A Male Survivor Watches the Kavanaugh Crisis
As a survivor of sexual abuse, I watched the Kavanaugh proceedings with a combination of civic duty and mesmeric fixation. As the hours and days passed, I was unable to turn my attention away, and my usual powers of restraint, my ability to shut down the news for my own wellbeing, were lost. It was as if the boy in me believed the outcome could somehow reshape his own terrifying past. That if Dr. Blasey Ford were taken seriously, my own experience of abuse might be erased, or at least mitigated significantly.
Since then I’ve wondered, why was I so compelled? Even my morning meditations were punctuated by the reappearance of one or more of the players on my inner screen. Despite the devastating outcome we’ve witnessed, and the consequent terrible pain we’re experiencing, Dr. Ford’s testimony has left a lasting impact on my system, for the very good. The fact that truth was spoken, and heard by so many millions around the globe, will have a tremendous impact on our collective future. We can’t begin to calculate the enormity of that influence. The truth we heard affects all of us.
Dr. Ford chose to speak out at a crucial moment, a moment pregnant with change and potential, her words having an exponential relevance. She spoke not only for herself, not only for all female victims of sexual assault, and not only for all women and girls in their struggle for safety and equality. I realized that, as a survivor, she had also spoken for me.
Her testimony came on the heels of a huge wave of revelations of widespread sexual abuse of children in our country, and around the world. I believe that timing is no accident. The World is ready to hear. This was confirmed last week, when the Nobel committee awarded its 2018 Peace Prize to Nadia Murad and Dr. Denis Mukwege, two unbelievably courageous opponents of sexual violence.
The difficulty of speaking up after sexual abuse of any kind is common to all groups of survivors. Feelings of shame and violation make it incredibly painful to remember, recount, and relive those moments, and Dr. Ford spoke of this terror. Although she told her own story, her bravery bridged the gap between female, male and otherwise identified, speaking for the vulnerable of every gender. She stood as a human speaking for all humans.
Christine Blasey Ford used her voice and physical presence to speak truth to power. Her very being expressed the truth of a humanity intentionally and despicably suppressed. And in the seismic moment she told her story, that dehumanization was suddenly collapsed, like a burnt-out star taking its last gasp.
What we do with that moment is our choice. The future belongs to all of us to shape. We must think longterm, taking hope and momentum from the powerful light Dr. Ford shined on our predicament. Acknowledging, but not giving into our despair or powerlessness, will be a key to our success. Embracing hope and taking time on a daily basis to cultivate and celebrate our own strength will be priceless assets in changing this godawful situation, as we work to create long-lasting, meaningful change.
Dr. Ford acted like a fulcrum, one that finally frees a boulder that's ready to roll. And roll towards sweeping change it must. Society must recognize the equality of women and girls in all regards. All of our legislative power must be put to use, from equal pay to the right to choose. We have to make our voices heard now more than ever to that end. Everywhere law fails to reflect equality is a place where a clear message is sent to all- that females are lesser than, and as such are justified targets of violence, sexual and otherwise.
The struggle for legislative justice may have become more difficult, but the story is not done being written. And, perhaps more importantly, we have a new and unprecedented depth of opportunity to examine and transform our own communities. Our boys need to be taught new ways of seeing, speaking, and of being. And we men need to re-evaluate all of our thinking and doing, taking our lead from the women amongst us, whose wisdom is sorely needed now, and always. This is not a mere idea, but a practice. Deep listening, and the moment-to-moment willingness to surrender our claim to being right, are keyholes into this new room of parity and true health for our society.
Safeguards against the abuse of children must also be put into place. Our world needs reforms that protect children from predators by staving off the causes of predation. This should begin with the Catholic Church allowing its priests to marry. Although warring factions within the Church blame the age-old epidemic of abuse on either clericalism or the permitting of homosexuality within the priesthood, the simple truth is that priests allowed partners would be less likely to feel loneliness and isolation, thus less likely to seek intimacy from the powerless. And as a survivor, I pray for the passage of legislation like the Child Victims Fund, introduced in the N.Y. State Senate this May, which would eliminate statutes of limitation, subsidize counseling and treatment for survivors, and require reporting of abuse from within the clergy.
We have a long way to go towards building a society which supports all its members fully and equally, and protects the powerless from abuse. I’m deeply thankful to Dr. Ford for her enormous sacrifice, her courage, and her eloquence. The events of the past weeks, as gut-wrenching as they have been to watch, are actually signs of a tectonic change happening at our roots. Where the tree falls is up to us.