Survivors Get Death Threats, Assaulters Get the Supreme Court


Two days after the controversial committee hearing, and subsequent launch of an FBI investigation, I was feeling a bit hopeful. While people can joke and laugh about rape and victims across the internet and in their inner circles, to be able to face one, hear their stories and still have the audacity to dismiss them is a notion that made my blood boil. If Flake might have a conscience, I was heartened by the humanity he saw in those women.

It soon became clear that an FBI investigation was nothing more than political theater to assuage Republican holdouts and embolden Democratic undecideds (well, only one, really). I read hopefuls on the internet claim that the FBI would do their thing, would help bring justice; at the very least theinvestigators would announce that Kavanaugh had perjured himself during the hearing and that would warrant his immediate nomination withdrawal. I knew, sadly, that many are unwilling to investigate assault cases, and that many cases that are tried rarely end positively for the survivor. I knew that if Flake had had a change of heart, he would not have voted Kavanaugh out of committee. He would have, and could have, ended it then and there. He did not.

Then Susan Collins illustrated the hypocrisy of the privileged White woman who supposedly “supports” survivors and believed Dr. Ford, while questioning and putting holes in the memories that they have (i.e. fact that she didn’t believe the perpetrator was Kavanaugh). What good is a supporter of #MeToo when you only deride a survivor as they recount one of the most traumatic details of their life?

I didn’t watch the vote. By Tuesday I knew that it was mere theater, an act (akin to Lindsey Graham’s speech as he eschews whatever values he had during the election and vies for a job with Trump’s inner circle). People in power rarely give up their power; and those in the government are only willing to give lip service to their constituents because only the elite and the wealthy hold the puppet strings. Kavanaugh’s nomination, his record and his legacy in the Supreme Court, holds a boon that could only benefit those whose interest is in maintaining and growing their vast power and resources, even at the cost of destruction.

And Dr. Ford? The brave woman who came forward to talk about her experiences? She’s unable to go home, because of the unending death threats against her and her family. She got the unending brunt of people who accused her of lying, or distorting the truth, while others sympathized with Kavanaugh, a man whose own classmates have come forward and demanded the FBI speak with them because he was lying.

When the state isn’t there to protect you, when the state only serves the privileged, are words and marches enough?

 

(Image Credit 1: Press Democrat) (Image Credit 2: RAINN)

We really haven’t learned a thing, have we?

Every person has encountered a survivor of sexual assault, rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, intimate partner violence. They are friends and family members, colleagues or acquaintances. More importantly, they are people with stories that illustrate pain, suffering, fear and, silence. Journalist Sheetal Dhir sums this poignantly, “I recently did a straw poll of the women in my life and realised that I know more survivors of sexual assault than I do mothers.” In some families, mine included, every woman has some experience with sexual assault and violence. It’s a reality that we cannot ignore or dismiss; the trauma is intergenerational. More importantly, it’s a fact that still makes men (especially men in power), scratch their head with confusion on what is considered acceptable behavior when interacting with women.

1 in 3 women in the US have experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime. For Black women, around 2 of 3 will experience sexual abuse by the age of 18. 2 of 3 incidences will go unreported (only 310 of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police), and for every 1 Black woman that reports, at least 15 do not. When they are reported, more than likely they are not taken seriously; it is a common erroneous comparison for many survivors of sexual violence.

Victim-blaming, intimidation, threat of employment termination, literaldenial of a memory of the assault happening. The rage many women felt when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford gave her testimony, in front of a panel of mostly white men hidden behind a woman prosecutor (for what is assumed to be a way to not make an ass of themselves in front of a sexual assault survivor in the age of the #MeToo Movement), was an acknowledgement that all women, all survivors have gone through the traumatization of their assault, and then the re-traumatization of not being believed. And for the response, the questioning of her memory, Dr. Ford gave a succinct but unbreakable response that only a professional in the field of psychology could; the neurotransmitter epinephrine, she replied, “Codes memories into the hippocampus, and so the trauma-related experience is locked there, whereas other details kind of drift.”

Memory remains clear-cut when we experience trauma. It flashes through the brain when one feels at their most vulnerable. It’s why women can remember their assault even years later when they move on. It’s why girls can remember their abuse when they were young children. It’s why Anita Hill faced a panel of 14 very skeptical white men, and was able to recount what then-nominee Clarence Thomas put her through.

The utter disbelief she endured by such men who thought that engaging in overtly sexual conversations in front of and directly to female colleagues, was not such a big deal. Considering that some of those same skeptical men were presiding over Dr. Ford’s testimony, albeit skulking behind the words of a female prosecutor, makes it more apparent that men have not learned a damn thing when it comes to sexual assault.

There’s data and research to prove why women don’t report. Psychologists, like Dr. Ford, can elaborate the fascinating science behind trauma-based memory; there are rape kits to prove it happened; confessions from the accused themselves. Mountains of evidence and personal stories from the survivors who have reported and were treated like whores and attention-seekers, and the ones that feared such a response and never made a sound. Believing the survivor is imperative, because of what they’re giving up just to come forward. We can no longer accept men in places of privilege who are given slaps on the wrists or sycophantic words of encouragement. What we need is punishment for the accused and something as simple as faith in the accuser. It won’t change everything, but it will be a start. It may even break the intergenerational chain of victimization that is passed between mothers and daughters, and teach sons that respect for women, informed consent and care for a woman’s choice, is a goddamn requirement.

Men, step up. We gave you the tools for learning at your disposal, now use them.

 

(Photo Credit 1: BBC News) (Photo Credit 2: Bill Snead / The Washington Post) (Photo Credit 3: New York Magazine)