Right now, the nation is humming, yet again, about sexual assault. I don’t think we’re able to catch our breath between publicized stories. Most of alleged and admitted predators are men; very few women have been identified as attackers. While most would say that the fact that men have dominated women for so long is the primary reason for victims to suffer, sometimes for decades, in silence, I tend to think that the same, reverse reason is true for those who have suffered abuse from females. The fact is, a woman could be just as scary and cruel as any man. That there is less of a chance that a woman will offend may be down to physiology and psychological makeup. We have the babies; we are the caregivers. We possess empathy and maternal instincts. This isn’t to say that those traits can be missing, and often are.
The sad truth is, men overwhelmingly dominate the roster of sexual predators and offenders. It is a uniquely male malaise. Why don’t victims of sexual assault come forward? Because women have been conditioned, since the beginning of humankind, to submit to men. It is in our genetic makeup, and it will take many hundreds of years to be genetically wiped out. Think of subservience as the appendix of the human psyche. We don’t need it anymore, but, there it is.
I’ve shared my #metoo story here. It was a protracted period of time for me; a time when I was just becoming a young woman and not entirely aware of the fact that there were some really bad men out there. Like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, I did not report my attacker. Well, I tried to, to the one person who should have taken one look at me and held me in her arms, promising that it would be okay, but perhaps it was the fact that subservience to men had been genetically stamped into her that my mother dismissed my account, unwilling to believe that such a “good” man would have defiled her daughter. I don’t blame her; she realized her error years later, when the horrible truth about the pedophile “ring” in our school district was exposed. She never apologized for not believing me, but I know she felt terrible.
What I never told her was that he wasn’t the first sick fuck man to cross my path. Disturbing things had happened to me not once, but twice before. They were one-time events, but I know now that I was a target for males who had that kind of psychological bent; I had no male figure to protect me in my life, and I was terribly trusting and naive. I was also quite starved for any kind of affection by the time I entered my teen years, and that carries a whole lot of reasons for why I think I reacted in certain ways to things.
When I was 4, a 17 year-old young man – my mother’s best friend’s son, referred to as a “cousin” because they had been like sisters since the single digits of their childhood – exposed himself to me. We were out back, in their garage, and I was looking at my uncle’s Edsel, which was stored there. My memory is not great when it comes to the details. He said some things to me, and then he opened his fly and took out his penis. I remember that he told me that I could touch it, and I remember an instinctive feeling of danger. It looked hideous and foreign to me, and I was both disgusted and afraid. I also knew that I had to play it very cool if I wanted to get out of there. I don’t remember what I said or did to assure him that I wasn’t going to tell, but I do remember trying to casually leave and then breaking into a run when I had gotten safely past him.
I never told anyone until three weeks ago, when I related the memory to the husband, who was immediately horrified and angry. I was terrified of that “cousin” afterward, and he was dismissive of me. I have wondered, as the decades have passed, if he is still alive and if he ever succumbed to whatever urges he had to get a child to touch him. He became a criminal and a drug addict, and my aunt and uncle stopped having contact with him before she died in the late 90s. Now, I wish I had told someone. That’s the guilt I carry: knowing that he probably did hurt another girl, and that I might have been able to stop it had I told. But as I say, I was one of those kids who must stand out to predators, because he may have been the first, but he wasn’t the last. What I relate now has never been told to anyone. Maybe it was because I was ashamed at being a fucking target for men who prey upon the innocent or who think they have a right simply because they are men, but the fact is, I’ve never felt the need to tell a soul this story. That is, until now.
Shortly before the teacher who abused me came along, The Male Sibling Unit received the gift of a large, three-wheeled bicycle from a local Veterans group. It had been built specially for him and paid for by them. It was well-known that he loved riding a tricycle and our mother could not afford to buy him a larger one. The man who built it was a member of the group, and he made a lot of trips to our apartment to take measurements, and we would occasionally stop at his shop to witness the progress. He was always very funny, and he and I would spar with jokes and sarcastic comments. I was 13, a wise-ass, and thought I was being very grown-up, talking with adults like that. I had no idea that he was thinking something else.
After the bike had been delivered, he would come by to check on it. One day, he was driving a classic car he had restored. It was really beautiful, and we all remarked about it. He “jokingly” asked me if I wanted to “go on a date” – a trip around the block in it. My mother told me to go ahead, and I jumped right in. By the time we had turned the corner, his hand was fumbling at my chest until he managed to cup my breast, and he was trying to pull me closer, because “That’s what you do on dates, and you wanted a date, so you’re gonna get one”. I squirmed, pushing him away, while he cackled. By the time we arrived back in front of the apartment building, I was as far away from him as I could get, up against the door. He nervously cracked jokes and laughed, telling me he was only playing. I jumped out of the car and walked right into the apartment and straight to my room. My mother didn’t notice my flushed face, crimson with humiliation, and he made a joke about “making me mad”. I shook for an hour afterward, wondering what it was that I must have done to encourage that. I felt, instinctively, that I was the one at fault.
Well, BULL FUCKING SHIT.
I know better now; I have known better for a long time. This story has never been told, not to the husband, or to trusted friends, or to a therapist. Nope, I didn’t report it. I buried it, like I did a lot of memories. But it happened, and while I cannot provide specific details – what color the car was, what I was wearing, or even the weather that day – the important shit, the shit that counts, is engraved indelibly in my memory. I no longer believe that I had somehow brought it on, or asked for it. A middle-aged man copped a feel of my 13 year-old breast, and I am certain he would have done more, had I acquiesced. That was on him, not me. The fact that it has been 38 years since it happened may blur the details, but not the act. 38 years may dull the humiliation and the fear, but not the fact of the act.
Dr. Ford is not lying because of some axe to grind or political bent; I know this as instinctively as I know that I love my children. My gut, the gut of a girl who was preyed upon three times, tells me that she’s telling the truth not to ruin a man’s life because she doesn’t agree with his point-of-view on political matters, but because he committed a careless, drunken, terrible act against her and he has never once atoned for it. He refuses to be truthful, or to submit to an investigation, and he believes that he is entitled to blanket belief because he says so and because of who he is. The fact that he believes he is entitled to blind trust makes him a danger to this country if he is confirmed into a job with no term limits. Her memories of specificities may have blurred, but the the act has not. It never does. All those circling the wagons to defend Brett Kavanaugh need to take an honest look at themselves and what they are defending. Every day, bit by bit, we are losing our humanity even as we continue to try and evolve into a better species. The ways of the past, of turning a blind eye to the sins of the fathers, must cease.
Dr. Ford is a goddamn hero.