Dear Dr. Ford:
As you look Brett Kavanaugh in the eyes on Thursday, I’m thinking of you.
I’m a stranger to you, so it may not matter, but I’m proud of you for coming forward in such a high-stakes and public way. The entire country, maybe the entire world, is watching the hearing on Thursday where you and Mr. Kavanaugh will be testifying.
You’ve opened up to the most intimate part of your life, released a weight you’ve carried for almost forty years, and in that vulnerability, there is no doubt you’ve been wounded. I’m not on social media much these days and in my limited reading, I’ve seen the polar and bitter opposites debating your truth, damning your courage, and pruning your life to pieces bit-by-bit, as you were a wounded animal on the side of the road and strangers on social media or in the news are vultures preying on you, shredding you to pieces until all that remains is dry bones.
Dr. Ford, I believe you. And my heart is with you.
Earlier this year, I reported the man who sexually assaulted me to police and a couple of months later, he was arrested and charged with three felonies. He was not a candidate for the United States Supreme Court, but in his own pond, he was a big fish. He is a conservative family man who was well respected in evangelical circles and who had a position of power and authority.
The story made it on the news in a few places, and when it hit TV news in the town where he was a pastor for a really long time, people were shocked. The emails I received that I must be lying because everyone who knew his character knew he could not have committed the crimes he did, sexually assaulting and abusing a sixteen-year-old girl when he was a 25-year-old seminary student and youth pastor. And it happened over the course of several months. If I continued going back to him, why should he be punished for it? Clearly, I was consenting. And of course, why bring it up now, after all these years. I’m exhausted from explaining the answer as I’m sure you are too.
When my story was published as front-page news in a Star-Telegram, I read the man who assaulted me is maintaining his innocence. His lawyer’s comment, “Mark is innocent and this case will be tried in court” sucked the air out of my lungs then, just as it does now as I type it.
I will have to sit where you’ll be sitting and on my left a table and a few attorneys away, my abuser will be sitting. He will watch me walk up to the stand and I’ll have to sit in a wooden box with a judge on my right and tell every horrific detail of my abuse to both strangers and the public, all while he is sitting there, fully aware that the light in my truth will bring the darkness of his lies out. Fully aware that this is his reckoning. That the road of his denial over the last 22 years, whether direct or omitted, ends.
While TV and movie courts typically elevate the freedom and justice of a survivor speaking his or her truth, what is left out is the panic-ridden moments that fuel each and every day, stealing life and joy. We play the reel of our court hearings in our minds days, months, even years before they happen. The Hollywood dramas don’t show we feel like we’re going crazy and that every ounce of denial from the person who preyed on us hammers only more shame and guilt and loss deeper and deeper into our cores.
When I learned I will have to sit in a courtroom with the man who sexually assaulted me 22 years ago, and who has denied it ever since, 99% of my will wanted to go back to the detective who worked so fiercely and yet so kindly on my case and tell him I can’t do it. Not because I made it up, but because I am not strong enough to face my abuser. His lies hold a power over me that is pure, unadulterated terror. I don’t even know why.
But you see, and I know you understand, there is this 1%. And this 1% is so violently stronger than then 99% that feels all-consuming. The 1% for me is my daughter and every other little girl, whether she is two-years-old like mine or 91 years old like my grandma, but every – little – girl needs a voice to go before hers.
- A voice that says I don’t care who you think you are, you have done something evil and you have not yet paid the consequences for it, let alone admitted to it.
- A voice that says I am worth fighting for and the pain and joy and loss your actions caused in my life deserve to be heard and justified.
- A voice that says, yes, I’m sorry that many people have been hurt in the wake of this truth coming to light, but you know as much as the next guy that the truth does set you free. Why you didn’t believe this for yourself is on you, and not on me.
Dr. Ford, you have been on my mind and heart since you were first asked to testify in this hearing. When you first said “not yet” I fully understood. When they asked you to do it so soon, my heart raced in fear for what you must be feeling. And when you said yes, my gratitude for your bravery left me speechless.
I know you carry the weight of what this man did to you even now. I know you feel sadness for his family and his friends and the people who feel so completely deceived by him. I carry that weight too, and it is not easy.
But thank you, Dr. Ford. Thank you for going first in this situation where the man who assaulted you completely maintains his innocence. It is a lion’s den not many can say they are thrown into, and yet you willingly jumped in.
When my time comes, I will be carrying the strength you have given us all with me as I look the man who assaulted me into his eyes and speak the truth, one more time, in one more step to freedom.