I know there is a swarm of events happening right now and I have several articles all in the works at once, which has been a constant state of update, rewrite, and looking up something new as things are changing in a constant sweep of action. But I think this is important as well and something that has concerned me.
The #metoo movement, which I completely support and have shared some of my own experiences with sexual assault, is ripping open a festering wound in our nation and letting that poison drain out. It is extremely difficult to share these experiences.
We have been taught to hide them. We have been taught to feel shame. We have been taught that these assaults are somehow our failings. We have been taught it is better to protect our assailant than face the public ridicule a cry for help would bring. We have been taught there is no help. We have been taught and reassured by recent incidents that even should we come forward, if we do not have a witness besides ourselves, or a video or the confession of our attacker, then our witness means nothing.
Sexual assault and molestation have been a bedrock of male dominance in our society. But it has been dependent on our silence. It has been at the mercy of the deception perpetrated against us as women, and even boys, that it is better to suffer alone in silence than suffer public humiliation. And just as with all abusers, we are told no one will believe us. We saw enough and experienced enough to believe this as true.
The problem is that we have been looking at the wrong people. We wanted our parents to believe us; parents that were too frequently more worried about what other people would think if something like that happened in their family. We looked to police who were more apt to ask us what we were wearing and why we went went to a party knowing there would be boys drinking there. We looked to politicians for laws who scoffed and said boys will be boys; who didn’t want to hear about our abuses because they were distasteful and not polite conversation.
We were given reasons upon reasons to remain silent, and no one encouraged us forward. No one said we deserved justice. And the abuse continued. Not just against women, but against children, both boys and girls, as well. that is what silence bought us.
We were traumatized first by the person who violated us, and then again by those who we should have been able to go to for help. Those who have never suffered trauma like that will tell us we should just get over it. Or as Orin Hatch just said, “grow up.” (And Orin, we aren’t going to forget that any time soon.)
I posted a statement on my Facebook feed regarding a personal incident to me in a plea to ask the people I saw demeaning Dr. Blasey Ford to reconsider their abusive actions and explaining to them why it is so offensive. Here is that statement:
I want to say something extremely important. For all you men, and women, who denigrate Dr. Blasey Ford you need to understand something. For us who survived sexual assault, at least for a great many of us, her testimony was painfully real. It rang with a truth born from our own experience, that isn’t mistakable and can’t be faked. And when I heard Kavanaugh’s testimony, it was blistering. he portrayed to a tee the angry, entitled defiance and the constant battering of, “no one will believe you,” that I heard so many times, that perpetuated my own abuse. I did tell. I did try to be helped. I did try to find a savior. But there wasn’t one. I was the one ridiculed. I was the one berated. I was called the liar, even though I was far too young to even have the knowledge to make something like that up. You all need to remember, whether you believe her or not, that we take this so seriously because it is about us. It is about every one of us without witnesses, without proof, without signed affidavits. It is about us who reached out and were called lying whores. it is about all of us who were too afraid to reach out. When you dismiss and ridicule her, you are doing that to us, also. Whether it is your intent or not. You sound exactly like the people who either ridiculed us if we did speak out, or the people we were so terrified of that we stayed silent. I’ve heard people who made false claims before. It is so easy to tell for a survivor because of what they do and don’t remember and how they remember it. I’m not saying everyone’s experience is the same or they react the same, but your mind functions differently in the act of trauma. you don’t recall the events like you would going to the grocery store yesterday. We are so adamant because, when she spoke, we felt it with her. I knew she understood. And when Brett Kavanaugh spoke, he sounded exactly like the young man who hurt me: indignant, angry, blaming others, and entitled. It wasn’t the exact same words, obviously, but it was the same reaction. So, when you ridicule Dr. Blasey Ford, when you make fun of her, you are no different than the adults I sought help from who ridiculed a little girl (I was in first or second grade). You are the reason abuse continued. You are the reason teenage girls who are raped are afraid to tell anyone. You need to understand that we take this so personally because it is about us. You need to understand that. You need to consider that before you get too carried away in your partisanship. This is not partisan. This is us, we who have survived, desperately trying to make our world a little safer. I don’t think it is too much to ask that you understand exactly who you are so flippantly degrading. If you have ever sat on a jury, then you will know that you are instructed to listen to testimony and that only you can be the judge of the weight that you give it. A single testimony, without any other witnesses or any other proof, is enough to convict someone if they are found by those listening to be more truthful. In most instances, a victim who can positively identify his or her attacker, and can testify to such, is considered a strong witness. I listened to both and I found her far more credible than him. And I have more experience than most to question and ascertain the veracity of her testimony. But no matter what you believe, please, show some respect to the survivors who take this very personally.
I place this here for full disclosure of what I have said in this regard. Also, because it brings to my next point. I have spoken very little to anyone about these instances in my life since learning my voice did not matter at such a young age. I do so now, and really for the first time so publicly, because of my outrage at the horrific treatment a woman is receiving for the audacity of coming forward, of sharing something so personal and making herself so vulnerable to the exact humiliation I have felt before. I know exactly what it is like to speak out and be called a liar. To be made fun of, ridiculed and called names like a cunt or a whore. Words a little girl should never have to hear, let alone have them directed at her by the very people who should be protecting her.
And because I know that pain, I also know why so many women are silent. That pain and fear are embedded deep into our psyche, and for some, they will never be able to speak of it, even in whispers to their own pillows. I get it. I really do.
While I am thankful I have come to a place in my life where I feel able to speak, where I am able to dismiss without care the sentiment of those that cared not for my safety, I want to remind everyone else who is a part of this movement, that not everyone has found that place for themselves. You may know someone who has been assaulted or molested, and perhaps even confided in you, but please do not pressure them to bring their pain forward and make it public. If they do choose to speak out, please be a bedrock of love and acceptance for them. But also remember, for some, the trauma is more than they can face on stage, under the glaring lights of public scrutiny. Yes. Scrutiny. It is a well chosen word, because that is exactly how it feels. It feels like you are confessing a crime for which you will then be judged. It is painful and so difficult. For those that are ready, it can be part of a larger healing process. But for those who are not, to feel pressured to speak would only ensue more trauma.
So, those of us who are ready, we will speak. If you are not ready, you do not have to. Let me say that again. You do not have to share anything with anyone unless you feel you both need and want to do so and whatever reason compels you either way is just. You do not need a reason at all.
If you know someone who has suffered sexual assault, be their friend, be their sister or their brother, be someone they can trust. that is the most important thing. Do not pressure them. Do not bring it up to them. Just be fiercely accepting of who they are and if they want to talk, they will. If they don’t, love them anyway.
Those who do come forward, those who seek out justice, those who speak out, we will be the voice for the millions who can’t. Most of us won’t see justice in the form of our predator being found guilty and incarcerated. For me, that is really impossible and I believe that is true for a majority. But I will look to another form of justice, something I can be a part of. I will continue to work to try to make a better world for my children and someday their children: A better world for myself and my friends and family and all the people I do not know and never will. I cannot change my past nor what happened to me. I can never see justice executed. But maybe, just maybe, I can help someone else find justice of their own. Maybe I can help someone else not need to seek justice at all.
And that is an end to which we all can work, whether we share our trauma in public or keep it hidden in the recesses of nightmares. Even if you cannot share your experience, remember you are still important. You still have a voice and you can still help others. If in no other way, you can vote.
Find your peace. We love you. Stay strong.
Ann Lavendar Truong