In college a young lady accused a very good friend of mine of rape.
I happened to be the first person to whom she reached out, the day after the alleged incident. In my entire life, I have never seen a person break down in such a devastating manner.
I knew something must have happened, because prior to this the girl (she was 18 at the time) had been adorably darling, sharp as a whip, owned one of the most creative quick wits and fashion senses I’d had the pleasure of encountering at such a young age.
She was also very petite in frame, and had a slight limp from a congenital disorder that one would never notice because, as she expressed it, she had determination to nourish her beauty, charm and intelligence to a degree that it really wouldn’t matter.
She succeeded, but for the alleged night of horror.
I had to notify her dorm roommates (one of whom I knew from high school) who lovingly came to escort her from the study room where we were speaking about the allegations. Thank God they were there. Thank God they were so supportive, like lifelong sisters strong and intuitive enough to carry the weight of this trauma… and ceaseless wailing.
I also made the initial contact to this girl’s family, one of the Northwest’s premiere tech originators whose work ushered in the age of computer processing in ways that would leave most of us dumbfounded and awed.
I was amazed at how down to earth her mother was, as she planned from overseas the aid systems for her daughter. She asked that I let the girl’s roommates shield her until she could catch the next flight into town, and to shield them from my friend, and our other friends, until she arrived.
Of course I did as I was asked, but I began by contacting the accused, one of my very best friends, and inquiring very generally about his night before.
I don’t remember much about that conversation except how my face dropped, and I was left speechless as my friend lied repeatedly almost instantly and throughout the time we were on the phone. I remember wondering why my mouth and voice were not operating as I commanded them, me, who placed in every debate competition I’d ever entered, me, whose father had put in radio ads since age five in two languages--why was I unable to manage more than a vocal quiver that then seemed to be expanding to make my entire body tremble until I vomited on my shirt? This guy was not my friend since age 12, best friend in almost all the years since — a third of my life.
He had never been.
His deceptions, one after the next, ran against my awareness of facts I could corroborate: I’d seen the two together at a local eatery, he claimed they’d gone to a completely different place. His versions of the departure and return from our dorm were completely different than what was witnessed by the accuser’s roommates. He even refused to characterize it as a date, even though a mutual friend told me that the night before he picked her up, the accused had been broadcasting to his fraternity brothers he was going to “bang” her.
To respect the girl’s privacy, (she had to withdraw from school, had a nervous breakdown and entered psychiatric in-patient treatment) I have spoken of this to only a few friends in our mutual circles, and I would wager over 90% of our mutual friends have no idea anything ever happened.
Needless to say, the girl, her family, myself and the roommates have been indelibly traumatized by this ugly event.
To impede further damage to the alleged victim, and protect other potential targets from the accused, police were notified by family, but they insisted no charges be filed — their daughter had no further capacity for anything other than healing.
The authorities pursued a lesser charge for an unrelated crime, however; and the DA’s office negotiated with the family of accused to exile him back to home here in Portland, with proviso he not return to that college town.
My former friend has gone on to great success, a “normal” life. Being judgmental and arrogant are his defenses, presumably against fears of this event coming out. He appears to have absolved himself of this ugliness.
How nice for him.
For decades now I have cut ties with this individual. In the few years transpiring after the awful alleged event I heard neither acknowledgement of the trauma caused to me, nor an apology (although he has drunkenly admitted more than once to more than one friend something of a confession).
I, however, have been asked repeatedly via shared male friends to tender my forgiveness of his crime.
How can I? I never once heard him, or heard of him, expressing any remorse for the alleged victim. His perspective seems locked only into the psychic scarring caused to him, by his “stupid” choice made during a naïve time of his alcohol-tainted early adulthood.
I have always wondered if there are similar stories in his past, but, because my hunch is yes, I have never investigated.
My point is this: There are Kavanaughs and Fords strewn among us. We just don’t know about them.
These despicable and scarring events are swallowed and held within by stewards of secrets whose ideals of family, trust, friendship and human goodness have been forever shattered, who’ve become well-intentioned shepherds sparing the greater group this ordeal, and protecting the damaged from becoming more damaged.
I have not seen the alleged victim since, though I have tried in earnest to find her while in several stages of empathy throughout the years. All I would tell her, given the chance, is how deeply sorry I have always been that this horrible thing happened.
It is through this lens that I was watching the Ford testimony and collateral political treatment of her, and the national sexual assault conversation during the Kavanaugh Senate hearings. Watching women in power betray women victims, and heroic women supporting their sister victims, I was struck with this observation: this was all orchestrated by white controlling males who, but for a sadistic few, eluded all spotlight.
Just as was with my former best friend, all injustices here are already being swept under the rug, labeled as false Democratic Party creations by the GOP victors, who unabashedly sent up a partisan jurist to the land’s highest court in manner that infected all wounds it inflicted, and re-opened.
The hypocrisy is mad, maddening, and not inconsequential to cruel, ignorant, lap-taking Republican winners of this bid.
As I quietly bow my head and back away from this ugliness, because my health demands I must, I ask we remember this entire fuss was caused by a forced attempt to give the Supreme Court a decidedly conservative lean, and leave you with this metaphor:
A bird favoring one wing is destined to fly in circles.