By Laurie Katz of Laurie’s Life
It seems we cannot go online or into the break room without a discussion about rape these days. The accusation against SCOTUS Kavanaugh and the backlash against Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has been gut wrenching. Add in a bit of Devos and you have a recipe for a panic attack. Survivors everywhere are feeling revictimized and are questioning when and if it is safe to disclose about sexual assault and what might happen when they do.
When I was raped on September 17, 2011, at 18, the world was a different place. My school discouraged me from going to the police, convinced me to do a case through them, and promptly blitzkrieged my character and the case.
I like to think the world was different in 2011. The Hunting Ground hadn’t been filmed yet and students weren’t suing their schools for botching their sexual assault cases. Sexual misconduct hadn’t been brought to light in Hollywood and the workplace and those around Larry Nassar were still happily covering up his crimes. As I grew and healed, the world changed around me. Organizations were created to help survivors and we saw the rise of the #metoo movement. It felt like rape was being taken seriously and maybe just maybe things would change.
Feeling strength from those who had previously come forward (I’m looking at you, Terry Crews, Aly Raisman, and Chessy Prout), I decided to go public about my rape a few weeks ago. It seems the moment I went public, the world exploded around me.
Learning about Kavanaugh has forced me to revisit the hearings and meetings in which I was ridiculed and my rapist’s feelings were valued as he became the victim. Kavanaugh has been celebrated as a “good man” who is under attack. I feel naive for being shocked by this. Maybe you could ignore that he is a threat to women’s reproductive rights. He has called birth control “abortion inducing drugs” and has sided with organizations that refuse to provide employees insurance coverage for birth control.
I took Plan B after being raped to keep myself from getting pregnant, I cannot imagine if a sexual predator took this right away from future women who may have to go through this already traumatic experience. This matters.
And if you could ignore this, please don’t ignore or write off the accusation of sexual assault against him. Do some people lie about being assaulted? Yes, about 2-8% of rape accusations are false. That percent is the same for other felonies and is therefore rare. Dr. Blasey has nothing to gain from testifying against Kavanaugh, other than some form of justice. A right that so many of us will never have.
A few weeks back, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ proposal about sexual violence on college campuses was a blow that has shaken us, and it feels we are being kicked while we are down. Devos is proposing new rules that would change Title IX, all in an effort to save schools money by creating rules that would no longer hold them accountable for providing a safe environment.
Devos proposes that schools only be required to investigate assaults that occurred on campus. Only 14% of college students in the U.S. live on campus. I was raped in an apartment “off campus.” The building was surrounded by the campus and was a few doors down from academic buildings. The effects of my rape and having to be around my rapist on campus would not have changed if the assault had taken place a few blocks away, in my dorm. Devos would also make it so those accused could cross examine their victims. Do I really need to explain why this would make even fewer people come forward after experiencing sexual violence?
There are more rules proposed by Devos—each with their own devastating consequences. Devos is the same genius who wants to use federal funds to arm educators. As a teacher, I never thought one person had the power to do so much damage in both my professional and personal life.
Both Devos and Kavanaugh have the power to force survivors into silence and take away chances for justice. We need to not repeat history from what was done to Anita Hill and Lizzy Seeberg.
Rape is something that affects you for years after an assault, in some ways for the rest of your life. Rape takes away your self-esteem and view of the world. It is a lonely place to be and it gets lonelier when we have to see a fellow survivor mocked and ridiculed and threatened with death and forced out of her home. When I see a fellow survivor blasted on the president’s son’s instagram, it makes it harder to sleep and to remember that there are so many good people and organizations and supports for survivors.
I am so lucky to have an amazing therapist and support system in my life, but so many do not. For so many, this time and this climate is triggering and they may feel they have nowhere to turn. If I hadn’t “gone public” a few weeks ago, I can’t say if I would feel comfortable “going public” today. A man who clearly does not value women may be given the opportunity to make decisions about women’s rights and colleges may move further into harmful practices.
It is the duty of schools to provide a safe environment for all students. My school failed me with the current system; we cannot afford to fail more survivors. It is not the duty of a judge to tell women what choices they can make about their own bodies, especially a judge without morals. Most importantly, if someone comes forward as a survivor, believe them.
Please show us that the world has really changed.
Edited to add:
Just in the course of writing this article, a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, has come forward stating that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her while they were freshmen at Yale. Today, Devos’ harmful rules will only make such behavior further hidden and will only lead to more perpetrators thinking such behavior is acceptable, as there will be no consequences. And a third woman, Julie Swetnick, has reached out to attorney Michael Avenatti and has come forward with misconduct allegations. Three women. How many need to come forward and why is one never enough?
A version of this post was originally published on Laurie’s Life.
About the Author
Laurie is a 25 year old rape survivor and elementary teacher. She has recently being throwing her energy into advocacy and is hopeful for real change. In January, a book about her rape and recovery will be published by Trigger Publishing. When not typing away, she can be found running, playing with her cats, and cooking to varying results. Twitter: https://twitter.com/lauriekoehlerk Website/Blog: Laurieslife.com