Two years ago, one of my 18 year old patients almost killed herself. Her mom told me how she came home abruptly from college and showed signs of severe depression. An emergency appointment with a therapist revealed how she recently was raped on her college campus by a male student she knew. Her college administrators were then notified by the patient and her parents. This male student, before being dismissed by his college, withdrew his enrollment.
Another patient I have known for a few years, in now her late forties, has not been able to tolerate a pelvic exam as part of her gynecology checkup. She has not had pap smears for years because of this fear for pelvic exams, despite years of psychotherapy. She was raped as a college student and never overcame this traumatic experience.
In both cases, the above two patients did not initially reveal what happened to them to their family members. Even after intense psychotherapy, only a small number of family members knew what happened to them. None of the older patient’s friends knew she was raped in her younger years.
We saw the fight between men and women last week during the process of confirming Brett Kavanaugh for supreme court justice. The result was what I had expected. Why would we women expect otherwise? Dr. Christine Ford became the modern figure of Anita Hill.
Imagine how the men in our country would feel if a female candidate for a job acted furious and teary, throwing questions back at her job interviewers instead of answering the questions. She would not get a job even at Walmart, let alone the highest court in the land. Imagine we women admitted we like beers, many beers, all kind of beers. Somehow, I don’t think we would survive such a job interview without our male interviewers rolling the third eye in their heads!
Women carry many burdens in society, in the United States and all over the world. Our voices often are unheard. We are expected to act in certain ways. People get used to aggressive male politicians as “boys will be boys.” Outspoken female politicians would be called and mocked with all kind of names. The crowds would chant to lock a woman up, when this woman has not been on trial and convicted. Yet, the same crowds have not seemed to care, that quite a few important men in this circle of extreme power that they adore, have been convicted and gone to jail for various crimes. They have not chanted to lock them up. Maybe a presumption of honesty or innocence, to these crowds, does not extend to women.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center data shows only 0.06% sexual predators are incarcerated. The review also shows 63% sexual assaults are never reported while only 2-10% of reports are false. A recent study released in Journal of American Medical Association(JAMA), Internal Medicine section, shows that victims of workplace sexual assault have greater risk of hypertension, poor sleep, and highly elevated levels of anxiety and depression.
I could not tolerate the mocking of Dr. Christine Ford during some public rallies by men in power. Victims should not be mocked. This mocking and lack of empathy explain why so many women have remained silent, because they believe coming forward would bring them only more humiliation. They believe coming forward will only make the cavemen huddle with each other even more tightly, like a group of cheetas surrounding a baby gazelle.
This week, I came back to the gym after too many evenings of having been glued to the television to see what happened next in our nation’s daily saga. In my spinning classes, I imagined speeding away from a group of cheetas on the way out of a dark jungle. I imagined Dr. Christine Ford going back to her former life which would never be quite the same again. What is she telling her boys to do, after a rough journey with her in the last few weeks? What are the Kavanaughs teaching their girls?
I hope Dr. Christine Ford will teach her sons to grow up to be respectful men. Men do not need to feel “victimized” if they treat women with respect. Girls, on the other hand, need to learn to fight back. Teach them to come forward sooner. Teach them not to fight alone, not to drive themselves into depression and anxiety, not to feel ashamed. Nobody asks to be sexually assaulted regardless of how much makeup they wear or how revealing their clothes are. Teach girls not to give up hope of living in a more decent society where boys will respect girls, and men will respect women. Teach them how, in a good society, powerful but respectful men do not ask women to be quiet and sit down when these women express their concern about injustice. Powerful men listen to women and hear more than the usual “Blah Blah Blah” that General John Kelly heard when Senator Elizabeth Warren was speaking to him. Maybe if powerful men like Kelly listen to women a little more closely and more respectfully, they will learn a few lessons about humanity from us, or at least, they will understand why we think differently from them.
In the mean time, we women need to be strong and fight injustice without fear. There is no time to give up hope for a better society. Name calling and labeling should not push us back into the kitchens. Nevertheless, we need to persist. Nevertheless, respectful men need to listen to respectful women. Otherwise, we women all need to go to spinning classes to make our legs stronger, so we can all march to the polls in November and years to come. In a new society, maybe the women who were sexually assaulted will get a public apology, or at least some empathy from powerful men. Their stories will not be called hoaxes or fabrications. Until then, it is our right to protest peacefully without being called the radical mobs. Marching in Tea party rallies a few years ago, or marching on behalf of Dr. Christine Ford recently, is the right of citizens in a society of democracy. Leaders in a country that recognizes democracy should be proud to see people march for their beliefs, whichever side they may be on. If mob rule brings justice, peace and equality to society, then join the “mob” and save America. That is my two cents, if powerful men bother to listen.
True Peace is not merely an absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.
Martin Luther King, Jr.