I felt a hand on my right breast. I sat up abruptly, frightened. My fear quickly turned to relief as I realized the hand was my own. Just a bad dream.
The week before I had spent an entire day of my otherwise beautiful California vacation captivated and crushed as I watched the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Supreme Court nomination. Thereafter I watched for news updates on my phone, read my copy of The New York Times, and remembered.
I remembered the familiar feelings. Of shock. Of disbelief. Of sorrow. This was not the first time.
By the time Anita Hill braved the all white male Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 for the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing, I had practiced law for a decade. As Hill bravely and plainly told how her boss Clarence Thomas had pressured her for dates while he talked about pornography and sex, I remembered. I, too, had remained in my first attorney job after my boss propositioned me. Twenty-seven years ago I knew Anita Thomas spoke truth to power that refused to listen.
As I remembered, I alternated between not being able to talk about it for fear I would drown if the pent up dam of sadness broke, and trying to talk only to have my throat tighten to a close as I choked up mid-sentence when I did. How could I begin explain why my deep grief over my country’s response to Dr. Blasey Ford’s sexual assault was about more than my political party or my opinion on Roe vs. Wade?
How could I concisely convey a small portion of what I knew to be true? The case I tried before the Catholic judge who could not believe that the deacon molested both his daughter and his preschool granddaughters. The jury who awarded the nine women I represented a mere pittance despite their landlord humiliating them with years of lurid acts. My testimony before a judicial nominating commission in opposition to the appointment of an attorney who had offered sex in exchange for legal services.
How could I begin to explain how I knew I would remember today’s gut wrenching moment in history?
How could I explain my non-reporting of how males more powerful than me had abused that power? The teenage boy who took me behind the alley one dark summer night when I was little girl. The man in the white car who called me over to ask directions while I was on a walk with my three younger siblings, only to expose himself. The relative of my mother’s best friend who fondled me in my little red checked shirt when I barely had breasts. The father of the two little boys I babysat the summer I was thirteen. The sociology professor who wrote sexually explicit comments on my exams. The date rape that happened in a matter of minutes.
Then I did not report. I still remember. As our only place of power is in the present. I reclaim my power in this telling today.
How can you find support when difficult memories arise for you?
Can you find your voice for telling your story safely?
Do you have power that you can exercise for good today?