In my 36 years, I’ve attended 36 family Thanksgiving dinners. Most of them are a blur. I remember Thanksgiving 2003 better than any other.
In 2003, I brought home a boyfriend for the first time. We weren’t that serious, but we were dating, and I wanted to bring him with me when I dropped by my brother’s house for Thanksgiving.
At Thanksgiving dinner, in front of the entire family, my eldest brother called me a faggot and told me to get out of his house. When I tried to leave, he followed me to the door, kicked me in the ass, pushed me down his front steps, and spit on me. As I continued to leave in a hurry, he followed me out the front door, threw his beer at me, and continued to curse & call me names.
What were you doing on Thanksgiving in 2003? Do you remember minute details? Probably not — and that’s to be expected. You probably weren’t assaulted by your brother. I remember certain things in vivid detail. Other things are shrouded in foggy confusion. Why some details are vivid while others are foggy is another mystery. Random minute details are vivid, and seemingly important details are foggy.
I was wearing a slim-cut red button down shirt from Express Men. The Coors Light can he threw at me bounced off the ground next to me, hit the edge of a manhole cover, and spun like a top as it skittered across the street. I had turned right out the front door, but my car was parked to the left. I walked around the block to get back to my car because I didn’t want to walk past his house to get to my car. I remember trying to clean his slimy spit off the back of my shirt before I went anywhere else. I don’t remember where I went after that. I don’t remember where I spent the rest of my Thanksgiving that year. I don’t remember the Thanksgiving the year prior, nor the year after. But I remember that night.
I didn’t report it. I was fine. I was hurt, but I wasn’t physically harmed in the encounter. I didn’t think a police report would go anywhere, and I would just be stirring up more family drama than I cared to. There was an easier solution: keep my distance from that brother. Even though we were family, I was an adult, and could choose to walk away from that relationship. I had the tools and ability to deal with it successfully. For years, we didn’t talk. When he got married and had children, we reconnected some. He proved himself to have not changed, and today we’re (again) not on speaking terms.
Fifteen years after being assaulted, I went on the record and spoke up. My eldest brother was divorced, and in a custody battle involving his children, my nieces. I love those two girls, and would do anything to ensure they get what is best for them. I told my story to a guardian ad litem who was charged with investigating what would be the best parental custody arrangement for the children.
I spoke up fifteen years later, because it was no longer about me. I was fine. I had dealt with my scars successfully. Now, it was about what was best for my nieces. I was concerned that my eldest brother’s temper, his tendency toward violence, and his lack of remorse would negatively impact his parenting and would negatively impact my nieces. It was important that the courts know his history so they could determine what was best for those two little girls.
I’ve been asked if I hold a grudge against my eldest brother, if this is some sort of retribution. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I didn’t share the story out of hostility towards him. I shared it out of concern and love for my nieces. Not telling my story was a disservice to them. Without my story, the courts could not make an educated decision.
I share it today, because while my situation is certainly not the same as that of Christine Blasey Ford and other survivors in the news, the parallels of their lives to my own are quite remarkable. Their stories are relatable. Their stories are believable. Dr Blasey Ford did not come forward because she wants to be famous, or because she carries a political grudge. She came forward because of concern and love for the country. Not telling her story is a disservice to the nation. Without her story, the US Senate cannot offer educated advice and consent. The time that has passed is inconsequential — she still has vivid memories of details and she knows what happened.
There are plenty of reasons that survivors don’t come forward at the time. It may not be until many years later that they are comfortable coming forward and telling their story. Even decades later, certain details absolutely will be vividly and unforgettably accurate. I see people questioning the motives of survivors and victimizing the alleged perpetrator. They cast blame on the survivor by saying “She shouldn’t have put herself in that situation,” or “It was just boys being boys.”
Perhaps he should not have put himself in that situation where he could be accused. Perhaps she was just being a teenager, having a couple beers at a friend’s house. Have sympathy for the survivor and see how this questioning further victimizes them. The alleged perpetrator is not a victim.
I believe Dr Blasey Ford. I believe she was being truthful, honest, and completely forthcoming during her Senate testimony. Her story is not one to be dismissed by Senators. Her story should not be dismissed by voters. For decades, there has been a standard that elected & appointed officials have unimpeachable morals, and a temperament suitable to public service. That standard was apparently dropped in the 2016 Presidential election, and is being further ignored in this SCOTUS nomination.
The nation does not need an evasive, hot-headed, choleric SCOTUS justice with a dark cloud hanging over his past. The nation needs compassion for survivors. The nation needs perspective on what it feels like to be a victim. The nation needs to step back, listen to itself, and make decisions based on what is best for the nation — not based on our own selfish needs or preconceived notions. We should hold our government to the same moral standards to which we would hold our children. We should hold everyone to that moral standard.