Survivors – Making changes

For some, the important action this week was in a Senate committee room.

For many, however, that action reached out, permeating memories and evoking deep personal pain. They took courage from Dr. Fords testimony.

This was the week survivors spoke out.

Friends I’ve known for 15 years and 40 years shared stories of molestation I had never imagined. And total strangers revealed their pain for all to see.

“ I was molested when I was 10. Yesterday’s events made me realize that I need to speak up. It’s been 36 years and the man who did this to me is a professor…”

“Threatened with a beating with a belt if we ever told anyone…completely traumatized….[Then last year] “ I started to come apart at the seams. [For the] first time I told my husband of 53 years…”

“Raped by two teenagers when I was 8 or 9. They were family friends.. I thought I would get in trouble so I never told until last year when I found out the primary person died.”

“I would be raped again for the next ten years, every night in my dreams.”

Women–and men–acknowledged rapes that occured 20 to 80 years ago.  Many had not spoken out earlier.

“I didn’t report it because I was too ashamed to talk about it. I didn’t report it because at that point I believed my life had little value to begin with. I didn’t report it because until recently I blamed myself for putting myself in the situation. I didn’t report it because I didn’t think anything would come of it.”

It was all the more painful when other posts claimed that women made false accusations all the time and those accusing Kavanaugh were probably well paid.

With persons close to me, I discussed being awkwardly grabbed or forcibly kissed. Those incidents, as upsetting as they were, didn’t compare to the survivors’ stories  We were talking about guys that were overly optimistic in interpreting “signals” like a woman accepting a ride, getting drunk, or being out late and alone.

The action stopped with a clear sign of displeasure, causing more irritation and sadness than trauma for all involved.

Druggings, stifling screams,or threatening harm, however, are acts of deviance far different than miscommunication or youthful spirits.  Dominance, not intimacy, seems the goal. A victim’s pain and terror can trigger laughs.

Each exchange weighed on me.

As a 12-year-old, I’d taken to hiding from a fiftyish pastor with wandering hands and didn’t tell anyone about times he’d forcibly kissed me.

As a 17-year-old, I learned he’d gotten a younger girl pregnant.

I blamed myself for not speaking out. I can’t believe it would have helped; I would have lost my church home; but how could I not even consider years of future victims?

A friend reassured me the guilt wasn’t just mine, it belonged to a society that didn’t listen to girls and women. “You should be hopeful,” she said. “Things are changing.

“This week the hashtag evolved from “metoo” to ‘Ibelieveher’.

“Men and women must use this as a teachable moment, to talk to their sons, nephews, even their students, about responsibility and respect. The next generation of girls may not be quieted by shame and guilt.”

And Kavenaugh? Either he’ll be confirmed or we’ll get another nominee who opposes the rights of women, workers, and voters; one who believes corporations are more important than air, water, and wildlife.

But the survivors who are speaking out are making real change.

Note this editorial by Judy Ferro published by Idaho Press – 2018

Published by Judy Ferro

Judy Ferro is communication director for the 2C Dems and a columnist for the Idaho Press.

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