This phrase usually refers to how many people you’ve had sex with. It’s the number you share — or not — with your current significant other. It’s the number that once defined whether you were “a good girl” — or not. And it’s the number some men prefer to keep track of for themselves. The way women weigh themselves before breakfast to assess the value of their bodies, men like to assign a number to their virility.
But in reflecting on how the GOP are ramming through accused attempted rapist Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, it occurred to me that this coy phrase, this troublemaking question, should take on a new meaning. Because, in the past quarter-century since the Thomas hearings and the pain caused to Anita Hill, these same men are the exact same. Nothing has changed or enlightened them. They have refused to grow as human beings, or to care about women. They just want all the power all of the time.
More importantly, the experience and sensitivities of a victim of sexual assault does not matter to them. These men who are supposed to represent their constituents, and have oversight on our Judicial system, could not care less or be bothered to educate themselves about women’s lives. They dismiss the process and pain of trauma memory as if it’s of no consequence.
One in six women are victims of rape or incompleted rape in America. One in five girls are victims of child sex abuse. Nearly 22% of female rape victims are gang raped. Essentially, Dr. Blasey Ford’s memory of Kavanaugh and Mark Judge could be construed as attempted gang rape.
I remember watching Anita Hill testify. I was living in New York City then, but was on vacation in Los Angeles following a work event. I recall how upsetting it was for me and my friends. The friend I watched with, she had been raped repeatedly when she was younger. A few years later, despite being deeply in love, newly married to her longtime love, excited about a new business, she fell to her death.
94% of female victims have PTSD following their attacks. We don’t just ‘get over it’. This effects our relationships, our careers, our faith, our lives as a whole. Many women I know repress their memories for decades. That’s not to say it doesn’t impact their lives adversely.
It’s like we have all these women walking around in a bit of a fog, searching for bits and pieces of ourselves. We understand Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. We know her. She is our 15 year old self, living through a terrifying, visceral nightmare. She is our teenage daughter, and our heart clenches at the thought…
These old men in the Senate, who possess power they have no moral claim to, this President and his men, Judge Thomas and potentially Kavanaugh, they hold too much horrific power over our lives. And they are joined by women who prop them up – the women who lack the courage to question the status quo.
I think of these women as having Patriarchy Stockholm Syndrome. It’s no coincidence so many of these women view themselves as religious. After all, religious communities reinforce that men and boys are more valuable than women and girls, in a myriad of ways. And the men in power – priests, rabbis, pastors, imams, etc. are lightening quick to protect and defend accused pedophiles and rapists.
It’s everywhere we look and everywhere we walk. We see the grave imbalance of power. 90% of adult rape victims are women. 99% of sexual assault perpetrators walk free.
So, I’m wondering, #WhatsYourNumber? How many times have you been sexually assaulted, however you choose to define that for yourself, in your lifetime? Of course, it’s difficult to measure how many times the same predator perpetrated multiple sexual assaults. So, I’ll count my attackers, which numbers 6. But definitely multiply that number.Maybe #WhatsYourNumber? will make a dent in clarifying the truth of our lives as women, and take away some of the stigma when we reveal our most devastating memories. After all, there’s strength in numbers.