No one wants to tell about their own sexual assault, but I feel compelled to do so in solidarity with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who is being viciously maligned for speaking out about being sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh so many years ago.
These years of Donald Trump’s presidency will go down as a dark and shameful period in our nation’s history. A known sexual predator holds the highest office in the land. (We’ve all heard the Access Hollywood tape.) Now he has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and he continues to stand by Kavanaugh while insinuating that Dr. Ford is lying because she waited so long to tell her story, saying, “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents…” This same theme is being reiterated by other Republicans and across the internet: the implication that she is lying because she didn’t tell years ago.
This most recent incident has convinced me that I, too, need to go public with the story of my rape as a 16-year old, and why I didn’t tell. The perpetrator was 18. He was the son of my divorced mother’s boyfriend, a man whom I loved and trusted and who taught me how to drive.
I began dating this man’s son. One night he (the son) raped me in the back of his van. I struggled. I fought. I said “no” and “stop,” but he didn’t stop. He hurt me. What I didn’t do was scream or call for help. Why? Shame, shock, embarrassment, disorientation, bewilderment? I’ve asked myself many times. I was stunned, and I had no mental or emotional category that could help me make sense of the experience. Because I did not call for help, I thought I had “let it happen.” I felt guilt, shame, and self-hatred. I blamed myself. I didn’t even call it “rape” in my own mind, until years later, when I learned more about what rape means.
This was not my first experience of sexual assault or harassment, nor would it be my last. But Dr. Ford’s story has reminded me of how traumatic for a teenager a sexual assault can be and how hard it can be to come forward. It took a lot of courage for her to come forward recently when she heard that Brett Kavanaugh had been nominated to the Supreme Court.
As a pastor and as one who seeks to live in the way and Spirit of Jesus, I am especially distressed that many white Evangelical Christians, over 80 percent of whom helped elect Donald Trump and continue to stand by him, support the GOP’s efforts to push through an immediate up or down vote on Kavanaugh, without an FBI investigation or other witnesses. Reverend Franklin Graham, an Evangelical leader, said, “It’s just a shame that a person like Judge Kavanaugh who has a stellar record–that somebody can bring something up that he did as a teenager close to 40 years ago. That’s not relevant.” Or as another Kavanaugh supporter said, “What boy hasn’t done this in high school?”
Unconditional support for Trump and his nominee has descended into hateful and hellish attacks on Dr. Ford, maligning her character and motives and threatening her family and her life. If she had known the extent of the hate that would be directed toward her, she may have chosen to not tell her story or to remain anonymous, as she had hoped to do.
I am horrified to know that my grandsons are hearing people say that assault and attempted rape is normal behavior for teenage boys. God forbid! The teenage boys I have known understand that violence against women, including sexual violence, is always wrong. It’s not normal, and there’s no way to justify it. I’m also horrified that my granddaughters are hearing it. As one college freshman said, “Girls my age are watching, reading, and hearing these conversations. And it’s making us scared.”
Women have come a long way since the years of my childhood, but violence against women and children is still pervasive. The #MeToo movement and the broad challenge to Kavanaugh’s fitness to be on the high court because of this (and now other) sexual assault allegations are moving us forward. But we still have a long way to go to end the culture of misogyny and rape.