Earlier today I was lounging on my couch scrolling through Facebook, an uncomfortable but familiar habit. I watched some celebrity reactions — Lady Gaga, Trevor Noah — before I Googled, “Trump mocks Ford.” I hadn’t read up on the Kavanaugh-Ford story since the hearing. I watched the 41-second clip of President Trump at a rally, took a breath, and then cried.
I’ve never felt this kind of fear and insecurity. Why would I? I have white privilege and college degrees. I have a retirement account. My country is ok; it’s relatively safe. Even as lives are destroyed by violence around the country, none of it has touched me.
This touched me.
It’s so, black-and-white wrong. Thou shalt not murder. Thou shalt not publicly mock a survivor of sexual assault for speaking her truth.
I’m not sure what to do with this knowledge of how the President spoke about Dr. Ford and her testimony. What I do know is that staying quiet doesn’t feel right. So here it goes.
“And a man’s life is in tatters! A man’s life is shattered.”
I have countless memories of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the form of exposure. I’ll share one.
In high school, I was an outbound telemarketer at Omaha Steaks. I became work friends with one of my teammates, a guy my age whose desk was to my immediate left. I even invited him to a party. No flirtation or sexual contact of any kind took place at the party. And yet afterwards, things changed between us.
We had auto-dialers that automatically called customers. Between calls, he’d lean towards me and make disgusting gestures with his tongue and fingers. He’d cover his headset microphone with a fist and say, “I’m gonna make you so wet. Come on, let me lick that pussy. Mmm.. I’m gonna suck on those pussy lips… Hello, Mrs. Anderson? How are you today?”
When I couldn’t take it any longer, and had convinced myself that inviting him to a party did not make this my fault, I finally told my boss. Wanna know how “shattered” his life was?
He was moved to a different team, sitting in a different area on the same floor.
That experience sucked. But it isn’t the reason I wept after hearing President Trump make fun of Dr. Ford.
I don’t remember. But I know.
“Where was the place? I don’t remember. How many years ago was it? I don’t know. What neighborhood was it in? I don’t know.”
I’ve long had the sense, a strange but sure knowing, that something sexual and uninvited happened to me at a young age. Something I don’t fully remember.
There are moments when I’m having sex with my husband Bob, and I’m triggered. Suddenly, I feel like a child. Like a part of me has reverted to a much younger age, and I don’t want to be naked. I desperately want to cover my body. I don’t want this man, whoever he is, on top of me. I am scared and can’t speak. I think, I have to do what he wants and I have no control over what’s happening…
I’ve spent time in therapy on “my sex stuff.” I have recalled physical sensations, but no language. Maybe something happened when I wasn’t yet using verbal language. Who knows. I’ll most likely never know. Sometimes, that really bothers me. When my need to know would rage high, my therapist would patiently remind me, “We’re not here to figure out what happened. Our goal is to help you build the skills that will allow you to move forward.”
I have doubted myself. My God, how many times I’ve thought, “Get over it, Mandy! You’re making all this up. Too much Law and Order SVU.” But Bob doesn’t doubt me. And my therapist never doubted me — she seems to see this kind of thing all the time. So I do my best to trust myself.
No, I don’t remember everything. But I remember enough.
I’m with you, Dr. Ford, and with everyone else who has been in these shoes.
Sexual violence shouldn’t divide us.
This is not a man vs. woman/non-binary issue. It isn’t a victim vs. perpetrator issue. (I’m a perpetrator as well, btw.) And it sure as hell isn’t a political party issue. This is about all of us. We all have a role to play in building the support system that’s needed to collectively heal from this trauma.
Whatever your life experiences, whatever your politics, I’m sending you my unconditional love and invite you to do the same.