Learning to Talk
by Cheyenne Skurczak
October 18,2018 | Voices
“I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.”
These words opened Christine Blasey Ford’s statement on September 27th. They were followed by the details of how, as teenagers, a drunken Brett Kavanaugh and a friend locked Ford in a room. Kavanaugh then pinned her to a bed and attempted to remove her clothing. When she tried to scream, Kavanaugh placed his hand over her mouth. “This is what terrified me the most [...] It was hard for me to breathe and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me.” Brett Kavanaugh was recently appointed as a member of the Supreme Court.
77% of sexual assaults go unreported in the United States. Namely, victims feel as if their stories will not be believed and that they only have themselves to blame. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor of psychology and a research psychologist, kept the details of her sexual assault hidden for decades. Nevertheless, when discovering that her attacker was possibly going to become a member of the Supreme Court, she decided to speak up.
With a quiet, quivering voice, she took the stand and nervously recounted the details of the day. She apologized for not being able to remember particular details of the moments leading up to it, yet she claimed that what she remembered most poignantly was the sound of Brett Kavanaugh and his friend’s laughter throughout the process.
Kavanaugh claims that the attack never happened, whereas Ford when asked, said she was “100%” certain that he was her attacker. Kavanaugh believes that Ford’s claims and testimony were a political attempt to diminish his dignity. When asked if he had gone through Hell with this case, he answered, “I would say I’ve been through Hell and then some.”
Kavanaugh’s depiction of Hell drew to a close when he was appointed to the Supreme Court, giving him one of the most important positions in the American judicial system. Inversely, Ford’s Hell is seemingly only just beginning. What began as her hope to protect her country resulted in her receiving death threats daily and for every word of her story to be analyzed under deep scrutiny.
The lens under which her story is being viewed is the same that many victims of sexual assault have faced when unveiling the most vulnerable pieces of themselves; revealing details of their trauma in hopes of finding justice somehow only results in the view that they are hysterical and manipulative liars. With this, victims’ charges (primarily women’s) are twisted into being seen as attempts to sabotage their attackers (primarily males). Many believe that Kavanaugh should not be held accountable for his actions as a teenager for they do not believe that these determine his character today as a 53 year-old judge. Nevertheless, what is now the past was once Ford’s present — events which continue to affect her today.
While Kavanaugh’s speculation that his dignity was being threatened affected him as an individual, the dignity of victims of sexual assault is constantly on the line. The details of their stories are debated so blatantly that the fear to divulge is only amplified. At a recent rally, President Trump mimicked and mocked Ford and her inability to remember particular details of the events before and after the assault, questioning her credibility in the most public and demeaning manner. He also tweeted that, if the assault had affected her as horrifically as she described, she would have pressed charges as a teenager.
Many have found similarities between Kavanaugh’s case and the Turner V. People case, where Brock Turner, a student at Stanford University, was indicted for five charges of sexual assault after assaulting an unconscious girl at a party. His six-month sentence was reduced to a three-month sentence with three years of probation. His limited sentencing was due to the fear that a large sentence could compromise his future swimming career.
Thus, the question stands: if we believe that sexual assaults are a detriment to one’s past or future, when will it finally be considered?
There exists a plethora of sexual assault victims who must exist in the same world as their attackers, a world which is constantly doing its best to protect the “promising” white male and diminishing the worth of the vulnerables’ words.
The bravery of victims who have unleashed their stories does not go unnoticed, however. While Ford may be facing an onslaught of negativity, her raw honesty has resonated with thousands who sympathize with the fear she must be enduring and know that her battle has paved the path for many. Dawson student Rosie* is a victim of sexual assault, yet she has not pressed any charges as she has always been scared. Similarly, she fears not being believed because she cannot remember every detail leading up to the assault.
“It seems like so many people realize just how much nonsense was part of this case,” Rosie said. “People are starting to realize and react to just how unfair these trials really are. This helped make me feel as if maybe we’re getting closer to how we really should react.”
Victims understand, so entirely, the courage it takes to seem graceful within the most hectic of storms. Forcing yourself to hold steady while your whole being urges to shake and recounting details while your voice threatens to quiver are challenging feats. Yet, there is one undeniable fact - the gathering of whispers will eventually grow so loud, it will be so heroically undeniable.
*Names have been changed for the sake of anonymity.