**Trigger Warning: The post will discuss rape and rape culture and may be difficult for some people to read.**
While at work today, I listened to Dr. Christine Ford sit in a room full of strangers and recount her sexual assault. I listened to her voice tremble as she recounted what happened to her 36 years ago, clearly still raw and very emotional. I listened as the prosecutor GRILLED her like she was on trial and all the while, she kept her composure and remained poised, even keeled, and calm. I tried my best not to look down at my phone and just listen. Of course, I couldn’t help but to glance. The live stream comments were something to behold.
“She’s a paid actor!” “She’s not even attractive!” “What was she doing at a party with alcohol at 15 years old?” “Why is she just NOW coming forward?” “What young teenage boy HASNT acted inappropriately.”
Just a couple of days prior, Bill Cosby was sentenced to a MEASLEY 3-10 years in prison for rape. He was only prosecuted for an assault on one woman when more than FORTY women have accused him of similar transgression. People lost their minds supporting him. He’s sick, and he’s old. It’s because he’s a black man. What about white rapists? What about Catholic priests? These women put themselves in this situation!
This week has been a deluge of rape apologists and people (men and women alike) so quick to ask that we consider the perpetrator (or alleged if that makes some of you sleep better at night) and their feelings. But what. about. the VICTIMS?
When I was a teenager, I was raped. And at the time, I did not know what to call it. I don’t even remember his name. But I remember his face. I remember how is breath smelled. I remember that he started to touch me and I didn’t want him to put his hands on me. He was 6 feet tall. He was at least 200 lbs. I was 5 ft 2. He towered over me. I told him no. I said I didn’t want to. He looked at me and said “either you give it to me, or I’ll take it.” I was a child. and I was fucking terrified. So I laid there, while he climbed on top of me. Disgusted and numb. I tried to tell people what happened. Somehow it became my fault. So I stopped talking. I never told my parents. I never talked to anyone about it until 20 years later when I met my husband. Similar to how many of Cosby’s accusers waited years to tell their stories. I might have told a couple of friends in adulthood but honestly, I can’t remember. Just like Dr. Ford can’t remember everything that happened to her.
So today, as I started processing everything I was reading, hearing, feeling, thinking…. I began to cry. I thought about teen-aged me. And how the culture of rape and “boys will be boys” failed me. I thought about three out of five women…60% of women reading this right now; who share this experience and may never tell their stories, because they don’t want to be ridiculed or branded. I thought about my son, who my husband and I have to teach to have the courage to categorically REJECT the notion that a woman’s body is not her own, and that he must respect her right to say NO without hesitation. To male survivors of assault, our culture has also failed you. Questioning your manhood and shaming you from feeling any sort of emotion around your trauma.
I have to divest from the discussion and seek out self-care, because I did not realize just how big a part of me this was until this week. But I also need to say this: BELIEVE THE VICTIMS. Do people lie? Yes they do. Have people been falsely accused of misconduct in the past? absolutely. False accusations make up only 2 % of actual rape allegations, so the notion to jump straight to suspicion of the accuser and absolution of the accused is misguided at best, and has its roots in a patriarchal rape culture that suggests that women are inferior and emotional. It’s time to start having conversations with boys before they become men about consent. It’s time to stop teaching children that violence = love (“if he hits you or teases you, it’s because he likes you.”) It’s time to teach both women and men that they have a voice, and a right to live and exist in their body however they fucking chose without fear of being attacked or assaulted. And it’s time to end the culture of COMPLICITNESS that enables men like Cosby and Kavanaugh and Weinstein and Spacey to terrorize victims for decades unchecked.
To anyone reading this that has ever been victimized: I’m sorry. I believe you. Take care of yourself.