Sarah’s Story: MEN Like Brett Kavanaugh Make It Hard to Forget my Rape

Sarah’s Story: MEN Like Brett Kavanaugh Make It Hard to Forget my Rape

This will come as no surprise to many, but I found myself thinking about my rape more and more during the Kavanaugh hearings. The rich student party boys taking advantage of girls at parties, forcing themselves upon at least one that we’ve heard about, it all seems too similar to my college days.

In some ways my story was all too typical, which sometimes makes me feel worse about it. Why didn’t I have more sense? Why did I go home with him? Why did I drink so much that night? (A thought I had far too often in my heavy drinking sorority days at a party school.) Which finally led to the question, why can’t you let it go? My experience could have been far worse, I reasoned with myself. My rape wasn’t even violent, really. I was just another statistic, another acquaintance rape; my rape didn’t make me special, a thought that depressed me further and kept me from wanting to call it rape even to myself for years.

My only relationship at that time had been abusive, leading to worsened body image issues, another problem all too common among young women. So, when I got attention from a muscular older man in a fraternity (he was 25 at the time, having served in the military before starting college), I was shocked that such a conventionally attractive man could find a somewhat chubby, pale, brunette girl to be attractive, (at a time and place when blonde, skinny, and tan seemed the epitome of beauty). I hadn’t had many sexual partners at that time, so the thought of a casual sexual relationship was titillating, even empowering, but the thought of ” going all the way” with someone I didn’t know very well was extremely intimidating.
He was very forward in telling me how sexy he found me, so I was flattered, but made it clear that it would be some time before I was comfortable having sex, though we could still “have some fun.” I remember being a bit proud that I asserted myself in this way, being direct with what I did and didn’t want. This conversation happened on AOL instant messenger (to give you an idea of how long ago it happened) and I was so thrilled at receiving this kind of attention that I saved the conversation on my computer. I kept it for years, sometimes feeling that it vindicated me. Even though I had gone home with him, I had made it clear what my limits were.
I erased it after the statute of limitations had passed.

I go through long phases of thinking that I have put it behind me, that I don’t need to think about it anymore, even that it doesn’t upset me anymore. Periodically, however, I find myself googling him, scouring the internet for any signs of an arrest. Even after the statute of limitations had passed for my rape, I thought maybe I could be a witness in court for someone else’s. I wondered if I could offer someone what I had really wanted, to be believed and truly understood. The fact that my search turned up nothing made me feel guilty for wishing that I weren’t the only one. If he had raped someone else and I had done nothing to report what he had done to me, I was partially responsible for it happening again. If he hadn’t raped anyone else, why me? Some days I even felt that if I was the only one, I must have deserved it for being foolish enough to go home with him, for being foolish enough to trust that he had listened to me, that he would stop forcing himself inside me when I said no. I questioned my memory of that night, particularly since parts of it were a blur and parts I couldn’t remember at all, either because of alcohol or trauma, probably both.

When I listened to Christine Blasey Ford give her testimony on what had happened to her, it sent me spiraling through the same cycle; wishing I had done more, wishing I could do something now, wishing I could remember everything that happened that night, and finally, reliving what I could remember, feeling my shame and regret all over again. When Kavanaugh recently came up in the news again with another possible victim, I even found myself visiting the YouTube videos and photos I had found of him online in earlier searches, thinking his face and his voice might trigger some memory of the parts of that night that I had blocked. In particularly vengeful moments, I wondered if I could somehow ruin his reputation, ruin his marijuana business in Colorado. As a marijuana smoker, sometimes I even feel shame at smoking the same substance that he sells so enthusiastically online. When I saw that he’d been featured in a documentary about the marijuana business in Colorado, I even cried to my partner at the time, saying that I didn’t want to see that he was leading a successful life. Why should he come unscathed from that night, when I can’t seem to be free of it? Then again, he was helping spread awareness of medical marijuana, advocating for its use in the documentary. This meant he wasn’t an entirely bad person, couldn’t be, right? So there I was, caught between hoping he was a better person than I thought he was and hoping I could find some sort of vindication, some sign that he was the problem, not me.

I have a degree in women’s studies, I was raised to stand up for myself and to believe victims, I even worked in a women’s shelter for domestic and sexual violence survivors- yet I still find myself minimizing my right to feel victimized. When I watch people questioning Christine Blasey Ford’s memory of her experience, I feel the fears of no one believing me creep back up again. I feel guilt at wanting to ruin another man’s life simply by publicly acknowledging what happened to me. I even realized later that it had shaped my other sexual experiences, jumping into bed with my next boyfriend far too soon after it happened, wanting the memory of him to be erased by someone else. I stopped going home with men I didn’t want to have sex with, which sometimes meant having sex before I wanted, because I felt it easier to initiate, to be proactive in having sex, rather than allowing myself to be victimized. I lost my ability to trust that men would listen to me if I said no.

I don’t know what the appropriate punishment is for men like Brett Kavanaugh. Some days I feel that he deserves to be vilified in the press, that he does not deserve the honor of being supreme Court Justice. Some days I feel that he doesn’t deserve to have his life ruined for a mistake he made when he was in high school. Most of the time, however, I feel that he has had very little reason to change his behavior, that his life of privilege has taught him nothing about those mistakes, because he had never been forced to confront them before. And every time I think of Christine Blasey Ford, I feel envious of her courage.



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