Why Wouldn't She Have Come Forward Sooner? A Sexual Assault Survivor Explains
How Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s story has resonated with sexual assault survivors
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has sacrificed her privacy, safety and professional identity, just by coming forward to warn us about Brett Kavanaugh’s moral character; She has been outed to her professional community as a survivor to her children, she has had to move out of her home due to death threats, her work and life has been totally turned upside down. She has been in extensive counseling for years and told her therapist and husband about the attack years ago. She even knew that she would not be believed and took a polygraph test, and yet the news and the world is questioning her as to why she did not come forward earlier. Probably because of this exact response.
There is literally no upside to outing yourself as sexual assault victim. The financial and emotional burden lays on an often shell-shocked survivor to cobble together services like counseling, psychiatrists, flex work time to go to counseling, undergo intensive, unpleasant treatments for PTSD like EDMR by recalling the assault over and over again until the story and triggers gradually lose their power. You take medications to help you sleep through vivid nightmares, and alienate yourselves from loved ones. School and work suffers, as do your relationships. As a survivor from 2012, this story is triggering. The public reaction and internet comments are more positive than they were during Cosby or Steubenville, OH, when a female teen gang rape victim was publicly blamed for her assault by people like Serena Williams in Rolling Stone. But the doubt and the burden to prove lays solely on the survivor, an impossible task, unless every assault is witnessed or videotaped. And even then, lawyers for rapists like Brock Turner will still argue it was only “outercourse” or bruising and tearing documented in a humiliating sexual assault forensic exam where you have to strip naked and be photographed and internally examined is explained away as “consensual” or “rough sex.” After my attack I rarely left the house, except for work, and I would binge watch Judge Judy and dream that there would one day be a higher bar for rapists than minor traffic accidents or roommates that don’t clean up when they move out. This cannot be an all or nothing game any more.
He said/she said does not work, because it automatically defaults to side with the rapist since there is an almost impossible burden of proof. It all seems fairly bleak, but I have felt a shift since #MeToo last October, and I try to focus on the positive and building out impactful programs like Sunlight Retreats for rape and sexual assault survivors, because that is a tangible way we can empower survivors.
We now know how devastating and pervasive rape and sexual assault is, now it is the time for action, anonymous hotlines that link to sparse, if any community resources is not enough. There is not even enough money or transparency (or public will) to process all rape kits that rape victims bravely agree to. Speaking with local San Diego police, they admit they receive zero funding or training on how to interact with rape and sexual trauma survivors and would like a program that could help them better communicate.
This past May, Sweden passed a law saying that sex without consent is rape, and the person must be able to give clear consent, verbal or physical. This will go a long way to help survivors who are under the influence of alcohol or may have been drugged. This is a great step to placing the burden of proof on both humans, and it gives me more hope that we can enact similar laws and policies on University campuses, in the military and other communities with high risk sexual assault to help combat this impossible burden of proof and predators who know the bar and know they can get away it.
- Brittany Catton Kirk, Founder of Sunlight Retreats for Survivors of Rape
Why wouldn't she have come forward sooner?
Written by a survivor, shared with permission from our partners at RedMyLips.org
Because she was scared.
Because she was ashamed.
Because she felt it was her fault.
Because she didn't think she'd be believed.
Because she was afraid she'd be blamed.
Because she was afraid she would have her life and privacy absolutely destroyed.
Because she was hoping she could just move on.
Because she wanted to forget it ever happened.
Because a part of her couldn't believe it had happened.
Because victims are historically treated horribly.
Because it would "just be he-said-she-said."
Because "it could have been worse."
Because perpetrators are rarely held accountable.
Because she didn't want to relive what happened over, and over, and over again.