Surviving sexual assault brings with it another load for survivors to carry: guilt. People demand to know: “Why didn’t Dr. Ford come forward right away? Why can she remember some details and not the others.”
I can’t answer for anyone else but me.
I can tell you this: you never forget the fear.
I was 22 and I can still feel my revulsion as his stubby fingers came at me. I was lucky. I was not raped–I was barely touched, but I get a sick feeling to this day when I think about it.
I was teaching at Meany Junior High in Seattle. Someone had been sending me notes for weeks, each getting more suggestive. I ignored them, thinking if I did that it would all go away. The last note demanded that I meet the sender at a coffee shop. I didn’t go, of course. But what if I had? (Interesting, I remember the notes, but I don’t remember if I threw them away. Did I tear them up?)
The next morning before school, my classroom door was flung open so hard that it sounded like a gun shot when it hit the wall. I looked up. This man I considered my mentor came rushing towards my desk, shouting. He grabbed me, still shouting. He accused me of leading him on. Then he tried to kiss me. I struggled to avoid his lips. Luckily I was hardly touched. The bell rang and a student came into the room. Talk about being saved by the bell.
I was not raped physically but I knew if the situation had been different, I might have been. But had I inadvertently been leading him on? Maybe it was my fault.
I didn’t tell anyone for 25 years. It was the Anita Hill hearings that induced me to tell my husband and parents. My mother had said, “Oh, I don’t think that’s true. Why wouldn’t she have said something over all these years.”
I said so quietly that they didn’t hear the first time, “It happened to me and I never said anything.”
I remember some of that morning fifty years ago, but details have faded. Like I said, I remember the fear. I don’t think I had bruises on my arms, but I can’t remember. I wanted to forget it had happened. So I buried it deep.