As a woman, there are things in life that are extraordinarily difficult to hear.
On Friday, I listened to all of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's testimony about Brett Kavanaugh's alleged assault, and I teared up as I listened to her describe something that so many women face on a regular basis. I cried as I reflected back on my own experiences as a woman and all the times I told myself that "It wasn't rape so it didn't count."
Tears ran down my face as I pictured my 15-year-old self, the same age as Dr. Ford was — shy, easily intimidated and so scared of doing the wrong thing.
And that's what reporting is, isn't it? The wrong thing?
Society teaches us that telling the truth is not OK. That ruining someone's life over a mistake they made is not worth it. They destroy women's characters and accuse them of drinking too much or dressing too provocatively.
Society teaches us that we brought it on ourselves.
That's what I convinced my 15-year-old self — that somehow, I'd asked my friend's brother to come into her bedroom while we were sleeping. That I'd somehow silently given him permission to take my pants off in my sleep and touch me. That something I said or did during the day granted him this right.
I continued to process that thought as I was banned from my friend's home after telling her that I saw her brother in her room while we slept, and again when her father told her we couldn't be friends anymore because I was a bad influence.
I again blamed myself when a friend developed a crush on that same guy and I couldn't explain my hatred for him, causing a rift in our friendship.
I wore the blame like a blanket, until a new assault occurred in college, when a man shoved me at a party and kissed me without my permission, while I desperately tried to push him off.
I held onto the fact that assaults were normal, and again that, "It wasn't rape so it didn't count."
I learned the true taste of fear when I was 23 years old, and a man broke into my house a couple of times but didn't take anything — causing police to believe I was being stalked. I cried as I barricaded myself in my bedroom at night, while a police car sat outside my house.
I learned the art of self-preservation when a 40-year-old man that followed me on social media, showed up to a conference I was speaking at and later sent me various messages from different accounts — even after I continually blocked him. I was taught to be "polite," so he wouldn't try to find me and hurt me.
My fears of men have only continued to grow, and so has the self-blame. We live in this cycle of both being afraid of being hurt and being afraid of telling the truth. We're taught to fear men, but not to tell on them.
I was triggered the other day when a male classmate asked if we can really persecute Kavanaugh for something he is said to have done so many years ago. Did it still matter today?
The answer to that question is YES. It still matters. It matters because it changed Dr. Ford for the rest of her life.
It matters because everything women go through and stay quiet about alters us for the rest of our lives.
It changes how we date, how we interact with others. It changes the goals we set for ourselves and our own self-esteem. It alienates us from others. It ends friendships. It changes everything.
Looking back at my 15-year-old self, I still would not have changed the course of how I handled things. I still wouldn't have reported things or told my parents.
I was embarrassed. I was scared. I didn't want my world to change. I didn't have the emotional capacity to handle the backlash.
Society is unsupportive of women reporting because they're scared of what it says about men.
And you don't have to say "not all men." I know it's not all men. I have a brother and a father and exes that have instilled the goodness of men in me. But there are still those men — the ones who strip of us of our dignity and self-esteem. The ones who make us question ourselves until we decide to report the assault.
But reporting becomes a "he said, she said" game, and everyone worries about HIS future.
But what about hers? She matters, too.
It changes her future too.
I am so tired of watching white men in power use women as toys. Dr. Ford taught me that every assault matters — everything you don't give permission for, any strike against your body you did not consent to. And it's OK to let people know. It's OK to come forward and be honest about those experiences, even if it's not the popular decision.
I believe Dr. Ford.
I believe women.
I believe me.
It wasn't rape, but it was assault, AND IT COUNTS.
Someday, men like Trump and Kavanaugh will no longer get to dictate what is right or wrong in our society. And we'll live in a place that is safe for everyone, not just privileged white men. Until then, keep sharing your experiences. Shout your truths from the rooftops.
We hear you. We believe you. We need you.