The simple act of featuring both Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh within the same pages shows how unwilling society is to dismantle r/pe culture.
This essay contains mentions of r/pe, sexual assault, PTSD, and alcoholism
This week TIME released their “100 Most Influential People of 2019” listicle, which included the likes of Jair Bolsonaro, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Donald Trump. The listicle, often viewed as an honor to be a part of, has a rich history of highlighting ruthless autocratic rulers, misogynists and white supremacists. From Saudi Arabia’s repressive Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to racist Sean Hannity, TIME provides an undoubted space for objectionable influence.
Thus, there was scant surprise when TIME showcased Christine Blasey Ford within the same space as Brett Kavanaugh — the survivor of assault and their alleged assaulter.
In that decision, albeit in line with TIME’s definition of influence, Christine Blasey Ford was revictimized.
Revictimization occurs in numerous instances — as you come to first speak of your assault, as you are unrelentlessly pushed into a process of defending said assault, as you face the pervasive nature of rape culture in day to day interaction that reinforces your victimhood rather than your survival.
The act of a major publication engaging in revictimization is especially jarring as a person of color. If the alleged assault of even a white woman cannot be reported with a basic sensitivity in a white supremacist society, then the sexual violence faced by people of color would therefore have scarce space to be observed with respect.
The Blasey Ford testimony, more generally, existed as a litmus test for POC — can assault, as experienced by a white woman, be heard and then acted upon by Congress? As a survivor of sexual assault, as a person of color, it became excruciatingly clear that rape culture is a deeply rooted, inescapable pillar of the government and of society.
It became clear, specifically as Kavanaugh brandished his love for beer, that he would become the next justice of the Supreme Court. A white man — in an assault that he allegedly perpetuated, in the visible and visceral rage with which he testified before Congress regarding said assault — could continue to have a career. A white man can continue to have a personal and professional life, rid of consequence. Any assaulter could potentially have the same.
Christine Blasey Ford has since been barraged with death threats. She has been forced to leave her career, to seek refuge from rape culture’s predisposition to vilify the survivor.
Her desire to transform her victimhood to a testament of her resolve, before national and international scrutiny, saw fruition in other survivors of assault, but it did not see the same fruition in mainstream media like TIME. To honor Blasey Ford’s “courage” within the same pages of Kavanaugh’s supposed “resilience” in the same situation amounts to a ridicule.
What happened to Blasey Ford is not unfamiliar to millions of victims of this kind of assault, to people like me.
I was sexually assaulted by a fellow student in my third year of university. The trauma of the experience manifested itself with a severe onset of PTSD. I could not eat, and in the place of food, I drank. Heavily. Until I puked blood. And despite that depression, anxiety, and alcoholism, I still had courses to attend. I had coursework. I had exams. I had to fulfill the responsibilities of a university student in order to attain my diploma.
I missed class after class. I fabricated excuses — a fever, a sore throat. I lacked interest, I sat dissociated whenever I was able to be present. Junior to senior year of university was a testament to my self-destruction. Junior to senior year of university also served as proof of my perseverance — my ability to function, as highly as I could muster in the face of intense, debilitating trauma. I was still able to walk as a part of the commencement ceremony.
Yet, that perseverance unraveled to be a revictimization, as I witnessed my assaulter walk the same stage. My perseverance rested unparalleled to the ease, the freedom with which my assaulter continued to experience his personal and professional life.
I left Washington, D.C. and left university as a shell of the person who once existed. In the years since, I have attempted to rebuild myself. My perseverance remains powerfully intact, but it is undermined with each revictimization.
Christine Blasey Ford, like other survivors, need to be exemplified in their will, in their survival without reserve. She thrust herself, beyond her anonymity, to testify. Her courage and her perseverance should not be featured beside the fictitious resilience of Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh reaped the privilege of misogyny; he behaved in accordance to his misogyny and remained safeguarded by the misogyny of his peers. He did not demonstrate the mental candor that Blasey Ford displayed. Nor has he faced the onslaught of hatred received by her. His resilience is a falsehood uplifted by a system that requires no such thing from people like him, because it is a system built to always benefit them.
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