I Believe Dr. Ford

--trigger warning/CW: sexual assault, rape, panic attacks—

I've never really wanted to address this until now. Seeing Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a brave survivor, speak out about her sexual assault in a room full of people who doubt her hit especially close to home.

Dr. Ford didn’t just speak for herself when she brought her assault to light, she spoke for me and millions of other survivors.

My experience was similar to Dr. Ford’s. I was a senior in high school at a party on a Friday night. Little did I know, I’d leave that house party confused about what had happened to me during the hours I was there, questioning whether I really “wanted it” or not.

For the longest time after my assault I wondered where I’d gone wrong. What gave my aggressor, a high school boy, the green light to violate me? Was it the way I carried myself? Did I lead him on? The night I was raped was the first time I met that boy. We exchanged a few words and the next thing I knew he was taking off my pants. Surely, I had to have done SOMETHING to make him think that was okay.

Really, no, I hadn’t given him any signs I wanted to “hook up.” I froze up when he grabbed me without asking. I made it clear I was ignoring his “advances,” or so I thought. My fight or flight senses kicked in and I stood there, too afraid to confront him and his actions. His hands traveled to my waist, and then lower. What had I done to make him think this was okay?

Eventually, I gave in to him. I thought he would back off after a while if I let him touch me. I was naive and wrong. He pressed his mouth onto mine in a room full of “friends” who thought we were just fooling around. They couldn’t have known I was uncomfortable about everything I was doing with that boy. Again, how could they possibly be able to tell? It was normal for people to hook up at parties, it was expected of them even.

However, it wasn’t normal for me. I was a virgin and that was one of the first times I’d ever kissed anyone. I’d never experienced that level of intimacy and vulnerability with anybody yet. So I thought it was normal, that I was supposed to feel my stomach drop when he led me up the stairs to be alone. I thought that was how it worked, that every sense in my body telling me, “this isn’t okay,” was normal. I thought it must meant I wanted it, even when the only thought running through my head was getting myself out of that situation.

When he moved my hand down his body, I thought I was being a prude and that I would get over the nerves. Maybe I do want this, maybe I’m just overreacting.

I never thought it would escalate to sex.

I never thought he would ignore me when I said “no.”

I went along with it when it happened. He never stopped to ask if I was okay, he only ever told me to “relax,” as he held me down and told me to be quiet.

He would go on to assault me twice that night on two separate occasions.

The next morning, my entire class was talking about it. The rumors flying around made me feel like what I had done was intentional on my part. That I played an equal role in what happened, that I consented to sex with my rapist

The truth is, I was drunk and legally couldn’t give consent. He took advantage of that and also ignored the big “no” I gave him. I had been violated—raped.

It took me a really long time to come to terms with that. I spent months after my assault thinking it was my fault, and that I didn’t say “no” loud enough or that I didn’t fight him as hard as I could have. I continued to bury the mixed emotions I had about my experience and blamed myself.

He’s a teenage boy, of course he wanted sex. I should have known better before going into that room with him. These thoughts just repeated themselves in my head until one day, when I did the sexual assault training required by Mason. The modules went over the definition of “coercion.” They addressed how if somebody had to be talked into having sex, it was considered rape.--If somebody is drunk, they can’t consent to sex, and that the person instigating the action is responsible for assault.

I felt so sick after reading that. There was no longer any way for me to deny what happened to me, and it was too late for my assaulter to pay for what he had done. A sinking feeling. We had graduated high school and started college by then. It was too late. I also didn’t want the hassle of filing a report.

No one would believe me anyway. I’m just going to have to let it go.

So I let it go. I tried to forget about what had happened to me and carry on with my life.

I now know that it’s impossible to carry on, to forget it completely and this past week has made it especially hard to do so.

Seeing Brett Kavanaugh, somebody’s high school aggressor, walk free with an appointment to the Supreme Court makes me angry. It makes me sad. Our politicians don’t care about women, survivors and those brave enough to come forward with their stories-- even if they choose to do so decades later. The emotional trauma Dr. Ford has dealt with over the last 30-40 years is the same trauma I am still trying to cope with.

It is heartbreaking to know that people doubt her. It is heartbreaking to even think about what she feels right now, with the person who traumatized her sitting on the highest US court.

Then I think, there are women out there whose rapist sits in the Oval Office.

To protect each other is to believe victims and to not question why they didn’t “speak up” sooner. I have learned the hard way that speaking up about a sexual assault takes an enormous amount of control over your emotions and an enormous amount of strength that I just don’t have some days. I’ve dealt with flashbacks and a handful of panic attacks over my assault these last few years, things I’ve truly struggled with.

I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and all of the other victims of assault that have been brave enough to come forward this past year.

It’s time for teenage boys to pay for their careless actions. It’s time for men in powerful positions to come clean. I think that it should start in the White House.