I Believe You, Dr. Ford

This past week, the one story dominating the news cycle was the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and the subsequent protests of women across the nation. Brett Kavanaugh's been accused of assault and sexual misconduct by three women who knew him back in his teenage years when the events allegedly occurred. The first woman, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, has been dragged through the mud by the media and our president, and had her reputation, credibility and life torn apart in the public arena - solely because she chose to stand up and refused to let yet another predator occupy a major government seat. 

The countless attacks on Dr. Blasey Ford’s character have spawned an important discussion across social media platforms, with the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport. Victims of sexual assault (and I say victims, because although women are far more likely to be attacked, it doesn’t negate the fact that men can be victims too) have used this hashtag to share their stories about why they chose not to report their assault to the authorities - or how, even when they did report, it landed on deaf ears. Victims are seldom believed and are seldom given a voice. It's so common for us to be told that the attacker’s life shouldn’t be ruined over “a few minutes of action," as the father of Stanford rapist Brock Turner so eloquently put it. So often, the life and potential of the attacker is given more value in a justice court than the life of the victim that's been changed forever and the actual crime committed.

So, how does it make any sense to elect a person who continues to uphold this standard of blatant disregard for victims of sexual assault - especially considering they’ve been accused by multiple women of disregarding their autonomy at such a crucial stage in life? People question why Dr. Blasey Ford took so long to come forward, but I find it a brave act to even be able to come forward at all. So often, victims are silenced and ignored in an attempt to cover up the crimes of their abusers, and the justice system often does little to help them. Victims are told that they’re lying, or that the lines of consent were blurred and therefore their attacker could never be prosecuted – after all, maybe we secretly wanted it or we just changed our minds about wanting it after the fact. The truth of the matter is, sometimes victims don’t even come to terms with what happened to them until long after the fact. I should know – for a long time, I couldn’t either.

I want to say consent is a tricky subject to understand, but it really isn’t. If the other party is unconscious, sleeping or under the influence, they're unable to consent. If they tell you "no," but you keep pushing? You didn’t really get consent, you forced your way into the situation. Not all assaults are done by forced, faceless attackers in a dark alley. They can be the person next to you, someone you thought was your friend, someone you trusted. When it happened to me, I was asleep. I was under the influence, passed out. It was someone I loved, and it happened over and over and over again until it became the norm; I didn’t call it by its name until months later. Even then, I knew I could never come forward – not even naming names, I just knew I could never make it public and attach my name to it. I had people doubt me, come up to me with no knowledge of the situation and try to convince me I was wrong - that actually, he was "a good guy."

People told me it was a blurred line, that maybe I wanted it and was just changing my mind now because we'd broken up. After being told that I wanted it, the words “sl*t," “wh*re,” or something along those lines usually followed. People that didn’t even know me, but knew my connection to him, would come up to me and prod me about the relationship; about why I couldn’t stand to be in the same room as him, and if I refused to be subjugated to an inquisition, the gendered slurs usually followed. I instinctively knew this was never coming from a place of concern (even before these people would become indignant at my refusal to indulge in my personal history to someone I didn't know), but always from a place of malice and a need to vilify the woman for being too loud about her truth - however small the percentage of it that she chooses to share, about something nobody wants to acknowledge. How dare I be scared of him? Why? What was my problem? Why was I being such a b*tch?  It wasn’t anyone's business, but they asked anyway; not to support, but to discredit and to argue - and this is the case for millions of women all over the country. 

I can understand why women don’t come forward with their stories; often, the justice system isn’t set up to prosecute attackers and put them behind bars. But even if a victim is able to come forward, with evidence, immediately after the attack, the media and the people around them almost always destroy them and want to ignore the fact that these kinds of things happen. People want to ignore that someone they know could be a predator; they want to vilify and destroy the character of the accuser rather than believe them during one of the most difficult times in their life because that’s easier than confronting the issue at hand. 

Victims may want to come forward, but the shame and stigma surrounding victims of assault (that they're worthless, deserving of what they experienced, or that it was somehow their fault and not the fault of the person that assaulted them) is perpetrated every day by people in their community and by people around the country who continue to demonize women that do come forward with their stories. Because of this, putting their stories out into the open can be a terrifying and extremely traumatic experience that many victims are never able to do (or it may take them 30+ years to be able to do so). Dr. Blasey Ford and all of the women that are able to open themselves up to the public about their experiences are brave Americans; brave for allowing their stories to be heard, and brave for coming forward in the most honest, most American attempt there is by trying to shed light on one of the most important issues plaguing our country today. We don’t need more Kavanaughs in office; we need more Christine Blasey Fords, those people who are willing to step forward and tell their truths to help change the system of silence and victim blaming that keeps so many other victims quiet about their experiences.

Dr. Ford, I believe you. Thank you.