For him, the night may have been just another insignificant, inconsequential, meaningless event. One more beer party in which trying to score with a girl was the goal. Such a memory is easily forgotten, especially with an alcohol-soaked brain and a belief that you did nothing wrong. Though she terms it attempted rape, he, and his frat beer buddies, probably viewed it as nothing more than “scoring.” No big deal.
He may truly have no memory of the event. Or, if he has residual memory, it’s best for him to keep it away from his conscious mind to avoid seeing the suffering and sorrow his behavior caused.
For her, the night was a terrifying, traumatic, life-altering experience; an experience frozen in time. How can you ever forget being pushed into a room, held down, groped, forcefully silenced and almost raped? How can you ever forget who it was who tried to rape you? Though you may forget the exact date of the party, you will never forget the struggle, the fright, the terror. It remains a vivid lifetime memory decades later.
This is the nature of post-traumatic stress. Even if you want to forget it, you can’t. Traumatic memories are deeply encoded in the brain and the body.
But then why didn’t she tell anyone? Why didn’t she report it?
Lots of reasons. Here are a few possibilities:
- She was scared. Maybe she shouldn’t have been at the party. Maybe she felt that she would be yelled at. Why did you go upstairs? Why didn’t you go with a friend? Why did you wear that outfit? Yes, sometimes the blame for an attack falls on the victim. Not only from law enforcement officials, but also from parents who want their daughters to be safe and know that “boys will be boys” behavior is often at the girl’s expense.
- The behavior had no name. Today we talk about it as “sexual assault.” In the ’80s, however, that term was rarely used, particularly when referring to what takes place at teen parties. It’s not easy to talk about what happened when what happened has no name. How do you describe it? Who do you tell? When do you tell it? Will you be blamed in the process? Will anything be done about it anyway? Maybe it’s easier to just keep quiet.
- A power differential existed. He was older. He was cool. He was at Georgetown Prep. He had friends with him. A vital ingredient of frat friends is that each brother supports the stories of the other. She was just 15 years old. Young. Inexperienced. Mortified about what happened. She didn’t know what to do. Or what to say. Or who to tell. Or how to tell it. Teens often keep embarrassing, overwhelming thoughts to themselves.
- To speak up takes courage, especially if you may not be believed. Years ago, if you pitted a male’s version of what took place against a female’s version, guess who was believed? It was the girl who was “hysterical,” “hormonal,” and “crazy.” The guy, on the other hand, was “rational,” “right-minded” and “clear-thinking.” An equal playing field? I don’t think so.
Now that Dr. Blasey Ford has told her story in such a believable manner, it is generally acknowledged that yes, the attempted rape happened. Yet, some still believe that her memory of who did it is entirely wrong. And Judge Brett Kavanagh’s memory of not doing it is entirely right.
I ask you: whose memory shall we trust?
- One who has a vivid recall of an emotionally charged, terrifying event that changed her life?
- Or one who admits to frequently attending parties where he drank too much and has declared, “What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep. That’s been a good thing for all of us, I think.”
How likely is this a false accusation? Not very:
Graphic: Sarah Beaulieu