On Brett Kavanaugh and Reliving Our Trauma
If you’ve been following the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, then you are aware that this train has fully derailed. This is a shitshow of epic proportions. Setting aside for a second that he is a TERRIBLE nominee for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, we’ll focus instead on what’s been happening in the peripheral. And what’s been happening is insanely bad. To date, four women have come forward with allegations of sexual assault and abuse against Kavanaugh. FOUR. And of course, because this is 2018 and we seem to be moving backwards, the old “boys will be boys” argument has been trotted out again. For women, this means basically one thing: once again, our pain is being dismissed. For survivors, this week has been traumatic, to say the least.
Three of the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh go back to his days as a prep school and college student. The fourth allegation took place in 1998, when Kavanaugh was in his 30s.
— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) September 26, 2018
I will not rehash the gritty details yet again, I think we can all agree that it is unnecessary. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, Julie Swetnick, and the fourth unnamed accuser are brave, and I believe them. I believe every single word of their accounts. People have expressed disbelief over the descriptions of gang rape parties, alcohol-fueled attacks, and the bragging of conquests among high school and college kids. Good, upstanding young men, from solid families, attending elite universities. Surely this is all made up! There’s no way any of this happened, and if it did, it was a long time ago and young men are gonna do what young men do, right?
I believe every single word of their accounts, because I witnessed firsthand what good, upstanding young men from solid families attending elite universities are capable of.
I am a survivor of sexual assault, and this week has been one long, triggering flashback. The scenarios described by these women… they ring as true today as they did 18 years ago. This culture of boys and men being allowed to do as they pleased while women bore the brunt of the blame – nothing has changed. “How much did you have to drink?” “What were you wearing?” “Why did you go to that party alone?” Not questions asked of us by law enforcement or investigators, no. Questions we asked ourselves and each other. It was so pervasive that to report your assault would have seemed incredibly odd. And writing that sentence now makes me physically ill. It was just … what went down. You forged ahead, you pushed it down, and the next time you went to a party, you went with a friend and maintained physical contact the entire time.
And of course we continued to go to the parties. We sat in classes next to our attackers, and we laughed at their jokes. Is it odd that Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser went to as many as ten of the parties she described? Not to me. Is it strange that women continued to socialize with him and his particular group of friends, despite the rumors and the jokes? Not in the slightest. We blamed ourselves and we excused our abusers. We were scared to say anything, and why wouldn’t we have been? To come forward is to flay yourself open for even more abuse. The kind of abuse that is designed to degrade your character and call into question your culpability in your own sexual assault. Given how these women have been treated, it’s a wonder any women report and come forward at all.
I still carry a good deal of guilt from those years, and this week has been like cutting open a thick, years-old scar with a dull knife.
To hear the stories and see the blame shifted away from the abusers and onto the accusers has been a lot to deal with. For every tiny step forward, it feels like a tsunami comes out of nowhere to push us miles back. I know I’m not the only survivor who is struggling a great deal this week. Reliving your trauma is fucking awful. Being told you are somehow to blame for a man taking from you something which you did not give is horrific. Be kind to yourselves, this week and every week. Turn it off when it becomes too much to take on. Give yourself space to grieve, and space to heal. Be respectful of those who ask for that same space.
I suspect that Brett Kavanaugh will still be confirmed, despite what we’ve learned of his character. Our trauma and pain will continue. But when you’re ready, know this: pain and trauma can turn into rage. And rage in numbers is incredibly powerful.
(Image: Twitter / @brettkavanaugh)