Like many of you, I have been infuriated by the reaction to Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party when he was 17, from people claiming she’s making it up for attention or a political diversion to those saying it shouldn’t matter that it happened because it was so long ago and Kavanaugh was only 17 and he was drunk, as if a 17-year-old’s behavior is never a reflection of his character or core self. “Infuriated” isn’t even a strong enough word. I’ve been so sick about it that I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s directly tied to my getting Shingles. Honestly.
Christine Blasey Ford was 15 when she says Kavanaugh assaulted her. I was 15 when I was sexually assaulted by a stranger in an elevator. I’ve shared this story before, but as a refresher: I was on a school trip to a Model United Nations conference, staying in a hotel with my group from school. At our hotel were groups from other schools and lots of people traveling on business trips. The hotel had a nice pool, and during our stay (which was maybe five days or so) there were a couple evenings that I hung out in the pool after our daily sessions at the conference. During these times, I rode the elevator down to the pool in just my swimsuit – no coverup or anything. Maybe I forgot to bring a coverup, maybe I was just in a hurry. I’m sure I thought nothing of it. I was 15 – I still felt like a kid. Kids ride hotel elevators in just their swimsuits sometimes. I’ve seen adults do it, too. I didn’t think anything of it.
Anyway, I was assaulted in the elevator, but not when I was wearing a swimsuit. It was morning and I was dressed in business attire for our conference sessions that day. I’d finished breakfast and was taking the elevator down to the lobby to wait for my group. I got into the elevator and there was this man in an ill-fitting, outdated powder blue suit. I’d see the man a few times that week (usually in the same suit). He was creepy looking and I always tried to avoid him, but here he was in the elevator I was about to step into and there was no way to avoid him unless I walked away or let the door close and waited for a different one. But that would be rude, and I didn’t want be rude. So I got in the elevator, the doors closed, and he pushed the stop button, pinned me against the wall, grabbed my breasts, grabbed me between my legs, and started sliding his hand down my underwear—at which point I was able to break from his grip, knee him in the groin, push a bunch of buttons to make the elevator start again, and run as fast as I could when the door opened. I was able to get away from him and get back to my room, which I was sharing with some classmates who were still there getting ready. I told them what happened and they told me I had to tell our teacher.
I didn’t really want to tell our teacher. I felt embarrassed. Like, really embarrassed, and I didn’t want to draw any more attention to myself. I wanted to just forget it had happened. My my friends convinced me I needed to tell our teacher and tell the people at the front desk so the man could be dealt with and not try the same thing again to someone else in the hotel. So, reluctantly, I told our teacher. And she looked at me and said, “Well, you’ve been running around the hotel all week in nothing but your swimsuit….” … Like, what did I think would happen? Of COURSE some creepy businessman would assault me. My teacher was a liberal, progressive feminist who was beloved by students. If SHE thought a teenager could basically ask to be sexually assaulted by the way she dressed, who would sympathize with me? I kept my mouth shut after that. I didn’t even tell my parents. The teacher never followed up with me in the weeks after, to see how I was feeling, to make sure I was ok. On a self-report I turned in after the conference, she commented that I would have gotten more out of the experience if I hadn’t spent so much time flirting with boys and hanging out at the pool.
People want to know why a 15-year-old victim of sexual assault wouldn’t come forward for over 35 years? Because girls in America are given every message available that even if their allegations of sexual assault are believed, they probably brought it on themselves, that it’s not that big a deal, that the assaulter simply couldn’t help himself, and that there’s no reason to bring him down over something that you were partly responsible for (by your attire, your behavior, by existing). And that’s if a girl is believed! Many are not. Many rightly believe they wouldn’t be or that their character would be dragged through the mud or that it would be a He Says/She Says debate that they are almost sure to lose because a male’s voice is ALWAYS valued more than a female’s. Christine Blasey Ford is a goddamn hero for coming forward, to protect the sanctity of our highest court and all of us affected by decisions made within it, when she has so much to lose (her privacy, her personal safety, her reputation, to name a few things).
Even now, in 2018, I have been hoping other women who were assaulted by Kavanaugh would feel called to make a similar personal sacrifice, risk being victimized all over again, and come forward with allegations against him because: you know there are others! If there was one, there are others. A guy like Kavanaugh — rich, white, celebrated, private school-educated, supported by a social circle that shares the same value system — doesn’t strike just once. He does it again and again and again because he knows he can. Like Trump, he believes he is entitled to whatever he wants, especially a female’s body. Egged on by classmates who think it’s funny, fueled by liquor, and supported by a society that values rich white dudes above all else, guys like Kavanaugh physically attack women more than once (to say nothing of all the other non-physical ways they attack us and compromise our lives and personal rights). So I hoped some of the other victims would be brave enough to come forward because the other given in our society, besides rich white boys getting away with whatever they want, is that the voice of one woman is worth maybe a quarter of the value of a single man’s voice (even less if that man is a celebrity, very wealthy, or a powerful political figure). You really need a chorus of at least four women refuting one man in order for their voices to matter enough to make a difference.
We now have the voice of a second woman, another hero — Deborah Ramirez — now alleging that Kavanaugh assaulted her. Two more women and even Republicans may begrudgingly take their allegations seriously. Just kidding, they won’t — not when a seat on the Supreme Court is at stake, as well as the ability to police women’s bodies and compromise our autonomy and our rights even more than they are already. But there just may be enough public outcry to prevent Kavanaugh from taking a seat on our highest court. Maybe.
I want to believe that Kavanaugh’s nomination will be withdrawn. I want to believe that even if it isn’t withdrawn (and it won’t be), the Senate vote will fall clearly on the side of decency. But I don’t know. So much of the reaction to Ford, and now Ramirez, has triggered all the fury I’ve ever felt about the way females are treated. I am furious and I am exhausted, and I am laid up in bed with Shingles, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I am literally fucking sick over this shit. Come on, America — step up and be better than this; our daughters are listening.
Related: Can we talk about Ford/Kavanaugh? and What it’s Like to be a Woman in America in 2012.