I am emotional. Unable to define those emotions. But as I watch the two women question Jeff Flake, I tear up. The vision on my IPad screen takes me back. I remember dispair. Violation. The excruciating shame. My core is shaken and cold. I tighten the blanket around my body. Uneasy I bend my legs and wrap my arms around my knees. Slowly and silently I rock my body back and forth, autistically stimming to control my tears. The voice on the IPad cries: “Look at me, tell me it doesn’t matter. Tell me, that what happened to me doesn’t matter!”
My mind is chaotic. One thought interrupts the other. I’m supposed to be asleep by now, but instead I toss and turn in bed, leaving the cats, that usually cuddles up beside me, confused as to where they are supposed to rest for the night. Still, they stay with me. I am childishly grateful for that.
As you may have guessed, I’ve been following the Ford allegations against Kavanaugh, primarily through Twitter, but occasionally doing online searches for more background. I have been following it as I have been following #metoo and #WhyIDidntReport. With an emotional cocktail that equally saddens, enrages, humiliates and discourages me. Recovering from yet a major depression, I guess you could argue, that following those things, with my background, is the opposite of self care. And maybe it is – it’s not that I want to, but I need to. However much therapy I’ve had, however little I talk about it on an everyday basis, I still need to occasionally be reminded that I am not alone. Besides, it’s not my 40 year old self, I’m doing this for. It’s my 9 year old self inside me, that needs it. She is scared and alone. Her tears are silenced by threats and her voice is weak from the pain in her throat. Her body aches and bleeds from violation. I need to let her know, she is not alone. I need to take care of her. I need to acknowledge her existence, I need to see her, because nobody else did.
The other day I read an article saying that a Canadian study showed that 47% of the responders at some point had experienced sexual violation. That is a scary number. However, if you narrow the target group to the responders with autism spectrum disorder, that number goes up.
Let me repeat that: 78% of the autistic responders had experienced sexual violation. The number shocked me. I am in several online autistic groups and even in those closed support systems, we don’t talk about it. It didn’t occur to me that we could be particulary vulnerable to sexual predators. But our lack in social skills, our weak readings and understandings of social cues, our already isolated existence on the outskirts of normality makes us targets, the same way a baby calf is targetted by a lion on the savannah.
However, regardless of your brain set up, sexual violation comes with the shame and “forbiddenness” of the act and the guilt and self-secondguessing of “did I bring this upon myself?”. Did I wear the wrong clothes? Did I, unwilllingly, say or do something to encourage the assault? Your self worth is attacked and devoured, leaving the remains for the scavengers to feast on. Victimblaming and the illequipped way the justice system deals with these attacks only adds to the assault.
Is it – really – any wonder, that a lot of us don’t come forward? Even to our closest loved ones, coming forward comes with at least two very likely scenarios:
1) we get pity, rather than compassion and pity never did anyone any good. Pity has a demeaning flavour that forces the recipient to accept a lower rank than the giver. If you are already feeling worthless, pity just adds to that. Compassion on the other hand puts you on an equal level, it reminds the recipient that he or she has value to the giver.
2) your loved ones will most likely face their versions of shame, guilt, rage, grief – and maybe even disbelief, because disbelief doesn’t force them to deal with the pain of reality. You want to protect them from the formers – and the last thing you need is the latter. And in an attempt to “do something”, loved ones tend to turn to different ways of wanting to retaliate. You may feel pressured to give up names, timelines and details. You may feel pressured to report to the police, because “don’t you care, that this could be done to someone else?”.
If you, my reader, find yourself in a situation like that, I will urge you to hold your ground. If your gut tells you to report, by all means do, but make sure your support system is equipped to have your back. If your gut tells you not to report – don’t! Because that means, you’re not ready. Maybe in two months. Maybe it takes 5 years. Maybe you will never be ready. You should not have to apologize for that decision – and I will even go as far as saying that if anyone doesn’t respect that, cut the rope and leave them to their own devices. Your first and foremost obligation and task is to take care of yourself. That is how you survive!
The Ford/Kavanaugh allegations clarifies painfully other reasons for not coming forward: people that don’t know you suddenly feel entitled to judge you, in most cases it’s a “he said, she said” situation, and all too often I hear and read personal stories from people, who did report, who experience exactly what takes places right now with Kavanaugh and Ford: the allegations/reports are simply not being taken seriously.
“Snap out of it”. “Move on”. “It probably wasn’t that bad”.
Why bother to open an investigation? It’s been more than 30 years, what actual hardcore and rock solid evidence could you dig up anyway? It doesn’t matter anymore.
YES, IT DOES!
Regardless of whether it’s high profile on every media platform like Ford/Kavanaugh or an unknown survivor in a small town district coming forward – IT MATTERS that you open a serious and thorough investigation. IT MATTERS because that is how the system shows that it CARES – or doesn’t give a crap.
It matters because we have value. And right now, every survivor, not only in America, but globally has their eyes fixed on the Kavanaugh hearings, on whether or not an investigation will take place. Personally I am 4650 miles away, on the other side of the planet from that famous elevator.
As I’m writing this the voting has been delayed. Isn’t that a good thing? So why am I so emotional about it?
Yes, it IS a good thing. It gives just a little bit of hope that someone will come to their senses.
But tell me… why the FUCK would you even DEBATE whether to open an investigation or not? How can anyone be so careless about one of the most devastating crimes one person can do to another?
Survivors – globally – are indirectly being told that they don’t matter.
Perpetrators – globally – are indirectly being told to go on and indulge themselves. Those messages are being brought to us from one of the highest places of the selfclaimed supposedly greatest country in the world. There are countries looking to America for guidance and inspiration and THIS is what they see.
Tell me, why that should not frighten me!? How would that not concern me deeply thinking about the generations growing up right now and in the future? I cannot for the love of me wrap my head around the fact that some are willing – and even eager – to vote YES, without a thorough investigation.
I will add one tiny, but extremely important, message to the questioning of Jeff Flake at the elevator: you may think that this is a “men oppressing women”-thing… It is not – at least not entirely and exclusively. There is a large number of boys and men experiencing sexual violation as well – trust me, the statistics will shock you, because it doesn’t really get a lot of media attention. You might also be shocked to know, that men are not the only ones who abuses. The highest estimation I’ve come across so far of female sexual predators, is 20%. And if I remember correctly that number came from an American national help center. But keep in mind that statistics in these matters holds uncertainties, because not all sexual violations are being reported.
We need to remember that, as surviving women, before we in agitation start generalizing on an entire gender (as we have seen it with #metoo – on both sides of the fence, mind you).
There are plenty of good men out there, some of them even know all too well the pain sexual violation causes.
There are plenty of men that would – if we let them – march along side with us against sexual abuse and perpetrators. And we should let them. Their voices needs to be heard too.
What happens at the Kavanaugh hearings and votes will affect any survivor following, regardless of their gender. Regardless of their nationality.
Do the honourable thing: investigate. Thoroughly. Unbiased. The evidence will probably be scarce after more than 30 years. Maybe it will not even be possible with any certainty to know the truth. But the investigation matters. The fear we have felt matters. The tears in our eyes are valid. The pain we feel is all too real.
We matter. We have value.
So does your daughter. So does your son. So does your brother and your sister. So does your collegue. Just because you don’t know about anyone in your surroundings, doesn’t mean they are not there. Remember the article I read on how many had experienced sexual violation of some sort?
Take it in.