This is not about one man

I am angry.

I am angry for the pain survivors, male and female, of sexual assault have been subjected to.

I am angry that the majority has stated in no uncertain terms that no woman’s word is ever enough.

I am angry that we’re being shown politics has no place for empathy.

I am angry that those in power have weaponized the pain of a survivor to silence her voice.

I am angry that people assume “believing” a survivor but believing she is wrong is anything more praiseworthy than destructive gaslighting.

I am angry that the hurt and fear and grief and trauma of so many survivors are finally starting to be seen, and yet the majority cares more about quickly confirming a judge than hearing their voices.

I am angry that so many still think it is OK to say with one breath that I believe her and in the next say it doesn’t matter because there is no proof.

I am angry that the majority would conflate the “trauma” of not being seated on the supreme court with the trauma of sexual assault.

I am angry that the majority does not see or simply does not care that they are silencing countless future victims by their complicity in rape culture.

I am angry that so many survivors feel hopelessness, isolation, and shame for the crime committed against them, and the majority has done nothing but reinforce that narrative.

I am angry at the insinuation that this sexual assault allegation is a product of partisan strategy.

I am angry that lies about when survivors report, what survivors remember, and what perpetrators look or act like are not only unchallenged by the majority, but even spoken directly by them and the president.

I am angry that so many don’t realize or don’t care that, intended or not, fair or not, what is happening right now is a referendum on the significance of female pain set against male power.

I am angry that at the highest levels of government belligerent, aggressive, authoritarian voices are valued over compassion, vulnerability, or healing relationships.

I am angry anyone could even unintentionally imply that believing a woman’s pain enough to withhold a vote would be “legitimizing the most despicable thing” in the midst of an “unethical sham.”

My anger isn’t about the results of today’s or a future vote. It isn’t even about whether or not people believe that Dr. Ford’s words are true. I am angry because so many voices are belittling, ignoring, or outright attacking the pain of so many survivors of assault by treating the multitude of stories that are finally coming to light as irrelevant. Responding to the voice of pain is not a partisan issue. Creating the space for healing and wholeness has nothing to do with partisanship and everything to do with creating the kind of world I desire for our children.

This moment is not about one man.

This moment is about what we are saying to the 43% of women and 23% of men who have been or will become victims of some form of sexual violence over the course of their lives. This is about every person in our lives who will know by our words and actions whether we will be an ally or an enemy if they are ever victimized.

I am angry that I see so much pain and I feel like I can do so little, but I will do everything in my power to prioritize the experience and healing of survivors. I can think of no better way to fulfill my life’s call.

I believe survivors.

I believe those who have no one else to listen.

I believe those who speak up against power.

I believe those who have the courage to speak up in a world that cannot hear a painful story without raising an angry fist.

I believe, even if all I can offer in return is to listen.

There may come a day when we, as a nation, err too far on the side of the accuser over the accused. But that day is not today.

That day will not come before those in power are taught to value survivor’s lives and voices as much as their plans for those who are accused.

That day will not come before emotion, empathy, and relationship are considered as valuable as wealth, power, and control.

Someday, perhaps, we will find a way to ensure that the vast majority of sexual assault survivors do not continue to carry the weight of trauma alone.

Until that day comes, I believe you.

2 thoughts on “This is not about one man

  1. Hi Jeremy – A friend told me about your blog and I wanted to read it. I have a couple of questions. What about those who have been wrongly accused? What about young girls who could be learning to be strong now and let your “no” mean “no” instead of waiting 35+ years to bring up someone’s past?
    I am sad at anger and accusations and politics that brings all this out when it could have been dealt with constructively – long ago. And I would think a person with a Ph.D. in psychology would have known she could deal with it before now. Triangles. They are dangerous.
    I like that you have a place to rant! Peace.

    Like

    1. Thanks for reading and for the conversation! I realized a while ago that I needed some place to compose all my random thoughts that don’t fit in anywhere else in my life or job 🙂 I’ll try to offer a little more food for thought, though I probably have far too many thoughts to address your questions sufficiently.

      For false accusations, it is true that it happens and I know personally of a couple of cases in which accusations were false. The problem is that only something like 2-10% of accusations are false, most fit specific patterns that aren’t present in this case, and I can’t recall a time when a famous and powerful person faced a concrete penalty greater than the loss of a job (and that is usually only after a multitude of claims are made). Bill Cosby is basically the first famous and powerful person I’m aware of who has even been sent to prison. In general, counting only rape, 6 in a 1000 times rape is committed, someone goes to jail. About 1 in a 100 even go so far as an arrest. Compare that to something like 18% of American women who will be raped at some point in their lives. The trauma, even when dealt with in a healthy way, leaves a lasting scar for most survivors. When I take the loss of job and (often temporary hit to) reputation of a handful of those in power plus the virtual guarantee that almost no false accusations will lead to legal consequences and I weigh that against the trauma suffered by millions of women (and plenty of men as well), I cannot help but err on the side of believing survivors. In other words, failing to take more accusations seriously only guarantees that a dramatically disproportionate amount of the injustice falls upon those who are already harmed the most. Our societal inability to process through accusations in a serious, healthy, or meaningful way makes the calculus that much worse for every survivor who faces the decision of whether to report. Without a process to take allegations seriously, the timing and dramatic nature of the current allegations coming to light become inevitable.

      As to the second question, I’d agree that it is almost always better to process through and deal with trauma sooner than 35 years later. That said, the things that encourage women not to report are numerous, powerful, and only now just barely starting to be challenged. If you take a minute to read through #WhyIDidntReport on twitter, you’ll get a taste of how deep and wide the pressure goes to keep survivors silent. It is tragic and it is awful that so many people have repressed memories and experiences so deeply and for so long. At this point, I suspect the genie is out of the bottle and there is no route through which those feelings are again repressed in the same way. If this were one single event without all the history and the incredible number of similar stories coming out, it might make sense to respond differently. But the same dynamics that kept Ford from saying anything until now are far too well known by far too many survivors. We have to figure out a healthy way to move forward from here and trying to find any sort of ‘blank slate’ approach just won’t work for the millions who have gone without any semblance of justice. Maybe put differently, I agree that it’s not good for this to come out now, but I blame the culture and the people in power who have silenced the voices that deserved to be heard; I do not put any of that blame on those who have been carrying the weight of trauma in a culture that has no desire to listen.

      As for coping with trauma, it would be great to develop better ways to help survivors cope after trauma. I’d be all for finding a way to offer every survivor free therapy and resources to overcome that trauma. But, as much as a mental health professional might know more about trauma now, no one knew much about trauma until very recently, much less how to healthily deal with it.

      Finally, I’d offer that the tragic fact is rape doesn’t stop until rapists don’t rape – there are things people can do to be a little safer and ways we can empower survivors to move forward, but advice for what people can do always FAR too quickly becomes a way for society to blame the victim. I titled my post the way I did because this case is a microcosm of the dynamics encountered by almost countless people who have faced sexual assault. Fair or not to those at the center of these allegations and related decision making, the way these allegations are being handled is speaking volumes to every survivor out there about who can be trusted and who will continue the culture of blame and shame that have silenced survivors for generations.

      Happy to engage further if you like. Thanks again for commenting!

      Like

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