I’ve never publicly reported the guy who molested me several times over the span of a few years when I was a boy. It’s something that happened almost 40 years ago now. I didn’t even tell another person privately for at least 15 years after it all took place. After that, I told another few people (privately) over the course of the next 20 or so years. Then I wound up telling the whole world in my book. (Oops.)
Still, despite having written and talked publicly about being molested, I have never “reported” the guy who engaged me in a number of sexual acts when I was five and six years old. And I have absolutely never wanted to. I only refer to him by first name in my book and I changed a letter in that name when I did it. I have never publicly identified him even though I have reason to believe, based on a cursory online investigation, that he currently works at a private high school.
This is all something I struggle with. Whatever judgement I would subject myself to by making his identity public, I know I could be subjecting myself now to a different kind of judgement by not reporting him. Maybe you are experiencing this judgement toward me right now as you are reading this. I can almost hear it: Don’t you care about the other young lives he could be damaging?
Do I? I’m honestly not sure.
There are many reasons why I didn’t report then, but the biggest of them is that it was simply unimaginable. It literally never occurred to me. I was scared to tell anybody. And second to that, I was afraid to confront the person or have to look at him. The reasons are more complicated today as a 44-year-old. There’s still an element of fear. But I just really do not want to have my life turned upside-down. I do not want to meet him, or talk to him. I do not want to hear him possibly deny that anything happened. Is that selfish? Perhaps.
But here’s the thing: if the guy who molested me were ever nominated to the Supreme Court, I think I would feel differently. It would not be easy, and it would probably take me some time. But I like to think that, like Christine Blasey Ford, I would write Congress about him. I admire her for doing this. She is a hero and a patriot for what she has done. And not only do I believe her, but I completely understand why this would have never been something she would’ve come forward about until this moment, until this particular circumstance of Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
To be clear, though, if I were to write congress about the guy who molested me, I don’t want to pretend it would all be about some elevated sense of civic duty. For me, it would probably be more out of anger. It’s said that men are socialized to express their sadness as anger, and that’s definitely the case for me. I have channeled many a sadness into anger over the years.
I would be angry that somebody who had preyed on me when I was a child was about to not just be rewarded, but be rewarded with the highest honor to which he could aspire. I would be angry to have to witness that person in the process of receiving that reward every time I turned on a TV or radio, or opened up an Internet browser. I would be angry when other people referred to him as a “good person” or as “upstanding.” I would be so very angry (I am so very angry right now) that a man who himself has publicly bragged about sexually assaulting women has now nominated another unhinged and unstable sexual assault perpetrator like himself to this high, and supposedly “honorable,” position, and that half the country does not seem to care. It would make me question everything. (It does make me question everything.)
I can imagine the kind of traumatic violation of privacy that would result from outing somebody, especially when the stakes are so high, like they are with a Supreme Court nomination and it makes me appreciate what Ford has done even more. I can imagine what it would feel like to hear people doubt you, or worse, to pretend they believed you, but then suggest you might be “mistaken” about the details. I’ve imagined it all week. It would be retraumatizing. It would be absolutely horrible. It would make you want to spit venom and scream and shake with anger. It’s a testament to Blasey Ford’s strength that she remained composed. It’s an indictment on Kavanaugh’s character that he didn’t.
Ford’s life was no-doubt never the same after that party in high school 36 years ago and, again, it will be forever changed by this confirmation process. She will be (has already been) personally attacked. Intimidated. Threatened. It’s hard for anybody to face the kind of scrutiny and pressure she is facing, much less somebody who has lived for three decades with a host of traumatic feelings about the very thing she is being questioned and scrutinized over. Feelings ranging from fear and sadness to shame to guilt to anger.
I imagine most people who have gone through this sort of thing would probably do anything possible to avoid reliving that stuff in such a public, confrontational way. I know I would. And when I hear people question why these accusations have never been raised before (“Why now?“) and how the timing seems suspicious to them, I can see that they’re coming from a mental place where rape is akin to some other criminal act, like a burglary or murder or vandalism, where clearly the obvious thing to do afterwards is to report it.
And the thing about that is they’re right. That should be the obvious thing to do. But rape or sexual assault is not treated like a burglary in our culture even though a part of somebody has been stolen. It is not treated like a murder even though a part of somebody has died. It is not treated like a vandalism even though a person has been dishonored and desecrated and made unrecognizable, even to themselves. Sexual crimes are not treated like other crimes by the people investigating the crime, but often neither are they by the victim, for whom reporting the crime can feel completely out of the question. Until it doesn’t.
One of the times it happened for me, it was during a “get-together” or “party” that my parents were at. It happened upstairs while everybody else was downstairs. I remember very specific details about it. I remember exactly what he said. I remember the exact way his face looked. But I don’t remember the date. I don’t remember what I did later that day.
If my parents, who were downstairs, were asked about that party 36 years later, they would have to say they did not recollect it. Because it would’ve been pretty unremarkable to them. At best, they could probably say, “There were lots of neighborhood parties around that time.”
Does that all sound familiar? This is the type of stuff I’ve been thinking about this week. This is why reporting is such a difficult thing to do. This is why what Ford did was so courageous and selfless. This is why Kavanaugh’s evasiveness and self-righteous indignation is so maddening to so many.
Image taken by me outside the Tel-Aviv Museum of Modern Art.
TAGS: This Is Not a Confession