When forgetting is part of remembering

By Reade Brower | Oct 04, 2018

“I am here today not because I want to be, I am terrified.” said Dr. Christine Blasey Ford to the Senate Judiciary Committee, as she explained her presence as motivated by her sense of civic duty.

As the FBI begins its weeklong investigation, one thing supporters of Brett Kavanaugh harp on is Ford’s lack of concrete facts regarding outlying details of the event; Ford’s inability to share exact wheres and whens.

Many professionals have come to her defense; this is normal with extreme trauma.

In San Francisco, somewhere, sometime in the summer of 1974, something happened. I was 17, hitchhiking across country; I had landed in San Francisco and was looking for a bed. I had less than $100 to get me back to college in Massachusetts.

I heard about a service matching passers-through with hosts who would put travelers up for free. I don’t remember if I was alone. I don’t remember who told me about these “safe houses,” I don’t remember the name of the service, I don’t remember the date, I don’t remember if I was drinking before the aggression.

What I do remember is the terror. What I do remember is how my aggressor looked; 5 feet, 8 inches, a cross between Tom Selleck and the broad-shouldered, built-like-a-tank, ex-Marine he told me he was. He looked to be in his late 30s and seemed overpowering.

I remember going to the “safe house”; the man said he was full, giving me the address of his friend. I remember walking “perhaps” a few blocks, knocking and being relieved to see two travelers settled onto couches in a living room area. I don’t remember what they looked like, where they were from, how old they were, or where they were going, even though we spent the evening talking together with our host – I remember none of the conversations.

What is etched in my mind is what came next. At 11 o’clock, the host asked if anyone wanted to watch the news. Wondering how my Red Sox were doing, I said “Sure.” With that, I followed the host as he led me to the television.

The television was in his bedroom. The next 20 minutes I will never forget.

As we watched the news, me waiting for sports to come on, an uneasy feeling arose; I reassured myself that two travelers were in an adjacent room and nothing could happen.

Yet the antennae were up. I got off the bed, announcing I was tired, beginning to retreat to the living room. He got up to block me from exiting; asking me what the matter was, sensing my discomfort and perhaps some homophobia.

He told me I could share his bed, rather than sleep on the floor, as other guests occupied both couches. I stammered. He asked me what was wrong. I stammered again, saying “No, the floor is fine.”

He took a white sheet and asked me to help lay it across his bed. Is this what he does for his sacrificial virgin, I worried. Stalling for time, not knowing what to do or say, I complied, continuing to stammer away. He then let me join the others who were now asleep.

I got into my sleeping bag fully clothed, putting my sneakers on, pulling the bag over my face, afraid he might wake me with a kiss. I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do, so I hunkered down, falling in and out of sleep, waking up at 7 a.m. as my host was ushering out the other two guests.

You’d think I would have said, “Wait for me” as I quickly gathered my stuff and rolled up my sleeping bag, but I didn’t. I was frozen as they walked out the door, my host locking it as they departed.

As I made my way to the door, he stopped me, saying; “You don’t have to leave, those other guys were annoying. Let me make some bacon and eggs; you must be hungry.”

I stammered again and again until he unlatched the door and allowed me to flee. I remember running, full backpack, down the hills of San Francisco, not stopping for what could have been miles, even though no one was chasing.

I was so vulnerable that night and morning; a 17-year old hobo 3,000 miles from home at a “safe house” that wasn’t.

The reason Christine Ford’s account was credible is because of what she did remember, not what she didn’t. The rest of it is not seared in her mind; only the parts where the door locks, the music gets turned up, and hands go over her mouth, almost killing her. She remembers in vivid detail the escape, the laughing, and the locking herself in a nearby bathroom, waiting for her aggressors to go downstairs.

My moment was not in the same league as Dr. Ford’s. Neither are the repercussions; for me it was a learning moment. For her, it created a trauma that she continues to relive. The fact that women, even those never assaulted, routinely plan their lives around avoiding and preventing sexual assault is something that must be rectified. The fear of violence is an everyday experience for many women and the real crime is that we live in a society that presumes victims are sometimes partially to blame.

Though my incident was not as horrendous as hers, we share some emotions and fears that come from situations where someone can overpower one and the fight or flight sensations begin.

My aggressor’s physical advance was putting his strong hands on my shoulders, asking me to stay; creating a fear of rape, leaving me an understanding of what women feel often. Ford’s aggressors did much more, physically overpowering her and scarring her for life.

Both of our aggressors were excited by the power they had over us. Mine was not drunk and was satisfied with watching me squirm. Ford’s were not satisfied with just intimidation, using force, probably egged on by each other and some liquid courage.

“We Stand with You” is a slogan for a movement sent to me by Ananur, a Midcoast astrologer. This movement is about asking men to stand with victims of sexual assault, rather than dismissing them because they are 36-year-old charges.

To Christine Ford and all the women she represents; I stand with you.

***

“I think everybody who has a brain should get involved in politics. Working within. Not criticizing it from the outside. Become an active participant, no matter how feeble you think the effort is.”

--- Cass Elliot, singer (1941-1974)

Disclosure: Reade Brower is owner of these newspapers. The opinions expressed in his columns are his own, and do not represent those of the newspapers, or their editorial boards.

Comments (4)
Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Oct 05, 2018 12:55

Please, post on another day so it will stay up longer and attract more people; or maybe later in the day.



Posted by: Jennifer Hill | Oct 04, 2018 15:16

thank you



Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Oct 04, 2018 05:35

PHEW!! Thanks for your vulnerability. It may help someone else. When are you running for office?  We need people with integrity, courage and willing to walk the road less travelled.



Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Oct 04, 2018 05:32

PHEW!! Thanks for your vulnerability. It may help someone else. When are you running for office?  We need people with integrity, courage and willing to walk the road less travelled.



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