Why didn’t I report my rape to the Dallas police 34 years ago — when my job was covering the Dallas police for a local newspaper? Because I knew he was right when he asked, strictly rhetorically, whether they would believe new-in-town me, whose reporting they didn’t always appreciate, or well-off and well-connected him, who hahaha obviously didn’t have to rape anyone.
And who was it who had shown up at whose door again? I had gone to his house, it’s true. After he called to express an only-in-retrospect suspicious level of mortification that he couldn’t pick me up for our dinner date because his car had broken down, so would I mind coming by for him instead? I didn’t make it past the foyer, and the floor was marble I think, though if that’s wrong I must be lying, because according to what I read on Facebook, real rape victims remember every detail.
My sister, with whom I shared an apartment at the time, doesn’t remember me saying anything about it. For decades, until 2012, the only ones I recall telling are my now husband, whom I started seeing right after this happened, and a couple of years later a friend who was mowed down two years ago by a drunken driver in Denver.
I have no doubt that he pulled that “oh no, my car isn’t starting” trick not just once but many times. At what point, however, might I have made an accusation that would have had any result beyond hurting my own family and then-barely begun career? Time saver: The correct answer is never. Which, unless you’ve been left bleeding by an armed intruder, is usually the case.
Yet the president is far from alone when he says with certainty that if Christine Blasey Ford really had been sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in high school, then she’d of course have gone to the police, who would then have filed charges. There is a reason that two out of three sexual assaults are never reported, and we’re once again living through it, with all the usual cries about how “easy” it is to ruin a fine man’s life.
The many female and male lives that are ruined by sexual violence (and for the record, mine was not) are rarely mentioned by people so reverent about those upstanding citizens who are supposedly being “unfairly besmirched” by a liberal and media mob. I kept hearing that Ford must be either lying or confused, because “aren’t you always saying that where there’s one case, there are always more?” Now that another woman has accused Kavanaugh, of course, that’s written off as evidence of a coordinated political attack.
I had little against Kavanaugh until Ford came forward. As a pro-lifer, the possibility that Roe v. Wade might be overturned doesn’t exactly terrify me. From those who know the judge professionally and through church, I had heard only positive things, even if as a non-fan of President Donald Trump, I was bothered by his nominee’s apparently limitless view of presidential power.
Whatever happens now, though, one thing I know for sure is that the way this has been discussed — by those who even while regurgitating the usual clichés imagine that their groundbreaking 2 + 2 = 5 mental detective work could put any real world Olivia Benson out of a job — is painful to all of those who can see themselves in Christine Blasey Ford.
Please stop saying she should have come forward the “right way” when there isn’t one: Either you were willing or unstable or had been drinking, too, so what do you know? If you didn’t report right away, then that’s where you went wrong. Or if you did, then you had been the rejected aggressor, or else were dumped later, and came forward out of spite. The same people who claim that such reports are unverifiable also tend to oppose investigating, which works out neatly for perps, doesn’t it?
If this is the level of cavalier and supremely confident know-nothingism on sexual assault years into this conversation, can you imagine where we were before it started?
In case you’re curious, it’s not true that all “real” victims tell someone right away — maybe just cast a glance at the 900 pages of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on sex abuse by priests to see that most wait for many years, which is why there should be no statute of limitations for sex crimes.
It’s not true that “true” victims recall every detail, either. Please run your eyes across any one of the many volumes that have been written about your brain on trauma. Or talk to any experienced sex crimes investigator.
Ford had to know what she would face in telling her story. And not only everyone who has been in her situation but also all those who ever will be, and will someday have to decide whether to file a report, can see what it’s costing her.
This column originally appeared in USA Today.