Christine Blasey Ford’s story has been a trigger for millions of women, like me, who experienced childhood sexual assault. We are female victims of the boys-will-be-boys attitude that has created and resulted from a toxic-male American culture in which women are discounted or disparaged and men, particularly rich, white men, can do no wrong.
Rich, white male politicians cluck their tongues over the current scandal. A female victim of a teenage sexual assault, allegedly at the hands of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, came forward to let his character be known to all and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, likens the revelation to “a drive-by shooting.”
“I’ll listen to the lady, but we’re going to bring this to a close,” Graham said, according to The Washington Post. Graham believes Kavanaugh is an innocent bystander being overwhelmed by the sudden accusation that he sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl when he was a 17-year-old boy. Many senators are acting with the bluster of men who have seen, heard, and excused this sort of thing before.
This sort of thing must not be excused as horseplay, roughhousing, or boys-being-boys. This is the point that women victims of sexual violence and women victims of sexual discrimination have been striving to make for decades. It is the point of #MeToo. Sexual violence and sexual discrimination are very real and very impactful on the lives of the women it affects.
Each time someone excuses a boy child for inappropriately touching a girl child, they are sending two messages. First, that it is OK for a boy child to violate a girl child’s bodily space because “he’s a boy being a boy.” His behavior, even when reported, is excused.
The second message is to the girl child; she is learning that her body, her mind, her sexual being, her personhood is valueless in comparison to the boy child. The girl child is admonished to stop tattling, to smile, and be a good girl. The boy is taught that he can take what he wants and the girl learns that she bears the inequitable burden of silence or risks retaliation for not being a good girl.
I’ve been there. I know.
By speaking out, Ford is breaching the furtive social contract between men and women learned during childhood. What she has to say doesn’t matter to men like Graham, it seems. Indeed, he appears to default to the standard male position that she should get over it already.
She can’t get over it and we, America’s women, can’t get over it. America’s women do not giggle and joke about being groped or raped. Women, like me, who have been sexually assaulted, sexually harassed, or sexually violated, can’t just put the matter out of our minds. The actions of our assailants are etched indelibly on our beings. Like Ford, Andrea Constand, Lucia Evans, Sophie Gayter, and Illeana Douglas — who all spoke out against powerful, famous men — many of us are facing our pain, breaking our isolation and silence, and finding strength in finding our voices.
American citizens can no longer ignore the fact that men — especially rich, white men who comprise the majority of America’s ruling class, making and imposing the laws of the land — consider women’s lives, women’s bodies, and women’s careers valueless in comparison to their own lives, bodies, and careers. By putting Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, the Senate would be recodifying this sexist, misogynistic code.
According to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, every 98 seconds a person in America becomes a victim of sexual assault. Fifty-four percent of these targets are between the ages of 18 and 34. One in every six American women has been the target of sexual assault or rape. According to the most recent US Census numbers, there are more than 165 million women in the US. By applying these statistics, more than 27 million American women are the victims of sexual assault or rape.
We are 27 million strong and we demand to be heard. Putting Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court is not OK. American women, all 165 million of us, deserve better.
Kimberley Sawtelle of Kenduskeag is a researcher, writer, and library specialist. If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 1-800-871-7741.
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