Sunday, September 30, 2018

I believe survivors.

I don't want to write this post.

It's already been a tough week for many of us who have suffered abuse in the past. Survivors of sexual abuse have had the worst time, I expect; a lot of them have been triggered by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's testimony against Judge Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Her account of what happened to her at a party 30 years ago brought up memories -- for some of them, memories they'd thought long buried.

The good news, if there is any, is many of the folks -- both women and men -- who were triggered sought help. The National Sexual Assault Hotline operated by the Rape, Assault and Incest National Network (RAINN) saw its traffic spike by more than 200%. (The hotline is still open, by the way; you can call 1-800-456-HOPE any time.)

None of the junk I went through would qualify as sexual abuse, thank goodness. There was one time in college when I was on the receiving end of an unsolicited dick pic. Some guy came up to us at a bar (Nick's English Hut in Bloomington, Indiana) and offered to show us a photo of his "friend" -- and then did. He'd even framed it. Unbelievable. Seriously, gentlemen -- if you have a photo of your junk, keep it to yourself.

Anyway, it never went beyond him shoving the photo at us, which is nothing like what Deborah Ramirez says Kavanaugh did to her when they were in college. And yet I still remember it, 40 years later.

Still, I learned this week that when it comes to triggers, abuse is abuse. I mentioned in my memoir, Mom's House, that one way I learned to cope with the emotional and verbal abuse I endured as a child was to binge eat. This past Thursday, I spent the day at work avoiding live video coverage of the hearings; instead, I read live blogs of the proceedings to keep up. I might as well have watched the video. I went home Thursday night, ordered a pizza, and ate the whole thing.

The lines between types of abuse aren't clear-cut. After all, abusers typically use more than one tactic to keep their victims on the string. "Don't tell anybody -- this will be our little secret" is, of course, emotional abuse.

Anyway, I'd rather be doing just about anything than writing this post. I'd rather be telling you more about my most recent vacation and how it relates to that #escapevelocity thing I talked about a while back. Or I could be writing about my new knitting project, in which I've adapted a colorwork cowl pattern to double knitting. Heck, I could be working on that cowl right now.

But it's important for us to keep talking about this stuff, no matter how painful. For me, that dick pic is wrapped up with the anger and humiliation I felt when my brother teased me, and it's also attached to the memory of a radio station program director who told me, with a straight face, that women shouldn't work morning drive (from 5:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m., the most lucrative time slot for air talent) because studies had shown that nobody wants to wake up to a woman's voice. Which I took to mean that hearing a girl on the radio in the morning would remind our male listeners of their unresolved stuff with Mom.

And then there was the time when I was covering an event while pregnant and a local businessman told me he was sure I was carrying a boy, because I looked happy, and every woman was happier with a little Peter inside her. He thought he was hilarious.

I swear to all the gods, I am not making this stuff up.

Which is why I believe Dr. Ford and Ms. Ramirez. I believe any women -- and any men -- who didn't come forward when the thing happened, 20 or 30 or 40 years ago, because they were embarrassed or too young or didn't think anyone would believe them, or maybe they did tell someone and weren't believed, and now some of the details are fuzzy. But the pain is seared into their souls.

I wish I didn't have to write this post. But I'm not going to shut up about this stuff. Because the only way to make it stop is for us to keep making noise.

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These moments of noisy blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.
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