With Fresh Eyes: Trust Rediscovered

By Rich Nelson

 

I am a sexual abuse survivor.  I approach the writing and publication of this story with much trepidation. Recent events have inspired me to publicly share this for the first time. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford opened her recent Senate testimony by stating she was “terrified” in sharing her story in such a high-profile public forum, with so much at stake. I am also terrified to share my nearly 50-year-old story through this column. I am emboldened, however, by the courage of so many, particu-

 

larly Dr. Ford, in coming forward to challenge the Harvey Feinsteins, Bill Cosbys, Kevin Spaceys, and Brett Kavanaughs of this world.

I was molested during my adolescent years by an adult male authority figure. He lured me to his apartment and enticed me with sexual material he had placed next to the sofa where I sat. I felt preyed upon, trapped.  I returned home later and told no one. In the weeks that followed, I became sullen. Interactions with others were cautious and distant. I kept this to myself out of shame, as if this was somehow my fault. I felt guilt for not finding the courage in that moment to fight back. I feared I would be subject to humiliation and ostracism if the truth was revealed. I did eventually move on, tentatively.  

I do not remember all the details of that day. I cannot tell you where his apartment was – the street name and neighborhood are long forgotten. The layout of the apartment is vague.  I do not recall if it occurred on a weekday evening or weekend.  I do remember, clearly, the molestation, and the man who did it. That recollection will never evaporate.  

I write this in the days after the President openly mocked Dr. Ford during a campaign rally in Mississippi. He questioned the veracity of her sexual assault allegations against Justice Kavanaugh. And he did it with a smirk and a swagger which deserves universal condemnation. As his followers laughed and cheered him on, Trump ridiculed her testimony with a crude impersonation: “How’d you get there?  I don’t remember.  Where’s the house?  I don’t know.  How many years ago was it?  I don’t know.  But I had one beer.  That’s the only thing I remember.” Dr. Ford’s lawyer Michael Bromwich replied, “A vicious, vile and soulless attack on Dr. Ford. Is it any wonder that she was terrified to come forward, and that other sexual assault survivors are as well?”

One in three women experiences sexual violence in this country, one in six men.  63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police. More than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.  Mere statistics, however, do not possess the weight of the real and experienced trauma and long-term consequences of sexual assault. A recent Washington Post article by Monica Hesse is titled “Dear dads: Your daughters told me about their assaults.  This is why they never told you.” The

author recounts the many young women who contacted her

sharing their stories of assault.  A common thread weaving through these stories is that they never told family members, particularly their fathers. One college-age daughter, who had been harassed many times on campus, never shared her experiences, because “she wanted to protect him [her father] from her pain.”  Hesse also said that the daughters were silent due to a fear that the fathers wouldn’t think of them in the same way or that they’d be distraught because they didn’t protect their child.

The dismissive and disparaging attitude toward women and sexual violence that has emanated from the top (yes, from the President of the United States) is the relinquishment of moral example. In Jon Meacham’s new book The Soul of America, the author quotes FDR: “The Presidency is not merely an administrative office.  It is pre-eminently a place of moral leadership.”  Such leadership calls for respect, value, and trust.  It is setting an example for those in positions of authority and power to model proper behavior.  It is not taking on a mocking tone.  It is not minimizing the stories

of those who resolutely step

forward.

Place trust in those stories.  I hope you will place trust in mine.     

 

Contact Rich at

richmskgn@gmail.com

 

 

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