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The Kavanaugh Moment And Silent Testimonies


There are lots of weeks when it has been rough to look at the news, but these weeks surrounding the allegations of sexual misconduct around Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh has been one of the more bitter for me. Not so much because of the stories, now plural, themselves about Kavanaugh but everybody’s scramble to speak out about it.

First of all, let’s get this straight: I am not angry with the men and women who come forward to detail their abuse at the hands of a powerful individual. They wouldn’t have to tell these disturbing stories to the press if the individual in question wasn’t a predator. It is the fault of those men that we have to listen to their victims.

When Dr. Ford told her story to the Washington Post, it inspired other women to tell their own stories about sexual assault with the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport. To be perfectly honest, I don’t want to read ANY of these. I quickly skip over them, even when it has been my friends who have written (though luckily, they’ve put content warnings at the top). It cannot be stressed enough to men that most of the women they know have stories like this. I wish we could just have women raise their hands and say, “Yes this fucked up thing happened to me too” and then they didn’t have to say any more than that. Nor would we be in the position of weighing how fucked up one woman’s experience is to another like it’s a competition of emotional endurance.

But we don’t live in that world, and that enrages me. Furthermore, it risks putting us into a mindset where the only to bear testimony about sexual assault is with words. I’ve researched expressions of trauma, and there is something to be said about “silent testimony”. Sexual assault is a crime of an intimate nature and most people don’t want it to be publicly known about themselves. Even under the best circumstances, with a supportive network and justice served, people don’t want that event to define them in the memory of others.

So let’s take a moment to acknowledge that not speaking can be a way of communication. Check out this book, which takes a look at Holocaust survivors, many of whom went with sexual abuse unreported, and the phenomenon of silence.

Any other recommendations? Put ’em in the comments for me!

Image: Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer ‘Le Silence’ 1895

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