Eyes transfixed on my phone, I cannot look away. I see your navy blue blazer, eyes shut and directed toward heaven. I do not know what frenzies circle your mind, but I feel your exhale as your are sworn in. A release of carbon dioxide. A release of fear. This is the reckoning. You, the unintended messenger. Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford, thank you. Your truth withstood the power of the majority’s rage. Your words are the David to Kavanaugh’s Goliath. Under threat of felony, invasion of your privacy, and extreme pressure, your testimony gracefully delivered itself to the committee. You are the evidence in trials victims conduct in their heads– proof that there is an after when assaulted. Your intention was simple– to execute a civic duty. I do not mean to glorify you. I do not know you. I know that America bore witness to your incalculable bravery last week, and that is what I praise.
I planned a “Dear Brett Kavanaugh” piece, but the intention of this essay spreads larger than the fancy job interview that is the Senate hearing for Judge Kavanaugh. While he is on trial in the court of public opinion, no legal charges have been filed against him. It is my understanding that even if he is not confirmed to the highest court in our country, he will remain on the DC circuit. Point being that there are gains and losses for Judge Kavanaugh. There have only been losses for Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford, and still, she came forward. Still, she testified. This essay is my thanks to you, Dr. Blasey-Ford.
There is a reason I’ve never said any of my assailants names aloud. When predators are named, victims wither into footnotes in the narratives of their assailant. The issue becomes his reputation over her recovery. There is the denial of her experience, as it threatens his future. We, the victims, are both evidence of his crime and the albatross of his future. We’ve seen this too many times. Brock Turner and Emily Doe; Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill; Bill Cosby and his countless victims. This is not to discount the importance of privacy when addressing these matters. Moreover, please do not misinterpret this essay as a move to punitive measures. I’m not saying the justice system is wrong. I’m saying everything is wrong– especially the way we treat victims and survivors: that we need to “believe” them, that they must prove their victimhood and perform it in certain ways, and that process typically involves victims volunteering their stories without any sympathy for how that may re-traumatize them. Allegations of violence should be taken seriously. They can be damaging. I get it. Many point to the Duke Lacrosse team, who was falsely accused of assaulting a woman. Isolated incidents such as Duke are the exception not the rule. Sexual violence is a pandemic. False allegations do not invalidate the real experiences of so many.
Many senators including Cruz and Graham apologized purposely to Kavanaugh, They mourned the adverse affects your allegations, Dr. Blasey-Ford, would wreak upon his life. Some mentioned you as an aside– your rightful place in the biography of a powerful man. Senator Lindsey Graham exploded onto the committee–airing his nuclear frustrations and referring to the hearings as at the “greatest sham he’s witnessed since he’s been in politics”. I disagree. Sham is grandstanding, using theatrical language, and distracting the committee away from the stories of three women thus far. Sham is believing that a man who has demonstrated a lifetime of disrespect toward women can objectively decide matters concerning women. Sham is the inability to answer a yes or no question with “yes” or “no” (please see all of Senator Kamala Harris’s questions to Judge Kavanaugh).
I wanted to flip tables when listening to comments on your testimony. The ones discounting your assault crawled under my skin. “I mean, he didn’t rape her..” Rape is not the only way predictors slice their names into victims’ memories. He covered her mouth. Brett Kavanaugh and his friend trapped Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford in a bedroom. Beneath nightfall and laughter, their hands trespassed her entire body. Ask anyone to recall when hands became garden sheers along their skin, burglars to a body the man had no invitation to. Her friends were downstairs, but he covered her mouth.
Both Roxane Gay and Alice Sebold discuss the concept that as long as women aren’t murdered, they’re “lucky”. The bar is death. Anything above that is a blessing. The “lucky” concept minimizes how rabid sexual violence is, how broken I felt in its many wakes, how it is never gone but occasionally finds a new hiding place. “Lucky” is the new shut up. “Lucky” is the frat party fowl, dampening the mood. Every woman’s survival is not luck. It is a monument to her humanity– such a wondrous thing to survive against abusers who sorely lack it.
I felt “lucky” implied in the inferno of words coming for Kavanaugh, Cruz, and Graham. I felt the anger of entitled men being held accountable for their actions. They are a crystal ball for Brock Turner, the shock of their violence resurfacing to haunt them. Let Brett Kavanaugh be the cautionary tale for young men. Let this remind them that the bodies they ransack have names and futures and voices. Those voices will rise. Place a hand over it, and thousands will come to her rescue. Whether Kavanaugh is appointed or not, America never forgot Anita Hill. Her testimony on Justice Clarence Thomas never disappeared. Judge Kavanaugh, these women’s allegations are a part of your legacy. Never forget that, because America won’t.
Justice is an antiquated word in the wake of violence. You and I both know this. Your testimony wasn’t punitive. Anyone who heard it knows that. Very few people who’ve weathered rape, molestation, assault, harassment, want their assailants to suffer. I’d rather forget his name, the indentations on his face, how is tongue felt like sandpaper. A year after he tried to rape me, a sorority sister brought him to our house. Behind my glasses, I prayed he wouldn’t recognize me. I prayed to disappear. Truthfully, I doubt my assailant could pick me out of a lineup. Still, my intestines knotted, my heart raced, and my flesh froze to concrete. Is that what it was like to see his face everywhere again, Dr. Blasey-Ford?
You said you were “terrified”. I feel that. We all do. Through this essay, I’ve used “he” as the pronoun of predators and referenced “she” as victims. I know that is not always the case. Terry Crews demonstrated how agonizing it is for men to share their stories. Of all people, some Fraggle-Rock Rejects on twitter were trying to troll Crews as if his abuse was invalid. Y’all are trying to emasculate human Adonis and badass, Terry Crews?!?! Ok, Darryl, let’s see you nail a lip sync to “A Thousand Miles” AND play in the NFL!
You are not defined by your assault. You know this. You showed that to America through exquisite, educated testimony because you have a FREAKING PhD!! Likewise, my life still remains in my hands– despite the many who’ve tried to wrestle it from me. I am what I say I am. If Brett Kavanaugh, Brock Turner, Clarence Thomas, and every other powerful man can use his achievements as a defense, I use mine as proof that my assaults are my identity. You feel the same way, I’m sure. “I got my doctorate, and y’all wanna reduce me to the victim of human Wonderbread?! I think not!” Dr. Blasey-Ford, you said you “are no one’s pawn”. Damn straight, you are nothing less than a queen. Checkmate, Kavanaugh.