.
The sad part about it all is that my life isn’t particularly unique in any way. This stuff is much more common than anyone wants to admit. I think when someone hears the word rape they think about some guy in the bushes jumping out to get an unsuspecting jogger. Surely the police are called in that situation, but that scenario is rare. The ones listed above happen to normal everyday people all the time. It’s an unfortunate reality for far too many.
People are shouting for a fair process when it comes to the Dr.Ford/Kavanaugh situation when, in reality, there is no fair process for stuff like this. What does a fair process even look like? It seems to me that a great starting point to a fair process is including law enforcement. If we don’t get more cases in the system there will be no reason for anything to change. Nothing is going to change until society views sexual assault as the crime that it is. We need to get to a point where the police are called in an assault situation as readily as when a burglary happens. But how does a child know to tell someone about their parents? Therein lies the problem. Ok, so I don’t have all the answers. What I do know is America needs to take a good look in the mirror and figure out how to change the culture surrounding sexual abuse because what we have going on right now isn’t working.
Here’s my last two cents. If I saw that one of these people I talk about here was going to be nominated to become a United States Supreme Court Justice, best believe I would send a letter to the Committee on Capitol Hill about it. So, do I think the timing of these allegations are suspicious? I’ll answer with a resounding no. It makes perfect sense to me.