Believe women. It seems like such a simple phrase, but to so many people resist the notion, muttering darkly about due process and suspending belief until all allegations can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But belief doesn’t require absolute proof. If it did, could anyone believe in God? No. They could not.
“It is hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head.” Sally Kempton
There are so many things I wanted to blog about in regards to the whole Kavanaugh national disgrace, but the thing that keeps coming up for me over and over again is internalized misogyny. We all have it, but there are so many women out there commenting about Dr. Ford being a “liar trying to ruin a man’s reputation” that I’ve been pissed off and frustrated.
While the Kavanaugh hearing and debacle has dredged up so many things I thought dealt with or buried in dealing with my own abuse and trauma, I keep remembering this girl in the 4th or 5th grade. I can’t remember her name, and I wish I could because I’d try to reach out to her and apologize.
This girl was 10-12 years old, as was I, and she said that the orchestra teacher had molested her. Ten years later this man was finally caught and arrested. I’m assuming no one believed the girls that came after her, either.
More importantly to this narrative, *I* didn’t believe her.
I remember quite clearly lining up to go inside after recess and me and my bitchy friends were talking about it and she overheard us. She motioned me over and asked if I wanted to know what happened, and I said yes. She told me about this man – who my family nicknamed Chester the Molester a few years after this incident because it became a known secret that he did this – and how he shoved his hand down her shirt.
And being a bastion of hope, kindness, and open mindedness, I went back to my friends and said loudly, “She told me but I don’t believe her.”
I said it loud enough for her to hear and I said it with venom. There is no making this more palatable – I was a fucking bitch to this girl.
Now here I want to forgive my pre-teen self for being an unmitigated bitch. I want to talk about how my grandmother would say – any time she heard of anyone being raped that they should have just kept their legs together. I want to say that I had internalized the culture of disbelief and was just doing as I was taught.
But honestly, that’s all bullshit. This girl – who wasn’t popular and was often alone – told me what happened and I smacked her down for it. I think about this often as I see clips of Dr. Ford’s testimony. The shaking, the voice, and the suppressed panic – this girl exhibited all of this and my bitchy childhood self took it as an indication of someone lying.
So, to this girl – god how I wish I remembered your name – I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that to you or about you. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you and I’m sorry it took so long for the man who did this to you to get his comeuppance.
I’m sorry I was an asshole to you over something indescribably traumatic. I was shitty to you and I should have led with kindness not viciousness.
Seeing all of the women out there that as grown adults acted the same way I did as kid is pretty distressing. Hearing all of the men out there call Dr. Ford a liar – and after the hearing, I honestly believe people who believe him over her are delusional, a Devil’s Three-way is a drinking game? What the fuck ever, Brett – why on earth would women come forward in this culture?
My hope is that many of the women commenting this heinous stuff are never put in the same situation with a victim I was in or if they are, I hope they reply more compassionately than I did. However, with the way Republican women came out and voted for Roy Moore, I’m not optimistic.
The #believewomen hashtag is moving across the internet and I’ve had even allies come up with problems to this. “Oh, just believe women automatically without any proof or anything?! That’s insane!” Yes, I think you should believe women when they tell their stories, especially since most of these stories are being posted online and they aren’t in a court of law.
If the accused is “innocent until proven guilty” the accuser should also be considered “innocent until proven guilty” but no one thinks this way. Believing women doesn’t mean you get a posse together and go after anyone vigilante-style. It means be supportive to the women in your life and give them the benefit of the doubt. Don’t just discount what they are saying as some sort of knee-jerk ingrained reaction.