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Just to be clear, my story does not compare at all to the stories of sexual assault we’ve all had difficulty reading under the #WhyIDidntReport and #MeToo tags. Yes, it had effects on my life. It changed the way I interacted with friends and co-workers for awhile, and made me rethink certain aspects of where and how I lived my life.
But it is in no way the same as Dr. Blasey’s experience.
The point I want to make is any intense, traumatic event is going to come with gaps in memory. The human brain is wired to help us survive. If the pain from a physical injury is too much to handle, the brain mutes your pain receptors (not a medically accurate phrase) to process the injury in more manageable pieces. Similarly, an emotional trauma is not seared into the brain with every detail perfectly intact, because the experience is too overwhelming. You relive it in pieces, and some of those are clear as day and others have more ambiguity. Dr. Blasey clearly remembered more details than anyone should reasonably be expected to.
* * *
I was assaulted 10 years ago. Comparatively speaking, what happened to me was no big deal. It was a random act of violence from a bunch of kids, and if I had recognized what was happening sooner I could have either gotten away or defended myself much better. I ended up with a concussion and cracked rib and a few weeks of restless nights, but no real lasting damage.
Yes the police were called and I reported everything. But what if I hadn’t, either out of shame or lack of memory? What if I had convinced myself as a guy in my 30’s who was in decent shape I shouldn’t have let myself get in that position in the first place, and didn’t want anyone to know? For whatever reason I could have rationalized at the time, let’s say I didn’t report it until today.
There are details I don’t remember, and my experience is in many ways much easier than Dr. Blasey’s. This was only 10 years ago, not 36. I was a grown adult and not a teenager with an actively changing brain. And getting punched and kicked a few times does not in any way compare to the trauma of someone forcing themselves on you.
Despite all of those differences that make my experience easier than Dr. Blasey’s (and every survivor of sexual assault), there are things I’m not sure of. I know it was in summer, but couldn’t tell you for certain if it was June, July or maybe August. I know it was a weeknight, but any of Monday-Thursday may be the case. I know it was late, and I had just come from the gym, but couldn’t tell you when between 9pm and midnight. I know it was multiple people, at least four but I think as many as eight.
What do I remember? I remember two of their faces very clearly…I could still identify them today (in reality they were teenagers and I’m sure look very different now, but their faces at the time are as clear as my best friends). I remember how close the wall behind me was, and in the moment mentally kicking myself for not recognizing the risk of this situation before I let myself get so cornered.
I remember waking up after being knocked unconscious and quickly ‘escaping’ from someone who was trying to help because I was so disoriented. Lastly, I remember seeing the blood covering my shirt and arm…and it taking what felt like an eternity (but was probably only a minute or two) to register what happened. I also remember the really cute nurse at the hospital to whom my first words were, “I don’t normally look like this”, but that’s a different thing.
I’m not a clinical psychologist so can’t describe the reasons as impressively as Dr. Blasey did, but despite my experience being easier to digest, some very personal details stand out as clear as if they happened five minutes ago, and other more periphery things I can barely guess at.
So that’s why I believe Dr. Blasey. I believe no one would ever want to discuss this publicly – or take the legal and personal risks necessary to make it up – and it would take a similar sense of civic duty for me sit in front of the U.S. Senate and relive the experience. And lastly, because even with those gaps in my memory I know what happened…and Dr. Blasey’s encounter was more traumatic, at a more impressionable age, and happened 26 years earlier than mine.
Her story rings true, and I am in awe of her courage to share it yesterday.