NOT YOUR FAULT
Christine Blasey Ford, I’ve Been There, I Believe You
I too waited three decades to tell my story of being sexually assaulted.
Christine Blasey Ford, I believe you.
I believed you before I knew who you were, before you revealed your name. I believed you before the details of sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh were revealed.
I believed you before I read a word of Sunday’s Washington Post story.
I was never concerned about the “timing” of the allegations. The fact that you did not call the police at the time or even tell your parents about what happened in that room comes as no surprise to me. The fact that you spoke publicly, for the first time, some 35 years after the incident gives me no pause. I understand why you wanted to protect yourself and your family when you initially wrote that letter to a congresswoman last summer.
I understand your decision because, like you, I kept my own secret for three decades.
Like you, I waited to name the man who sexually abused me in high school. He is not an elected official and he has never sat on the bench, but he did wield influence over the lives of children. He was a high school track and football coach when I was a varsity cheerleader at Normandy High School in St. Louis. I was 16 years old, all of 90 pounds, and in the years since 1984 I had never even told my mother.
The notion that he was still coaching teenaged girls many years later in a neighboring school district left me with what I believed was the obligation to come forward. I knew the personal costs. Although I could not predict the public backlash—especially from the parents of the young people he still taught in a classroom.
I never imagined how my story would be used to stoke ratings on cable news networks. I certainly did not expect death threats and the promise of civil lawsuits. He would not dare to sue me, because I knew for sure there had been others. I feared there would be more.
I carried that shame for more years than I was willing to admit. Keeping that secret was never about him. It was about protecting me. I never wanted to be the woman who people knew had survived sexual violence. Candidly, I did not want to be called a “whore” or straddle my legs on a examination table so a doctor could collect evidence from my body. I did not want to recount my story to detectives who looked more like him than me. I did not want to tell a prosecutor and a jury of 12 that a man had violated me.
So, I waited.
I waited 30 years before I told CNN anchor Don Lemon. At the time, the nation was grappling with the Jerry Sandusky scandal unfolding at Penn State. The fact that others had known what happened to those boys at the time and did nothing weighed on my spirit.
Don was a survivor too, I knew. With him, I felt safe. I will never forget the care with which he handled my story. I remember how I focused on his face, as if I were talking to him and him alone. But the levee had been broken and the tears never seemed to stop coming. Nobody was here for the months-long, debilitating depression that followed. My best friend and significant other soon left me. Unable to work with any consistency, in time, I lost my home.
So yes, Christine Blasey Ford, I believe you. More than anything— and politics be damned— I want you to know that you are not alone.
Unfortunately, I also believe congressional Republicans will not abandon the Kavanaugh nomination— this, despite multiple allegations of perjury, his lack of financial transparency and his failure to disclose the lion’s share of his records. They will dig in. I also believe this White House, led by a man who has himself been accused of multiple sexual improprieties, will stand by this nominee. This president will not lose sleep over this latest disclosure, because for him this a game of winners and losers. For him, what is moral and just does not make a difference. I believe that it is very likely that Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed to the highest court in the land.
Some will even contend that Kavanaugh’s behavior at age 17 should be dismissed as the mistakes of a drunken school boy and have no bearing on his future. This boys-will-be-boys (and dare I say “white boys”) mentality when it involves sexual impropriety presents a danger to every young woman. It says she will not be believed and, even if she is, it does not matter. She does not matter.
They are telling girls everywhere, including the basketball squad that appeared at his nomination, that they do not matter.
In the hours since your disclosure, you have been called a “liar” and labeled a “liberal activist” who cannot be trusted. GOP Senate Judiciary Committee members have attacked their colleagues across the aisle, accusing them of malfeasance and manipulation. They are openly assailing your character, and that of Senate Democrats, in order to save Kavanaugh.
Already, Senate Republicans have released statements on the matter that are designed to discredit you. They will accept Kavanaugh’s denials, despite evidence that you revealed the assault to your husband and therapist many years ago. Instead, they will use the word of the 65 women—women he did not trap in a room and whose screams he did not muffle—as a political shield.
Ultimately, they do not truly care about the November midterm elections. They are almost certain to lose the House and the Senate hangs in the balance. But confirming Kavanaugh now, before the specter of impeachment hearings, means a guaranteed Supreme Court vote on abortion, voter suppression, immigration and health care reform. They can win even if they lose.
I believe you, Professor Ford, with my whole heart and but let me be clear: Senate Republicans do not care about what you have to say. They do not care about what happened to you or to me. Despite conventional wisdom, they do not care about the next election cycle or what this president might tweet tonight. Their fight is focused on the Supreme Court, a body with the power to control the trajectory of our nation for generations to come.
At least one Republican on the judiciary committee has called for a “pause” while the allegations are investigated. In the end, I fear, that may not be enough. Some of the same GOP senators who balk at your allegations also dismissed Anita Hill.
I was 23 years old in 1991 and watched the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings live. I remember his righteous indignation before the Senate committee. I especially remember the term “high-tech lynching” and how he likened an inspection of his record to the black men and women who were hanged from trees, there bodies sometimes set afire as onlookers treated the occasion like a Fourth of July cookout.
They will stand with Kavanaugh because his vote on key issues is guaranteed.
That is not your fault. It is ours.