It's a difficult time to be a woman in America right now, what with the mounting sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh being debated on the national stage. Many Republicans seem to feel that Kavanaugh's past shouldn't haunt him –– that his actions as a high school (and then college-aged) student shouldn't affect his viability as a Supreme Court Justice. They also question the timing of Kavanaugh's alleged victims coming forward with their stories.
But women are fighting back. A brave essay by Padma Lakshmi published by the New York Times today details her own high school sexual assault, and critiques a common argument presented by many Kavanaugh supporters: that if Christine Blasey Ford were telling the truth about him attempting to rape her back in high school, she would have gone to police back in the 1980s.
"When I was 16 years old, I started dating a guy I met at the Puente Hills Mall in a Los Angeles suburb," Lakshmi begins. After a few months of dating, she continues, "he raped me." Lakshmi was asleep in bed when she woke up to him penetrating her, saying she felt a "very sharp stabbing pain."
At the time and for many years afterward, Lakshmi explains, she felt powerless to report the incident. But her feelings towards it have changed over the past week, following Ford's allegations that Kavanaugh attempted to raper her in high school while a friend stood by, and Deborah Ramirez's unrelated allegation that he tauntingly exposed his penis to her at a college party.
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"I understand why both women would keep this information to themselves for so many years without involving the police," Lakshmi writes, "For years, I did the same thing."
Lakshmi says she never disclosed the incident to the adults around her, partly out of shame and partly because she believed they'd blame her for what happened:
"I imagined that adults would say: 'What the hell were you doing in his apartment? Why were you dating someone so much older?'... I don't think I classified it as rape—or even sex—in my head. I'd always thought that when I lost my virginity, it would be a big deal—or at least a conscious decision. The loss of control was disorienting."
The powerful essay offers a succinct if devastating explanation of why sexual assault victims––especially those who are young and powerless––have a tendency to stay silent. Meanwhile, even though more evidence relating to Kavanaugh's drunken conduct as an elite high school and college student is being uncovered every hour, the President of the United States is literally tweeting that Ford and Ramirez's accusations are false.
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