My friend waited 40 years to speak up. She broke her silence because she’d had enough of all the doubt being hurled at Ford, the psychology professor now enduring death threats for telling her story.
My friend — a fierce reporter — understands Ford’s decades of silence.
She was determined to keep quiet even when her assailant died — and even as she was tasked with writing his obituary for the local paper, taking deep breaths and tapping his accomplishments out on the keyboard while burying his secrets with him.
Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t. He was a family friend. Everyone respected him. She didn’t want to destroy his life.
And she knew she’d be blamed, as women often are when they are assaulted. Why would he do that? Why were you there in the first place? Did you lead him on? Why is that skirt so short? Button up that blouse. What in God’s name is on your face? Wipe that lipstick off right now.
What did my friend’s mom say when she finally told her?
Her mother said she was 17, trapped in a D.C. hotel room with a door-to-door salesman her family trusted.
We’re good at secrets. And confessions. Sometimes it just takes a cup of coffee or a bottle of wine for them to begin. This week, they’ve been triggered by a Supreme Court nomination:
“The gym supply closet.”
“His parent’s house.”
But it’s different now, you say? Not at all.
Last month I met with a young woman who said she’d been assaulted when she was a little girl by a dad everyone in the community knows. Her family’s big Christmas parties were dreadful because he was always there, jolly-jingling in her home as one of the guests while she hid in her bedroom.
“There were all these other lives I’d hurt if I ever told,” she said.
She kept it quiet, letting it eat away at her sense of self, her grades, her activities, devastated every time he leered at her in the grocery store or at birthday parties. She made confounding excuses to her parents about her wild mood shifts.
This is happening today, folks, in an nice suburb of Washington, in the “future is female” #MeToo era of empowering education and progressive families
Decades of research show women rarely report attacks.
Even experts — doctors, judges, police officers — doubt women who report attacks, according to the 2006 report “Being Silenced: The Impact of Negative Social Reactions on the Disclosure of Rape.”
Survivors interviewed by Courtney E. Ahrens, now a psychology professor at Cal State Long Beach, said they were doubted, blamed and even punished when they reported their assaults.
So they kept quiet, even when doing so compromised their mental and physical health.
Of course there are also hundreds of thousands of men who have been sexually assaulted as well and stayed silent for similar reasons. The Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America can provide you with several thousand pages of reading to understand that calamity.
Survivors of sexual assault are on trial the moment they speak up. So they don’t. And that leads us to the quiet chorus of “uh-huhs” across the land when Ford’s confession made news
My friend who wrote her attacker’s obituary has an idea about this. And I love it.
“Should all victims of sexual assault who remained silent all these years/decades converge onto Washington to support Professor Ford and her testimony against Judge Kavanaugh?” she asked. “As a long silent victim, I say, ‘Hell, yes.’ Sometimes it takes decades to pronounce your truth. Stand tall and proud, Professor Ford. Legions of silent and traumatized women and men are with you. Let’s expose this dirty — not so little — secret.”
What do you say? What if we launch a #MeToo March on Washington for everyone who has kept silent all these years?
I bet it would be the biggest march in the capital’s history.
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