Why #MeToo again?

Can Kavanaugh's accuser be heard by the members of an all-white-older-male Senate committee in a society that continues to disrespect women?
President Donald Trump listens as Judge Brett Kavanaugh, his Supreme Court nominee, speaks, in the East Room of the White House, July 9, 2018, in Washington, DC. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump listens as Judge Brett Kavanaugh, his Supreme Court nominee, speaks, in the East Room of the White House, July 9, 2018, in Washington, DC. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

In this season of reflecting on our past and creating our goals for the future, I have been thinking about what our country is grappling with in our process for confirming the next Supreme Court justice. I’ve been thinking about what Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has been experiencing since she began to share her account of her sexual assault as a teenager by Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, I wanted to express my support for Dr. Ford and explain my own understanding of her trauma.

After beginning to collect my thoughts, however, I started to feel anxious. What would people think of me after they read this blog? What might happen to my reputation? What would be the backlash? These are certainly the thoughts, Dr. Ford was thinking before she wrote to her Congresswoman. Obviously, she was correct in her concerns, since she has now faced death threats, had her social media accounts hacked, and had to move her family to keep them all safe.

I never shared what happened to me with anyone. But now as I think back on my own experiences. I can’t imagine there is a single woman in our society who has not experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault. I really cannot. When I was a kid, teasing girls about their breast size was standard. Making passes at girls was encouraged and boys bragged about whom they were able to grab in the hallways. Girls were never encouraged to “tell on them.” We took the harassment and moved on.

Today, we have the #MeToo movement to empower women to speak up. Women are standing up for one another and recalling their own personal instances of harassment or assault. Some cases are more severe than others, but every woman I know has experienced some form of harassment of assault by men. I’m not saying that every man has committed this type of assault, but treating women like objects and not respecting women has been a common thread throughout history.

Ever since this topic has again come to the forefront, with the news about Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, we are remembering what happened 27 years ago when the actors in this same play were Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas. Then it was sexual harassment, and Anita Hill’s experiences were downplayed and the harassment denied. Anita Hill is remembered for these hearings, not for her intellect or her accomplishments before and after the hearings. Anita Hill should be more than a footnote. When Dr. Christine Blasey Ford shared her teenage sexual assault with her senator, the story was leaked and became the latest news. By sharing her story, Dr. Ford opened herself up to a vast array of new forms of harassment, including death threats. This is why women don’t tell…

Do I believe her story? Yes, I do. Do I believe that Brett Kavanaugh truly may not recall the incident? Yes, I do. Does that mean it didn’t happen? No, it does not. I am sure that it happened. I believe that as an extremely drunk teenager, Brett Kavanaugh was quite capable of forcing a 15-year-old girl to go into a bedroom with him and his friend. They were all probably friends. You don’t think friends would do this to one another, but they do. In the 1980s, this was not unusual. Teen drinking was the norm, and kids drank to excess and often didn’t remember what they did the next day. However, if during that drunken state, a sexual assault occurred, the victim does not forget it. Ever. I know. It happened to me.

My experience happened in college. A close friend was visiting. We had gone on a year abroad together and remained good friends. Friends, and only friends. We went out with a crowd in the evening and drank, as college students tend to do. We drank to excess, as college kids tend to do. However, when we got back to my house, my friend, did not act like a friend. I thought he was putting me to bed, to let me sleep it off, but that was not the case. He started touching me, like a friend should not. I tried to squirm away, but I could not. He was bigger than me, and I had nowhere to go. When it finally was over, I was ashamed and couldn’t talk about it. To anyone. I thought it was my fault. I did not go to authorities. No one went to authorities. I never talked to my “friend” again. I didn’t tell anyone. Not even my husband, who I met after the assault occurred. Now I’m sharing it with you.

I don’t think my experience was unique. Unfortunately, we are hearing more and more stories like this. Do I believe Dr. Ford was assaulted? Of course. She needs to be able to share her story. Is she being vilified for sharing her story? Yes. Why do you think it is happening? Probably because our society remains male dominated, and sexist. The Senate committee she will be facing will be all white males. Their average age is 62. They don’t have a clue about what Dr. Ford went through and don’t care. There is a strong possibility that in their lives, they may have done something similar to what Brett Kavanaugh is being accused of doing and they don’t think it was so bad. We must stand up for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and we must raise our voices that this cannot continue to occur.

In the Torah portion we read this past week, Ha’azinu, we learn that Moses will not be able to enter the Land of Israel. Why not? Because he showed disloyalty to G-d. Does that mean he wasn’t a good leader? No. He led his people out of the Land of Egypt, out of slavery and into freedom. But he made a tragic mistake and G-d felt he could not complete the journey. I believe Brett Kavanaugh should step down. Whether he remembers the incident or not, he is not the man who should be on our highest court. Any blemish on his character must be considered. Even though some in the leadership of our nation believe “he was born to be on the Supreme Court,” those people may also have blemishes on their character. No one is perfect, but women need to be heard, respected and believed. Our country will only be the “land of the free and the home of the brave” if we are brave enough to stand up and support women. We need to do this for our daughters, and for our sons. We need to stand up for what is right and what is honorable and take responsibility for what is wrong.

The thoughts I have shared are my opinions. They belong to me and are not those represented by any organization to which I belong.

About the Author
Stephanie Z. Bonder is a proud Jew and lifelong Zionist. Stephanie studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for her junior year abroad and is currently pursuing her masters in Jewish Education at the Hebrew University Melton School of Education. In her volunteer hours, she is on the National Board of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America where she currently serves as Chair of the Speakers Bureau and team member of the Education and Advocacy division. Stephanie teaches teens and adults on Jewish Peoplehood, Zionism and current events in Israel through her involvement with the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest and her synagogue, Congregation Agudath Israel. All of her blogs are her own personal opinions and do not represent the organizations with which she is affiliated.
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