“I can’t imagine the horror of being accused of something like this,” Sen. Bob Corker told ABC news on Capitol Hill.
I can. I can imagine the horror because I have been there. I have been accused of lying, of fabricating a story in order to ruin a young man’s life. I have had hateful words thrown at me in an effort to shame and silence a woman who had been assaulted.
As awful as it is to have people demean you, slander you and accuse you of horrifying acts, there is something worse – being assaulted. As horrific as it was to feel publicly shamed and attacked, I would rather go through that a thousand times than experience the fear, indignity and degradation of being raped.
When news broke about accusations of attempted rape against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, many were quick to rush to judgment. We do not now, and may never know the truth of what happened. Yet for many, the lines have already been drawn.
What was really despicable, was the willingness some had to consider the allegations may be true, while also dismissing them as irrelevant. Some argued too much time had passed. Others said who he was now was far more relevant, and many simply felt the actions of a high school student should not impact his career decades later. These defenses rang as more horrific and grotesque than the words of those who chose to brand the victim a liar.
Sen. Orrin Hatch insulted her as “mixed up,” and claimed, “it would be hard for senators not to consider who [Kavanaugh] is today.” On Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, Sen. Chuck Grassley said, “we’re talking about 35 years ago.” Both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will question Christine Blasey Ford when she testifies this week, and both struggled to approach the situation in unbiased good faith. Sadly, their indifferent comments were not the worst.
In a tweet, former Congressman Joe Walsh described what Kavanaugh is accused of as being the “stupid, bad, or drunken behavior” of a minor. We were all teenagers once, and although everyone I know is guilty of many drunken and foolish mistakes, I have never known anyone to hold down a 15-year-old girl and stifle her screams while removing her clothing.
Bari Weiss, an opinion columnist for the New York Times told Stephanie Ruhle on MSNBC, “let’s say he did this exactly as she said. Should the fact that a 17-year-old, presumably very drunk kid, did this, should this be disqualifying?”
Yes, it absolutely should be. A 17-year-old is not a child and is completely capable of understanding the consequences of their actions. The controversy in question is not whether Kavanaugh should face charges, but whether he should be allowed a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. If evidence or convincing testimony suggests he may be guilty of attempted rape, this should not be ignored.
With so many conservatives willing to publicly defend Kavanaugh, I wondered if this was borne out of something more than politics. I found my answer when I read Alexander Zubatov’s column on Medium.
“This a woman who is now 50 years old. If she is still talking about this minor incident… there is something deeply wrong with her,” Zubatov wrote. “Unpleasant and uncomfortable things happen to us all the time. We need to deal with it.”
Zubatov went on to compare the act of attempted rape to the experience of being bullied and punched as a child, and to the experience of having his personal space violated by an unclean homeless person on a train. His disgusting diminishment of a traumatizing attack on a minor was shocking, but in a way it was the only explanation I could find for those who are able to defend or forgive perpetrators of sexual violence. They see it as a momentary event. As Dan Turner, the father of the convicted rapist Brock Turner, said, “[jail time] is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”
It isn’t 20 minutes of action, however, for victims of sexual assault. For them, it is a lifetime of pain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list some of the many consequences of sexual violence. They include gynecological complications, chronic pain, gastrointestinal disorders, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, eating disorders, strained relationships and suicide.
After my own experience with sexual assault, it was devastating to realize my attacker would never remember me, and yet his would be a face I would never forget. Even if the memory of his face faded, the physical consequences were worse. A severe eating disorder followed my assault, and the pelvic floor damage I suffer from has resulted in countless health complications. For Ford, her assault was significantly haunting enough to be brought up during marriage counseling decades later. To men like Zubatov, she and I are simply “weak and pathetic and entirely lacking in grit.”
If you view sexual assault through the perspective of those who may have committed it, it is not surprising that it becomes a forgettable moment in time. “Fumblings of young lust,” as Michael Graham for the Boston Herald put it, or “rough horseplay,” as Kavanaugh supporter, Carrie Severino told CNN.
If you can see it as simply a youthful dalliance, like Ari Fleischer on Fox News, it isn’t surprising you would question whether “any of us should be held liable today when we lived a good life…and then something that maybe is an arguable issue took place in high school? Should that deny us chances later in life?”
I am not a vengeful person. I have no desire to inflict my own pain upon others. However, if assault allegations brought up years later strikes fear into the hearts of those accused, that is nothing compared to fear a woman faces during countless therapy sessions, when she tells her future husband what happened to her before they met, and when she faces her accused in court. A man may have to deal with the consequences of his actions 35 years after the fact. The woman he may have assaulted has been dealing with the consequences of his actions for 35 years.
That, Sen. Corker, is what horror is.
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September 27, 2018 at 03:09PM