The unbelievable cruelty of the GOP’s Kavanaugh charade

When I hear people shouting on TV that an assault in one's teens doesn't matter, it feels like they're shouting at me, too.

This past week, my private reality and the public reality playing out on the television have diverged. It’s hard to believe that I live in the same world as Senator Chuck Grassley, the Senate judiciary chair trying to Brett Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court.

When Christine Blasey Ford first alleged Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her—and when talking heads on TV began doubting her veracity, or insisting that the assault was not a big deal—a different conversation began.

It’s a private conversation, one-on-one, mostly. A few of us posted about sexual assault in general or about our own past assaults on our Facebook pages. Then the private messages began.

In some cases I knew my friends had been assaulted. Sometimes I knew because we were friends when it happened, and they’d told me at the time. In other cases, the rapes or assaults occurred long before we met, up to four decades ago.

In other cases, I found out this week.

Often, I don’t know the details of what happened to my friends. The details are painful to talk about. They’re painful to hear.

I know: I re-lived each of my past assaults in the last week. Four of them.

To those who think something that happened decades ago can’t be that big of a deal, you’re wrong. When you’re sexually assaulted, you can suffer long-term consequences, stored in your body. My body learned early on that sex is dangerous, and it keeps me safe with pain.

Since my first sexual experiences were assaults, I’ve never once had a sexual experience that wasn’t painful. I’m afraid of sex. I don’t desire it. Why would I? It just hurts.

I’m in therapy now, trying to recover from what happened in a college dorm room 18 year ago. I’ve spent the entire past week with a migraine because of the nonstop talk about sexual assaults and the government’s unwillingness to take sexual assault allegations seriously.

Hearing people on TV say that an assault in one’s teens isn’t a big deal, or that the woman cannot be believed, and so on, feels personal. It feels like they’re shouting at me, that I can’t be believed either.

In all of my private conversations with other survivors, there’s a common understanding. We all know that if we spoke out publicly about our past assaults, most of us wouldn’t be believed either. So often there are no witnesses. One shower and one load of laundry destroys the evidence.

It’s hard to admit to oneself that one was powerless. Weak. A victim. I like to see myself as strong, independent, and decisive. If someone tried to do something to me that I didn’t want, I would resist. And yet, I didn’t.

Instead of accepting a narrative of myself as weak, I dealt with what happened by attempting to forget it. I mostly did forget it—but my body remembered.

On TV, politicians say that it’s unreasonable to hold a man accountable for an assault he committed decades ago. Why on earth not? His victim is almost certainly still suffering from it.

I wish the politicians could hear what I’ve heard in all of the private, one-on-one conversations of the past week. But speaking out makes one vulnerable. That’s why most of these conversations remain private.

Shouting at women to silence them might get your man onto the Supreme Court. It worked for Clarence Thomas, and it can work for Brett Kavanaugh. But it doesn’t change reality, or make you right.

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson writes about food, agriculture, the environment, health, tolerance, and well-being. Currently pursuing a PhD in Sociology at University of Wisconsin-Madison, she’s the author of “Recipe for America: Why Our Food System is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.” Distributed by OtherWords.org.

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5 Responses to The unbelievable cruelty of the GOP’s Kavanaugh charade

  1. It is sad to read your story. I take it you were raped. Good sex between consenting adults can be some of the best times in one’s life for most people. I was an emotionally challenged horny teenage male so the stories the women are telling are believable. What is hazy is – was the main male perpetrator Kavanaugh? Ramirez and Ford say they were drunk at the time. It was over 30 years ago. Ford can’t remember exactly where and when. Ramirez was not sure it was Kavanaugh for days when first bringing it up. It is clear that Kavanaugh drank too much as a teenager. Drunk teenage boys do many stupid things. nasty things to girls. On the other hand, my best friend who lived across the street, was intentionally slept with so the girl could get him to pay for an illegal abortion for the pregnancy of the real father who moved away.

    • gepay, I don’t know about Ramirez, but Ford said she had ONE beer before she was assaulted. She did NOT say she was drunk. What difference does it make if Kavanaugh was the “main male perpetrator”? He is a liar and does not deserve to be on the SCOTUS, or in my mind a judge in any courtroom. His behavior demonstrated that very clearly.

  2. You’ve come a long way, baby: From the sexual revolution of the sixties and the “we can do anything that a man can do” of the late twentieth century to the current bourgeois anti-feminism of MeToo, women as delicate snowflakes needing extra-Constitutional protection. These sorts of identity politics witch-hunts that have citizens fighting one another instead of organizing are preventing the adoption of genuine feminist programs such as universal health care, livable minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, free access to birth control, free government child care and so on.

  3. I recall the case of Mike Tyson. Easily cast as a villain because of his ring persona, he was a sitting duck for a mad dog prosecutor. A pretty former Miss America contestant went with him and his retinue to his apartment alone around midnight. In a “he said/she said” charge of rape, absolutely no physical evidence or witnesses, Tyson ends up doing years in prison on a felony rape conviction. Didn’t the jury see something peculiar in those circumstances? Ms. Ford, a young teenager, was allowed to go to a house party unsupervised by adults where, as she knew, older boys were drinking alcohol as she also was; decades later, she makes allegations.

  4. Did Christine Ford say she was “drunk” at the time. I am pretty sure she said she’d had “a beer.” In my mind that doesn’t seem to mean the same as being “drunk.”