Brett Kavanaugh represents the kind of guy I could have fallen for 35 years ago, at least on the surface. Clean-cut, well-schooled and of ample means, he would have been an enticing romantic prospect – next to impossible to find in the Central Valley farming community where I grew up.
Options weren’t much better in the big city of Fresno, although I ultimately crossed paths with a large number of smart, ambitious medical school graduates. But when I ponder the sexual assault claim that has been posed by Christine Blasey Ford, I consider myself lucky that I never met a Brett. While I suffered my share of heartbreaks, never did I have to carry the burden of a man crossing the line without my consent.
Such trauma is a heavy load for a woman (or man) to bear. For almost a year, starting when Ronan Farrow cracked open the claims that would fuel the #MeToo movement, to the current #whyIdidntreport hashtag, I have been listening to brave women and men speak their truth. Now, Deborah Ramirez has also come forth with her own allegation of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh.
There are those who have questioned why it has taken so long for some victims to tell their stories. Trying to correlate the timing of a sexual misconduct claim with the veracity of the accusation is a false equivalency.
The neurobiology of memory complicates the equation. In some instances, a traumatic event is embedded in the forefront of our consciousness. Do you remember exactly where you were on Sept. 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers were attacked? Other memories are imbedded deep within our subconscious mind and don’t rise to the surface easily.
There is no biological or emotional statute of limitations in finding the courage and the framework to unload your heavy rocks.
I acknowledge the chronic malcontents amongst us, some with political motivations, who live to create drama and bleed onto others. But most survivors aren’t these folks, and they aren’t looking for trouble. Like the rest of us, they rise and fall with the ups and downs of their emotional lives, continually processing internal cues, trying to regroup and find balance.
Some pains churn deep, a white noise that can rumble for years. Until the sufferer finds value in voicing the truth. Until the gain outweighs the risk. Then it is decided: I have to deal with this, whatever this is.
One autumn evening two years ago, I drove up Highway 99 to hear Anita Hill speak at UC Merced. As the recipient of the Alice and Clifford Spendlove Prize in Social Justice, she gave a well-received talk before an appreciative audience. While she spoke, I remember thinking how brave she was to have stood her ground during the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings. I don’t know that I could have been that brave.
At the time of those hearings, in 1991, I was working as an outpatient clinic nurse. I had no problem navigating the power dynamics at my hospital, where most of the physicians were men and most of the nurses were women.
I remember the television sets perched high on the walls of our clinic waiting rooms. I remember the confirmation hearings going on and on. Anita Hill sat before a sea of suits, telling her story.
All these years later, the difficult questions come again. Whose version of the truth will we believe? Should an adult be held accountable for what he or she did as a teenager? Should we acquiesce that it is not a child who acts upon their sexual urges, but a nascent adult with values and character?
For the sake of anyone who has experienced sexual assault, for the sake of anyone who has experienced character assassination, for the sake of anyone who has done a bad thing, yet has found the courage to admit their wrongdoing and be forgiven, let not their sufferings be in vain.
These painful events could happen to any of us. Depending on how you interpret the evidence as it has been presented, attach the names of Kavanaugh or Blasey Ford or Ramirez if you must.
I’d venture that at some point in your own life – in the past or in the future – it would be accurate to attach one or more of these sufferings to your own name. I know I can.
Danielle R. Shapazian is a nurse and writer who lives in Fresno. She can be reached at Danielle.Shapazian@sbcglobal.net.