I haven’t been reading novels. In large part because of the Kavanaugh Hearings. I can’t seem to tear myself away from watching or reading about it. I have been reading everything I can get my hands on about it. Because I am a woman and the mother of girls. And because I think what happens here is very, very important.
I’ve started writing this post several times and every time, I stop and delete it. I’ve shared this with family and with close friends, but never publicly.
I grew up in a suburban town. My family life was stable, my mom stayed home with us and my parents were devoted to us and each other. We were close with our extended family. I attended Catholic school and church every Sunday.
My first memory of sexual assault was in fifth grade. We didn’t have a cafeteria in our Catholic school, but we did get a milk delivery. The eighth grade boys were in charge of sorting the milk and each teacher would send one student to pick up the milk for the classroom. One day it was my turn to pick up the milk. You had to walk through the dark church auditorium to the tiny kitchen in back to pick up the milk. Then you had to walk back through the auditorium with the milk crate full of small containers of chocolate or whole milk. Normally, the teachers all sent their students at the same time. But for some reason, one time I was alone, maybe my class was late or early. I don’t remember. But as I walked through the auditorium, I was grabbed by one eighth grade boy and my arms were pinned behind me, as two of his friends groped my breasts, first over my shirt and then they untucked my shirt. I was fighting and kicking. I honestly have no idea what happened beyond that. I remember feeling like it was somehow my fault, that I had done something wrong and that if I told anyone, I would be the one who would be in trouble. For what? Developing early? Wearing a bra in 5th grade?
It took me years to realize that there was nothing I did wrong and I could have told someone. The reaction of the Republican Party to Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony has only reiterated to me that I would be wrong to ever come forward. That I did do something wrong. That I did do something to deserve it. That maybe fifth grade Catholic school girls are somehow asking for it.
I say my first memory of sexual assault, because there were others. A male friend of the family who liked to push me against things and rub himself against me and feel my breasts when we were in junior high. I felt dirty when he did this, but somehow as though it was my fault, as though I did something wrong.
There was the man outside of Grand Union who asked my friend and I to get him an Entenmann’s cake. I didn’t think we should, but my friend felt bad for him and took the money, we got the cake, and when we went to give it to him, he whipped an afghan he’d had over his lap off and exposed himself to us. I knew my parents would be mad at me for talking to strangers, so I never told them about that.
My dad’s boss owned a house in Ocean Grove, NJ. One summer, when I was in high school, a friend and I walked up to Asbury Park from Ocean Grove. This was in the 80s and Asbury Park was really pretty rundown. A man outside of a bar started talking to my friend and I and he wanted to get a case of beer and sit on the beach with us, I said no and went to leave and he grabbed my shirt. I managed to pull away and run all the way back to Ocean Grove. I was not supposed to walk to Asbury Park, so I could never tell my parents about that one.
My husband and my daughters know about these things in my past. I told my daughters these stories many times because I wanted them to know that if anything like this ever happened to them, that I would believe them, that it would not be their fault; that even if they were doing something that I didn’t give them permission for, that it still wouldn’t be their fault and I would still be there for them.
In the last two weeks, I have told my stories to many people and I have found that most women have a story. Whether it is something that happened to them or something that happened to a friend or someone they know. A girl at a dorm. A girl at a party. A girl who was too drunk to know. A girl who might have been drugged. A girl who accepted a ride home only to have a boy drive her to a desolate rural area and demand a blowjob or he would leave her there. In the dark, late at night. Before cell phones. Even if these girls were at underage parties where there was drinking, they didn’t deserve to be violated. Even if these girls were drinking, that didn’t give the boys in the room the right to violate them.
When I was in college, the whole “No Means No” campaign was something that was often brought up. But what happens to the boys who don’t listen and do force themselves on girls? Well, judges don’t want to “ruin the boys’ lives” so they give them lenient sentences. What about those girls’ lives? Are they worth less than boys? What message does a lenient sentence send?
And what, right now, is the message that the Republican Party is sending loud and clear is that they don’t believe women and that women should not come forward when they are raped.
Christine Blasey Ford is a doctor and a professor, she is not some trailer park trash as the despicable Lindsey Graham has insinuated. She is a woman who tried to put this behind her and when she found out that Brett Kavanaugh was nominated for the Supreme Court she felt that she had to step up and I commend her for that. The other women who have come forward, I am not sure how reliable they are. I have read about them and I am on the fence with their credibility, but Dr. Ford is a different story. She has not had a lot of lawsuits. She is an accomplished woman who had a lot to lose by coming forward, yet she still came forward.
I wonder what these Republicans would say if this happened to their daughter? Or if their daughter was groped in the church auditorium while getting milk for her class? Would they say those boys were wrong? Would they appoint those boys to the Supreme Court one day if those boys should have pursued that career path? Or would they not believe their daughter?