(Image courtesy of the author.)
Sexual assault has nothing to do with sex. Sex is the modality. These are violent crimes, predominantly committed against women, for power, which is exactly what the GOP has done. Without the consent of the American people, particularly women, they have taken over the highest judicial branch in our nation seriously jeopardizing the future of women’s rights.
Witnessing Justice Brett Kavanaugh be appointed to the Supreme Court, after being accused of such crimes, is nothing short of traumatizing.
Survivors fear our voices will never be heard. It’s no wonder women do not come forward. I certainly didn’t after a gang of drunken high school boys changed the course of my life forever nearly 20 years ago.
I thought I’d arrived. Steve’s parties were legendary. Tons of drinking and mischief sprawled across his parents' palatial estate. Everyone in school wanted the invite, but I was sure I’d never get it. Steve hated me and bullied me constantly. The taunting mostly had to do with my “brown-ness” — ours was the only Latinx family in a white school.
I wasn’t a trouble-maker but a misfit, often in detention for tardiness. At home, my parents' marriage was crumbling, and without my sister who had gone off to college in Boston, I was desperate for reassurance.
The invite to Steve’s get-together came last minute, and he told me not to spread the word. I happily agreed, hoping it was the olive branch I’d been praying for. I wore tight jeans and a spaghetti-strap-cami (it was the era of Britney Spears). I wanted to “look good,” I thought. But I felt uncomfortable with my body which had overnight transformed my breasts from mosquito bites to torpedoes. Like Christine Blasey Ford, I was a shy virgin and hated the kind of attention my body seemed elicit from the boys.
I was hoping to see Gabe, a close friend of Steve’s who I had a massive crush on, yet as I scanned the intimidating room of mostly seniors, I didn’t see him. I mingled awkwardly and wanted to leave once I confirmed my crush wasn’t there. Just then, Steve walked over cheerfully with a red solo cup of spiked punch; I thought this would really help. I gave it a sip.
The next thing I remembered was lying on a dirty mattress, no sheets, in an empty room that looked like an attic. I could see light coming from the doorway where four boys stood talking and pointing at me. It was Steve with three others. I couldn’t speak or move when the looming shadow of the brunette’s enormous body came towards me. He pulled me onto him by my long arms; I dripped down onto his crotch like a rag doll. Steve shut the door. This went on all night — Steve sending boys into the room, saying as was overheard by an eyewitness, “She’s upstairs, go get her.”
That night, I was seen by a senior girl running out of the room trying to find help. She told me I was crying, clothes torn and disheveled. A few other boys wrangled me and announced that they were going to get me home, claiming I was drunk. I woke up the next morning to crushing pain and sickening fear — a feeling I’ll never forget — on that same mattress in Steve’s attic.
I was hoping I’d just been a drunk fool, but my assailants had already initiated the perfect cover-up — slander.
The incident occurred on a Friday night, and over the course of the weekend, the plan was enacted. I saw a girlfriend who cryptically told me, "I'm really disappointed in you." I was so confused. I couldn't understand why. I begged my friends to tell me what I had done but nobody would.
By Monday, no one would speak to me. I learned that Steve had started a rumor that I was a whore who had given blowjobs to two of the boys I saw standing in the doorway that night. I was mortified. The truth, even if I could find it from my grainy recollection of the frightening evening, was of no consequence. Not only did my attackers control the walls of our school, but they also came from wealthy and powerful families. I knew what I’d be up against.
I signed out of school that day and ran home. After a couple of days, I regained enough courage to return. As I entered school, I saw the boys sitting on the “popular bench.” I put my head down and hurried by when I heard one scream "Go kill yourself" in front of the entire school. I considered it, sleeping with a knife under my bed for months. I fell into a deep depression and took up with the only boy I believed had not heard the rumor. That was my first of three abusive relationships — treatment I accepted feeling I deserved it.
One year after the incident, Steve hanged himself from a tree in his backyard. One of his victims had gone to the authorities, and he was going to be charged with rape any day. I still said nothing.
Two of the boys named in my case went on with their lives unscathed. According to Facebook, one lives in Venice, CA, an avid motorbike racing enthusiast. The other still lives near our hometown and works in sales. They both have wives and daughters. I’ve been in therapy for over a decade. I am single. I have no children.
Three years ago, one of them sent me a LinkedIn and later a FB friend request. I was so enraged; I became obsessed with investigating the incident and last year made incredible breakthroughs with the help of my former best friend, another victim, and an eye-witness who all wrote to me with information that has freed me from nearly 20 years of shame. It took concrete evidence for me even to consider that what happened that night was not my fault.
I applaud Christine Blasey Ford, Debbie Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick. Though they are strangers, we share almost identical stories of sexual violence. Their strength in coming forward has led to a nationwide movement to stop the culture of powerful men from perpetuating these crimes against us.
Our fight is not hopeless, even against Kavanaugh.
This is the most critical moment — when all goes silent, and the status quo affirms its power. Now is the time to raise our voices even louder and demand to be heard on November 6th. Please join me and register to vote here.