As with the #MeToo movement, victims of sexual abuse are laying bare their souls as controversy intensifies surrounding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanagh and Christine Blasey Ford — the woman accusing him of attempting to rape her when both were teenagers more than three decades ago.
It is a drama with an uncertain ending: Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has shown he is intent on ramming Kavanaugh’s nomination through. But the Iowa senator has also signaled that he wants to tread gingerly — possibly out of fear of unleashing a violent backlash from women angry over the way sex assault victims historically have been treated. Just weeks ahead of the midterm election, polls showing the House and even the U.S. Senate might be in play for Democrats.
The GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee negotiated all week with Ford over her appearing before the panel, and gave her an arbitrary deadline of 2:30 p.m. Saturday to decided whether or not she would to appear before the panel. In the end, she consented, announcing that she would appear before the panel next week.
His hand has been stayed, at least for now, by the fact that this nomination has become a moment of reckoning and cultural awakening, especially for women who say they understand entirely the plight of women sexually assaulted in the way that Ford says she was.
Since news of her allegation leaked about a week ago, legions have taken to social media, posting their own stories about suffering mistreatment and surviving sexual assault, under the hashtags #dearprofessorford and #WhyIDidntReport.
The surge of social media posts came in answer to President Trump’s tweet questioning the veracity of Ford’s allegations, and the president’s insistence that if they were true “charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities” against Kavanaugh.
I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018
Emily Ramshaw wrote on Twitter about being attacked at the age of 19 by “a friend at a date party.”
I was 19. He was a friend at a date party. I blacked out on the bus home. Came to in bed. He was sobbing over what he’d done. I consoled him tho I was too injured to walk. Our friends blamed me. I flew home from college. 18 yrs later I’m still ashamed. #WhyIDidntReport
— Emily Ramshaw (@eramshaw) September 21, 2018
Longtime television anchor Thomas Roberts wrote that he waited two decades to report being sexually abused, “Because I was 14. Because it was my hero. Because it was my priest.”
I waited over 20 years to report my sexual abuser.
Because I was 14.
Because it was my hero.
Because it was my priest.
Because I thought I'd be expelled.
Because I feared no one would believe me.
Because I thought suicide was easier than telling 1 person#WhyIDidntReport
— Thomas Roberts (@ThomasARoberts) September 21, 2018
Caitlin Flanagan, a writer for The Atlantic, wrote a searing piece for the magazine this week in which she detailed her own harrowing encounter with a high school classmate to tried to rape her. Like many other survivors, she remained quiet about the assault for years.
Patti Davis, a writer and the daughter of President Ronald and Nancy Reagan, recounted her harrowing assault in a piece for in the Washington Post on Saturday. The sexual violation took place 40 years ago in the office of a music executive to whom she was trying to sell some of her original songs.
He crossed the room. There was a dark-green carpet, but his footsteps seemed loud, hard. He was against me, on top of me — so quickly — with his hands under my skirt and his mouth on mine, that I froze. I lay there as he pushed himself inside me. The leather couch stuck to my skin, made noises beneath me. His breath smelled like coffee and stale bread. He didn’t use a condom. I remember leaving afterward, driving home, the night around me glittered with streetlights and alive with people out at dinner or bars. I felt alone, ashamed and disgusted with myself. Why didn’t I get out of there? Why didn’t I push him off? Why did I freeze?
On Twitter, legions of women recounted similarly harrowing examples. They could not always recall the all details of the sexual assault they endured, but the trauma of the attacks remained indelible.
They included Ashley Judd, the Hollywood actress who was also a prominent figure in the #MeToo movement. She wrote movingly about having been abused for the first time at the age of seven.
#WhyIDidntReport. The first time it happened, I was 7. I told the first adults I came upon. They said “Oh, he’s a nice old man, that’s not what he meant.” So when I was raped at 15, I only told my diary. When an adult read it, she accused me of having sex with an adult man.
— ashley judd (@AshleyJudd) September 21, 2018
Journalist Lizzie O’Leary said her abuser had been a trusted mentor early in her career.
I was 27. He had been a mentor. He took me to a hotel room and masturbated on me. I felt complicit – I shouldn’t have gone. Like I was asking for it or should have known better. #WhyIDidntReport
— Lizzie O'Leary (@lizzieohreally) September 21, 2018
Anne Dickerson’s tweet on Friday seemed a direct refutation critics, many of whom have expressed incredulity that Ford reportedly can not recall many of the details of her alleged assault, including the exact location of the house in Maryland where it occurred.
Its been 26 years and I don’t recall the date, and I certainly do not know the time, or the place. But I do know exactly who he was.
— Anne Dickerson (@adickerson) September 21, 2018
“It’s been 26 years, and I don’t recall the date,” she wrote about the assault. About her attacker however, she said,”I do know exactly who he was.”
This post was updated late Saturday after the announcement that Christine Blasey Ford has agreed to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.