A girl was locked in a room and held down on a bed while a boy fondled her breasts and greedily explored her body through a drunken haze at the encouragement of his intoxicated friend. A man with an impeccable reputation, a beautiful family and a mountain of credentials vehemently denies any involvement in such a dastardly assault in spite of his accuser’s 100% certainty that he’s the one.
Both are convincing and believable – the victim and the man she accuses. I don’t know what happened, and neither do you.
But I have a unique perspective. I have been through experiences similar enough to add a twist to the discussion. It’s a twist I have not heard explored on CNN or FOX News. It’s not hard for me to believe the violated, abused girl and the irreproachably qualified man are both telling the truth. Their truth, as they remember it. Their truth as their subconscious minds in survival mode (our subconscious is all about survival) have manipulated them to remember it.
I was very drunk one of the first times I had sex as a teenager, and so was the neighbor-girl who was alone in that bedroom with me. We had not been dating. We had never flirted or shown affection for one another. We got drunk and we kissed. We were clumsy and inexperienced, but nothing was stopping our hormones and curiosity. There was brief, bumbling, inept penetration followed by embarrassment, awkward silence and months of mutual avoidance. I didn’t force myself on her, but I was as ashamed of my sexual persistence as I was of my performance. I was eager, and she was willing. We were both very, very drunk.
She didn’t ask me to stop. Maybe it’s a blessing it was over almost as quickly as it started. What if she had said no after the drunken kiss made sex seem so completely inevitable? I think I would have zipped up my jeans and gone back to my friends. But I don’t know because she didn’t. I was drunk enough that there are bits and pieces of my recollection missing. Drunk enough that something I had never considered happened in an instant.
I believe the fifteen-year-old girl. I believe she caught the eye of the seventeen-year-old boy as they drank without concern for their capacity to manage their inebriation. I believe he was older and more accomplished, and with alcohol enhanced confidence, he expected his sexual advance to be received warmly. I believe he went too far. I believe the booze and his pedigree and his confidence and his hormones and the laughing and urging of his friend combined to push him well over the line of decency into a sexual assault he never planned nor has the capacity to remember.
I believe that might just be what happened. You might not believe. Maybe you’ve never been a teenage boy (sorry, the hormones of a teenage girl are biologically drastically different). Maybe you’ve never been an older teenage boy full of confidence and privilege. Maybe you’ve never been a fearless teenage boy who felt an imagined attraction. Maybe you’ve never been an entitled teenage boy who sensed something that didn’t exist while blackout drunk.
Maybe you haven’t. But I have. And I believe.
I’m not excusing the boy’s behavior. I think he should have gone to jail if the girl’s story is true. I’m trying to explain how easily they can both be adamant, even defiant, about the truth of their stories.
As for the girl, she has nothing to gain from reliving the terror that has haunted her for three-and-a-half decades. If you believe she was part of a political hit as she spoke through tremors and sobs with a clump of her long, blond hair tucked disheveldly over the arm of her glasses, then you are beyond retrieval from conspiracy theory hell. If you know anything about how our brains handle trauma, then like me, you probably believe her truth is most likely, well, the truth.
As for the boy, if he was drunk enough that the lights were flickering in his memory, it is not a stretch to believe that his subconscious could have this incident on permanent lockdown. He has everything to lose. His career, his family – everything he has built starting years before one drunken seventeen-year-old night. Our brains are built to help us survive. Blocking-out the bits that weren’t blacked-out is what our subconscious is built to do. Maybe we shouldn’t let his defiant, angry tone fool us. Do you remember the defiant tone and crooked pointy finger that accompanied this angry statement? “I. Did. Not. Have. Sexual relations. With. That. Woman.”
As for me, let me anticipate the social media venom by explaining that I’m no liberal. I’m a bleeding heart fiscal conservative whose lifelong party was hijacked by a lying, incompetent, racist, sexual predator. I believe in protecting the rights of women to decide what happens to their own bodies, just like I believe in protecting babies. I have for decades struggled with the debate about life beginning at birth or conception, and I am woefully without conviction about my position on abortion. It is one the the only social issues on which I do not have a firm position. What I’m trying to say is, I’m not in this to defeat a pro-life justice. For me, what happened thirty-some years ago under the dark and viscous blanket of teenage intoxication is not a political issue. It is a human issue.
And for me, the politicization of this fifteen-year-old girl’s trauma is the most troubling twist of the story – even more so than the act of sexual assault itself. To watch our elected officials line-up behind the version of the truth that fits their political beliefs brings me irreconcilable sadness. If just a hand-full of democrats had said they didn’t believe we should ruin a man’s life without evidence or corroboration – if just s few republicans had found the girl’s story compelling enough to ask for another pro-life nomination – if only we could see beyond the blinding loyalty to tribe and consider the plight of the humans involved, I would have hope for our country. But alas, we remain tragically divided and I remain hopeless for our future.
How ironic that a previously-shame-filled alcoholic with twenty-five years of regrets and remorse has the nerve to lecture on the subject of human decency. Maybe we have to reach the deepest pit of despair to shed our ego and find our compassion. Maybe we have to be on the brink of losing everything to find value in human connection and love that far exceeds the value in like-minded positioning. Maybe we have to lose our way before we can see we are almost all on the path to destruction.
I believe the girl. I don’t think the girl’s story means the boy should be destroyed. I believe in repentance. I believe in second chances. Just as I have lost all faith in our political parties, I believe in the healing power that lives inside us human beings. I hope the girl finds peace. If her story is true, I hope the boy can face his past and find the clarity and forgiveness that is waiting for him.
I found it. It is worth way more than a prestigious job and a pristine reputation. It might just be worth an eternity of salvation.
That’s what I believe. That’s my version of the truth.