What Brett Kavanaugh's Victory Means to Victims
In elementary school, it was just discipline. In junior high, my depression turned me into a brat. My friend used the word abuse periodically, but the term felt too strong, “We just don’t get along,” I would say. Then high school came and things didn’t feel right.
When I look back, I can only think of blips in time; the memories are blurred at the edges. Panic attacks in the bathroom, being sworn to secrecy, the burning stare from a psychiatrist. The police at my door or the social worker outside of my classroom.
Talking about the past is usually followed with a single breathy laugh and the explanation, “I get myself into some bad situations.” Accidentally picking fights with my dad was part of my naive charm. It wasn’t until I was 1,000 miles away from him that I realized the fault may not be mine. But by then it was too late.
On September 27th, Brett Kavanaugh was questioned on the charges of sexually assaulting Dr. Christine Blasey Ford at a high school party. Dr. Ford came forward with the allegations after hearing of Kavanaugh’s consideration on the Supreme Court because she felt it was her “civic duty.” She explained what she remembered, giving as much detail about the layout of the room, where the bed was, and the laughter that persisted through the assault.
Judge Kavanaugh described the accusations and the 10 days that led up to the hearing as “a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election; fear that has been unfairly stoked on [his] judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups. This is a circus.”
As the air got colder, a sense of danger began to build up like stomach acid inside of me. I didn’t want to go home for the holidays, but it wasn’t an option to boycott winter break because of a vague fear. While I couldn’t remember what had happened, I knew there was a reason I felt this way.
I sat in my father’s driveway and watched as he held back tears. He had seen the movie Girl on a Train and saw what a horrible mistake he had made. I listened to his story and was overcome with hope, hanging on every word. It wasn’t until he mentioned his girlfriend’s name that I realized he wasn’t talking about me.
“I’ve been abusing her. I’ve been calling her names and giving her ultimatums. I’m just like the guy in that movie,” I wouldn’t look at him so he grabbed my hand. “How can I fix what I’ve done to her?”
The feeling was new but also familiar. It was stronger than the one that loomed over my head every day. I recognized it from the darkest memories of how he looked at me. It was rage. Not at him for asking, but for me wanting to have the answer.
Dr. Ford was meek in her responses and controlled in her emotions. They questioned her fear of flying and how she managed to travel at all. The relevance wasn’t questioned, nor was Judge Kavanaugh’s argumentative responses to an FBI investigation. Throughout the hearing Senator Leslie Graham would scream of his outrage, calling the accusations and hearing a mess, a sham, and a charade.
I watched as Judge Kavanaugh cried over the question “What did you do in high school?” and all I could think was how people would pity him the same way I pitied my father.
“You can’t just give up on him,” my sister would say with a shrug. “You know what you do that makes him mad, so just don’t do those things and you should be fine.”
On October 2nd, President Donald Trump spoke about the hearing at a rally in Mississippi. He threw up his hands and smirked, “For me, it’s like, a part of the job description.” The president bragged that this happens to him all the time, just a few months after the Stormy Daniels story was swept under the rug.
He lamented on the injustice; how “a man’s life is in tatters” because Dr. Ford couldn’t remember the specific details of a traumatic event that happened 36 years ago. No, not the details of the event. The details of what surrounded the event. The address, the room, the time, the car she took. These are the details that matter. These are the details - or lack thereof - that inspired his speech.
“[People like Dr. Ford] destroy people,” Trump warned the crowd. “They want to destroy people. These are really evil people,” the crowd began to cheer.
Talking about the past usually ends with a sigh. Not from me, but from my friends. If not a sigh, then a look, or a gentle hand on the shoulder or an even gentler call of my name. But that doesn’t bother me. It’s the silence that follows. Not from my friends but from myself. The realization that maybe I didn’t just let this happen, that maybe if I fought back the circumstances would still be the same. And the even worse realization that this isn’t true but it’s still why I stayed silent all this time.
In a 60 minutes interview with President Trump was asked why he would mimic Dr. Ford’s testimony, making jokes and implying she wasn’t telling the truth. He responded that “if [he] hadn’t made that speech, we wouldn’t have won,” and “You know what? I’m not gonna get into it, because we won. It doesn’t matter, because we won.”
But who won? Another man whose life is in tatters, stitched back together in the form of political power? And why does someone have to lose?
I wish there was a way to wrap this up nicely, but there’s nothing nice about it. There’s no happy ending, or an ending at all. The fight will never end and the feelings will never go away, whether it be physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.The only thing that can hurt more is being denied the validation that it happened. The memories may fade but all it takes is one look, one touch, one news report to bring it back. It will last as long as Justice Kavanaugh’s prestigious career and it will continue to leave wives and “beautiful and incredible young girls’” lives in tatters until we take them seriously.