I believe Blasey, because why would anyone put herself and her family through this kind of scrutiny and loss of privacy? Why would anyone make herself the target of hatred, including death threats?
She says she’s been forced out of her home and is now protected by bodyguards.
* * *
My daughter spent three summers at a sleep-away camp. It was her favorite place in the world. She planned to continue going until she aged out, then become a counselor in training, and then a counselor. She planned to run the camp someday.
But the summer before last, when she was 13, a boy her age told his cabinmates he wanted to rape her. His cabinmates told her cabinmates, who told her and her counselor, who told the “head of the hill,” who told the camp director. Everyone was notified, including the boy’s mom. Everyone except me.
I didn’t hear about the incident until months later. One night in October, I learned what had happened when my daughter sat on my bed and told me about another boy, a fellow eighth grader who’d sent her a picture of his penis. She cried because the boy used to be her friend. He asked her to kiss him and she said no. Then he pressured her harder by sending a picture of his penis. She called it a “dick pic,” using that now all-too-common lingo, as if a picture of a dick showing up on a 13-year-old’s phone is normal. Apparently, it is.
My daughter has been sent 30 dick pics between sixth grade and the middle of eighth grade.
All of her friends have gotten dick pics, she told me. So many boys send them.
When I asked if the penises in the photos were hard, she said, “What’s that mean?”
I explained with my pointer finger that a penis could either flop down or point straight out. She replied, “Hard.”
* * *
This is what Christine Blasey Ford says: When she was 15, she went to a friend’s house to hang out with a few kids. Some of the kids had been drinking a lot. She had to pee and went upstairs to the bathroom. Two boys followed her up the stairs. One of them shoved her into a room. One of them locked the door behind them. The boys laughed, like two friends having a great time, while one of them got on top of her, groped her and tried to get her clothes off. She feared she’d be raped, and when he put his hand over her mouth to muffle her screams, she thought he might accidentally kill her. She tried to fight him off, but couldn’t until his friend jumped on the bed and knocked them over.
* * *
It’s difficult for a girl to know what to do when she receives a photo of a penis. Boys send the pictures through Snapchat. If she takes a screen shot, then legally, she’s distributing child pornography. Worse, the boy will get a notification that someone took a screen shot of his picture. Chances are, then, he’ll retaliate. He’ll spread rumors. He’ll post a picture of some other girl’s breasts and say it’s her.
When I asked my daughter if she ever sent pictures of her body parts, she said no, but she knows girls who have.
I don’t know if a dick pic feels like an assault. But I imagine it does, because my daughter told me all this and then, in that same conversation, told me what had happened at camp.
I called the camp director the next day. He said they did an investigation. He said the boy’s cabinmates were questioned. They couldn’t prove the boy said the word “rape.” No one was sure. He told me there was another incident where the boy lay on top of a girl in the infirmary, but then a few days later, the boy and the girl became a couple.
“How is that relevant?” I asked.
He said the boy may have been “misunderstood.”
I said, “You are a camp director and you seem to know nothing about a girl’s psychology.”
The director told me they watched the boy all summer. They did everything they could to protect her.
I said, “You did everything you could to protect him.”
* * *
Christine Blasey Ford says she didn’t tell her parents because she was 15, and she thought she’d get in trouble for drinking beers with boys.
* * *
I don’t wonder why my daughter didn’t immediately tell me what happened at camp. For one thing, I don’t speak to her while she’s at camp. Campers aren’t allowed to have phones, or any contact with the outside world other than letters. In her letters that summer, she said she wasn’t having fun and that she didn’t like camp anymore.
Why didn’t she tell me a boy threatened to rape her? Why didn’t she tell me that every time she left her cabin, her cabinmates acted like bodyguards?
Because she was 13.
Because she was scared.
Because she was embarrassed.
Because she wasn’t sure she wanted to leave.
Because she thought the camp director didn’t believe her.
Because she was afraid I’d fly out there and throw a massive fit.
It wasn’t her job to tell me. The camp director knew, and he didn’t protect her.
* * *
Maybe deep in every girl’s psyche is a fear that no matter what happens, she’ll be the one suspected of doing something wrong. That was true for Christine Blasey Ford in 1982. It still feels true today.
But what did the 15-year-old Blasey do wrong? In her testimony this week, she said she showed up at a gathering of kids that evening in 1982. She said a boy threw her down on a bed. She thought she would be raped or accidentally killed. Then, she said, years later, when that boy became a Supreme Court nominee, she brought it up. She brought it up when it mattered.
As I watch her testimony on Facebook Live, I see comments scrolling by. So many people are calling her a liar. So many people are accusing her of being a pawn of the Democrats. So many people are accusing her of wrongdoing.
That’s what I’m afraid of now: that if I say boys sent my daughter pictures of their dicks and another boy threatened to rape her, people will think she did something to provoke them.
This is our world. This is the world a girl has to learn to navigate ― a world where she has to get her cabinmates to protect her because no one else will.
Andrea Askowitz is the author of the memoir My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy. Her stories have appeared in The New York Times, Salon, The Rumpus, xoJane, Brain, Child, 429, Mutha and AEON, and have aired on NPR and PBS. Andrea co-hosts the podcast “Writing Class Radio.” She is just finishing a collection of linked essays. For more from Andrea, follow her on Twitter.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.