Here is what I know.
I was 16. He was 24. It was New Year’s Eve. I had the flu and the roads were icy, so my parents wouldn’t let me drive. He picked me up in his dad’s Camaro and drove me to his house. I know we started to fool around on the floor. I know I wanted it to stop there — that I wasn’t ready to have sex. I told him no. He kept going. I know that it hurt more than anything had ever hurt before. Afterwards, he drove me home. We didn’t talk. I bled for days.
I don’t know where, exactly, he lived. I don’t remember if we were in his bedroom or the living room. I don’t know whether it was a sheet or blanket that he laid down on the floor. I don’t remember if it was a day or a week later that he called to say he didn’t want to see me again.
But there are other things I am sure about.
I know I did not tell anyone immediately afterwards because I was embarrassed and ashamed. I thought maybe I deserved it, since I had gone to his house. He had been my supervisor. I didn’t want to lose my job.
I know that, eventually, when I did tell people — partners and a therapist — that I never used his name. Why would I? They didn’t know him. His identity wasn’t relevant at the time. Only my trauma mattered.
It’s been difficult to think about much else other than that trauma this week.
I don’t know Christine Blasey Ford or Brett Kavanaugh. I don’t know what did or did not happen between them.
And here, perhaps, is the most important truth of all: no one on the Senate, no one in the White House knows what did or did not happen between them either.
They may never know. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try.
By all appearances, Ford followed the rules. She sought an appropriate congressional process. She told the Senate Judiciary Committee what she remembered. Meanwhile, Deborah Ramirez told the New Yorker that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her. The Senate committee has determined not to hear from her at all. Julie Swetnik says she remembers similar behavior from Kavanaugh during his youth. Meanwhile, no fewer than four people, including Kavanaugh’s college roommate, recall occasions when Kavanaugh was inebriated enough that his memory of what occurred while drunk would have been severely impaired. Our elected officials have chosen not to hear from them either. They have accused Ford of not corroborating her story, and yet they have not allowed those who can do so to speak. They have chosen not to hear from Kavanaugh’s friend, Mark Judge, also accused in the sexual assault.
I don’t know what any of these individuals would say under oath. I don’t know if their testimony would prove beyond a reasonable doubt who is telling the truth. I don’t know what an FBI investigation would establish. But I do know that allowing such testimony — and insisting upon such an investigation — could shed light on both Ford’s accusations and Judge Kavanaugh’s defense. I know that if he were inebriated on the night in question, it is possible he just doesn’t remember what happened and that, as a result, he cannot say for certain what he did or did not do.
I do know how difficult it is to walk through the world carrying the memory of pain and assault. Prior to Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, I thought I had found a way to put those memories aside. Watching Ford testify brought them all back. I was prepared for that. What I wasn’t prepared for was the sense of rejection, the alienation, the fear I would feel watching my government decide that the accusations of three women — and the assertions of four of Kavanaugh’s friends — was not reason enough to stop the Judiciary Committee from advancing his nomination to the full Senate. Or that those same senators would put an arbitrary deadline on an FBI investigation. I wasn’t ready to see a Supreme Court nominee respond to allegations that he may have been too drunk to remember assaulting a woman with rage and contempt. That scares me a great deal.
But what terrifies me the most is the possibility that other teenage girls, or any other sexual assault survivor, will watch this lack of process and decide ours is a country that doesn’t want to hear their stories. That their experiences don’t matter. That we, as a nation, just don’t want to know.
Kathryn Miles is a contributor to The Globe Magazine.