Let’s begin with something basic…
Some people would look at this glass and say it’s half full of water. Some would say it’s half empty. Would you argue one group is correct and the other is wrong? Our ability to expand our critical thinking seems to be at the point of regress. Too often, we rail against anything and everything that is contradictory to our beliefs, and yet, sometimes both sides CAN exist simultaneously and be true. It’s possible for one person’s experience to tell them the glass is halfway filled, while also being correct for the person whose experience tells them it is halfway emptied.
The same basic idea applies to all kinds of things, such as people. You may know a lovely gal that’s been nothing but kind throughout your acquaintance, while my experience may be that she hurled curse words at me for not pulling out fast enough when the light turned green. Does either define her as a whole? No. Can both views of her exist and be true reflections of something in her character? Yes. However, going back to the regression idea, I’d argue that social media allows us to become more and more vocal about what we think with less impetus to listen to someone with an opposing view. That just dumbs us down and makes us sheep of whoever is spinning the narrative we identify with and latch onto. When faced with an alternate opinion or view, the collective “we” typically ignores it and continues on, steamrolling over the experience someone else is trying to share. Are all those things worth listening to? Hell no. But we’re robbing ourselves of intelligent discourse by automatically shutting out 50% of people simply because they believe something contrary. When that happens we end up glossing over basic tenents of morality by shutting out someone’s truth (or yelling at them about their stupidity) because it’s too inconvenient to hear or entertain. *sigh*
Now let’s move on to a more complex version of the glass idea:
It’s possible for a woman to be assaulted or raped by man that others label a “nice person”. Both of those experiences can coexist, regardless of how contradictory they are. Someone can be a criminal to one person and go home and show a completely different face to others. Most people that knew Ted Bundy thought he was a handsome, charming guy, and look how that turned out. So yes – both realities, no matter how contradictory, can coexist, making a witness to either version accurate and truthful.
(**Don’t run away just yet, please! I know you probably didn’t see the assault angle coming, but if you’ve found your way to this post, chances are you know me personally. Therefore, I ask you to base your opinion of this argument on your personal thoughts regarding me, if necessary. I’m not even talking about all women – or men – of the #metoo movement, or faceless people you’ve never met. Let’s just talk about me for right now.**)
I was raped. Multiple times. And I have been assaulted sexually… by a different man. *And* I have been sexually harassed by even different men. And the sad part? My story is not that original or unique. Let me tie this to current events and then we’ll come right back to me, okay?
Recent news is chock full of headlines about Brett Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh, if you’re living under a rock in the US, is currently undergoing hearings and seeking confirmation for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States. In the midst of these hearings, a woman has come forward claiming he sexually assaulted her in high school some 30+ years ago. Her claim has been met with stiff resistance from some, staunch support from others, and very little middle ground of people interested in just finding out the truth… which, in the end, should be all any of us seek. Each time I hear negative comments about her thrown about and witness the character assassination she is undergoing, it frustrates and saddens me. The length of time since the alleged incident doesn’t make it potentially less true, but that is one of the largest hurdles she has to overcome in the court of public opinion. It’s important to consider, though, that her silence all those years doesn’t automatically mean she’s lying. The timing of her accusation isn’t necessarily part of a bigger plot to derail the proceedings or delay them until the next election is complete. I wish, for just a moment, we could all step back and seek out the humanity we seem to lose when something doesn’t go our way – particularly in the political arena. (Sidebar: The hypocrisy of the politics alone is mind-numbing. Both sides of the aisle try to stall Supreme Court nominations every time a seat is available – hell, the last vacancy was during the LAST presidency and yet the republican led senate stalled for over ELEVEN MONTHS, making it impossible for the sitting democratic president to have his suggested nominee considered… all so the incoming republican president could take over the process with his choice. Are we so hard pressed for judges in this country that it has to be THIS man and it has to happen RIGHT AWAY? No. So, please don’t come at me from that sort of political game-playing angle of ‘if this then that’, or I will bury your argument immediately. It has no place here.) My point is, please take political agenda out of the equation and consider facts before condemning this woman and deciding she’s a fame-seeking liar. If Kavanaugh is going to be responsible for helping to shape our justice system, we should be interested – regardless of our politics – in at least hearing what this woman has to say. Even if it means waiting a week to try to confirm his seat.
But let’s get back to me, okay? …. My rape and assaults were, for the most part, also when I was in school. It may surprise or disturb you to know I was being catcalled by full grown men when I was as young as 13 years old. Before I fully entered puberty, adult males were yelling across streets and out car windows all the sexual things they’d like to do to my body. When I was in the 8th grade, and before caller ID, I received threatening anonymous calls telling me if I didn’t do whatever twisted things the man on the other end of the line wanted, he would hurt me or a member of my family. He said he knew I was in the house alone and had followed me there as I walked home from school. Could be, even at that very moment, that he was calling from a short distance away just waiting for me to flee and seek safety with a neighbor…. (Please note – also before I made it to high school.) Some years after these incidents, I was physically and sexually assaulted, and also raped. One assault happened on a summer night as I stood outside less than 15 yards away from, and in full sight of, a group of friends. While they were engrossed, laughing and cutting up with each other, a guy tried to get in my shorts and then wrapped both hands around my throat and said I would cease to breathe if I tried to call out for help. I wasn’t even eighteen. And while I was strong and athletic, his anger and sense of power made him stronger. And though I had plenty of courage, the rage in his face terrified and silenced me. It wasn’t 30+ years ago for me, but decades have passed since then. And like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, after it happened I shut my mouth. My silence, for the most part, lasted for a very long time. After suffering through the first unwanted advance, I had learned vitriolic public opinion and condemnation is akin to being assaulted all over again. I knew a large portion of people thought the ‘men’ that did these things to me were “good”. Their family and friends hadn’t seen the anger under the surface. Were blind to their need to exert control…. or their inability to hear and graciously accept the word “no”. Those people that knew these “good” men had experiences vastly different than mine, but that doesn’t make me a liar or a lunatic. It may be impossible for me to testify to the exact date or the names of the people that laughed and hung out so near me when I was choked, but I can tell you the way his breath stank in my face… how certain I was he meant every horrible word that came out of his mouth. It is well within my ability to fully recall how dismissive his voice was when he told me I was trash, that no one would ever love someone like me, and that my body was broken and ugly – in fact, I should thank him for wanting to touch it. There may not be witnesses to corroborate my story – how often does someone actually witness assault or rape??? – but I can clearly describe how sore my throat was after being choked, or how my head pounded the day a man grabbed my ponytail and yanked a fistful of hair out. My truth is capable of painting a clear picture of what a hand feels like cracking against your cheekbone, or what a beer bottle sounds like when it’s hurled past the side of your head. Just because I’m not sure if it was 60 degrees or if I was wearing pants, I can tell you on a polygraph or with my hand on a Bible or whatever test of veracity you can create, that every word I’m writing is true. It’s also true that at least some of those men went on to become “good people” to others and some went on to continue seeing women as prey. If I had opened my mouth sooner would it have changed anything? Possibly. But please don’t underestimate the need people have to see things how they want. A guidance counselor once compared my situation to that of a football game, claiming though a team may lose one weekend, they still dust off and get back on the field the next. Forgive me nanny, should you read this, but my innocence wasn’t anything like a fucking football game. Hearing that shut me down faster than just about anything else could. An adult I knew well and trusted thought comparing my body to a game that could be won or lost each week would heal me. Instead it injured me all over again. And yet we question why women don’t come forward sooner to use their voice and seek support or “rescue”.
This has gotten quite long and maybe even a little off track, but I hope you’re still with me, because now we’re closer to the crux of the whole matter. Take what you’ve read above and what you know of me as a person and evaluate whether or not you think there’s any validity to my story. I’d prefer you not inundate my comments with horrible or crude remarks if you think I’m a liar, like society claims so many women are, but if that makes you feel more powerful and draws you into a discussion, it may be a small price to pay. No need to tell me your conclusions about the credibility of my character – I’m just hoping to translate this object lesson (or that of the glass) into something much bigger.
So let’s see if it works. If I asked you to walk up to the next woman you know and say you wouldn’t believe her sexual assault experience, would you do it? Would you mean it? What if I told you that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime? Maybe that would make you hesitate a second. Would you be able to tell your wife/girlfriend that you wouldn’t believe it if she said this kind of thing happened to her 10 or 15 years ago? How about a respected coworker? Your sister? Could you walk up to your mother or your daughter and say that? Statistically one of those women close to you has been assaulted in a sexual way. Their personal and intimate space invaded and their view of safety changed forever. So please, PLEASE take a breath before your knee jerk reaction tells you “SHE’S LYING!!!” or you yell, “WHY DID SHE WAIT SO MANY YEARS TO TELL ANYONE???? IT MUST NOT BE TRUE!” 1 in 4 women means at least one person you know has experienced something that falls under the category of assault… so it shouldn’t be a shock that so many women are coming forward to talk about it now that they feel people might be compassionately listening, right? Before you jump on a bandwagon to condemn just because it falls outside the scope of *your* existence, please think of the glass and remember that her story of that man CAN coexist with yours. After all, we all have a side no one sees. I recently heard someone describe it best like this – we all have our public side and our internet search history side. YIKES! But even with all that being said, and perhaps against the odds, I still trust the majority of men. Surprising, perhaps, but I realize they can’t all be painted with the same brush of negativity.
You’ve come this far, so go one more step with me, okay? I ask you to please think about what we’ve discussed and then tackle this question – why do so many people automatically question the story of a woman claiming assault or rape? Have that many women falsely accused you personally that all women should suffer henceforth? Were you as close to that Hollywood star as a brother and can attest to their whereabouts at all times? ….. I recognize there are malicious and vengeful women that will, unfortunately, lie about something as serious as this and ruin the image of an honest man. It angers and frustrates me as much as you, but there will always be those that don’t take the moral (or honest) high ground. That shouldn’t lead anyone to believe that all of the other claims are false, however… Isn’t it bad enough that the onus is on women to begin with? I mean, we women are solely responsible for a man being unable to stop his dick from jumping into us, right? (Again, nanny… I apologize!) If skirts are too revealing or too much skin shows or we smile across the bar or dated him once before or had a couple of drinks with friends to lighten our stress or danced too provocatively to be pure or jogged down his street when he was home or laughed at his joke or slept with his friend or kissed him passionately or said yes the last time…. Any and all of those things should be a green light for a man to ignore any “NO” and hold us down, forcibly remove clothing, and put their hand over our mouth to stop us from crying out for help, right? Right?? ……………… Do you see how broken our very thought patterns are about this? Have you ever stopped to wonder how you’d react to your sister came home from a date bruised and shaking? Or if your girlfriend returned from a jog telling you a man pushed her into an alley and tried to force her to lick and suck his body? What would you do if it was your daughter quietly speaking up for the first time 5 years after the fact? Or we can bring it back to me… Have you wondered how you’d react, knowing me for X number of years, if I said once upon a time a man forced himself into me while tears rolled down my cheeks and my mind went numb and my body lay limp on a rough carpeted floor? Well, at least you don’t have to wonder anymore about that last one, I guess.
Please take care of one another, okay?
Also, I feel I need to say —- not all of you know these things about my past and what I’ve been through. I didn’t post it for a lot of probing questions (even now I’m not comfortable talking about it), and I definitely didn’t post this for sympathy. Please take that compassion you feel and extend it gently to the next woman you encounter with a similar story. Trust me when I say, she’s out there somewhere in your life and she needs you to believe her. xoxo
Actual statistics – not pulled outta my butt – from the national sexual violence website. And yes – I realize men are also assaulted physically and sexually, and it’s as horrible in that situation as in these. This sort of violence against women is far more prevalent, however, and this is based on my experience, so, there’s that… Thank you for the read and thank you (hopefully) for believing~