Christine Blasey-Ford doesn’t remember the date. She doesn’t remember the specific location.
But she remembers the laughter. She remembers wondering if she was going to die.
And men at the highest levels of our country have the gall to question why a traumatized 15-year-old girl didn’t report.
I can’t speak for Ms. Blasey-Ford, but I also remember the laughter. I remember wondering if I was going to die. I don’t remember the date or the specific location. But I “reported” it to the person who was supposed to care the most for me at the time that it happened, and he took the man’s side.
I was 13 and away from home for a three-week summer program on a Boston college campus three hours from home. I was homesick and my father came up with what I’m sure he thought was a great idea: have a young colleague of his take me out for pizza one night.
Neil (not his real name) was in his mid-20s and had been at our house many times for work sessions with my dad. I’m sure we’d made friendly chitchat, but we weren’t friends – at 13, what interest did I have in my father’s work buddies, and vice versa?
Neil was spending a weekend in Boston and made arrangements to pick me up for pizza. I don’t recall whether I was excited or nervous or anything in between to spend an evening with this older man.
But when he arrived, he had a friend with him – another male in his mid-20s. I was startled and immediately on edge. These two men were a little too bro-y, laughing a little too loud for my comfort. But what was I to do? My father had set this “treat” up for me and if I didn’t perform delight at his kindness, I understood that it would cause World War III in my house.
So I went. The first big red flag went up when I discovered that they were in a two-door convertible and I was going to have to climb over the lap of Neil’s friend in order to get to the back seat. But what was I to do? I had already left the safety of the dorm and the counselors. Speaking up now would require a level of self-assurance I most definitely didn’t have at 13.
At dinner they both drank beers – I don’t remember how many, but I remember their laughter getting louder and more aggressive. I spent the whole time looking at my watch, wishing time would speed by faster so I could get back to campus. But what was I to do? I couldn’t drive myself and it was too far to walk, so I just had to sit and wait.
When we got back into the car – me once again crawling over Neil’s friend’s lap – Neil started driving in the opposite direction of campus. Where did we go? I haven’t the faintest idea. But I know it was wooded and felt desolate.
I said, “I need to get back to campus. I have a curfew.”
They laughed and said, “We’ll get you there soon. We’re taking the scenic route.”
As we drove further into the woods, the small alarm bells that had been ringing all night in my head turned into the sounds of a five-alarm fire.
They’re taking me into the woods to rape me.
I was certain beyond the shadow of a doubt. In a situation like that, time stretches and warps in weird ways, so I have no idea if we were in those woods for five minutes or forty-five minutes. However long it was, it played out to the soundtrack of the loud laughter and carousing of two 25-year old man-boys.
As we drove, rape became a foregone conclusion. The only next question was whether they were going to kill me after they raped me.
I was 13, and already resigned to the fact that I was going to be raped by two men.
It turns out that “nothing happened” that night. I wasn’t raped. I was returned “safely” to my dormitory. Having been raised to be polite, I thanked the two men for a “lovely evening.”
When I got to my counselor’s room, I was sobbing so hard I couldn’t speak. She called my parents.
“I don’t know what’s wrong,” she said. “I think you need to come.”
My mom and dad showed up the next day and I was finally able to tell the whole story, including my fear of being raped and killed.
I expected my father to fly into a rage, to call Neil and dress him down for being so careless with his beloved daughter.
Instead he listened to my story and said, “Neil is a good guy. I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it.”
Besides, he said, if I was that scared why didn’t I just refuse to go? It would be decades before I heard the term “victim blaming.”
Later he would tell me that a friend of his, a psychic, had met Neil and confirmed that he’s a good guy so there was nothing to worry about. Neil continued to visit our home regularly in the following months.
This isn’t the only time my sovereignty was threatened – far from it. It wasn’t even the FIRST time.
There is no corroborating evidence. Of course there isn’t. “Nothing” happened.
Nothing, except that a 13 year old girl was put in a date-like situation with men in their mid-20s who spent the night drinking and laughing and causing her to fear for her life.
And the kicker is that they probably had absolutely NO idea the harm they were doing. By the next week they would have forgotten about it, let alone 35 years later. Because to them it was a completely unremarkable night.
But something inside me broke that night – an essential piece of my trust in men, in my bodily autonomy, and in my ability to protect myself.
And that loss of innocence and trust has colored every other interaction I’ve ever had with a man – whether on the street with strangers or in the bedroom with a lover.
There was “nothing” to report. Only the loss of a piece of my soul.