It isn’t that one moment in time with a man I barely knew that sits with me. It’s not his hands in places they don’t belong or the sweet scent of unfamiliar cologne flooding my nostrils that weighs on my chest. It’s the fact that I called foul, rang the alarm, stood up with bones quivering to demand justice…and it wasn’t enough.
To say I am a victim of sexual assault isn’t even alarming anymore. We all nod at each other knowingly, with flashbacks of our own trauma playing on a loop in our minds. We hear the words played back and forth in the media, in our #METOO cries of despair, until they lose meaning. Sex-oo-al A-ssault. Sex-u-al….A-ss-a-u-l-t. What distant words to describe such an intimate moment. One my mind gently refuses to let me remember fully.
But “indelible in the hippocampus,” as I watch Dr. Christine Blasey Ford bare her darkest secrets to a room of strangers, is what happened afterward. I see it all in fast forward; hospital gowns, police cars, evidence bags, big boots in my small apartment, meetings with the District Attorney in my misshapen old dress and a tear-streaked face. And Becca.
Question: why don’t the victims report it?
Answer: because it’s a second assault. That probing, sterile, examination of your choices and the credibility of your claim. You have to convince, pinky-promise, cross-your-heart and hope to die that you are a victim. You have to allow more strangers to penetrate your space, grope your private thoughts, and decide when they’ve had enough.
But then there was Becca.
I never knew a person could be a life raft until I met her. As the Sexual Assault Services Manager at Victims Assistance Services, my name came across her desk and she reached out to me via email. Over the next few weeks, her name populated my inbox. Subtle, constant encouragement. A woman I barely knew, sitting with me in my sadness, as if I was the only victim she had ever known. Email after email, carefully crafted, reminding me that it was okay to not be okay, that some days laughter would come easily and the next it would escape me. Emails reminding me that even without careful examination of details, she believed me, no pinky promises required.
Reporting the incident was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done but her presence made it worth it. She gave me permission to be selfish, to look my heartache in the face and make peace with it, even after detectives told me they were closing my case due to “lack of evidence.” She understood me in a way that I couldn’t explain to my friends and family who so desperately wanted to help. I couldn’t eloquently put words to the need, but Becca heard me through my silence.
We’ve spent this week watching Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, pick her way through the wreckage of her memories to prove victimhood. We’ve listened to her share a story that feels like barbed wire as it crosses her lips. I believe her. I wish I could be her Becca, holding her hand across state lines and circumstance, telling her that she doesn’t have to smile today if she doesn’t want to. She has made history and I am in awe of her candid, tentative heroism in the face of incredible doubt and scrutiny.
In honor of Dr. Ford’s bravery and for October’s domestic abuse awareness month, Pole Position will be offering free classes all day on Sunday, October 7th for a small donation. Donations will then be accepted throughout the week until October 14th. The studio will match all donations and present the total amount raised to Victims Assistances Services in Elmsford, NY. They help “any adult, teen or child affected, directly or indirectly, by domestic or dating violence, rape or sexual assault, stalking, homicide or DWI, elder abuse, child abuse, physical assault, bullying (including cyber-bullying), harassment and hate crimes, sex and/or labor trafficking, physical assault, burglary, identity theft, and other crimes.” If you or anyone you know needs help or has been the victim of a crime, please reach out using the information below.
2 Westchester Plaza
Elmsford, NY 10523