Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.
Professor Christine Blasey Ford had originally chosen not to publicly share her account of sexual assault by Brett Kavanaugh because of the onslaught of harassment she would undoubtedly face. âI was … wondering whether I would just be jumping in front of a train that was headed to where it was headed anyway, and that I would just be personally annihilated,â sheÂ explainedÂ during herÂ testimonyÂ before the Senate Judiciary Committee. âWhy suffer through the annihilation if itâs not going to matter?â sheÂ toldÂ The Washington PostÂ when she decided to come forward.
Tomorrow, 20 days after Ford firstÂ shared her accountÂ publicly in theÂ PostÂ (and just nine since she movinglyÂ recounted her storyÂ before millions of Americans), 13 days since Deborah Ramirezâs account wasÂ published, and 10 days from when Julie SwetnickÂ spoke out, senatorsÂ will voteÂ to send Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. He was ushered there by dozens of representative leaders who long ago abdicated their sworn responsibilities both to represent and to lead. The whole farce was cheered on by a pundit class thatâs far removed from the brutal realities of American life, and unjustifiably ignorant about interpersonal violence that directly harms another AmericanÂ every 98 seconds.
Christine Blasey Ford stepped in front of that moving train, and it kept moving. Her personal trauma is nowÂ public text, and her courage and grace will leave an indelible mark on us all. And make no mistake about it: She has shown us a way forward.
The first thing Ford taught us is that itâs OK toÂ share your storyÂ when youÂ donât remember every detail, because itâs fundamentally your own. You will always remember the most important parts.Â Indelible in the hippocampusÂ will be what happened to you in that moment. Itâs your story to tell,Â if you choose. And people — the good ones — will remember it, andÂ believe you.
She has also taught us what is broken in our common language, our media ecosystem, our politics and institutions. If you were lucky — or ignorant — enough to not have realized this before September 16, you may now know just how far gone we are.
We do not know, for example,Â how to talkÂ about the harm we experience at the hands of others.Â Tragically common forms of interpersonal violenceÂ still have no consensus-driven label in the English language. This is how an attempted rape — a hand over a mouth, a feeling like you are going to die, uproarious laughter as your humanity is diminished — can so easily vanishÂ intoÂ nothingÂ in another personâs eyes.
And we have a better approximation of the twisted depths to which the conservative political and media ecosystem will go in their attempt to discredit, diminish, and disappear a survivorâs story. They willÂ call youÂ a slut, andÂ questionÂ your mental fitness, andÂ speculateÂ about your political motivations, andÂ blame youÂ for ruining your alleged assailantâs career, and simplyÂ make things upÂ about you. They will hear you explain that the worst part was the laughter and the humiliation, and then they willÂ mock youÂ for it in front of a laughing audience. Even worse, in its own way: They will say thatÂ they do believe you,Â they just donât care.
We have also seen how irreparablyÂ brokenÂ our public news and information systems have become, even in just the two years since the last presidential election.Â All mannerÂ ofÂ falseÂ informationÂ isÂ encouraged to spread, andÂ private informationÂ is subject to the often stupid andÂ sometimes violentÂ whims of the internet.
And we know now, if we didnât before, that our institutions will not save us. Instead, they will close ranks. TheÂ academy, theÂ court, theÂ presidency, theÂ legislature, theÂ FBI, and theÂ mediaÂ have always been fundamentally tainted by the same poisonous cornerstone ofÂ violent patriarchy. They do not deserve our faith, and the people who work within them do not automatically deserve our respect. Almost none of them have done anything to earn it.
Christine Blasey Ford showed us once and for all that if we are to be saved, it will be only because of moments when individuals directly challenge these systems, or work to tear them down. It will be in theÂ moments of rage, when weÂ stick our feet in the elevator door.
Thank you, Christine Blasey Ford. Thank you, Deborah Ramirez. Thank you, Julie Swetnick. Thank you, reporters and activists who tried against all odds to give them a voice. Thank you, protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court and senatorsâ offices at this moment, and yesterday, and last week, and at all the other times when righteous outrage has countered with equal force aÂ willful injustice.
Because of you, millions of people will never forget what happened here. And thatâs a threat.
Header image by Melissa Joskow / Media Matters