If confirmed, Brett Kavanaugh will have a lifetime appointment to a position that will have unparalleled impact on women’s reproductive and other rights issues for the next quarter century. On Sunday, Kavanaugh, the nominee that will bring a clear conservative majority to the Supreme Court for the first time since Roe-v-Wade, was accused of sexual assault by a woman who claims he forced himself on her when he was in high school.
In the 1980’s.
A storm is coming. It’s in all of our interests that reasonable people on both sides of American politics and government be able to live with that happens relative to Kavanaugh’s potential confirmation in the coming weeks. In service to that, there’s something I feel I need to share.
This blog has given me a platform to share my thoughts and experiences over the years. I’ve found it a cathartic, even therapeutic outlet at times. What I’m about to share though, is an all together different level of transparency.
There are a few things I’d like to get straight before I go any further though. The first is that what you are about to read isn’t an attempt for me, a 41-year old man, to appropriate a movement. I’ve had agency over my body since I was 12 years old. I will never claim to know the persistent, lifelong struggle of #metoo.
The second is that this is not something I ever thought I would write about publicly. Nor is it something I particularly want to write about publicly. As I type this, my intentions still aren’t entirely clear. It may be words to put on a page that don’t see the light of day. It may be something more. If you’re reading it, you know the answer to that question better than I do now and it’s likely I thought I just couldn’t sit through what is about to come, quietly; the explanations of how victims behave, what their motivations are, or how something 30 years ago can or can’t effect someone.
Additionally, my intent is not to advocate for or against Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Only to add some perspective to a discussion that likely won’t get much thoughtful contribution in the coming days before the waves of political operatives get to work on deconstructing events.
With that in mind, it’s time I shared something. It is my understanding, from those that engage with others of similar experience, that mine is a common, patterned response.
When I was about 7 or 8. I was abused by a babysitter, an older teenage son of one of my mother’s friends. I’m not exactly sure when. I’m dead certain of what. After he came over to watch me, he brought out pornographic magazines and asked me to take off my clothes and look at them with him. He took off his clothes and he told me to touch him, while he touched me, as we looked at the magazines. He told me he liked it. And that I would too. I believed him. Because I was seven. Or eight. I believed in Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy too.
This happened more than once.
He left the magazines with me. For months I looked at them until my mother found them. She asked me who had given them to me. I told her and she was relieved. It wasn’t a real adult who could have done something really bad to me was what I took from her reaction.
Over the years, as I got older, it became clear to me that I should not have been exposed to what I was exposed to. And I should not have been asked to do the things I was asked to do. What was also clear was that I did not try to stop it. And at the time, as a young child, I did not think what was happening to me was the evil that it was. And so, over time, I learned one more thing about myself. There was something terribly wrong with me. And for 25-years I held on to that secret as tight as I could.
At the core of who I believed I was, was something horribly broken and wrong. It’s a hell of a secret.
Over time, the anxiety around that secret grew. It wasn’t that I focused on or even thought about the abuse. In fact, I rarely ever thought about the specific memories. I had become so comfortable with the notion that I had a horrible secret about myself, that the specific secret wasn’t important anymore. So, the secret changed.
When I left the military, my secret was that I wasn’t stable enough to have certain jobs. I was crippled by anxiety through the vetting process and washed out. Then, my secret was that I wasn’t healthy enough to be a good husband. I started to sabotage my marriage. Then I secretly didn’t deserve to be a father with a happy family. I started to hide from the responsibilities of being present in the lives of my children.
One day, at the end of my rope, I shared the secret with my wife. She told me she loved me. And that she was sorry that happened to me. She encouraged me to share it in a couples group at my church. And then to seek help. The road back to some sort of normal started. 25 years later.
It’s been a decade of prayer, therapy and fellowship and what’s left of my childhood trauma is an acknowledgement of the pattern of anxiety and self sabotage and the appropriate tools to deal with them in a way that allows me to live a reasonably happy, productive life. The mental pattern of anxiety that the world will find out what a horrible fraud of a person I was hasn’t completely left. I simply know it’s not real any more. That it is not a weakness that will one day be my undoing. It is, instead, proof of unconquerable strength.
The feeling is still there though. It will never go away. That’s the price of abuse. The only thing that has ever drown it out is the intensity of war. Returning to the silence of home nearly killed me. By the grace of God, a forgiving wife and a community of fellowship, it didn’t.
I have nothing to gain, and I’m sure some things to lose, by sharing this. I am a veteran. I’m a professional. I’m a father to three boys. I have an image of toughness and resilience to maintain. Maybe this changes that. Maybe it doesn’t. It’s likely a matter of who’s reading it.
My hope is that it may help some understand more about the true nature of things that are about to be a part of a very loud and angry political debate. Like why someone might stay silent for 30 years before finally letting their secret slip. Or how much someone could really still care, and therefore compel us to care, about something that happened 30 years ago.
I have no idea what happened between Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser. I didn’t share this to convince you she is telling the truth. But there are people walking around you today carrying what I just shared and much, much worse with them. In as much as that matters to your opinion, I hope it helps you form one that includes compassion. That this issue presently ties into contemporary political issues in America, to me, is really little more than context.
A thousand words later and ten thousand pounds lighter, I think I’ll hit publish now.
This was my secret.
It’s out now. There’s no going back.
Do with it, what you will.