I told myself that I would stay away from the Kavanaugh Ford hearing. I knew that I was not in a safe enough place to follow the hearing closely. But ignoring my better judgement, Thursday I watched a Facebook live stream of Ford’s Testimony and saw the comments flooding in as she spoke.
I could visibly see that Ford was terrified. I physically could feel her anxiety and her fear through my computer screen. I could empathize with these feelings so so deeply. I could sit in her place. Less than 6 months ago I sat in front of a Title IX Coordinator who told me, “There were no witnesses. There isn’t enough evidence.” and it was deemed unworthy of investigation. And this woman endured this on live television. She felt these feelings in front of millions of people when she didn’t even want to reveal her name at all in the first place. I watched comments flood in accusing this woman of lying, questioning her reactions to trauma, and harassing her and her family. I imagined what she may be going through and I felt so many feelings with her. And it is so obvious why women do not want to report.
I proceeded to drive to Guyton Hall, where I would meet two classmates to practice for a group presentation. I got ready to present on Josselson’s Theory of Women’s Development and how women find their identity through crisis commonly in college years. I imagined standing up in front of my classmates to present my information. And I heard the Facebook comments reel through my head “She’s lying. Why did she wait to report? Why doesn’t she remember? How much did she drink?” and the spiral ensued. The weight of these comments weighed so heavily on me that I couldn’t breathe. And I began to hyperventilate. Reliving my experiences, my own trauma, and imagining those that so many others experience lead me to a full fledged panic attack sitting there with my classmates.
I am not going to ask you right now to lean one way or the other or to believe Dr. Ford. But instead I am going to challenge you to practice empathy. To think about the weight that your words hold. To realize that the words you are publicly saying towards and about Dr. Ford are being heard by countless women. Women who have been in similar places, who have been in her shoes. Women who have experienced legitimate trauma and are not lying. Women that maybe have not experienced abuse before but will no doubt experience it in the future or know someone who will. And they will remember your words. The boys you are raising will remember your words. That “boys will be boys” and that there aren’t consequences for their actions if they can accomplish them without leaving evidence.
Whether you believe her or not, think before you post. Think about your words. Think about others. Think about the women that identify with the things that Dr. Ford is representing and standing up for. Take the politics out of it, the left or right wing views. These are human beings. I understand the concept of innocent until proven guilty. But it just doesn’t seem right that a women should consistently be a liar until proven honest. This is why sexual assault is horrifying. Because there is never real evidence. And even though statistics show that 95% of the time the victim is telling the truth, we still don’t believe them.
I pray that some day we can all breathe easy again. That we don’t have to feel strangled with fear at the mere fact of being a woman. That we can feel safe in our own skin. That men can face consequences, no matter how far down the line, for their actions. That we don’t need proof or witnesses to feel as if our assaults are legitimate.
For the 1 in 4 women who have experienced sexual assault, it is okay to disconnect from social media right now. It is okay to take care of yourselves right now so that we can continue to work for change in the future. And remember you are brave, you are loved, and you are enough, no matter the outcome of this situation.