The Trial of Man

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I was sitting in an IKEA chair inside of a make-shift office built out of cardboard when the decision was made to proceed with confirming Brett M. Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice. I was about half way through a long day meeting with the global staff of a large anti-slavery NGO and I didn’t have any phone service or WiFi. I knew big things were happening in the world around me, but I had no access to the current events as they were unfolding.

My heart was so conflicted. I wanted to be physically, mentally, and emotionally present with the person sitting across from me, but I also wanted to know what was happening to our country. I wanted to watch the testimonies and read the articles and sift through the information just to attempt to reach some sort of understanding of what was going down. I had to wait to do those things, and I have now had a few opportunities over the last few days to educate myself and catch up on all that has happened.

I believe Christine Ford. I believe her testimony. I believe that she had no intention of creating a media circus or uprooting anyone’s family.

I also believe Brett Kavanaugh. I believe that he either doesn’t remember or thinks he did not commit the assault of which he was accused.

I grieve for Dr. Ford and her family. I grieve for Judge Kavanaugh and his family. I also grieve for the broken systems under which we operate as a country, knowing that change may never come.

I think what people failed to realize over the last few weeks is that this was not a trial to prove whether a man assaulted a woman or not. As best as I understand the data, this was a hearing to bring information to light and to confirm or deny the integrity of the man nominated for a seat as a Supreme Court Judge. There was nothing for anyone to win in this situation. Either Judge Kavanaugh would be found capable of serving, or he would not.

Maybe I believe Dr. Ford because I am biased from my own experiences. In my early twenties, I too attended a small gathering at a friend’s house. I drank alcohol, hung out in the living room with friends and acquaintances, and then went upstairs to my friend’s sister’s room, since she was out of town, to sleep because I did not want to drive home while intoxicated. I woke up after some time to find a young man I had known for years in the bed with me, and he was attempting to remove my clothes and make sexual advances. I asked him to stop, and he did not. I pushed him off of me and I ran into the nearest bathroom. I locked the door and did not come out until I knew the guy was gone.

Maybe I believe Dr. Ford because she had nothing to gain from coming forward. I don’t think she is part of some large-scale, left-wing conspiracy to take down the Republican party. She has nothing to gain and everything to lose by being forced into the spotlight.

Maybe I believe Judge Kavanaugh because he wants to protect his wife and daughters from this whole crazy thing. I don’t think he was acting when he said he didn’t assault Dr. Ford. Whether he didn’t do it or he doesn’t remember, I don’t know. It’s not my place to judge the Judge, or anyone else for that matter.

Maybe I believe Judge Kavanaugh because I don’t believe all men are rapists. I don’t believe all men are sex addicts or porn fiends or predators. I married a really good man who respects me, honors women, and is now hyper-aware of where and how he stands in an elevator because he doesn’t want to brush against someone and have it be mistaken as assault.

I was recently in an EMDR therapy session addressing some lingering issues from a past abusive relationship. My therapist asked me to name the thing that was still clutching parts of myself and would not let go. I named that thing Fear. At the end of the session, he said one very simple and profound thing: “Fear doesn’t protect us from harm.”

Fear is what I hear in all of the testimonies and articles and blogs and asinine social media posts. Fear is what I see in the media and in the news. Women are afraid of being judged or ignored. Men are afraid of being accused. The Right is afraid of the Left. The Left is afraid of the Right. People are afraid of losing their jobs, their families, their homes, and their livelihoods. Fear is controlling our culture, and protecting us from nothing. Fear is turning us against each other and will kill us all if we let it. We can’t let fear win.

I don’t want my future children to live in fear. I want them to be aware of reality, to be educated about the world, and to move through life with a certain freedom knowing that when bad things happen, and bad things will happen, that they will be loved and believed and cared for and known. I am not afraid of who is right and who is wrong. I do fear what will happen if we keep judging each other without empathy, compassion, or hope that people will start treating others the way they want to be treated.

That young man who attacked me is married now. He may have kids. I don’t know. He probably doesn’t remember what happened that night. He was drunk and high, and he knows I was mad at him for quite some time and that I would not let myself be in the same places at the same time for several years. If I confronted him with that information today, he would probably be very confused. I can tell you almost every detail about that night, that room, and the day that followed. That’s how trauma works on the brain. If he were to run for public office, I don’t know if I would say anything or not. He assaulted me some 15 years ago, and I don’t know what his heart is like now. Maybe I would send a confidential letter to the powers that be, maybe I wouldn’t. I guess I just don’t know until I am in that situation.

I believe all people, regardless of gender or position, should be held accountable for their actions. I have long heard stories of men and women in our nation’s Capitol who take advantage of, assault, and manipulate others. This should not be normalized or accepted. We need systemic change to ensure that no one is vulnerable to physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological abuse.

This is a situation in which no one wins. My hope is that individually, we as people treat people like people. My hope is that systemically, we protect those who are vulnerable to harm, care for those who have been harmed, and hold accountable those who have inflicted harm.

We don’t need another trial of man. We need a culture of empathy, grace, and compassion.

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