We live in a broken world.
No Senate hearing is going to conclusively prove or disprove beyond a shadow of a doubt the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh and I think it’s a disservice both to Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford (or Ms. Blasey as she’s known professionally) not to thoroughly investigate the various allegations, which is definitely not what’s happening right now. No, this is political theatre you’re watching (Mark Judge’s sworn testimony is conspicuously absent) with an impassioned he-said/she-said battle royale. And yet, people are rooting for their tribe rather than aiming for the truth, which, honestly, might be difficult to arrive at, and, yet, it should be attempted nonetheless.
I’ve been politically active since I was a child (seriously), so I’m accustomed to the muck and mire of power politics and the inevitable spin. This sort of thing irritates me, but I’ve been saddened and angered by the attitudes and perceptions displayed by many on social media. What I am seeing is a sad, frustrating commentary and reflection on the deep and vast brokenness of this world, man’s fallible, fallen nature, and the imperfect limitations of civic institutions.
This week has to be difficult for a lot of individuals who’ve been sexually assaulted. My Twitter feed is filled with individuals dealing with anxiety and PTSD symptoms from prior assaults. If you don’t know anyone in your life that’s been sexually assaulted, they’ve merely not told you. The percentages are that high. Assault is more pervasive that we’d like to believe and the numbers are even higher for individuals that have been sexually harassed. So, apologies in advance to my friends and family for the bombshell, but let me tell you my story (don’t freak out – I’m good – sadly much better than a lot of people – trust me just read on) because, in doing so, I want to make a few very salient points about memory and belief.
I was nearly sexually molested as a 7 or 8-year-old boy by someone a few years older than myself and I’ve never told anyone outside of my wife (and now my mother/sisters because I wanted to provide them the courtesy of advanced notice – my wife is a wise woman), but I only told her recently as a result of discussing the Kavanaugh hearings and the public foolishness I’m witnessing. Why didn’t I report it? This question rings familiar, doesn’t it? My wife literally asked me the same thing. Well, for starters, I only understood what happened to me much later (my teen years) as the result of a memory being triggered and thinking “oh, that was weird, holy crap, that’s what that was and I’m fortunate nothing happened.” I know who the individual is (or was might be a better word since I haven’t had contact with this person for most of my life) and could specifically identify them. I remember key details of a particular incident that was absolutely a precursor to a molestation attempt (fortunately interrupted) and details from other peripheral events that speak to, how to word this, the sexual proclivities of the individual in question. I’m leaving the details out not because I’m uncomfortable with sharing them (it’s honestly not a traumatic memory for me because I was never actually molested) but I don’t want to unintentionally trigger traumatic memories in others in case they’ve dealt something similar.
First and foremost, I’m not saying Kavanaugh is guilty. I do have my concerns when one repeatedly claims to have “always treated women with dignity and respect” rather than humbly acknowledging one’s high-school senior yearbook contains multiple sexually degrading comments regarding women (the denials and explanations of this are not credible). I have concerns when one portrays himself as merely a light social drinker rather than noting the immaturity of youth and the ample evidence of one’s past excessive drinking. I have my concerns when the people and friends with whom one frequents are known for the very behavior one decries. But, this tells the wrong story. A story that conflicts with Kavanaugh’s idealized public perception of one who is on a lifelong journey having demonstrated nothing but impeccable character qualities. I’ll give you a hint, no one is as good as the public face and persona they present, and that includes me. I can’t truthfully claim I have always treated women with dignity and respect, particularly in my youth. I have said and joked about things that are hurtful, wrong, or inappropriate. The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks.
There are a lot of people I know who, in the utter conviction of their soul, believe that Ms. Blasey is definitely lying (one of them is wrong or lying – that’s the sad dishearting truth in all of this) out of, I sense, political tribalism and I don’t think one can reliably rule out her claims (see prior FB post of mine on the rarity of false accusations of sexual assault). I fear the Senate hearing did nothing more than confirm pre-existing biases on both sides (I’m struggling to come to grips with my own), yet Ms. Blasey is being demonized in the hearts and minds of many. When people are praying against Ms. Blasey rather than for her, I think they are treading on a fine line spiritually. About 30% of the Psalms contain negative emotions. We know that Jesus lifted the Psalms up to God the Father as prayers. We also know that God is capable of transforming the negative emotions expressed in the Psalms (and it’s okay to express them to our gracious God) and transforming them for good and to His glory. Nevertheless, Matthew 5:43-48 says to “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” So, yes, pray for those you think oppose you.
Ed Stetzer says it well (I strongly urge you to read the entire article) – ” Right or left, if your immediate reaction is to overlook accusations against politicians you support or to revel in accusations against those you oppose, you need to consider how political tribalism is shaping your worldview.”
While I understand the desire for a fair and impartial hearing as well as the political biases feeding into the anger on both sides, Christians (and people in general for that matter) need to be extremely careful not to appear callous or dismissive towards allegations of sexual assault lest they appear to be an unsafe or uncaring person for people to turn to in times of need.
I wonder, though, would the same people who think Ms. Blasey is lying believe me now when I speak about something that happened to me 30 plus years ago? Would the fact that I can’t remember my precise age or the name of the individual even though I once could remember their name and it would be relatively easy to find out because I recall enough detail about the person to clearly identify them? I now know their name, but only after speaking with my mother. But, can I prove what happened? Absolutely not. There were no corroborating witnesses to the main incident. There might be a couple of other witnesses to some of the peripheral events, and, although I have a very good memory, I have no idea if any of these events would have stuck out in their minds or memories. Memory can make for a very unreliable witness (check out Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast on memory). Case in point, I thought I was a bit younger until my mother helped provide a timeline, but that still doesn’t change the main story, just the peripheral details, the type of details a self-righteous mob would pick apart in an attempt to discover “truth” and cross-examine my character.
I think to myself, maybe I should have reported this incident years ago, not because of what almost happened to me as a child, but on the chance it could have continued with others and that disturbs me. It might not. Sadly, many individuals that struggle with issues of abuse at a young age have themselves been abused. Hopefully, this person is an upstanding individual today whose life is a reflection of the miraculous working of God’s grace. The truth is I don’t know.
What happened to me is real. I swear to the truth of it. But, I can’t prove it and I told no one.
Do you believe me?