“Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics”*

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) knows something her mostly male counterparts don’t – when a woman steps forward and gives voice to her sexual assault/rape, usually more women will follow.

Not because they are engaged in some vast “left wing conspiracy.”

But because truth begets truth.  And courage, once displayed by one woman willing to talk about the darkness that haunts her, is contagious.

That is precisely why the #MeToo movement has not been a faddish flash in the pan.  More than half the population of this country is made up of women.  They either have been assaulted, or likely know someone who has been.

The statistic I have read in my news feed is 1 in 4 women experience a sexual assault of some sort. That is a spectrum that runs from a grope in passing by someone with a sexual fetish to gang rape or worse.

In a country of more than 329 million people, more than 50% (about 167 million) are female. That means more than 41,750,000 women have been sexually victimized somehow, someway.

Again, if you round that up, 42 MILLION FEMALES have been sexually misused.

And that doesn’t begin to take into the account the nasty things men say they WANT to do to our bodies.

Yet eleven white men on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate Majority Leader and the President don’t seem to believe these women are credible in their allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

I am sorry Chuck Grassley(R-LA);  Orrin Hatch (R-UT); Lindsey Graham (R-SC); John Cornyn (R-TX); Mike Lee (R-UT); Ted Cruz (R-TX); Ben Sasse (R-NE); Jeff Flake ( R-AZ); Mike Crapo (R-ID); Thom Tillis ( R-NC); John Kennedy (R-LA); Mitch McConnell ( R-TN) and Donald J. Trump (R-NY):  the statistics aren’t with you.

Neither are the reams of anecdotal evidence that could be produced on the subject.

And the truth? Who knows since you won’t let the FBI investigate or other witnesses testify?

Meanwhile Hatch, Graham, McConnell and Trump in particular have done everything they can to discredit Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the first accuser, to portray her as some confused woman to an out-right liar for political purposes.

The accounts of who SHE has been throughout HER life don’t tally with those characterizations.

But Kavanaugh’s life seems to be the only one these 11 white men of the Judiciary, the Senate Majority Leader, and the POTUS, are concerned with.  Not because they genuinely care about Kavanaugh as a person – but because the political stakes on this nomination to the Supreme Court are the highest they have ever been.

And because they are governed by their own political machinations, they ascribe their motives to these women when neither statistics nor case study nor possibly even an investigation would bear this out.

To not slow down, to not investigate, to not interview contemporaries is as devastating for Kavanaugh, if not more so, than for Dr. Blasey Ford.  She will go back home to her family, her job, her surfing and eventually have a normal life.  Kavanaugh will have a permanent asterisk next to his name.

As for the 167 million of us who are FEMALE, who have been or could become victims of sexual assault, we don’t seem to count to these men at all.

Hopefully that will one day be their political doom.

photo of four girls wearing school uniform doing hand signs
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Statistically, one of these four girls will be sexually assaulted at some point in her life.  What if one of them was yours?

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*Quote attributed to Mark Twain

 

 

“God Bless Texas”

For the past couple of days, I have written about the looming issue of teen rape allegations that have been leveled against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh by Dr. Christine Basley Ford.

It has roiled emotions in me that as a 65-year-old woman you wouldn’t think would still be so tender.

But I have always been a deeply reflective person, admittedly with a bit of the drama queen thrown in.  Hopefully it makes what I write a little more worth reading than it might otherwise be.

I just read a “Washington Post” article by a writer named Elizabeth Bruenig that I wish I could lay claim to – except she deserves every accolade she receives for having written it so beautifully.

It is the story of a teen rape that occurred in her high school and how justice was never obtained by the victim, even though she reported it in a timely manner.

But mostly it is about the cruelties of high school and small, insular communities and how people come angrily together in their denial to harm a victim even more.

And it is how the gentlest, most vulnerable among us are easy prey for hunters who can kill us with harmful acts and deadly lies as easily as if they shot us.

This story took me back to my own teen years and school experiences. As it takes place in Texas, it also makes me wonder about what one of my nieces may have experienced that has led her to a life outcome I desperately didn’t want for her.

Some things I know.  But a great deal I am sure I – or maybe anyone – know nothing about.

She doesn’t know how much I still love her and ache for her to turn her life around.  She doesn’t know this because we don’t speak any more.

That is on me.  Because there comes a point when you have held out your hand to help someone, and they continually slap it away, you just stop.  There comes a time when they do something that – while you can forgive it – you can’t stand by and quietly observe it any more.

Because maybe what they did hits a little too close to a raw childhood nerve that never heals. Even when you are 65-years-old.

Ours is a family dominated by a matriarch who was never my mother, not in a daily sense, as she didn’t raise me.

But her imprint was stamped on me at birth and repeatedly pointed out to me by the parents who did raise me, my grandfather and his second wife. Down to a “sneer” I didn’t know I possessed and a physical resemblance I am constantly told of by my sisters.

As I came to know her as an adult, we searched out the similarities in each other, from the exact same outfits hanging in our closets to our shared love of reading and doing crosswords.

Although I don’t think she graduated high school, as she was 16 when I was born, she was a smart cookie, my mother.

I am a smart cookie too. Except we both had terrible taste in men. In fact, except for my youngest sister, none of us has had much luck on that score.

It’s generational, it seems, touching my niece’s life in very dramatic ways.

Which is a round about way of getting back to the main issue. How, in a society supposedly as advanced as is our own, are women still prey and men the hunters?

What are the biological and psychological imperatives that drive that dynamic so that it cannot be educated out of us? Even at the “highest “ levels of our society?

If we are, indeed, created in God’s image, what does that make God? Why ever would the angels envy us, as my Catholic religion teaches, we creatures with one foot in the material and the other in the spiritual world?

No, I am not blaming God for our fallen choices.  Just for knowing in advance that we would make them. And knowing that his dying on the Cross to expiate their sin wouldn’t make living any less painful for us all.

I have always questioned what purgatory really means, if it really exists.  Perhaps this is it: knowing some of us are prey, and others hunters.

And screaming #MeToo doesn’t seem to change it very much at all.

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“Confirmation”

I decided this afternoon to watch HBO’s “Confirmation” starring Kerry Washington as Anita Hill.

It was riveting and graphic.  I can’t imagine a hearing on the allegations made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford being any more so, but this being the age of Trump, anything is possible.

Like Dr. Ford, Anita Hill did not wish the information she shared with Senate Judiciary to be made public, but it was. Like Dr. Ford, Anita Hill’s story had its drawbacks: despite having been allegedly sexually harassed by now SC Justice Clarence Thomas, Hill had followed him to another job in a different government department.

Dr. Ford is alleging an attempted rape when she and Kavanaugh were teens, and she is fuzzy on some details  But not the attack itself.  That is vivid for her.

In her case, Hill said the harassment had subsided and, like most women, she was concerned about impacts to her career. She also believed in the objectives of the departments where she worked, and she wanted to make a difference.

So she followed Thomas to a new job and later kept in professional contact,  even though he had renewed his unwanted sexual conversations.

As I write this, it is uncertain whether Dr. Ford will testify, publicly or privately, on this matter. After re-watching “Confirmation” and thinking back to the actual hearings themselves, I can understand why.

They were a media circus and a political tour de farce on the part of the Republicans. Ms. Hill was referred to in sound bites as “this woman” years before Bill Clinton uttered something similar in reference to Monica Lewinsky.

Then Senator John Danforth (R-MO) spit the words from his mouth exactly as Bill Clinton did

She was accused of using the book “The Exorcist” to make up one of her allegations against Thomas.  That came from then Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY).  The GOP later conjured up a signed affidavit by students that Hill had allegedly put pubic hair – the subject of the Thomas comment – between the pages of their exams.

Mercifully, that dirty GOP trick only came out in the movie.

Danforth later accused Hill of suffering from erotomania over Justice Thomas, a claim he made without benefit from any medical information he had about Anita Hill, but because some random psychologist suggested it to him.

Then Senator Joe Biden, (D-Delaware), head of the Senate Judiciary, asked Hill two days before the hearing if she would be bringing legal counsel.  “When would I have done that?” she asked about the rushed hearing schedule that resembles closely what is happening in the Kavanaugh case.

”I didn’t know I needed it,” she went on.

You can be sure Kavanaugh is lawyered up, starting with WH Counsel Don McGhan, who seems to have a personal agenda in seeing Kavanaugh on the bench.

If he thinks it will redeem him somehow in the eyes of Trump for 30 hours of testimony to Robert Mueller that Trump was unaware of – it won’t.

Dr. Ford also has a lawyer, one of the top in D.C.  Of course, you wouldn’t know that from the GOP sound bites because Dr. Ford’s lawyer is a woman.

But even having a top D.C. lawyer, you can understand why Dr. Ford is reluctant to testify.  It will be brutal – another rape, only this time of her character, integrity, honesty and identity.

Kavanaugh, as a white man, will not have Thomas’s blustering, accusatory statement that he was being “lynched” by Hill’s allegations and members of the media and Senate Judiciary.

It was a statement that stunned at the time.

If Kavanaugh does not continue to emphatically say “no, wasn’t me, you’ve got the wrong guy,” he can fall back on “it was a long time ago, I don’t remember such an incident,” which I think he is currently testing out.

Either way, there are only three conclusions:

  1. He didn’t do it;
  2. He did it, but was potentially so drunk he cannot remember;
  3. He remembers exactly what he did, and he is now lying.

I wonder how far out on the limb the GOP will go this time to try to paint “this woman” as either having a political agenda or as being so traumatized she is “mixed up,” as Orrin Hatch, (R-Utah) so “generously” allowed.

Will Kavanaugh’s words, however far removed from “lynching” they may be, weigh more than hers?

Will Dr. Ford be victimized another time – as Anita Hill surely was 27 years ago – and at a time when #MeToo carries a weight of its own?

We shall have to see which way the scales tip this time.

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Déjà Vu

I have seen this movie before.

In fact, I have seen at least one of the cast of characters before – Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). He wasn’t very good in the role in 1991.  He was no better in it today.

His comments were tone-deaf and anti-female then. They were the same today, when he dared to postulate of a woman who claims Brett Kavanaugh tried to rape her in high school that she was “mixed up.”

Because after all, Kavanaugh had grown to be such a man of sterling character and integrity today. Surely that mattered more than the nearly 30 years of memory she has harbored about the incident. At least, in Hatch’s opinion, Kavanaugh MUST be believed because, well, Hatch knows him so well.

But this woman – whom Hatch has NEVER met – she cannot be telling the truth.

Does Senator Hatch sincerely think a woman can be mixed up about nearly being raped. Sincerely?

Can he not imagine a drunk, 17-year-old boy trying to clumsily force himself upon a teenage girl at a bedroom at a party?  Can he not imagine a man being considered for a Supreme Court vacancy might want to vociferously deny it happened? Is it possible Kavanaugh seriously doesn’t remember himself and is the one who is “mixed up?”

I remember the excruciating detail of what Anita Hill had to say about Clarence Thomas in hours of televised hearings. I watched it all unfold. And because of my own professional experiences, I believed her.

I knew how I had been treated in the workplace by men just as professional as Thomas. I know what they said to me. I know what they said in lies about me.   I know what was said was not true.

That is why I believed Anita Hill. That is why I am sympathetic to Dr. Ford’s assertions about her experience with Brett Kavanaugh.

It is why I think Orrin Hatch is “mixed up.” It is why I think Kavanaugh is scared and not telling the truth.

Or he possibly was so drunk himself, he doesn’t remember that night.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if once, just once, the man said you’re right. I was drunk.  I was being a jerk.  I am so sorry I did that to you.  It is not who I am today.

He would be a judge worth voting for.

Brett Kavanaugh has already shown he is not that man.

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