This Is Why Women Don't Report Sexual Assault

What’s Happening To Christine Blasey Ford Is Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault

Image via Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has had to go into hiding following after detailing sexual assault claims against Kavanaugh

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is being victimized all over again after coming forward with sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Her entire life is now on full display, her home has been made unsafe, and she’s been forced to go into hiding with her children. Her career and life have been subject to endless speculation and public smears for the past week, with no end in sight.

This is exactly why women don’t report sexual assault.

According to The New York Times, Dr. Ford has received death threats, has hired private security, and moved out of her home as a direct result of coming forward against Kavanaugh. Her letter, publicly condemning Kavanaugh’s attempted rape, made it clear that after decades of bearing the trauma and burden of Kavanaugh’s alleged assault alone, she felt compelled to come forward in order to prevent him from assuming one of the highest powers in the United States.

“Kavanaugh physically pushed me into a bedroom as I was headed for a bathroom up a short stairwell from the living room,” Ford wrote in part. “They locked the door and played loud music precluding any successful attempt to yell for help. Kavanaugh was on top of me while laughing with [REDACTED], who periodically jumped onto Kavanaugh. They both laughed as Kavanaugh tried to disrobe me in their highly inebriated state. With Kavanaugh’s hand over my mouth, I feared he may inadvertently kill me.”

Someone close to Ford tells the Times, “Ninety percent of people think she’s a hero and are extremely supportive of her, and 10 percent want her to die immediately. Her worst fears are coming true.” Personal friends and colleagues have come forward to attest to Ford’s claims, and how much the assault has shaped her life throughout the past 35 years.

Many people have also been quick to point out the discrepancies in how Ford has been impacted, versus Kavanaugh and his family — Ford is essentially been forced into assuming the life of a fugitive, while Kavanaugh’s wife is baking cupcakes for reporters, in a nauseating, nonchalant act of passive-aggression.

All of this — from the death threats to the fleeing — is a prime example of why women don’t come forward. Because we get harassed. Because our lives are upended and our personal, private experiences and feelings become a feast for public consumption. There is no prize for coming forward. Only shame and fear. Even if a perpetrator is convicted, no jail time or other legal consequences can act as reparations. No court judgment can retroactively undo the mental, emotional, and physical brutalities of assault.

“But why didn’t she come forward sooner?” The question on every Kavanaugh apologist’s tongue. To that I ask, why should she?

I can’t speak for Dr. Ford, but I can speak for myself. I recently wrote about Kavanaugh’s “defense” letter, where 65 women came forward claiming he was a decent guy. In that piece, I shared that I was sexually assaulted in college. This happened 14 years ago. The first time I admitted what happened was, indeed, sexual assault, was 12 years ago, to myself. The first time I said it out loud to anyone — my husband and sister — was 13 years ago.

When it happened, it didn’t even occur to me to report it. He was well-known on campus and, had I reported it, I have no doubt many people would have made my life miserable — the same kind of people who would no doubt sign a “he’s so great, def hire him” letter of their own, if need be. I’m sure plenty of people would have chided me: “You’re ruining his life before it can even begin,” and things along that vein. The priests in charge of his fraternity at the uppity Catholic university I attended surely wouldn’t have given a single shit, and most likely would have done everything in their power to make it go away. To make me go away. Because that is how almost every system in this patriarchal world is designed. Women who come forward against men — especially privileged white men — are revictimized repeatedly by those who don’t believe them and refuse to do anything about sexual assault, and the blind-eye turners who just “don’t want to get involved.”

So we stay quiet. For 14 years. For 35 years. Until we use the platforms we’ve been given to tell our stories. To stop monsters from becoming leaders. Or, simply to tell other women, “This happened to me. It wasn’t my fault. And I know I’m not alone.”