I was a victim of sexual assault. And I’m not going to tell you what happened. I’m not going to dig deep into the place that I boxed up and rip out my insides, spill all my guts onto the dirty ground so that you can stomp on them. I refuse. I hate that it has to be that way, that to be believed, that to change an unhealthy culture, the victims have to subject themselves to an inquisition. Is that what it takes, is that the only way we can change a culture?
This is America. A white woman comes face to face with a panel of white men and she is terrified. Then she rips out her insides and people tell her that she is brave. And then the rows of white men’s faces twist into contortions and they tell her that she must be spilling her guts because she wants to ruin someone else’s life. That she is sharing her nightmares for the world to see, telling everyone she was abused and ashamed about it and that it has stuck with her to this day, they imply or simply state that she’s making that up. Or perhaps, she doesn’t quite remember it right. And therefore she’s really just out to ruin someone else’s life. I can’t even write it in a way that makes sense because it doesn’t make sense. She has nothing to gain, everything to lose. But she risks it, in hopes of what? A culture change? In hopes of a better, safer future? In hopes of a country that will not just say, ‘boys will be boys,’ and then continue to allow them to make the decisions that affect our bodies, our guts, our healthy minds, our mental state, our freedom, our pursuit of happiness.
What happens next in the Kavanaugh debacle matters. It matters because we are in the middle of a culture-creating moment and we are perhaps at a crossroads where we can go in the right direction. I am an alumna of Yale University, along with Kavanaugh. I also went to a preparatory boarding school on the east coast. I know something of the culture where he and many other white men in power grew up. A place where they were told ‘boys will be boys’ and acted that out in both public and private space, often protected by administrations and institutions. I believe that Kavanaugh is one of the boys who chose to take advantage of the fact that the odds were in his favor, that his actions were often treated with high fives and butt slaps, from the field house to the frat house. As a former college athlete, I too know these places well. This moment is making me reflect on them, reflect on my own actions: when I listened, when I stood up and spoke out, when I laughingly called my male friends ‘assholes’ and then turned a blind eye to the “innocent” boys will be boys moments — the locker room talk, the small things indicative of a larger problem with society.
As much as I consider myself a feminist, I know these moments existed. I know this is why so many of the Senators on the committee struggled to listen during the Kavanaugh hearing. What is happening in court right now implicates all of us. It asks us what culture we’ve been okay with before, what morals we held and what world we lived in and it asks us, as Ana Maria Archila pointed out to Senator Jeff Flake on Friday, what world we want to create for the men and women that follow us. You see, if Kavanaugh is a liar, then he doesn’t deserve to be on the Supreme Court. And Kavanaugh is 100% sure that he does. He somehow thinks — at this point — that this nomination is owed to him. What utter privilege. What shocking, yet unsurprising, entitlement. But he also thinks he worked his butt off to get where he got, forget granddaddy Yale alumnus, forget white cis male privilege. Kavanaugh is outraged because he doesn’t even recognize his own flaws. He refuses, and his buddies refuse, to see them — because if they saw them, they would then have to look at their own. They would have to believe that some of their past actions were unacceptable, outrageous. They would have to believe that perhaps, they don’t deserve to be where they are. They don’t want to believe.
We need to look at our own flaws. We need to acknowledge that we live in a racist, sexist context and that we cannot change that history, it is a part of us. It has affected and determined the present moment, but we CAN determine the future. We can be on the right side of history.
But they don’t want it.
We do. Not only do we want to build and grow strong incredible women who can be safe in the hallowed halls we implore them to try to reach, but also we want to build incredible young men as well, who will not take advantage of what current society has historically told them is okay to do. Instead, hopefully, society will tell them that a strong man, a cool guy, a good dude, stops, pauses, listens, assures consent, does not excuse ethically dubious behavior and certainly does not take advantage of, sexually assault, rape women. That’s a good dude. That’s the cool guy. That’s someone to aspire to. That’s someone who “deserves” to be in these powerful positions, who deserves to represent our country, our values.
We are in the process of creating a better society, I do believe it. This week hasn’t given me much hope, but I do see us telling our stories.
We are here, wrenching out our hearts and our memories and our insides, we are squeezing them out and showing the mess. Doing the hard work. It is brave. It’s also so unfair, but that is one thing that has not changed, for those from historically marginalized communities, we continue to fight for equity. We continue to fight for safety. We continue to fight to be heard and seen. We continue to have the bleed so that others can bear witness, as we have throughout our existence, and finally really see our struggle, hear our stories, care.
It gives me hope that Senator Jeff Flake listened. That he listened to Ana Maria Archila and to Maria Gallagher and heard them. If you have not heard them, please listen to them, because it is their screams, imploring Senator Jeff Flake to look at them that hit home the hardest for me.
Ana Maria Archila said, “You have children in your family. Think about them. I have two children. I cannot imagine that for the next 50 years they will have to have someone in the Supreme Court who has been accused of violating a young girl. What are you doing, sir?”
Maria Gallagher cried out, “Don’t look away from me. Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me, that you will let people like that go into the highest court of the land.”
It is these words and that decision to listen that has given us a week of hope. It may not be enough time for a thorough FBI investigation, but it gave us a moment to breathe.
And it gave me hope, that maybe we are actually in the majority. Not Democrats. Not divided based on that. But that we are in the majority: those in the beloved community, those working towards what is right. Those working towards a society whose actions reflect what we say we stand for. Those working towards an equitable America, filled with empowered citizens who are able to contribute fully and unshackled to their loved ones, to their community, to their country, to this world.