‘He didn’t rape me, so I thought I should just move on’: The most heartbreaking moment of Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony is also the most relatable
The secret shame of “it could have been worse”
Everything about Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's description an allegation of sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee Justice Brett Kavanaugh is awful. Her trembling voice, detailed accounts of his weight on her, and the extremely personal vitriol and violent threats she received after first publicly making her allegation. But the most upsetting part of Ford's testimony was one line, a train of thought millions of women think, sometimes on a daily basis: "Because Brett didn't rape me, I thought I should just move on."
Women have always been taught to minimize our pain, both physical and emotional. Replying to "Hey, how are you?" with anything other than an upbeat "Fine!" is asking for attention, dragging the world into our own problems. Any kind of complaint, no matter how valid, is somehow ungratefulness. Maybe above all, we've got this mental self-measuring stick with which we have to measure our own pain: other people have it worse, what's happening to me isn't that bad. You don't want to look like a liar. You don't want to look weak. You don't want to look like you were out of control or powerless or — and this is the deathknell for women — being melodramatic. We get it all the fucking time, so why wouldn't we get it after a sexual assault? Especially because assault happens all the fucking time. We get groped at the club, rubbed up against on the subway, taken advantage of while drunk, kissed without consent. Even a full-on rape attempt complete with a hand over your mouth, like the one Ford described before the Senate Judiciary Committee, is something we try to suppress because hey, it's not like he actually succeeded, right?
It gets extra tricky when we start factoring in alcohol and people we know. We're quick to blame ourselves, the circumstance. It's easier to try and give our attackers the benefit of the doubt, even when there is no doubt, than square with all the baggage that comes along with being the victim of sexual assault.
We've talked all about the reasons why women don't come forward: the victim-blaming, the disbelief, how often there's absolutely no justice at the end of the tunnel. Who would want to submit themselves to what could be years of character assassination for anything less than a legal slam-dunk? There's audio of President admitting to sexual assault. Two witnesses caught Brock Turner in the act of assaulting a woman. I mean, Bill Cosby was just sentenced to prison and there are lots of people out there who still think his 60-plus accusers are lying. The thing is, men really want to keep it this way. It's easier to think of most women as overdramatic than to consider most men capable of sexual assault. We want to minimize, to move through life as smoothly as possible; no emotional burdens, no troubled pasts, no problems at all.
Ford wasn't done there, though. She went on to talk about why she's decided to come forward about her experience now: It was "jumping in front of train that was headed to where it was headed anyway," she said. "At that point I thought enough was enough." I'm optimistic that can the most relatable part of her testimony in the future. I'm done quantifying my own trauma.
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