All the talk these days seems to revolve about the unassailable Supreme Court nominee and the accusation that he sexually assaulted a young girl when they were teenagers. They were allegedly at a party and had been drinking heavily…and so on, and so on. This scenario isn’t new. But I am beyond tired of hearing people say things like “This was 30 years ago. Why is she just now bringing this up?” “They were kids, what teenage boy hasn’t done this?” “What would you expect, they were drunk, and she was parading around in a bathing suit.” Everyone has an opinion, but only an investigation can determine if her story is true.
I don’t look at this issue, as many do, as a partisan matter. I regard Bill Clinton with disgust for exploiting a naive office intern as equally as I am revolted by Donald Trump’s cavalier comment about grabbing women inappropriately. To me, it’s black and white – if you treat a person like an object instead of a live human being, you’re a scumbag.
Back in 1967, when I was nineteen years old, I was assaulted by a young man I thought I knew. We had been dating for a couple of months but were certainly not serious. When I realized one night that he intended to have sex with me, I made my objections loud and crystal clear, but he pinned me to the floor and forced himself on me. Then he immediately took me home without a word.
But here’s where the gender disparity of the 60s took over. HE was furious at ME, and I thought it was MY fault because we had drunk a couple of beers - that I must have caused it. I don’t know if he was embarrassed at his brutish behavior or angry that I had made the situation so difficult for him, but I felt humiliated and kept it to myself for decades. The thought of reporting it to my parents or the authorities never crossed my mind. For one thing, I didn’t even recognize the incident for what it was. We had never heard of date rape back then. Even if I had considered reporting it, he was the son of a prominent figure in our town. I was nobody. And since the prevailing attitude then was “What did you do to deserve it?” I would never have opened that can of worms. My self-esteem was decimated.
This was the 60s, so like other young women, I put up with the ass-grabbing, the groping, the inappropriate jokes and remarks for years. It was a way of life. I knew no different, even though the thought of grabbing a man’s crotch, or making a male acquaintance the butt of a sexually-charged joke, or uttering an insensitive comment to a man about his physical attributes never occurred to me. I married a man who respected me and all women. That was all the mattered to me at the time.
But then I became the mother of two beautiful daughters. And as they entered their teens, the assault came back to me, and the thought that my daughters might suffer through this same experience terrified me. I allowed myself to become angry. I was somebody’s daughter too. That’s when my secret, the incident that had demeaned me and left a huge scar, came out. I realized the shame belonged to him, not me. Yet, I doubt he even remembers it, and I hope he didn’t force himself on anyone else. I don’t know. I never talked to him again.
As a mother and grandmother of daughters and granddaughters, as well as a school counselor, I gradually became acutely aware of the contradictory aspect of our culture that encourages girls to look sexy, but then vilifies them if they dress in a manner that “invites” a rape. I worked with many, many teenage girls who were victimized and exploited, who felt obligated to have sex with a boy when they really didn’t want to, who were abused by men in their families, who were “slut shamed” by guys who ironically bragged about being “players.” I grieve for them still.
So, when people say the #metoo movement has gone too far, I beg to differ. It still has a long way to go. For me, it’s not a partisan issue. For me, it’s personal.