“The uproarious laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense,” said Dr. Christine Blasey Ford last week in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
This was Ford’s response when asked what her strongest memory of the assault that happened to her when she was a teenager, allegedly perpetrated by Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh’s hearing took place Thursday and began with Ford’s testimony against him. The hearing was called “historic” by CNN and The Washington Post, who followed the hearing with live video updates available to the public to watch.
As I ate my breakfast and listened to Ford’s heart wrenching opening statements, this quote from her testimony stuck out to me most.
While Ford’s story is tragic and upsetting, it unfortunately is not the first of its kind. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network “1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.” Not only do many women fear the possibility of being assaulted by a stranger or close friend, they also have to face sexual harassment in their classes, in their workplace, online, or even just walking down the street.
I remember being around seventeen or eighteen years old and walking to the grocery store from my house, and having not one but two different cars, driven by boys near my age and grown men, drive by me and whistle at me. I remember coming home and telling my parents what had happened, and the first thing my dad asked me was absolutely horrifying:
“What were you wearing?”
My mom had stepped in and stood up for me, but had also told me that I shouldn’t be so harsh on my dad for being worried about me and what I was wearing, because “he meant well.” This is a symptom of the rape culture we live in.
When a woman comes forward to state that she was sexually assaulted, how often is she not believed? How often is she asked, “What were you wearing?” “Had you been drinking?” “Are you sexually active?” How often is she told she was asking for it? How often do we hear when a man is accused of assault or rape that “his career is over” and that he’s “a good boy,” even when he’s over thirty years old?
Rape culture is not only visible when rape or assault is actually involved. When an elementary school age girl is being bullied and teased by a boy, she is told by parents and teachers that the boy doesn’t mean any harm, he just likes her. Middle school and high school age girls are constantly told that their clothes are not appropriate for school because her exposed legs or shoulders are too distracting for their male peers and even male teachers.
Rape culture permeates every aspect of our lives. I know that my father really did mean well when he had asked me what I was wearing when a group of boys decided to whistle at me while doing something as mundane as walking home from the grocery store, but that did not stop me from telling him immediately that it would not and did not matter what I was wearing, rather the boys who perpetrated the act were to blame for their own actions.
It is our job to stand up for these women and girls when they come forward about these sorts of things. It is our job to shut down jokes and snide remarks about sexual assault because they are not funny, they are normalizing the idea that rape is something to be laughed at and not taken seriously.
Dr. Ford, I believe you. If you are a survivor of sexual assault, I believe you. If you are a woman who has ever been sexually harassed in any context, I believe you. I stand beside you, and your words of truth will always drown out cries of hate.