Father Doesn’t Know Best: Kavanaugh and Women’s Unshared Traumas

[NB: Check the byline. / ~Rayne]

This weekend brought back some ugly memories, one of which involved my father. We’ve never had a close relationship; it was rocky at times. But in 1991 one phone conversation particularly damaged my meager relations with him.

I can’t even remember why we had been talking on the phone — did he call me? Did I call him? The context’s utterly irrelevant now after all this time. But we butted heads about the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings.

Dad’s not political though he’s always been conservative. He’s a professional in a STEM field, raised Catholic, and a post-WWII veteran. Sadly, Dad’s racist in spite of being brown himself. This may come from having been raised where he was in the majority and not a minority. He wasn’t overtly racist as his closest friend in college was African. He’s not been overtly sexist. In my teens he argued with a small town school board so I could take wood shop. They didn’t let girls take that course in the early 1970s. Nor was I punished for bringing home Cs in typing though they were the lowest grades I’d ever had. He knew I’d need nominal keyboard skills as I was pursuing a STEM education in college.

But in all that I had known about my father by the time I was 30 years old, I’d made a miscalculation.

In that conversation we’d drifted into current affairs and the Senate’s hearing. I told him I was very upset. I’d hoped Clarence Thomas wouldn’t be confirmed. He wasn’t Supreme Court material based on his background and Hill’s testimony put Thomas’ character into question.

My father said he didn’t know why Anita Hill waited so long to say anything to anybody. Why hadn’t she spoken out at the time Thomas was harassing her? He suggested Hill was acting in bad faith.

I couldn’t say anything. Words wouldn’t come. It was as if I was talking to a stranger. To whom would a black woman go to complain about her boss’s sexual harassment? Especially if her boss was the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission? Who would take a young black woman’s word over that of a black man, let alone a man in charge of the EEOC? Why would a young black woman subject herself to more harassment by Senate Judiciary Committee and the public if not to protect the Supreme Court from an unworthy nominee?

At some point my understanding of the world forked sharply away from my father’s. It’s not as if he didn’t know women faced gross inequality. The fact he had to fight for my shop class was a concrete example. He’d heard plenty of stories about gender bias, sexual harassment and assault from my mother who worked in health care. Did he think that every girl or woman had some man who could make it better by going to bat for her? That some man would have resolved the harassment Hill faced in the work place had she simply come and asked them for help?

I didn’t know if he was naive. I didn’t know if this was a manifestation of his nebulous racism at some level. I didn’t know if it was misogyny I’d not detected in my father’s makeup to that point.

It took me a long time to get over this. I don’t know yet if I am over it because I struggled with the phrasing of that last sentence. I felt betrayed, as if he’d never seen the world as it was, nor had he seen me. I felt I’d betrayed myself for not seeing him more clearly.

It was some time before I realized he was as sexist as he was racist. Not overtly, and in spite of having two daughters in non-traditional STEM education paths — but his sexism was there and I’d internalized it.

It took me a while longer to realize I’d buried an episode which should have created a more realistic perception of my father.


When I was a pre-teen a group of boys harassed me. There was bodily contact, sexualized language, grabbing at clothing during class. The male teacher ejected me from class. He told my parents I was “precocious” which made no sense to me since I was a year younger and much smaller than the rest of my class, and I alone had been targeted. My father negotiated with the teacher and principal to let me to take this class independently — as if I was the one at fault and not the boys who’d harassed me. I was the one in the wrong because I was a girl. My father accepted this as fact. He didn’t demand the teacher do a better job of supervising his classroom.

I would bet good money that if asked now, none of the boys would remember harassing me. They might not even remember I was a former classmate. The situation mattered little to them, not changing their world one iota.

I never spoke with my father again about any problems I had with boys and men. I was on my own with the boys who shoved me around and pawed at me throughout high school or stole my drafting and engineering equipment. I was on my own when I got my first job in manufacturing as a co-op student, dealing with cat calls and sexual taunts and threats of violence. On my own when I didn’t get a raise when my boss said “his boys” in the department needed the raise that year.

Over the last couple of decades I’ve talked with many other girls and women about harassment. It’s nearly universal that women face it and sometimes with violence. Let me emphasize this: there are many, MANY women who were harassed, abused, assaulted in school and beyond who never reported it. They may never even have spoken about their experiences. But the system disempowers and marginalizes us; it maintains the status quo and actively resists change. It questions our ability to speak for ourselves. It places the value of a man’s career and lifestyle above any woman’s. Women’s empowerment and the ability to effect positive change has been close at times but we are still celebrating so many firsts. We haven’t yet a first woman president, or a first half of the Supreme Court or Congress, leaving us without adequate representation to protect our rights and interests though we are half this nation and give birth to the rest.


The revelation of Christine Blasey Ford’s name and the release of her letter to Senator Feinstein triggered memories. The harassment and abuse by teen boys, the Thomas confirmation hearings, that 1991 conversation with my father bubbled back up. Many women likewise revisited their own experiences. I’ve read their tweets consoling each other across Twitter. We and our traumas are finally seen and heard by each other in great numbers, but not by our government.

Like my father, this government assumes it’s her fault, not his. This government will go after Ford for speaking her truth. Its proxies villified her, some for not coming forward sooner though it wasn’t prepared and willing to help her back then. The system itself harasses women.

It wasn’t my fault I was harassed and abused. It wasn’t Anita Hill’s fault she was harassed, either, nor was it our fault we didn’t come forward. We couldn’t. It wasn’t Ford’s fault she was a 15-year-old abused by older teen boys at a time when such attacks were normalized in pop culture as humor. She couldn’t come forward then, either.

But now we and our many sisters can come forward together and say we believe Ford. We can say that what happened to her mattered then. It matters now because girls and women have a right to personal autonomy and self-determination. We can say that one man with a history of harassment seated for life on the highest court is more than enough, and that an admitted abuser has no right to appoint another man with a questionable history to the bench.

We can say it’s enough that Brett Kavanaugh has not been forthcoming about his shady finances even when asked to reply in writing. It’s beyond enough that he’s been a party to hiding a majority of his work. We can say we have heard enough of his prevarications before the Senate Judiciary Committee this month and in 2006.

We come forward now and say this is enough: Kavanaugh is not Supreme Court material and should withdraw his nomination. He should not be confirmed by the Senate.

At the very least Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote should be delayed. We should hear Ford’s testimony and Kavanaugh’s rebuttal, and as Marcy suggests, a witness to the assault on Ford.


Call your senator and ask for a delay on Kavanaugh’s confirmation; it would be better if Kavanaugh withdrew if we can’t hear from Ford, Kavanaugh and witnesses. Your calls are working at shifting GOP senators’ opinions.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

70 replies
  1. alaura says:

    Thank you, Rayne. You are so right, especially the part about how some men happen to not remember something that can impact a woman for a lifetime.
    …Just called both my Reps.

    • Rayne says:

      Thanks for making the calls. There’s some movement within the GOP suggesting the calls are getting through to senators and communicating our sentiments.

      • James Hester says:

        I hope, more women coming forward and educting the masses that it is and has been happening in our “Western Values”. Back in 80s when I worked in deep south I saw worst kind of treatment of women, specially if you are black. Women were supposed to smile at offensive jokes to keep the peace and their jobs.

        • Rayne says:

          It’s still pretty bad out there. I see stories in my Twitter feed all the time in which women, particularly women of color, are harassed, attacked, and sometimes killed for failing to bear the emotional labor of others on demand.

          What’s better now is that we have language for it and places to share it with others who understand. Realistically it will take another generation and some form of revolution within governance to effect liberty from this oppression for all.

  2. P J Evans says:

    I remember my mother talking about the harassment she got in her second job, as an oil-field lab tech, in WW2; I can’t remember if she talked about it in her first job, as a newspaper proofreader. She said that guys would stand outside the window where she worked, and use the foulest language they knew, knowing that she could hear them.

    The worst I got was a supervisor who said I “threw like a girl” and generally treated me like I wasn’t qualified for the job. (He was hoping to get promoted to “junior engineer” just by seniority, never mind that he didn’t have the qualifications for that one. And he lied and cheated, too.) I left before it got to be too much; I was afraid I’d take a gas-bottle wrench to him.

    • Rayne says:

      I’m sorry about the tears. I’ve been sniffling off and on for several days now reading so many women’s accounts of harassment and assault. The frustration and rage has been simmering for so long, I don’t think the Trump admin or the GOP have any clue what they may have unleashed. They only saw a teaser during the January 2018 Women’s March.

      • Bob Conyers says:

        All the men who hate the Trumpening of America will owe all of the women who fought back a permanent debt for everything they did to break the spell.

        • Rayne says:

          I don’t think there’s a debt to be paid as much as an awakening — men must shed the yoke they’ve labored under, stuffed into rigid expectations by centuries of patriarchal thinking. There’s worse ahead and staying locked in the past and not fighting side by side with all humans regardless of their identity will make it easier to pick us off.

          • Bri2k says:

            Thank you for this, Rayne. I’ve been dismayed by how widespread sexual assault is. I feel terrible for the victims. I think we need to build an equitable society where everyone’s rights are respected.

          • Bob Conyers says:

            I see where you’re coming from, and the fear I have is that without a sense of endebtedness, we’ll get a sense of entitlement.

            We’re already seeing Bloomberg testing the waters for the 2020 Democratic primary, despite largely sitting in his hands with all of his wealth and actually donating to Republicans for this midterm.

            I can already foresee an effort to turn the history of these years into a new version of Mississippi Rising, which had the gall to portray the FBI as heroes of the Civil Rights era.

            By all means, we need to recognize the guys who have always been there, but I want to make sure the pressure is never taken off a guy like Cuomo to stay in his place and do his job.

            • Rayne says:

              “…without a sense of endebtedness, we’ll get a sense of entitlement. …”

              True, it’s not like women are asking for reparations though perhaps we’d get more results if we pushed the Overton window by demanding them.

              As for Bloomberg, I think Shauna a.k.a. @goldengateblond said it best. He’d have better luck as an independent. Ditto for Cuomo if he ever thinks he’s going to go beyond the governorship.

  3. Tracy says:

    Thank you, Rayne! So eloquently stated, and thanks for sharing your personal story.

    I commented on the last post that I, too, have been feeling triggered – and not only by the detail of Christine Blasey Ford’s attack from Kavanaugh, but also by the reaction – women who have experienced something similar, or any degree of similarity with this experience, tentatively wondering if it’s safe to come out and share about their own, and if they do, finding solace and support with other women who have been through the same – and then the white male GOP, trying to stuff the ketchup back in the bottle, trying to silence her, trying to malign her credibility and character. It’s almost too painful to watch, and yet so predictable, because it’s so relatable, because as a woman, we have all had some shade of having been there ourselves, in some way.

    I myself carry some of my deepest shame around events that have been forced upon me, that I have not chosen, and the tragic thing is that there is a double crime: not only the initial power-mongering, nefarious action, that robs a woman of her autonomy, but then the shame that she carries that it was her fault, or that she can’t speak up because she won’t be believed anyway.

    Then think of places in the world in which violence against women is a daily occurrence and happens with impunity… I suppose that we are beyond that, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

    Thank you for opening up the conversation around this. It takes a lot of courage to speak out.

    • Rayne says:

      Thanks. If there’s anything I’ve found helpful it’s writing about the triggers and the underlying damage they’ve opened. Fiction works as well as nonfiction, poetry as well as prose. Find the outlet that works best for you and let the doubled poison out.

  4. To be continued says:

    Thank you from me and all the other girls whose dads failed to stand up for them…and worse.
    It is a sad day when you realize you are the only one that has your back…
    The cycle in my family is fortunately now broken.
    Part of the reason I married my husband was I knew he would be a great dad and treated women with respect. Happily my son is even better.
    My dad…we have not spoken in over 10 years. I closed the door when he started making sexist comments in front of my preschool children and said I should lighten up…fool me once…
    Thanks Rayne.

    • Rayne says:

      The cycle didn’t fully end here in spite of my best efforts. I have a great relationship with my kids, we talk about everything. Nothing is off the table. I have been open about the challenges they both face, including the unfair and toxic expectations that our culture places on boys and men as well as the suppression of girls and women. But it didn’t prevent my daughter from running into the same gender bias problems in the workplace I experienced decades ago. Fortunately she was better prepared to meet the dragon; she’s developed a strong sword arm. I hope my son will likewise be ready when he leaves college.

      We may have found ourselves alone for a while but these last two years have helped us find each other so we can get each other’s backs. We’re no longer alone.

    • CitizenCrone says:

      How beautiful.  How apt.  And too often true.

      So, Brett forgets (let’s posit this) because to him it was a nothingburger.

      Or, maybe his drunks are like Friend Judge’s:  blackout.  Both are then telling the truth.

      Ford is (let’s agree) telling the truth.  About the horrifying experience AND about not remembering where the party was or how she got there.  (I’ve remembered just such a party since Ford came forward.)

      Why must this be a he/she with only an either/or resolution?  We are humans with all the complexity that entails.

      What I wonder is when it is morally right to hold a teenager legally culpable when we know that 1) the teen brain is not yet fully developed; 2) alcohol lowers inhibitions; 3) there are no other incidents (as far as I know) like this in Kavanaugh’s past?

      If all the above is true, should he be held fully accountable to the extant that his nomination is defeated?

      Make no mistake, I do not want to see him confirmed.  I think there were enough questions raised during his hearings to make this NOT a slam dunk.  But on this alone, if the incident was a one-time horrible mistake, I don’t think it will make much difference to his nomination.

      Nevertheless, the trees are now a grove; a forest.  Maybe we can decide what kind of forest we want to be.

      • Rayne says:

        We hold teens responsible for their actions for life in many situations. Police do it regularly and too frequently with fatal results in the case of black teenagers like Laquan McDonald. It’s not always fair or right and expungement of minor’s records exists for this purpose. I’d rather we dealt with abuse by police specifically because it’s a mortal threat.

        However Kavanaugh’s dissent in Garza v. Hargan, the D.C. Circuit case in which a 17-year-old asylum seeker sought an abortion while in U.S. custody, indicates the man’s own preference for holding teens accountable. He would have forced a teenager to deal permanently with an unwanted pregnancy, potentially at risk to her own life.

        What a pity he now must be held to account his own teenage acts. And yet he’s not going to suffer for it — he has a lifetime appointment to the D.C. circuit assuming he is not disbarred or impeached when the dust settles.

        That’s not an unreal outcome, that he might also have to answer for his own unethical behavior as an adult having made false statements before the senate.

  5. holdingsteady says:

    I’m grateful for your writing, and need time to process –  for now I only know this:

    The committee vote is postponed, Monday will be a big day!  Somehow we must all find a way to support Professor Ford!

    I’m thinking of heading out to DC, that’s a big deal for me.  I’d like to be part of a large group of demonstrators, as I’m shy and don’t want the zipties around my arthritic wrists.

  6. Just Rob says:

    Reminded me a bit of when I first read A Room of One’s Own.  A valuable perspective, and worth sharing.  Thank you.

  7. Anon says:

    Thank you for sharing that. In actuality it makes me wonder as a Man if there are things that I have done, women that I have left with even mild versions of those memories. I have never assaulted anyone or even come close to the kind of physical and verbal abuse you describe. But when I think back to my own awkward, and no doubt from the other side uncomfortable, behavior when I was younger I wonder if there are some of my classmates who feel triggered by that or for whom I am one of “those guys” that made them feel undeservedly uncomfortable.

    • Rayne says:

      That you’re giving this thought is a very good sign. I think most men are good and well-meaning humans. I also think they have been unfairly conditioned to expect too much of themselves, expect too much of others, in a way that damages them as much as women. I wonder what pressures pushed Kavanaugh and his friend Judge to drink to excess to numb themselves, to act aggressively against someone smaller and alone. We have much to do if we don’t want another nomination process like this one, dumping our nation’s dirty laundry and exposing how little progress we’ve made toward liberty for all.

      • Anon says:

        In some sense the flipside of “boys will be boys” is the expectation that “boys should be boys” that is we are supposed to act that way, or to keep up with the others who do. I guess that I was fortunate that I wasn’t in a school where the tone for boys was set by someone who would later write a memoir entitled “Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk.”

        That said I feel like we as men owe it to at least be honest about what we have done. If I did things because of social pressures, or awkwardness, or “culture” in the broad sense, or booze, I still did them. At this point I am honestly on the fence about whether Kavanaugh is telling the truth as he remembers it. But the non-denial denial of Mark Judge definitely rings hollow.

  8. AndTheSlithyToves says:

    Just to remind everyone, there were 11 Dems (one of whom was Richard Shelby, now a Repug) who voted for Clarence Thomas. The Democrats controlled the Senate and could have–and should have–prevented this. As I said in another Kavanaugh post here at EW, I’ll never forgive Joe Biden for what he did to Anita Hill.  Alabama: Shelby (D) Yes. (Shelby turned R since then) — Arizona: DeConcini (D) Yes; — Georgia: Fowler (D) Yes; Nunn (D) Yes; — Illinois: Dixon (D) Yes — Louisisana: Breaux (D) Yes; Johnston (D) Yes. Nebraska: Exon (D) Yes; Oklahoma: Boren (D) Yes;South Carolina: Hollings (D) Yes; Virginia: Robb (D) Yes.

  9. Bruce Olsen says:

    Some of you may have seen this. It contains a series of tweets discussing toxic masculinity with a level of understanding and nuance I haven’t seen before. The tweets themselves are in a couple of threads so the clickbaity article below is the best I can offer. At least I stripped the tracking info ;-)

    A brief excerpt:

    ” Yes. Every man who inflicts violence, emotional, physical, sexual, has chosen which path they take. But toxic masculinity clears that path, paves it and puts up signs announcing it. And once they have chosen that path, Toxic Masculinity serves as their attorney, arguing and justifying.”

    I haven’t suffered anything like Rayne and many (many, many…) others have, but even though my boyhood was OK in many ways, after reading this I came to realize how much impact toxic masculinity has had throughout my entire life. At one point, when my Dad carelessly closed a swinging door on his 4-year-old grandson’s foot, his response was that “His cousin Timmy wouldn’t be crying like that.”

    So take 3-4 minutes to read through the threads.

    If we’re going to try to address this, individual action is necessary, but it won’t be sufficient.


  10. maybe ryan says:

    Did Kavanaugh really say “I wasn’t even at that party,” or was that just a Grassley staffer’s second-hand account?

    If he did say that, it’s a potentially devastating unforced error for such a hot-shot lawyer. It’s verifiable in a way that “I never did anything like that” wouldn’t have been. While Mark Judge is the only other one Ford says was in the room, the Post mentions “two other teenagers” named by Ford who they weren’t able to reach by press time. One of them might be able to corroborate Ford’s story. Or Kavanaugh’s I guess. But if someone places him at a small party that Ford was at, he’s toast.

    The Post apparently tried to reach them on Sunday morning, and published Sunday night. (Which I think was unfortunate haste, given the importance of potential corroboration.)

    I hope one of those two teenagers decides to go public. At least, if they have any memories of being at the party with Blasey. Four teenage guys hanging out with a cute girl – I think there’s a chance one of them remembers it. “She seemed like she liked me, and then that fucking Kavanaugh did something and she stormed off and I never saw her again.” That’s the kind of thing that might stick in your mind. 30 years? Maybe not cold. But say you realized 13 years later that he was the guy running part of the Starr investigation, and you begin regaling friends with stories of his assholery, while high school is still fresher in your memory. Then, such an incident might stay with you even if you have no clue that there was an attempted rape.

    • maybe ryan says:

      My comment above wasn’t really well placed in this post.

      I did appreciate your opening us up to some difficult things from your life, Rayne.

  11. skua says:

    How to relate an accusation of a criminal and immoral action by Kavanaugh to the voting on the nomination of Kavanaugh?

    I suggest that if the accuser and accusation are credible then that is sufficient to reduce the credibility of Kavanaugh such that a reasonable and ethical person can no longer have enough confidence in Kavanaugh’s character and moral rectitude to vote him to the SCOTUS.

    Having only the highest quality people on the SCOTUS is of overwhelming importance. The bar for successful appointment should be set very high.

    Rejecting nominees on the ground of  “reasonable probability of inadequacy” is far better for the nation than dismissing an accusation on the grounds that it can not be proven.

    Oh yeah: Great article Rayne.  Thanks.

  12. Peacerme says:

    I always ponder whether to share. I am not interested in sympathy and my sisters here know exactly what I mean by that. I feel compelled because of the nature of my story. You see, I it’s become the road, the path that has led to my purpose. I have had no choice but to try to understand the truth.

    I was gang raped, in a suburban neighborhood having literally just moved out of “north omaha” one of the most segregated cities, even to this day. (My parents apologizing with long lectures that we are not part of “white flight”. We were moving because we couldn’t afford an urban home that would house a family of six. We got a good deal but we have to move to the middle of no where to get it.) Eyeballs roll here.

    We moved to the burbs and I was raped by a group of white boys who ranged in age from 11 to 16. The 16 years old of which there were two, were the ring leaders. I share because my greatest damage came from the realization that it wasn’t just one evil guy. It was “my friends”. What followed further educated me about the human condition. The hatred. What came from being the new girl to a small town who is gang raped in her first year as the new girl?? Hatred. By women. Probably more fear than hate, but it sure felt like contempt. Why were they punishing me?? Understanding these social structures became necessary for my survival. I was shunned. Ostracized and targeted by several male teachers as well. There were hero’s. Unlikely football coach who gave a kind word on occasion. Females let me down. Women were my deepest disappointment but I know it was their fear. I told myself that if knew what happened to me, they wouldn’t hate me but they only would know if I told my story. Female teachers (I told two, let me down too. They didn’t know what to do.) Once I told some older girls, I got some reprieve. I joined volley ball and took to rehabbing my reputation by becoming the best kid I could. Perfectionism my new defense.

    My situation forced me to confront the rape culture. I realized of course, that this was the same sadistic culture that produced slavery. I also learned that seeing my rapist hung in the cafeteria naked by his jock strap as he was bullied one night after volley ball practice made me sick to my stomach and sent me to the office to rescue my rapist, one of the ringleaders. There was only one path that would satisfy the pain in me. Why? I’ve spent my life working on understanding this.

    I wanted to close my eyes and not see the truth of who we are, but I couldn’t survive in the denial. As I said, I don’t share for shock value. It happened in The middle of the USA. In the middle of no where. And I still see it was a microcosm and it was the truth about “us”. The young boys involved I saw as victims like me. Victims of machoism, hierarchy and power and control. (See that’s how they train boys not to feel.) I knew the young boys had no idea that what happened was a heinous crime.

    I share because it is truth. It happened. I beat on my tummy every night until my period came. People are shocked by the me too movement, by the sheer numbers. Not me. I knew I was surrounded. I knew hate was the toxin not the cure. I knew that religion, Power were part of the problem. And I knew it was not about me. (Maybe…that one has taken a lifetime).

    Thank you Rayne for your share. It’s rampant and it’s tenacles are inside of me, and everyone I love. The culprit in my view is the abuse of contempt, invalidation, our capacity to dismiss another human based on judgments about worth, entitlement and control. And the very real mental health issues and life long scars that keep us down or threaten our health. I can’t even get into the complexities for me between my sexually abused father (by a priest, my gay brother, and my brother who proudly collected points by how many women he could sleep with before he settled in to married life working for a bank!) The only thing that has ever made sense was to me was to “be the change”.

    It’s so complicated and yet so simple.

    • Rayne says:

      I’m so sorry this happened to you. I’m glad you feel comfortable sharing this with us. I am also very happy you’ve been able to find a way through and past this by being the change. That’s the same reason I’ve been here and why I write.

      Best to you in solidarity.

    • posaune says:


      I appreciate you sharing your story and I am so sorry for what you have endured.   It breaks my heart.  You are not alone, and I’m grateful that Rayne authored this piece.   I experienced two such incidents, one in college the other after grad school.   And each time, I suffered severe consequences (black-balling) for having reported it — consequences that lasted for years.  It makes me proud and gratified to read your story.   Thank you.

    • TheraP says:

      Words cannot express the depth of my compassion, for what you went through, for how that’s surely affected you over the years.

      Peace be with you.

  13. Xboxershorts says:

    There is a stigma attached for some reason to victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment. And I don’t know why. But the shame it leaves on the victim is powerful enough to enforce a silence that protects booth victim and perpetrator.

    At the age of 11 or 12, walking home from school, I was offered a ride, and then a chance to smoke a joint…and then nothing…blank….I woke up on the wrong side of downtown. I made my way home, having missed dinner, sent to my room and later punished, I couldn’t say anything.

    For 30 more years this colored my life. Self destructive behavior affected me throughout school, the US Navy, and then professionally. Heavy drinking, reckless drug abuse, failed marriages and broken careers and bankruptcies.

    Finally, after arrest and minor jail sentence, I got real help. Years of real counselling, sobriety and a chance to work through long buried anger and resentment I finally excised the demons that remained with me from that fateful autumn day…and it took years to get past it once it started breaking through.
    Today, a few months shy of 60, my parents, both still alive, still do not know of this episode in my life.

    People who don’t get it will always ask, “Why didn’t you speak out sooner?”

    Those of you who’ve been there understand….I Didn’t Know How.

    • Xboxershorts says:

      And as a young boy at the time, speaking out to my parents was forbidden.

      As a man approaching his twilight, surviving this experience has given me strength of will I didn’t know I had.

      I get that women mostly are subjected to this. But really, the perpetrators are doing this to exercise power. Finding someone weak to prey on or manipulate or use….it’s about power.

      • Rayne says:

        I’m very sorry this happened to you. You are very right, it’s about power which is why this happens most often to women and children like you were at the time — they have the least power in the system, are least able to fight back.

        And thank you for sharing your experience. I know it’s often difficult to do so.

      • TheraP says:

        In some ways, just based on my own experience as a therapist, I think this is even harder on a male. For it causes many to question their own identities, their sexuality.

        Know that you are not alone. It happens to men. But men are more terrified to speak out.

        It’s the isolation, all the negative emotions, that becomes so internally destructive.


        • Peacerme says:

          One of the most common fears for men who survive abuse or rape is that they will become a perpetrator. The questioning of sexual preference if assaulted by same sex is also common. But most of all it’s the social bias that a man should never be vulnerable and never be a victim. This leaves many men struggling to validate or integrate there own experience. (And contributes to the creation of predators when the option to heal the victim is not allowed).  The one that makes me the most sad is their fear they will be a perpetrator. It says so much about the degree to which our social biases invalidate men. Many fear there is only one option because confronting that vulnerability doesn’t feel like an option.

          For me, there is nothing more rewarding then my men’s groups. I have a woman’s, Mens and coed group that are consistently full. But the men are so grateful to find a place to come together and discuss emotions with each other. I wish all women could see it. Women together healing are amazing but to witness the courage of vulnerable  men gives validity to the philosophy to “save the world and heal your trauma”! We are hard wired to feel, to love, to be vulnerable at times. Strict sex role stereo types interfere with “our nature”, and contribute to the compulsions that lead to these criminal behaviors, with consequences for all of us.

  14. Lulymay says:

    As a Canadian who has lived my entire life right on the doorstep of your country, I can assure you we have much more in common with you than some might assume. The most glaring is the overall attitude of males toward females both in the past and the present. What the future holds is unfolding as we speak.

    One thing that has occurred to me, particularly the resurrection of the Clarence Thomas appointment, and who on the Democrat side voted for him, to the Supreme Court and all that swirled around the sexual harassment accusations is this: Do you think that if Thomas had been white rather than black, that Anita’s testimony would have had a greater impact? I’m thinking that perhaps the Dems were more anxious to be seen as supporters of a black for this vaunted position than what happened to this poor woman. After all, politicians are always politicians, and not many have ever accused them of being humanitarians have they? Just sayin’

    • Rayne says:

      Race played some role, I’m sure. Thomas had so little appropriate experience to recommend him that I think he was seen as safe by the Democrats at the time, while conservative enough that the GOP couldn’t argue against him without appearing openly racist.

      But race also played a role in how Anita Hill was treated. How dare she rise out of her place in the social pecking order and call the judgment of seated senators into question with her accusation. Made me ill to re-watch her testimony last night on Rachel Maddow’s program; the stress in her voice is visceral, the senators’ questions particularly wretched because they knew they were asking for sexually explicit content in front of her parents. So infuriating to sense the unspoken, “You there, girl.”

      • maybe ryan says:

        The sound bite that stays with me from the Thomas hearings, I would guess the quote that most people would remember, if they remember anything, was Thomas describing the experience as a “high tech lynching.”  I definitely think that that comment racialized the situation in a very particular way.  It was an attempt to tie Thomas to a century-long history of black men falsely accused of sexual offense and then lynched.  It largely worked.  It made it harder for Democrats to be tough on him or supportive of Hill.  Or, to put it in a different light, the Democrats on the committee and in the Senate didn’t have the understanding of how such things might play out, the tested words, or the confidence to turn things in a different direction after Thomas raised the stakes on them.

        One thing that will be different (I think) this time is that one set of Senators will be much more solicitous of Prof. Ford’s experience.  I do expect hard, skeptical and ugly questioning.  But not coming from Democrats.  That will help Ford.

        Kavanaugh will have to attempt the same thing Thomas did, I think.  Not merely defend himself, but portray himself as the victim.  How will he attempt that jujitsu, what sound bites will he use to dramatize himself in that role, and exactly what language and what line of questioning can Dems follow to blunt his attack?

        I wonder what sources they may have for specific incidents they can ask Kavanaugh about that might portray him both as unreliable narrator of his own life in that period; and as a damaged moral actor.  “Can you tell us the details of the evening in late August, 1983, at Rohobeth Beach when people present tell us you threw punches, puked and then passed out?”  (That’s made up – I know no details of BK’s life myself except the material from Judge and from their yearbooks suggesting that something like that could have happened.)

        Ford herself said she and some friends were in his circle for a few months.  I wonder whether any of them might be sharing such incidents.

        • Rayne says:

          If GOP’s all-male line-up go off on Ford the way the Senate Judiciary Committee teed off on Anita Hill they can kiss the Senate goodbye in November. None of the GOP committee members have proven themselves adept at questioning with any sensitivity; I expect a vast pink wave of rage if they screw this up. They are hanging on by a thread right now and there’s still a couple weeks to register new women voters.

      • CitizenCrone says:

        Rayne–Race (or at least color) played a part in how Thomas treated Hill as well.  [see Strange Justice, Mayer and Abramson]

        • Rayne says:

          I don’t give a fig whether Thomas’ behavior toward Hill was based on his race. His behavior was unacceptable given his role as a supervisor, her position as a younger subordinate, and his personal behavior forced on her without consent in a workplace environment. It would have been grossly inappropriate regardless of their respective races or even their gender.

          The question we were dealing with was whether race played a role in the all-white, all-male Senate Judiciary Committee’s actions toward Thomas and Hill. It played a role and it was unacceptable then and to this day.

  15. joberly says:

    Thank you, Rayne.  I contacted Senator Collins, via her staff, with this message:
    “Dear Senator Collins:
    I know you do not serve on the Judiciary Committee but I ask you to urge Chairman Grassley to invite, and if necessary, subpoena, Mr. Mark Judge to appear and testify under oath about Dr. Blasey Ford’s accusation of sexual assault against Judge Kavanaugh.
    Thank you,
    J**** O*****, Perry, ME 04667”

  16. SAO says:

    Mark Judge isn’t going to testify in support of Ford’s allegation. Think about it, if he says what happened that day, he’s admitting to watching Kavanaugh molest and attempt rape and he did nothing except try to join in. There’s nothing good such an admission will make, not for his personal life, his professional life or for his ability to live a peaceful life.

    Yes, he’ll be testifying under oath, but he’s never going to be convicted of perjury in a in a case about an event that occurred over 30 years ago, in a room where there were no other witnesses except Kavanaugh and Ford.

    • Rayne says:

      Probably not the thread to which this comment should have been posted, would have been better suited at this post.

      As for Judge’s possible testimony, assuming he is somehow summoned if not subpoenaed: he’s already said he can’t recollect anything (a non-denial denial). If he sticks to that he’s only validating what he’s already told the world in his published memoir, that he was a black-out drunk teenager. Life has been very kind to him by even giving him a pulpit for that bit of white male privilege.

      As for a perjury conviction: who’s even talking about that course of action? The Senate Judiciary Committee is evaluating Kavanaugh’s suitability as nominee to a lifetime appointment to the highest court of the land. This should necessarily have the highest standard of ethical performance and Kavanaugh has already displayed less than ethical behavior. His responses to Ford’s statement only compound his problem with a questionable denial.

      I’d like Judge to testify even if he sticks to “I can’t recall,” but Kavanaugh is going to have his work cut out for him if he thinks he’s going to successfully pull off the same hole-ridden denial he’s issued so far.

      Welcome to emptywheel, by the way, Sig.

  17. lika2know says:

    There’s a great twitter thread going around: https://twitter.com/designmom/status/1040363431893725184

    It is related but not central to this discussion, but it does reflect on how men think regarding sex.  And it is a compelling argument against the trope that because women experiences the consequences of unprotected sex, they should carry the responsibility for those consequences.

  18. TheraP says:

    A few decades ago, when I was working intensively with some victims of sexual abuse, I used to leave little notes on bulletin boards (like they used to have in stores and churches before the web) saying: “Pray for victims of sexual abuse. And for their therapists.” Once I went back to a Benedictine Monastery near where we lived when my son was small – to ask the monks to pray.

    Sexual abuse affects victims and families and friends and therapists, who work devotedly to walk a journey with someone who’s trying to put their life back together. It is extremely, extremely rare that anyone makes up a false story. And occasionally one gets dramatic present-day evidence that even the most repressed memories, which return to torture someone’s mind and soul, can be verified. I once had the occasion to talk with a pastor who had inherited a house of horrors. The layout of the basement and many disturbing objects in it (which accorded with recollections of my patient) left the Pastor so troubled that he decided only he should continue clearing out that house. His words: “Anything you can imagine, it was in that house.” The owner had been a school crossing guard in a small town.

    When I decided to retire, one of the things that tipped the balance was that I could see that my emotional resilience was no longer what it once had been. It takes a lot out of you to sit with someone, holding in your own emotional reaction, containing it for the person who cannot yet do that for themselves. Especially if they’re having flashbacks. It is a privilege. It can be very rewarding. But it takes massive resilience – over a long time.

    • Rayne says:

      I don’t know how you did it for a career. It’s a lot to hold in our own emotions related to personal experiences, let alone the weight of others’ emotions. Thank you for what you did for as long as you did.

    • posaune says:


      Your comment and peek into your life-healing work with those suffering from sexual abuse has haunted me for the past day.   I sincerely pray that abundant blessings and grace are bestowed upon you for the courage, stamina and light you have sustained in helping your clients’ journey with this life-affirming work.  To find a therapist who possesses the knowledge, experience, understanding, sensitivity and fortitude necessary for this work is a miracle in itself.   I’m so grateful for the life-healing you have generated for your clients.

      I know this from our own journey with our adoptive son, who was terribly abused between age 2-5, diagnosed with pre-verbal trauma PTSD dissociative type.  We had been blessed with a wonderful trauma-attachment child therapist, whom we saw twice per week for 6-1/2 years.   She reached a point of diminished resilience (also with health issues) and we transferred carefully to a colleague of hers, who will see our son through the end of high school.  Still, I’ve sustained my own secondary trauma from our son’s symptoms, rages, dissociative episodes, and work weekly with my own therapist.

      I’ve often wondered how, no matter how skilled and experienced a therapist may be, it is that he/she can sustain his-her-self boundaries, thoughts and impressions while treating multiple clients!   It is still a mystery to me.   But I know that, without such a dedicated therapist, our son would have never (or be able to continue to) overcome significant developmental trauma.   Because of the dedication of our therapist, he may envision a chance to fulfill his potential, and to love and to be loved, which is life’s greatest gift.

      Blessings to you again and again.    You are indeed one of life’s gifts, too.

  19. Zardoz says:

    Yes, thanks for all the shares.

    As to ‘power’ being one of the roots of such behaviors, I recently read this piece discussing the abuse of children at orphanages, performed by both nuns and priests: We Saw Nuns Kill Children: The Ghosts of St. Joseph’s Catholic Orphanage. It struck a raw nerve for me, because I was born in a “St. Joseph’s” hospital and removed from my birth-mother immediately. Fortunately, I was adopted by relatively great parents at the age of 3 weeks.

    It was, of course, “shameful” for a single woman to conceive in those days, not to mention the unavailability of other options. And of course, not so shameful for the ‘man’ involved, part of the double standard system embedded within thousands of years of ‘unbalanced’ patriarchal society.

    In any case, I’m guessing that such abusive nuns, whether in orphanages or schools, do so, as with abusive men generally, because such are reacting to their perverse loss of personal autonomy — frequently not so voluntary, hence “get thee to a nunnery”. And, that in addition to other issues growing up all along.

    The patriarchal system has placed women in a bad spot, but not just from the overt power dynamic, but also from adding on top of what seems to be all of our primal psychological hard-wiring. So, especially after being indoctrinated so from childhood merely being perceived as being (dominant or) submissive (regardless of sex) as to one’s posture, mannerism, movements, choice of words and tone, etc. make a subconscious impact on the way all others perceive and respond you. And, how even how you perceive yourself.

    Perhaps the easiest and most dramatic way to see the truth of this is to watch the Dog Whisperer show, where the naughty doggies, as crude analogs for ‘bad boys’ (to some extent) do not see their humans as ‘leaders’, but rather as being weak and unworthy of their good behavior. Thus, the Dog Whisperer spends most of his time teaching the clueless humans to be “calm and assertive” leaders, with dramatic results.

    Brave and seemingly crazy people are successfully swimming today with ‘man-eating’ sharks, hanging in the wild with grizzlies, wolves, lions and such, and it seems to be the common thread for these humans is to not allow themselves to be behaviorally perceived as the meal of the day.

    Beyond my having successfully tried some of the tamer techniques with myself in regards to friends’ dogs and even with humans, I have no idea how far they can impact all the other external factors that cause this sorry behavior to women and others. But maybe this can help someone, at least from starting with ourselves.

    The Church is quietly stating that a new revelation is coming, but I suspect their ‘new boss will be the same as the old boss’.

    • Rayne says:

      I’m trying not to be offended by the comparison of pack animal behavior to women and children who have been marginalized by patriarchy.

      I’ll leave it at that.

    • May the longtime sun shine upon you says:

      @  Zardoz Re:  “what seems to be all of our primal psychological hard-wiring”

      If it’s ‘primal’ and ‘hard-wired,’ why do you suppose it’s relentlessly codified and guarded in all elements of (here, our) culture, notably language, organized religion, law, science, media  …  (there are too many scales, histories, and exemplars to give, so let’s just say Culture).

      To wit:  “Perhaps the easiest and most dramatic way to see the truth of this is to watch the Dog Whisperer show”


      One might say it doesn’t matter- the ultimate source of behavioral autopilots (sic*), that is – as we have the cultural work to do regardless. 

      But we’re not aided in that work by machine metaphors meant to dispatch with agency and stake some natural-rights claim to assholiohood and worse.

      As we’re in this heightened moment of sussing out disinformation campaigns, we need to be more attentive to the origins tropes, hero stories, and just-so stories that they rely upon.

      Thank you, Rayne, and commenters, for the post and its growth.  I’ll introduce myself further somewhere more appropriate.

      *Yes, I ‘sic-ed’ myself:    those dastardly machine metaphors invade any succinct conversation about what are instead social beings, thereby recapitulating the problems we are trying to solve.  Offered as a tiny example of the saturation.  That ‘primal’ ‘hard-wired’ Nature takes an unflinching Nurture to keep up.

      • Eureka says:

        Note to mods/readers:  I am changing to a shorter name.  After the one comment above as “May the longtime sun shine upon you,” I will now be “Eureka.”  Thank you.

  20. posaunee says:

    Therapy @ 3:39

    Your comment and peek into your life-healing work with those suffering from sexual abuse has haunted me for the past day. I sincerely pray that abundant blessings and grace are bestowed upon you for the courage, stamina and light you have sustained in helping your clients’ journey with this life-affirming work. To find a therapist who possesses the knowledge, experience, understanding, sensitivity and fortitude necessary for this work is a miracle in itself. I’m so grateful for the life-healing you have generated for your clients.

    I know this from our own journey with our adoptive son, who was terribly abused between age 2-5, diagnosed with pre-verbal trauma PTSD dissociative type. We had been blessed with a wonderful trauma-attachment child therapist, whom we saw twice per week for 6-1/2 years. She reached a point of diminished resilience (also with health issues) and we transferred carefully to a colleague of hers, who will see our son through the end of high school. Still, I’ve sustained my own secondary trauma from our son’s symptoms, rages, dissociative episodes, and work weekly with my own therapist.

    I’ve often wondered how, no matter how skilled and experienced a therapist may be, it is that he/she can sustain his-her-self boundaries, thoughts and impressions while treating multiple clients! It is still a mystery to me. But I know that, without such a dedicated therapist, our son would have never (or be able to continue to) overcome significant developmental trauma. Because of the dedication of our therapist, he may envision a chance to fulfill his potential, and to love and to be loved, which is life’s greatest gift.

    Blessings to you again and again. You are indeed one of life’s gifts, too.

  21. manqueman says:

    I’m a lifelong sexually frustrated white male dotard. As such, 17 was tough which is to say very, very frustrating. Therefore, I’d like to believe that drunk punk grew up to be a better person. I know; he became a GOP apparatchik obsessed with Slick Willy’s willy or whatever so I’m wrong in all likelihood.
    Still, whatever happened then, what I believe really needs to come out is what Kavanaugh knew about the vile Alex Kozinski, when he learned it and, for that matter, why Kozinski tossed a newly hired clerk to make room for Kavanaugh in his chambers.

    • Rayne says:

      A better person would admit their failings and say they were sorry, even if only because they were a teen drunkard. A better person wouldn’t try to hide the greater part of their body of work, or lie to the senate, or insist a teenager be held permanently accountable for an unwanted pregnancy, or leave an alleged victim subject to the storm of harassment.

      And yeah, we still haven’t heard what this so-called better person knew about and did in response to Kozinski’s “hiring practices.”

  22. CitizenCrone says:

    A better man, a better person…yes, that person would certainly face and acknowledge the less acceptable aspects of his personality, and regret and apologize for his actions. And Kavanaugh is no dummy; he has surely recognized which of his actions were unacceptable, even egregious.

    Publicly, he admits to little or nothing. If he remembers the Blasey Ford assault, he has decided it’s not in HIS interest to reveal it. Even if he were truly remorseful, he doesn’t trust the process nor the people to put him on the Court. And the Court is what he wants, what he aimed for.

    Somewhere in that calculus is what scares me about him. He’s ambitious, yes. But he’s too secretive, too willing to barter the “better person” for the better position. He won’t accept the consequences of his actions [failure to request release of documents from Bush admin] while demanding the pregnant teen accept the consequences that satisfy his moral worldview.

    What is he hiding, and why? Does he have an agenda? I really hope the GOP will pause this nomination. Possibly someone will step forward. There was a report tonight (PBS NewsHour) that a woman who attended Blasey Ford’s HS posted on fb that the Kavanaugh assault was known and discussed in school at the time it happened.

    IDK–I’ll still be surprised if he’s not confirmed.

  23. holdingsteady says:

    I had a predatory uncle (frogman from the war? nowadays called seals I guess) . Sisters and I and even my mother have experienced his icky ways. Weirdest of all, when I was a little kid he had helmets and other army paraphernalia and tried to turn us into a little kid militia. He’s dead now.

  24. Mary McCurnin says:

    I knew boys at Tulane who raped. It wasn’t me that was assaulted. I was 16 when I started dating a boy that became my husband. It was my future brother-in-law and two of his fraternity brothers who raped a mentally ill young woman. Her mother turned them into the university. They were put on probation. Probation. I never understood why the police didn’t arrest them. I still don’t understand why boys/men in college are often not charged with crimes when they do this. The school deals with it. I guess it means that there are too many rapists that would end up in jail rather than returning for the next semester.  These are special boys, white boys who became doctors and lawyers. They were the elite of the south. They were horrifying. They are all dead now. Good.

  25. Assiske says:

    Wednesday night I spoke last in our peace meditation : I hoped BK might bow, recognizing courage and his own possibility for enough courage to deeply listen to this brave woman. Power is an intoxicant and sober thoughtful listening is a minimum requirement for any judge. In my opinion Justice is listening.
    (Today is international day of peace. ️️Bows to Rayne et al)

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