Saturday, October 6, 2018

Privilege of a Different Sort

There's white privilege, the notion that light skinned people enjoy certain freedoms and advantages their dark skinned friends and neighbors don't. And then there's male privilege, same idea as white privilege, but the advantages and freedoms belong to men and not women. In the last few weeks, however, I've seen evidence of privilege of a different sort, a type of privilege that makes its holders think they can judge the experiences of another, and question their motives and credibility. It's the privilege of never having been sexually assaulted.

Last week Dr. Christine Blasey Ford sat in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and told the story of how Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, US Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh, sexually assaulted her when they were at a party together as teenagers. Ford was unsure of the date and location of the assault, but remembered other details: how she was shoved into a bedroom, how Kavanaugh's friend watched and he and Kavanaugh laughed during the assault, how the music was turned up to drown out her screams, how she made her escape across the hall to a bathroom where she locked the door and waited for the two boys to go downstairs.

The questions began almost immediately:
Why didn't she remember whose house she was at when the assault occurred? Why didn't she remember how she got home from the party? Why didn't she tell anyone about the assault or report it to the police? Why did she wait until now to bring this to light?

And the statements beginning with the phrase, "If it was me . . . "
If it was me, I would have gone downstairs and confronted them in front of other people.
If it was me, I would have reported him to the police right away.
If it was me, I would have told someone when he was appointed to the court of appeals.
If it was me, . . . 

Speculating about what one might have done is easy for those who have never been sexually assaulted. They assume victims know the act was criminal. They assume victims know it wasn't their fault. They assume victims are clear headed and should remember all details instead of zeroing in on the ones that make one summer night stand out from all the others.

The truth of trauma is that it doesn't make sense. Parts of the brain shut down during traumatic events. To suggest that someone should be expected to react during a traumatic event the same way a person sitting in their quiet living room typing on their laptop and sipping their favorite beverage thinks they should is ridiculous. No one can predict exactly what they might do or remember after a sexual assault unless they've been sexually assaulted.

Judge Kavanaugh will likely be confirmed due to a lack of evidence and witness corroboration. That fact doesn't make Dr. Ford's story any less true or her trauma less real. I believe Dr. Ford.

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