One thing I find troubling about this Kavanaugh fiasco is the amount of victim shaming going on. Those who engage in this behavior often counter with, “What about innocent until proven guilty?”
But they don’t get it. Guilt or innocence of the accused has nothing to do with victim shaming. When you question what the victim did in response to the crime—that is victim shaming. Just because you don’t understand why the victim didn’t immediately make a police report or later socialized with the accused, you are focusing on the behavior of the victim and not the behavior of the accused.
For example, I don’t understand why women stay with men who beat them. But it happens every day, and just because I don’t get it—or can’t fathom someone behaving that way—it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
Just because YOU don’t believe you would act that way is not relevant. It is not about you. I’m not saying that the victim’s behavior is not relevant in evaluating the validity of the claim, but what many of these people, like Dr. Ford, are being victim shamed for is behavior typical with victims of sexual abuse. The most common criticism has to do with how the victim reported (or didn’t report) the crime or what they can remember.
With that being said, I want to share three incidents of sexual assault that I’ve experienced. However, they are more accurately described as attempts—or possible attempts.
Ruffie Wannabe Date Rape
My family moved from a suburb in Southern California to Havasu Palms in December of 1967. I was thirteen years old. About a year later I returned to my home town and had planned to attend a party while there. I don’t recall who was giving the party. What I do remember is a girlfriend warning me that some boys who were attending were planning to slip me a Spanish fly and have sex with me. I was a virgin, and back then we believed a Spanish Fly was something that turned a girl into some sort of sex fiend, unable to resist having sex.
My solution was to skip the party. I never told my parents. While I now know the Spanish Fly—if the boys really had it—would not have turned me into a sex fiend, yet it could have made me ill. At the time I didn’t fully grasp what those boys were planning for me—gang rape.
In college I majored in Communications with an emphasis in photography. When working with color images in the darkroom there is a period when you can’t have a safe light on, as you can with black and white. This means you have to work in the darkroom in TOTAL darkness.
I remember going into the darkroom with my male professor. When the lights were off and I was supposed to be doing whatever it was regarding the images, my professor never touched me—but…
It was the sound. It was deafening. Rustling and heavy breathing, like someone vigorously masturbating and breathing heavily.
I didn’t know what to do. Should I flip the light on, destroy my pictures, only to discover I was imagining things?
Or worse, what if I did catch him holding his erect penis, then what? I couldn’t even imagine what would happen, or if I would even get out of the darkroom alive.
I didn’t report my suspicions to anyone. I had liked the professor—until that point—and I had no desire to hurt him if my suspicions were wrong. I had to go into the darkroom alone with the professor numerous times for that class, and each time I heard the same sound.
I can relate when Ms. Ford is confused about when or where her assault occurred. You see, I attended two different colleges, and I can’t remember which college this occurred at. But I know it happened, and I remember the professor.
Exhibitionist or Would-be Rapist
During my last year at college I lived alone in an apartment in Fullerton, not far from campus. It was one of those apartment buildings where the door to my apartment opened to a hallway, like you would find at a motel.
One morning while leaving for class a man jumped in front of my door, blocking me. He had his pants down and his shirt pulled up, covering the lower part of his face.
I had recently completed a women’s self-defense class, so I did what I was taught. I yelled “Fire!” as loud as I could. The man abruptly turned, and started running for the exit, pulling his pants up as he did. A woman neighbor popped her head out of her apartment across the way and asked, “Fire, where?”
I told her what had just happened and she said, “You better run, honey,” and then slammed her door shut, locking it.
I remember my nerves rattling and calling the police, but I don’t remember if I called from my apartment or went down to the manager’s office. Even minutes after it happened, I remembered nothing about the man, aside from the fact he had his pants down and face covered. I couldn’t recall the color of his shirt or pants. I just knew he was white. I would have never been able to recognize him in a lineup.
When the cops asked if he was circumcised, I didn’t know. I hadn’t looked that closely. It had happened so fast, I was scared, and I had flipped into survivor mode, doing what I was taught at the self-defense class—put distance between me and my potential rapist.
As far as I know the man was never caught, but I heard he did it again later that day and tried grabbing the woman. I moved out of the apartment the following week and stayed with my grandmother until I graduated.
Those are just three incidents from my life—and I was incredibly lucky because any of them could have taken a devastating turn.
A final note—while I personally know women who have been raped or sexually assaulted, I don’t personally know any men who have been falsely (or otherwise) accused of sexual assault. So those memes now going around on social media, warning mothers that their poor sons are about to get falsely accused of rape if we listen to people like Dr. Ford—just stop. Mothers need to be more concerned about their daughters; they are the ones statistically at risk.