Many women have been coming forward with their own stories of unreported sexual assault in support of Dr. Ford’s claim against Brett Kavanaugh. Many men, especially men in power, doubt Dr. Ford’s claim because she didn’t report it and view her allegations of sexual assault as a political ploy to undermine the nomination process. I fear that even men within my own family believe this to be a political ploy and dismiss Dr. Ford’s claim. I’m here to say that if they dismiss her claim, then they are dismissing my claims too, the ones I never reported and never even spoke of after they happened.
Unfortunately, I have been sexually assaulted various times, in various ways, and to various degrees; the first time happening around the age of eight. I don’t think I’ve ever confided in my parents about any of it but have spent many sessions in therapy discussing some of them. One experience kept creeping back into my consciousness as I listened to a discussion today on NPR about why women do not report sexual assault. This story, my own story, seems most closely aligned with Dr. Ford’s story and I’m guessing, many other women’s stories from their teens and 20s.
I had just finished my junior year of college and had been invited to visit a college friend in Long Island for the fourth of July weekend. This was a big deal for two reasons, one: I usually liked to be home for the fourth because my family always did a big celebration and 2: I was going to be going into NYC with my friend for only the second time unsupervised. We were going to have the freedom to go wherever we wanted and do whatever we wanted in the city. I drove out to long island to meet her and our exciting weekend began. We took the train into the city, caught up on what was going on since school ended, and she introduced me to her friends, who she had gone to high school with. It was one of those friends, who seemed so nice, that would later sexually assault me.
One night during my visit, one of her friends threw a party and we were all drinking. I’d been hanging out with these people for a couple of days now and they were some of my friend’s closest and oldest friends, so I felt safe with them. I was drinking and flirting with the boys at the party like I often would at a party in college. One of the boys showed an interest in me and I flirted even more with him despite having no real interest in him. I had a bad habit of toying with boys for attention, pretending to be more interested than I was, it made me feel powerful. Maybe that was one of the reasons I didn’t tell anyone what happened, I had felt like it was my own fault, like I deserved what happened. At one point during the party, I went off with the boy who was showing an interest in me. I think we were walking to someone else’s house in the neighborhood to get something, I don’t remember. I also don’t remember how I ended up of the ground, on the berm, between a parked car and a sidewalk. It was dark and late, and the boy was on top on me pinning me down. I was small, maybe 110lbs, and had had way too much to drink to fight someone off me. I remember him telling me that I wanted it, that I’d been flirting with him all night, and that I was a slut. I repeatedly told him no and to get off me, but he was fumbling with his belt buckle and every second I struggled he was closer to penetration. One of my greatest fears was about to happen, but then I was saved. A front porch light flipped on at the house we were in front of and an angry woman appeared at the door yelling at us to take it to our own yards or she’d call the police. I’m not sure if she realized what was really happening or ever knew that she saved me, but she in that moment was a distraction and I was able to jump up and run back to the party where my friend was.
When we got back to the party, I knew I couldn’t tell my friend. Everyone was drunk and having fun. No one was going to listen to my story. I just convinced her to take me back to her house. When I tried to leave, the guy, had taken my shoes and thrown them somewhere so I could only find one. I had to walk back to my friend’s house embarrassed with just one shoe. I didn’t sleep at all that night. I tried to decide if I should tell my friend. Would she believe me? Would she blame me? Would she be mad at me? The next morning, I tried to approach the subject with her, but she seemed mad at me for “fighting” with her friend and sided with him about throwing my shoes, so I knew telling her that he tried to rape me was not an option. Instead, I just told her that I was homesick and wanted to go home early to be with my family for the fourth.
I drove home that morning and never said anything to my parents about what happened to me. I’m not sure I ever told anyone. I felt so ashamed, embarrassed, guiltily, and stupid. I blamed myself for putting myself in that situation and not being smarter. I felt bad for driving a wedge between my college friend and her high school friends. I felt even worse that she had seemed to side with him. I hardly spoke or eat for the next few days as I tried to come to grips with what happened. Eventually, I managed to bury the memory, push it way down inside so that I didn’t have to feel all the awful things I was feeling about it.
My friend and I didn’t talk again the rest of the summer and the following fall we started to hang out less and less until we just stopped seeing each other all together. I hated that seeing her would often bring up those memories and feeling from that night. It was just easier not to see her and to drink instead, so that’s what I did. I turned 21, started drinking more and smoking pot to escape what bothered me. I tried to take charge of my own sexuality, so I would never feel out of control of my own choices again, which lead to bad choices. At one point, I even shaved my head in an attempt to make myself a less likely target of the sexual assault and problems with men. None of that worked though and I continued to be affected by the assault even to this day.
That’s my story, or at least one of them. Some boy, who I don’t even remember the name of, a boy who probably doesn’t even remember me or this story, a boy who may or may not have done the same thing to other girls before or after me, attempted to force himself on me when I was 20, affecting me for the rest of my life. I’m sure he is out there somewhere today, a husband, a father, a little league coach, or employee of the month. His neighbors probably think he’s a really great guy and maybe he is now, but that doesn’t change what he did to me over 20 years ago or the effect that it has had on me every day since. I never reported his crime, his life wasn’t ruined by some stupid mistake he made as a teen, but parts of my life were. So, yes, I believe Dr. Ford and any other woman who is brave enough to stand up and admit that she was once sexually assaulted. Because women do not admit to sexual assault as a political ploy or for attention. They admit to sexual assault in an attempt to raise awareness and make the world a better place for women.