(actual trigger warning: this article contains discussion regarding sexual assault)
Last week, after reading the few articles I could find on Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegations against Joe Biden, I searched like I never have before for my own abusers. I scoured social media; scrolling on profile after profile all the way back to 2015 to find some photo where one of the people who sexually assaulted me was tagged. I began to lose track of time and after over an hour I found him, well, one of them. I am not going to give his name nor am I going to recount the details of that night because I am not ready and might never be. So far, I have never been able to repeat the words whispered into my ear as a man I barely knew took advantage of the alcohol he had poured down my throat. However, women like Tara Reade and Christine Blasey Ford give me the strength that if the time ever comes when I have to, I could.
Studies show that false accusations make up around 6% of sexual assault cases and this is not including the hundreds of cases not reported. In addition, let us not forget the social implications of coming forward. More often than not, it is not the abuser whose life and reputation is ruined, it is the victim. This is why hashtags such as “BelieveAllWomen” and “MeToo” have been adopted by feminists on twitter; because rapists sit on the supreme court, on the senate floor, in high rise corner offices, while the women who try to hold them accountable are forced out of their jobs and homes; bombarded by slut shaming and death threats.
People in power will maintain that they respect survivors, they’ll recount that they have daughters as if that means they’re automatic feminists, and then defend the man in question because that person is their friend or their colleague and has always been respectful to them. Sexual assault survivors don’t all have cookie cutter movie experiences. We are not all explicitly raped. We don’t all have the opportunity or access to immediately go to the hospital for a test kit. However, we are all violated, humiliated, and hurt. Each survivor’s experience is valid. Christine Balsey Ford helped me realize that, as her story is much like my own, and she truly sparked the flame I needed to really process and heal from the trauma of those events.
There are countless reasons people may not believe accusations, which contribute to countless reasons we keep our stories secret. When it happened to me, I did not tell my roommate, my literal live in best friend. That night, along with our other best friend, she held my hair as I puked for hours and didn’t utter a word. I did not report it. I did not so much as write it in my journal that year, unable and unwilling to process the event for what it was. This is enough for people to believe I made it up. Probably the biggest thing that people would use against me is that I can say with complete certainty this man would not know who I was today and would not remember my name. I was a blimp on his college experience. I was one of the tens of girls he snuck into the club every weekend, that night just one party out of hundreds attended that year.
From what I found on Instagram, he’s made quite a life for himself. He has co-founded tech companies and partners with a female focused entrepreneur tech-fund. I am glad that he is now helping women and trying to make the world a better place. That being said, if he were to end up in government; nominated for Supreme Court or gain the democratic nomination for fucking president, you can bet that I would come forward. I know that it would not ruin their life, not in the slightest, but I wouldn’t be able to live with someone who assaulted me being put on the national stage without people knowing. To me, it would be worth every death threat and every dismissive article for people to know THIS HAPPENED.
How many of us need to publicly re-live some of the worst moments of our lives? How many of us need to recount excruciatingly personal details for the world to see? How many until people believe? Until people give us the benefit of the doubt? Until we are defended with the vigor and empathy that is given unquestionably to those who perpetrate these acts.
I believe survivors of sexual assault and I stand behind every person that is willing to put their name and life on the line to come forward against those in power. Because that is what we are doing. Putting our entire reputations and lives on the line. Just as assault changes lives, speaking about it does as well. We all know that coming forward, more often than not, does not yield the results that we hope. We still have rapists and predators in every corner of our society, but for every story told someone like me gains the courage to ask for help. For every story told, someone like me is shown that we are not alone and do not have to go through this alone.