CW: Sexual assault.
I believe Anita Hill. I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. I believe Deborah Ramirez. I believe Julie Swetnick.
My best friend describes me as a logical person. I take this to be a very high compliment. Recently, the two of us tried to pin down exactly what “logic” means to us. I like to think critically about things—factors that shape situations; intersections between these factors; ways in which ideas, thoughts, and feelings combine to form outcomes. It’s a form of interrogation, and it always leads to my questioning my own motives, feelings, and memories. It’s usually a fun, stimulating exercise for me to consider why the world is the way that it is and why people, including myself, believe what they do.
This week, my logical impulse has been a fist clenched around my throat.
I cannot stop thinking about Brett Kavanaugh; I cannot stop thinking about my assaulter.
I cannot stop drawing parallels, revisiting my 16-year-old self’s anxious headspace and questioning how much of my then 17-year-old assaulter’s behavior to excuse.
I return again and again to one, until now, pretty unimaginable scenario for me: if I were to report that I was sexually assaulted at a party six years ago by a then 17-year-old boy, would I be believed and by whom?
This scenario is not a fun one to play out:
I struggle to remember every excruciating detail from a night I have spent considerable amounts of effort struggling to forget. The couch was L-shaped and green, the blanket was a duvet, the carpeting was beige, the TV was on. I include the details that fill me with guilt and shame.
I imagine pleading with a jury of nine men. I imagine, under pressure from an attorney, re-scrutinizing every single memory. I imagine the voices behind Facebook comment threads I’ve regretfully read coming to life; strangers judge and blame me. I imagine reading stories by people whose trauma is invoked by my recalling my own trauma. I imagine people from my high school signing a letter about my assaulter’s laudable character. I imagine, in that courtroom, what I would concede. What were you wearing? How much alcohol did you consume? Why didn’t you report? Why didn’t you scream? I imagine eventually falling silent.
A bikini is not consent to any form of physical touch. Too much alcohol is not consent to sexual acts performed on you while you are incapacitated. A mutual kiss is not consent to anything beyond the kiss. Silence is what takes place when you are alone in your room, reading your favorite book; when you are deep in thought; and when you are sleeping. Silence does not yearn for the touch of cold, clammy hands. Silence is not agreement, even when it keeps you up at night.
Imagining this scrutiny, putting myself through a trial of my own this week, has resulted in an affirmation of the details I do remember. Before this week, I felt as close as I could to being at peace with what happened to me six years ago. I felt and feel that I better understand the pressures my assaulter must have been experiencing: the pressure we put on boys to choose between feeling socially ostracized and objectifying girls.
But now that I have scrutinized—rethought every detail, every transgression of a boundary, every sip of alcohol, every article of clothing, every passive bystander—I am more confident than ever that I was assaulted. Inexcusably, willfully violated. I don’t owe you or anyone else the details. I am not testifying before a court of nine men; my country is not watching; my trial this week will remain, aside from this blog post, in my own mind. How utterly infuriating it is that I feel lucky.
I BELIEVE ANITA HILL. I BELIEVE DR. CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD. I BELIEVE DEBORAH RAMIREZ. I BELIEVE JULIE SWETNICK. I BELIEVE MYSELF.