Brett Kavanaugh’s disquieting ascent to the Supreme Court has made me think a lot about what happened 40 years ago. Not to me, but to another young girl.
A 12-year-old in my town told her mother that her father was molesting her. The mother believed her daughter, and went to the police. The father was charged and entered a plea that qualified him for a diversion program instead of jail. The family was shattered, but it seemed possible that they might all be on the long and difficult road to healing because truth, belief in the girl, and her father’s willingness to atone for his actions emerged from the wreckage.
Then the father shot himself. He didn’t die right away, and the fragile circle of family and friends rallying around the girl regrouped instantly, taking up their posts at a death bed vigil. His daughter was among the many at his side. When he died a week later, the love and support diverted his way intensified as he was memorialized in the idealizing way that grief tends to bestow. It wasn’t exactly that the girl was blamed for her father’s death (she did a good enough job of that on her own). It was more that her experience was obliterated as all the attention shifted to his suffering. The blame set in a bit later. I imagine the girl wished she had never opened her mouth.
So it has gone with Dr. Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, though with a less intense level of trauma and in a setting to determine whether the latter deserved a lifetime Supreme Court appointment, not a criminal conviction for sexual assault. Like the girl in my town, Dr. Blasey Ford reluctantly came forward to tell what happened to her, risking upending her (and her abuser’s) life. Nearly everyone who listened to Blasey Ford’s testimony, including the President and Fox News, found her credible. At least for a moment.
Then Kavanaugh and the Republicans, in a show of high dudgeon, erased Blasey Ford’s experience with their own aggrieved victimhood. The woman who had transfixed a nation into hoping that at last people might hear and believe what so many girls and women endure was not so much blamed at first as obliterated. The blame came later.
Forty years ago a father fired a shot that took his own life and devastated his daughter’s beyond the original trauma he perpetrated. He was no doubt driven by shame and desperation, but it was also one last hostile act against her. The Republicans’ latest shot across the bow devastates victims of assault with a similarly punishing rebuke. And we wonder why women stay silent.
The tragedy that unfolded 40 years ago in my town is over. The man who had the last word back then is dead. I don’t know what happened to his daughter, or his wife, but I know their lives continued one way or another. I hope they are well, able to integrate this trauma into lives that will always bear but also transcend the scars.
The Supreme Court hearings are also over for now; the Republicans have had the last word. At least for now. The mid-terms are coming on November 6. Channel your rage, fear, despair—and hope–into voting them out. We will continue, one way or another.
Make sure you and everyone you know is registered to vote and casts a ballot on or before November 6. Everything you need to know is at votesaveamerica.org: