It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. Perhaps the world has been just a bit too overwhelming to be able to congeal my thoughts into something intelligible. But as I watched the Republican men on the Senate Judiciary Committee put Dr. Christine Blasey Ford on trial last week, while falling over themselves to apologize to her alleged attacker, Brett Kavanaugh, I’ve decided it’s time to speak out again.
So often survivors of sexual assault don’t report, and so often when we do report, we are not believed or treated with suspicion ourselves. This has been going on for millennia. It’s really about time that we believe the survivors.
The first time I was violated I was 12 years old. The creepy neighbor who lived next door was a handyman, and he was doing some work in our house. My parents had at some point told me not to go over to his house alone, but they never said why. And they allowed him to come to our house to do work. It was only a hug, but it was an uninvited and very uncomfortable hug. I remember that I had a new t-shirt. He had dirty, greasy hands, and he put his hands on my neck, and then my t-shirt forever had black grease marks from his hands on the back of the neck.
I can tell you exactly where I was standing in the house. I remember where he was standing. I remember what the hug felt like. It was 1974.
Then there was the time when I was 16, and I was walking down Main St. on my way home. A man pulled up along the curb and offered me a ride. I knew I shouldn’t get in a car with someone I didn’t know, but I did anyway. He was trying to see if he could get me to make some porn for him (he never came out and said that, but it became clear that’s what he meant), and then he groped me. I was terrified. I got out of the car and went home. And I was convinced it was my own fault, because I knew I shouldn’t have gotten in a car with someone I didn’t know.
I can still see the inside of his car. I can smell it. I can see his hands on me. I can hear his smarmy voice.
When I was 17 I was standing on a subway platform on 168th St. The platform was empty except for me and a man with big glasses and a trench coat. He exposed himself to me, and then he stood right behind me and began to masturbate. If I moved, he followed. Again, I was terrified. There were no cell phones in those days. I didn’t know what to do. When the train arrived, I ran on. I was shaking. I never reported this to anyone. I just wanted to get somewhere where I felt safer. That was in about 1978. I can still see his face.
The summer before I began college, when I was 18, another counselor at the camp where I worked assaulted me. He grabbed my hand and forced me to touch his genitals. Again, I did not report this to anyone. It was 1980. I was away from home. Whom would I tell? I remember what it felt like. I remember his face. I remember his voice. I’d prefer not to.
On October 31, 1980, also when I was 18, I was date-raped. I’d gone out on a Halloween date with a complete loser (I realized that not very long into the date). We’d gone back to his dorm room where I’d felt trapped and where he kept feeding me the line that I “owed him” because he’d bought me dinner. I did what he wanted so that I could leave. Even if I had reported that, in 1980 there was no way it would have been considered an assault. I’d “consented.” No matter that he’d coerced me.
I can see his room. I remember that he was playing “Another One Bites The Dust” (amazingly, I still like the song). I can see him prancing around his room in his stupid cowboy hat.
In 1986, an ex-boyfriend somehow gained access to my apartment building and then knocked on my apartment door. I wasn’t expecting him, hand’t invited him, but there he was, so I did allow him in. After a while, he started trashing things in my apartment. First he went into my bathroom and slashed my birth control (I found that out later), and then he came out and picked up a photo of my new boyfriend and smashed it. He’d become violent, and I didn’t know what to do, so I hit him. Which was a mistake, because then he came after me. I got to the door, and started screaming for my neighbors, and screaming for him to leave. He started to leave, and I started to close the door, but then he pushed his way back in again, and punched me in the jaw. Then he finally left, and I called the police. When the asshole white man cop arrived, he looked at me, and asked me what I’d done to provoke him.
I took creepy ex-boyfriend to court. The judge asked us to go to a mediator. He had to pay my medical expenses and reimburse me the damages, and he also agreed to stay away from me. In perpetuity (I also agreed to stay away from him, but frankly, that’s no hardship).
A few years after that, after I’d moved out of that city, I got a card from him. I think he genuinely meant it as a gesture of good will. But it terrified me. It terrified me to think that he knew where I was. It’s possible that he wrote it out and gave it to someone else to mail — the address was written in different ink than the name. That was 30 years ago, and I still remember getting the note and being terrified that he’d discovered where I lived.
Here’s the thing about my story. It’s not extraordinary. Most of the women I know have stories like these. Not a few of the women I know. MOST of the women I know. And a few of the men.
And this doesn’t even begin to touch on the harassment.
We have stories like this, and we remember the details. Even from long ago. What things looked like, smelled like, felt like. We remember.
We will continue to remember. Election day is November 6. We will continue to remember then, as well. Believe us.
That’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.