Thoughts From A Survivor
Last week, I listened to a debate between two women on both sides of the #MeToo
movement. One stated that she is offended when others say she should be believed simply because she is "a woman," and she further declared that it is her duty to corroborate her story if at all possible. The other woman stated that assaults, rapes etc. often occur in private and there is no "evidence." I agree with both of these women. As I dive into my thoughts on this topic, I want to say upfront that it is deeply personal for me as I have had my own #MeToo experiences. I am a survivor!
This debate was in response to the recent Ford/Kavanaugh hearing. As I listened to both sides of the argument, there were valid points in both of their stances on this matter. These two arguments should not be conflated concerning the Ford/Kavanaugh case, however. Why? Because Dr. Ford came forth with what she deemed as corroborating evidence. She laid her evidence on the table at the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing. She said "I HAVE EVIDENCE." So in essence, she was not just saying "believe me because I am a woman" but "believe me because I have proof." However, all of her "evidence" was debunked. Not a SINGLE witness whom she said was present during the alleged assault backed up her story. As a matter of fact, they went so far as to refute it. If this had been tried in a criminal or even a civil court, it would've been dismissed due to lack of evidence.
Those who feel she needed to be believed because she "is a woman" should realize that THIS woman lost her own case by giving false "evidence" that debunked her OWN story. This is why the other two women who came forward with allegations were not even taken seriously. They could not back up their own evidence. Dr. Ford lost her own case by contradicting herself. My advice to everyone who is angry at Justice Kavanaugh, the Republican senators (and Democratic Senator Joe Manchin) who voted for Kavanaugh, should realize that we still have "innocent until proven guilty" in this country. Otherwise, we would have total chaos and mob rule. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford lost her OWN case. Only she knows whether or not she was assaulted many years ago. Many in support of the accused did not deny that Dr. Ford might have been assaulted. They just weren't convinced, based on lack of evidence, on refuting testimony from her list of "witnesses," and then from the testimony of Judge Kavanaugh himself, that he was the perpetrator. Our system of checks and balances provides everyone the presumption of innocence. It is what separates our nation from those of dictatorial or mob rule. We can't live in a society where anyone can be accused anytime, and in the many years that follow, because sadly, innocent people will be destroyed when vindictive or political motives are involved. Each accusation must stand on its own merit from case to case. A case in point is that of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till who was lynched in 1955 on the mere accusations of a twenty-one-year-old wife of a store owner. Years later Emmett's accuser admitted she fabricated much of the story.
Please understand. I completely stand with victims of sexual assault, harassment and physical abuse. To women and girls who have been assaulted, harassed and even raped. PLEASE don't ever keep it to yourself. If it happens in a private place where no one sees and knows - tell someone immediately afterwards. Don't be so ashamed or afraid that you would allow a perpetrator go free to harm someone else. Tell someone, go to the police, tell a friend, a family member. AND if you are raped, go to the hospital so they can gather evidence. Even if the attack is by someone you know or are close to, PLEASE... you still need to report it - tell someone IMMEDIATELY. It takes courage beyond what anyone can imagine, but it is one of the best things you can do for yourself and others no matter how difficult. Waiting until a time when you feel more emotionally "ready" could allow your perpetrator off the hook and possibly put someone else in danger.
The conversation I watched last week between these two women was sparked because of an interview with First Lady Melania Trump that was recently aired. I agree with FLOTUS. We must have balance between hearing stories and providing corroboration. We can't weaponize the process because it will harm and diminish the voice of actual victims, and it will harm innocent people. This is why women (and in some cases men) need to report it right away, tell someone right away. If the #MeToo movement has done anything positive, I hope it has given people courage to not allow anything like this happen in silence.
FINALLY... Speaking from my own experience, if you have been a victim of such an attack and it has been many years since it occurred, my advice to you is this. If you've never told anyone, PLEASE find a close friend, family member or counselor that you can tell so you can finally let go of the shame, pain, and properly heal. Part of healing is FORGIVENESS. Trying to seek revenge many years later will prove to be more destructive than it is healing. Why? First of all, with a lack of evidence, once many years have passed it is unlikely that your perpetrator will be convicted (unless of course there are other witnesses or victims that might be able to fully corroborate your story.) Second of all, seeking revenge rips open old wounds. Forgiveness is never truly for the person who hurt you, but for YOU. Forgiving someone who has hurt you, finally takes away the control that your perpetrator has had on your mind and emotions for all these years.
My story is not uncommon I suppose, yet I carried the deepest portion of it in silence for many years. I confided in others concerning physical abuse, but never told anyone about rape. In my fear and pain, I wondered who would even believe me since it was my own husband who was the perpetrator. Through all he had done to me over the years, that one night took his actions to a level that even I could've ever imagined. Drugs took him to a dark place that appalled him as much as it did me once he came down from his "high." The man who supposedly "loved me most" assaulted and raped me during a time when medically I was not allowed physical contact after premature childbirth and surgery. No amount of pleading could stop him. Though it was twenty-six years ago, I still recall the night in great detail like it was yesterday. I also recall the night a few years later when forgiveness came.
I had finally found the courage to escape from this abusive relationship, but held much hurt, anger, pain, and unforgiveness. Nothing in my life was moving forward, it seemed. Those who know me, know that I am a person of faith with a loving heart, and that I am a strong advocate of the power of prayer. After rocking my baby boy to sleep, the smell of his baby fresh scent was still lingering like a calming infuser. I went to my quiet place for "help" - more so for my son's sake than my own. I pleaded with God to help me. I needed a job, I needed a path forward, and a "way out" from this bottomless pit I had found myself in. I was clueless, and seemingly helpless. Walking away from an abusive situation took a great deal of courage, but now that I was out of this nightmare, then what? I was sitting in the floor and as the tears burned my cheeks, I began to sob. In that dimly lit garage apartment, I laid face down on an old stale shag carpet ready to receive some divine sign that would tell me what to do, where to go, and what door would open. The only "word" that came to me was something that I least expected to hear.
"Forgive him and pray for him."
It wasn't the actions of my husband that had crippled me. After all, I was out of that environment in a safe place with my family. Oh there was no doubt that he had held me back and eventually whittled me down until I was a shell of that strong young woman I had once been. Now though, I was crippled, chained, and bound by my own doing. My anger, desire for revenge, and my unforgiveness had gripped me like a vice and wrapped me in chains, in a prison of my own making. I had settled in to the life of a "victim" - I was so consumed with hurt that I couldn't "see the forest for the trees" as to what I needed to do to move forward to find work and build a new life. That night I cried out. The words were just as broken as my heart and spirit - "I forgive him. I won't let this hurt control me or keep me down..." There wasn't a "bolt of lightening" or an epiphany of any sort. Rather, there was a wearied moment of peace and relief that caressed my exhausted heart, soul, mind, and body.
I have shared "my story" through the years and recounted portions of it in my first book "Journey Within My Heart." As I share it again in this environment of raw emotions, amid heated debate and blame, I am reminded of the pain that everyone suffers. No one wins. This is why we can't live as victims. We must be survivors. Survivors do not walk in revenge or hate. They take action to walk away from any situation that is harmful. They take back the control of their lives and find determination to make a difference by encouraging others who have suffered similar experiences. Mostly, I hope this "raised awareness" is bolstering courage of those who are recent victims or who could become victims. Speak out then and there. Take the proper course to bring the perpetrator to justice. In this way, we can both save further victims, and ensure that innocent people are not destroyed. We can't simply reacted on raw emotion - not early on and certainly not many years later.
As a survivor and also as a mother of a grown son, I feel compelled to fight this fight with clear-headed resolve and balance. Because there are so many selfish, evil people in this world that will use victims for their own agenda, my desire is to take back the control that these people have. I don't want to see victims of assault exploited, neither do I want to see our country sink to a dark place where anyone can accuse our sons, husbands, boyfriends, fathers, and brothers and ruin their lives simply with an accusation. I believe in the process of presumed innocence. If one loses their freedoms and liberty, it is only a matter of time before we all do. It took me many years to rise above victim-hood to truly be a strong survivor. I stand against those in our country hellbent on diminishing brave women who refuse to be labeled as victims and used for nefarious purposes.
This moment of transparency is for all my survivor sisters as well as those good men out there who live their lives standing alongside survivors as victims' advocates with the understanding that your goodness could be taken advantage of... you choose to be good anyway. It was such a man that helped me find "me" again and saw the beauty in me when I no longer saw beauty in myself. These men are sometimes the very men that become prey to the schemes of those manipulators of truth and justice. Still, they champion the cause of the hurting and stand as protectors of the weak. Ladies and gentleman you are each my heroes as you stand in this fight against victimization. #togetherwearestrong
Editor's Note: If you would like to read more of my story, you can check it out in my book