Men and women are not only different because of their gender but also due to their varying experiences. While both men and women can become victims of sexual harassment and assault, women are often the ones attacked since they are viewed as the “weaker” gender.
When women are brave enough to speak up about their attacks, the first question that most people ask is, “What were you wearing?” as if their clothing was a form of an invitation.
On Sept. 27, the country watched as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee that she was “100 percent” certain that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her during a summer party in 1982.
Ford, a research psychologist, recalled the horrific night that Kavanaugh pinned her down to a bed, covered her mouth and molested her while his friend Mark Judge watched. Her voice trembled slightly, but Ford gave a full account of the night to the best of her ability. She refused to spare the public of the details, wanting everyone to understand the terror that she felt 36 years ago. The terror that one out of six American women has faced in their lifetime after “being the victim of an attempted rape or completed rape,” according to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).
For many individuals in the United States, Ford is a hero.
The moment that Ford stood before the committee and described the most terrifying experience of her life, she became a symbol of strength and courage to all sexual assault survivors. Victims of sexual assault often feel voiceless when it comes to talking about their attacks. They often think that the public won’t believe them and fear the repercussions that might come along with that disbelief.
I believe Ford, and I believe every other woman that has come forward in the past year and told their experiences of sexual harassment and assault. Don’t call me naive or easily manipulated because I am neither of those things. I believe these women because of experiences that I have faced myself.
Like many other women, I have also faced sexual harassment and assault.
I have encountered catcalls from random men on streets, heard people make vulgar comments about my body and have even been touched inappropriately. Now you must think to yourself, “Was I asking for it?” I can assure you that I was not, just like many other victims. I was targeted not because of any other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018
Recently, President Donald Trump tweeted, “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local law enforcement by either her or loving parents,” which caused Twitter to explode with the hashtag #WhyIDidntReportIt. Women and men from all different ages, races and backgrounds tweeted why they didn’t report their assault.
Many replied that fear, shame and even embarrassment was the reason:
I thought it was normal. I thought I probably brought it on myself. I thought no one would care. I thought it probably didn't matter anyway. I thought I wasn't important enough to bother. I thought I was alone.#WhyIDidntReport
— Cosmic 💀🧼 (@cosmic_mushroom) September 28, 2018
#WhyIDidntReport I learned early that nobody would help me. Married 8 yrs and haven’t told my husband. He thinks I’m “jumpy” without knowing why. I’m 38: I’m afraid of the dark, sudden loud noises, obsess about locking doors. I wrote and deleted this tweet at least 10 times.
— Kellz (@hellzbellzzkell) September 23, 2018
For me, it was that I didn’t think I was important enough. Or better yet, I didn’t think what happened was a big deal because worse things have happened to other people. Looking back on it now, I realize that I am important, and my experiences are just as valid as anyone else’s. I wish I had handled my experience differently. It might have saved me from years of pain and confusion, but I didn’t. I cannot change the past.
Although I may have handled my situation differently, I can still choose to support women who decide to come forward. I choose to believe women like Ford because their stories matter just like mine. Sexual assault is real and according to RAINN, every 98 seconds another American becomes a victim to it.
So, when a victim has enough courage to tell their story, let’s not ask them why they didn’t report it when it first happened. Let’s be supportive and remember it’s not easy to bare one’s most vulnerable moment to the world.