Like so many, the Kavanaough hearings sent me into a tailspin of a PTSD trigger zone.
In so many ways, I can relate to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's experience, as runs quite close to my own.
Like so many others, for years I blamed myself for my own rape. How could I tell anyone what I couldn't recognize myself?
The term "date rape" was first used in 1975, in Susan Brownmiller's, Against Our Will- in which she argues that rape is a constant threat used to keep women in line. I didn't knowBrownmiller's work until 1987, though....and so I didn't have those words. What I did have was the knowledge that I was doing something my mother told me not to do- that is, I spent time alone with a boy that my mother didn't know Yes, I engaged in the time honored tradition of concocting a plausible story for mom, while I went off and did something different. In my case, I was 17 and hanging out with a man who was 21. Someone who'd gone off to college, and was therefore all manner of worldly and educated, in my eyes. I was friends with members of his family, and totally looked up to him. He had a car, and drove me to go bird watching on Sauvie Island. Towards the end of the day, he pulled me in close for a kiss. Make no mistake, I was into it. But I was also into stopping, just a little after kissing. He seemed angry and hurt that I told him that was as much as I wanted to do. He ranted about how it hurt guys to have to stop, and how it wasn't fair to go out with him if I wasn't going to do it. I told him I didn't owe him anything, and we argued. At some point we dropped that conversation, and awkwardly ended the day together. A week later, he called saying he wanted to be sure I wasn't mad- he wasn't mad, so he's hoping I could come over and hang out with him. And to prove I wasn't going to hold some silly thing like bullying sexual agression get in the way of our friendship, I said yes.
So when he turned every topic of conversation towards sex, I went along with it, because I didn't want to be called a baby, or a prude. And when I told him I was into girls, his response was he wanted to prove to me how good it could be to be with a guy. Everytime I tried to leave, he would alternate between mad and hurt... vengeful and vulnerable. And I vacilated between fear and rescuer... until I just gave up. I remember thinking I couldn't yell, and I didn't want him to be angry, because his sister was in the house, and we were friends... and I didn't want her to know her brother was terrible. Yes, I know that's irrational. It's also where a teenage girl's mind goes when she's disassociating.
And I never told my parents. And I sure as hell never told the police. I told my two best friends, but I never used the word "rape", because rape was something that happened in dark streets with strangers- it was certainly not something your friends did to you right after you listened to them play clarinet. Besides, for it to have really been rape, I would have had to have screamed, or something other than push him away and tell him I didn't want to, over and over again...
In 1987, as a Women's Studies student, I finally learned the vocabulary that would help me recognize my experience. And I was able to start letting go of shame and self-blame. Working with a therapist six years after that, my PTSD was recognized, and I started a long path of healing.
And the #KavanaughHearings have proven to me, one never really gets all the way over this. Thirty-five years come rushing back in vivid flipping detail.
May all people of privilege and power, who question why a teenage girl wouldn't tell anyone about a sexual assault, be surrounded bychoruses of women, telling our stories at the top of our lungs.
Keep breaking the silence. Recognize our pain. Support each other.
I encourage you to give voice to your own story- call into the studio while I'm live on the air. The studio number is 503-231-8187. If you don't want to speak on air, leave what you'd like to share in comments here.
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