Cindie Chavez ©2018
Today Dr. Christine Blasey Ford courageously gave her testimony of her experience of being sexually assaulted as a teenager by SCOTUS nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Her testimony was emotional, heart wrenching, and credible. Reporters have said that people present in the room, including Senate staffers and Senators, were audibly crying and wiping away tears.
I watched my twitter feed concurrently with watching the hearing and was shaken as I read the multitude of tweets from sexual assault victims who were obviously reliving their own trauma through her moving testimony. As someone who has experienced sexual assault myself, I was fighting back tears listening to this brave woman speak her truth. There is no doubt in my mind about her credibility. I believe her.
Last week I read Elizabeth Bruenig’s incredibly powerful piece in the Washington Post telling the story of a high school girl’s rape and the response/reaction of this young woman’s community – disbelieving and unsupportive at best, hateful and abusive at worst. The agonizing story of Amber Wyatt’s high school rape and the aftermath was difficult to read in its wrenching detail. And one of the things that stood out to me was the author’s statement that women who report their attackers, women who tell their stories of rape and abuse, are not only doubted, but they are hated as well.
Last week I attempted to write and publish the details of my own story of sexual assault, and I didn’t succeed. It’s been nearly forty years, and although I managed to write about it in detail, I wasn’t brave enough to publish it. Beyond the emotional stress of telling the story – the idea that some people hearing it would choose to respond with not just doubt – but with hatred as well, is incredibly intimidating. No one wants to be doubted, let alone hated.
Presently on social media, there are dozens of hashtags that encourage people to #believeher, #believewomen, #believesurvivors. As the #metoo movement continues to expand, thousands of women from all walks of life are coming forward with their stories of rape, attempted rape, sexual harassment, and abuse. And for every one survivor that speaks up, there are multitudes who don’t.
There are no immediate advantages for the women who tell their stories. And so it stands to reason (especially for the multitudes of us who have our own stories) that there is no basis for them to lie. The result of someone giving credible testimony with no personal advantage to themselves is that we believe them, and we are incredulous at those who don’t.
But the idea that all of these brave women coming forth telling their stories, our stories, of rape, sexual harassment, and abuse are not “believed” is a fallacy – the truer statement is that when we do come forth and tell our stories, we are called liars.
The depth of belief is most likely directly correlated with the loudness with which the “doubters” feign their “disbelief” – the volume and repetitiousness with which they accuse all victims of being liars.
Not only do they doubt her, but they hate her.
And they hate her because they believe her. They know these stories, they’ve lived them, witnessed them, and heard about them for years in their high schools, their colleges, their secret societies, their clubs, their fraternities.
Rape culture is defined as behavior that includes victim-blaming, slut-shaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of rape, and refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by sexual violence. This culture so permeates our society that it is accepted as normal to not only trivialize sexual attack but to feature it and even celebrate it as evidenced in movies such as Sixteen Candles, Animal House, American Pie, and Porky’s – a few of the most glaring examples – all comedies.
When Dr. Ford was asked about the parts of her experience that she remembered most vividly she answered with her voice trembling, that it was the laughter, their having fun at her expense – “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter,” she said, highlighting not only her expertise in her field, but the unfortunate normalcy of such an incident being humorous to the perpetrators.
This week I heard a sexual assault victim recount that as her coworker voiced his doubt about the veracity of Dr. Ford’s story, she’d spoken up that she had a similar experience. Her co-worker’s response was “Oh! Well, I believe you, I just don’t believe her.” Not surprisingly this is painfully reminiscent of the people who said they absolutely would vote for a woman president, “just not that woman”. It’s so much easier to doubt “that woman” when she isn’t standing in front of you. But “that woman” is not just telling her story, she is telling our stories.
Our stories are believable, and that is exactly why a misogynistic society will always be determined to destroy our credibility because as long as our stories can be framed as lies the behavior of rape culture can continue.
Thousands of women are telling their stories. Our willingness to hear them, and believe them is crucial to creating a better world. A world where sexual abuse is not a laughing matter.
I believe her. And chances are, so do you, whether you’ll admit it or not.
Cindie Chavez is known as “The Love & Magic Coach”. She is the creator of MOONLIGHT™ – A Course in Manifesting Love and the author of Healing for a Broken Heart. She has some great free stuff for you at her website: www.cindiechavez.com
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Cindie Chavez is known as “The Love & Magic Coach”. She is the creator of MOONLIGHT™ – A Course in Manifesting Love and she has some great free stuff for you at her website: www.cindiechavez.com
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