I don’t want to write about this, but I feel like I should because of how some are attacking Christine Blasey Ford’s credibility based on her not remembering certain details. Maybe my experience will help others understand, maybe not. Either way here goes…
I was abused as a child. Not sexually, but physically and emotionally. It was violent. It was torture. It wasn’t daily, but it was frequent, and I lived in fear at all times. The abuse left physical marks — scratches, bruises, welts, lumps. It left indelible emotional scars that are with me to this very fucking moment. I’m 48 years old. The last episode of abuse I recall was at least 34 years ago.
I remember many details, which I don’t want to share. Just thinking about them as I write is awful enough. Here’s what haunts me most:
In the midst of abusive episodes, in the midst of physical and verbal violence, the phone would ring. My abuser would go on screaming vile insults and answer the call with a calm and placid tone — just another relaxing day. I’d be required to stand silently while a protracted conversation took place, which would be followed by resumption of the abuse.
One time, it was our priest on the line. After a cheerful conversation, the abuse resumed.
At the time, it was terrifying and humiliating. Looking back as an adult, I realize this wasn’t someone getting angry and losing control. It was intentional. Even with breaks and an opportunity to reconsider, the abuser would go back to torturing me. Decades later, this knowledge tears me up.
I remember where most of these events took place because they were at home. I know who abused me because I knew them well. I recall with specificity some of the exact things done to me — implements used, injuries caused, words said. Being forced to clean up after.
I remember instances where there were witnesses, and who those witnesses were. I remember feeling powerless, frightened, and hopeless. I remember feeling nauseous every day coming home from school. It wasn’t until I left home that I learned I wasn’t just prone to being car sick.
But, I couldn’t give you a single date. There are instances where I couldn’t give a location other than “the car” or “beach house.” At this point, I couldn’t tell you what precipitated even one episode of abuse, although I surely knew at the time.
I never reported any of this despite frequent opportunities. I talked about it years later with loved ones, and then in counseling, but at the time, I lied. The abuse left visible marks that drew questions from friends, teachers, and in some cases complete strangers. At every turn, I lied about the cause of the injuries.
I still don’t fully understand why I protected the abuser. As an adult looking back, I think it was fear that nothing would happen and that I’d get it even worse. And there was shame because I believed I deserved it. One time, I ran away from home (it lasted maybe four hours). The aftermath…well…the difference between me escaping that episode alive or without serious head trauma was the quick reflexes of someone nearby.
I sometimes wonder: what the fuck was wrong with me? Not just for not telling someone, but what was wrong with me that caused the abuse. Because, as crazy as it sounds now, I believed I deserved it. Intellectually I know I didn’t. I know it was about the abuser’s problems. But…I still sometimes wonder.
I recognize there are differences in how child abuse and sexual assault are viewed by many. Children are considered blameless victims. Teen girls and women who get assaulted are often assigned some measure of responsibility for getting attacked. “What was she doing at a drinking party with boys?” “She was wearing a short skirt…” and so on.
That’s all bullshit. What causes sexual assault is the same thing as what causes child abuse: an abusive person. It’s not the victim’s fault. Even if we sometimes blame ourselves.
What does all this say about whether Blasey Ford or Kavanaugh are telling the truth? Maybe nothing. But, the delay in Blasey Ford talking about the assault, and the gaps in her recollection are not indicators she’s lying. It’s normal. For what it’s worth, I believe her.