Say goodbye to the people in your life whose actions prove how little you matter, no matter who they are.
I’m not surprised by Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. I protested and raged, cried and bargained with the universe, but I always knew he would be confirmed. The only surprise was how willing people have been to disregard and disbelieve survivors — even my father.
I’ve been a survivor since the time I could walk. I’ve been sexually abused and assaulted by more than one person, in more than one context. I’ve reported some of my assaults, but not all. None of the perpetrators were ever charged or tried for what they did to me.
For most of my life, I was ashamed to admit that I was a victim. But eventually, I said enough. I wrote about my experiences. I spoke out. I told my children in broad terms what happened to me. I thought my story had the power to change hearts and minds.
I don’t believe that anymore. Not today, when a sexual predator president has successfully placed an accused perpetrator of sexual assault on our nation’s highest court. Not today, when our president joked about the trauma inflicted on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Not today, when I watched the men and women listening to President Trump smile and laugh in response.
We will never be vulnerable enough — but not too vulnerable. Strong enough — but not too strong. If there is such a thing as a perfect victim, Dr. Ford was it. But Dr. Ford’s story wasn’t enough and neither are any of ours.
I still believe in the power of sharing our stories. But I recognize now that this power begins and ends with us. When we share our stories and speak out, we reject the mantle of shame that’s been cast on us. We empower ourselves by refusing to accept the status quo. But we aren’t changing the hearts and minds of anyone but ourselves and other survivors.
That is meaningful and important work. Just this week, I corresponded with a woman who felt a surge of hope after watching Dr. Ford’s testimony. I heard how listening to her testimony inspired her to talk about her own rape 22 years later.
But this hope is a far cry from creating systemic change. We are louder now than we were during the Clarence Thomas hearings, but the result was still the same. And it’s dangerous to pretend otherwise.
If change was coming, the majority of white people wouldn’t believe Kavanaugh over Dr. Ford. The White House would’ve felt compelled to order a complete, extensive investigation of the allegations against him. The Senate would be profoundly disturbed by the prospect of a perpetrator on the Supreme Court.
If change was coming, men wouldn’t be more afraid of being accused of rape than the epidemic of rape. Women wouldn’t wring their hands about their sons while their daughters are brutalized. My father wouldn’t be sharing memes mocking Dr. Ford.
My father knows better. These men in power know better. These women who support these bad men know better. The truth is they simply don’t care. Our trauma is collateral damage.
I don’t know how to change the world. I don’t know how to move forward in a country that rejects my humanity. I don’t know how to live in a world where empathy takes a backseat to self-interest. These are broad, sweeping problems with no simple answers.
But maybe we’ve been thinking of this the wrong way. This isn’t one big disconnected world; it’s a world full of relationships with individual people. And there’s no reason why any survivor or ally should continue to engage in a relationship with anyone who discredits and disbelieves survivors.
Divorce your spouses. Stop talking to your co-workers. Turn down those dates. End your friendships. Walk away from those conversations. Say goodbye to the people in your life whose actions prove how little you matter, no matter who they are. Even when they’re your fathers.
Maybe it won’t change the world. It probably won’t open hearts and minds. But it’ll draw a bright line between those who believe survivors and those who don’t, and it will create clear consequences for harmful behavior.
And, while survivors may still be forced to live in a cruel world, at least our social media feeds will be a whole lot less toxic.