Thank you to Maya Wiley for a thoughtful, empathetic, in-depth response to last night’s callous and heinous performance of the current occupant of the Oval Office regarding Dr. Blasey Ford.
This clip ends with Maya Wiley saying: “What we saw today is fundamentally about whether or not we are a compassionate society.”
I tried to avoid watching the video of our electorally-elected leader mocking a constituent who is also a sexual assault survivor. But then NPR played the audio, so I decided to watch the video to see the audience reactions. They laughed. One man even elbowed the man next to him and they enjoyed the moment as a pair. It made me angry and disgusted. It made me sad. It made me feel defensive and frightened for Dr. Blasey Ford and victims of sexual assault who felt attacked, belittled, and laughed at by the person speaking — and by the people laughing and egging him along.
But before my anger at the audience could grow to a full rage, I remembered something I mention during domestic violence and healthy relationship workshops I run for teenagers and families: Each one of us in this room knows someone in an unhealthy relationship. And that’s true for sexual assault victims as well. Each one of us knows someone who has been sexually assaulted. This, obviously, means that on the risers behind the current occupant of the Oval Office, in the participants at the rally, and among those in the television audience are dozens, hundreds, and thousands upon thousands of people who have endured a sexual assault.
And while my immediate inclination is to defend and protect and support those who don’t stand behind a serial misogynist or support someone accused by dozens of sexual misconduct, the more I think about it, the more I realize it’s the people NOT surrounded by those who say #BelieveSurvivors who need our empathy most. I won’t point out individuals, but there is at least one person in that video whom I’d guess KNEW it was wrong and repulsive and deplorable. This person might well be, or at least know, someone who is a victim of sexual assault. Where does the young woman or man in this Louisiana rally go for help or support when the weight of an assault becomes too much to bear after they have seen their neighbors, friends, family, and leader laughing about Dr. Blasey Ford?
It’s not easy, because many are also enablers. It’s not easy, because many of them voted against what I may consider compassionate treatment of my fellow human beings. It’s not easy because human nature guides us to support those with whom we feel kinship and mutual values.
However, as someone who believes in reform, redemption, growth, evolution, and in the value of sincere discussion and a respectful exchange of ideas, I also have compassion for those victims of sexual assault who attend rallies that share the message that I am worthless and laughable. Mourning, depression, trauma, and survival don’t always look like what we expect. And I truly hope that those who need support and assistance, but who aren’t surrounded by people who act with compassion and care, are able to get it because I have to believe that we are, at our base, a compassionate society.
RAINN has a solid list of support services for sexual assault victims and survivors. RAINN has also been inundated, more so than usual, so please consider a donation to help them continue their important work.
See a fuller version of Ms. Wiley’s remarks here.