I believe you: an open letter on sexual assault
Writer’s note: This piece contains a discussion of sexual assault and related issues which may be distressing and triggering. Though this piece is very important to me, I don’t wish to expose anyone to more trauma with its content. If you feel you can’t read this, just know that I believe you.
Christine Blasey Ford testifying in the U.S. Senate (c. Bloomberg)
No matter how many times I kept telling myself that it wasn’t my fault, that the only person who did anything wrong was him, I felt guilty. I felt so dirty that just by being in the same skin, I couldn’t leave what had happened behind. I was furious — at him for taking advantage of someone 20 years younger, and at myself, for always assuming the best in people.
Only after a few weeks of repeating “it wasn’t your fault” did I begin to believe myself. Only recently have I come to forgive myself for something I was not, am not, and never will be responsible for. This healing was long-awaited and arduous, though it came eventually.
On Saturday night, that same feeling of powerlessness returned as I watched Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the US Supreme Court by a Senate simple majority of 50-48. This vote not only confirmed Kavanaugh, someone against abortion rights and further gun control, to the country’s highest court; it also confirmed that history, society, and even our own elected representatives continue to dismiss and ignore sexual assault. Let me state clearly that I believe her.
Even if Dr. Ford’s testimony was inaccurate, this doesn’t justify Republicans and President Trump as they mocked Dr. Ford and attempted to smear her credibility and humanity, nor the numerous people who have sent her death threats. These actions should be disgusting and intolerable to anyone, but to sexual assault survivors, they are silencing, painful, and terrifying.
For the country, this confirmation will have a lasting impact as Kavanaugh has cemented a conservative majority in the Supreme Court for the next generation. For survivors, Kavanaugh is yet another reminder that our struggles, that we, are not believed — that we don’t matter.
Demonstrators protest against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on October 4, 2018, in Washington. (c. AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana)
I still don’t know what I can do for other survivors that are experiencing the same resurfacing of trauma. However I know this: I believe survivors. I believe us. I acknowledge the truth in our experiences and recognise our unbelievable strength to persist. This shouldn’t have happened to us, nor to the countless other survivors of sexual assault. I understand your pain as it feels like our own experience is being scrutinised and invalidated by politicians and the media. Know that in this moment, there are thousands, if not millions, of us beside you.
This is not a moment, but a movement. Our voices, long silenced by victim-blaming and pathetic excuses for perpetrators, are growing louder and more united. #NoMeansNo, #MeToo, #BelieveSurvivors — the list goes on as this movement relentlessly demands to be heard, even when doing so is painful. While we shouldn’t have to fight for our basic safety and recognition, there is so much power in our truths. There is power in us, including in those survivors who cannot speak out.
Outraged by this injustice and tired of its perpetuation, I write this open letter to remind my fellow survivors of our individual and collective strength, and to be kind and mindful to yourselves during this especially distressing time. I write this to implore everyone to never tolerate, enable, or trivialise sexual assault. I write this to my fellow Americans to urge you to vote next month. I write this in hopes that one day, they will believe us.
If you need support:
The campus psychologist (available on request - email Madame Gravier at firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Student Outreach and Support team (contact us through our Facebook page)
If you are sexually assaulted:
Sciences Po’s sexual harassment monitoring unit: +33 01 45 49 54 00
Police and Gendarmerie: 17
European emergency number (available in English and other European languages): 112
SOS Emergency Team for additional guidance:
Kalinka: +33 06 31 32 07 46
Noah: +33 07 71 60 47 90
Mathilde: +33 06 24 60 48 10
If you are eligible to vote in the upcoming US midterm elections and haven’t registered already:
Edited by Philippe Bédos & Maya Shenoy