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What proof would you want to know my story is true?

I, like nearly everyone else in the US, have been inundated with the news coverage and social media posts regarding Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh's testimony this past week. I felt strongly that I wanted to post something after seeing such division in my own personal social media community, but wasn't sure what to post or what to say. While I think every woman has experienced sexual harassment at some point in their lives, I am lucky enough to say that I'm not part of the community of women having experienced sexual assault. Given this fact and the triggering nature of this past week's 24/7 news feed, I was not eager to speak on something that I felt wasn't my own story. Then I came across an incredibly powerful post on Facebook. It was written by one of my dearest friends and one of the strongest women I know. Amber is a loving wife and mother, a rockstar of a social justice advocate, and a caring, compassionate, genuine soul. She is also a survivor of sexual assault. I asked if she would be willing to let me share her post on my blog and she immediately agreed. Below is her story in her words.

After logging onto Facebook and seeing several people post their support of Brett Kavanaugh, I feel the need to address the hearings on a more personal level then I have to date.

Most of you are aware that I myself am a survivor of sexual violence. I have publicly spoken about my assault for years and once again feel the need to share.

I also went to a party at 16 years old, surrounded by friends and strangers, was drunk, stoned and lied to my mother about where I was. And then, I was raped. Immediately after my assault I felt the guilt and shame that most survivors struggle with indefinitely. I thought to myself, “Why did I go to that house? Why did I allow strangers to get into a limo with me? Why did I lie? Why did I kiss the person who would eventually assault me? Why did I agree to go upstairs with this person?” You see I had already been conditioned as a female, to think that this was my fault. I was not going to tell anyone, besides those who were there that evening.

Thankfully, the following Monday my best friend Jaclyn convinced me to go see my school nurse. It was then that she told me she had to inform my parents of what happened. I freaked out and said “No, never mind, forget about it, forget what I said. Again, thankfully, our school nurse did not allow me to run in fear but comforted me and explained that it was the law and she must tell an adult. She suggested I call someone else to help me tell my mother and I will forever be grateful to my cousin Kimberly who immediately came to school and brought me home to help me have one of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had to have. I was FORTUNATE to have all three of these women in my life steer me in the direction of telling. I was also fortunate to have a loving and supporting family, kick ass friends and access to therapy. And guess what, I was still a disaster for years!!!

Coming out with your truth is extremely difficult and most often comes with tons of scrutiny and is re-victimizing to the survivor. I can’t help but feel that If it wasn’t for all of those factors, I could one day be in Dr. Ford’s position. You see although I told, formal charges were never brought against my perpetrator. Sexual violence is one of the most difficult crimes to prosecute especially when its acquaintance rape. I ask you, “What proof would you want from me to know that my story is true? What am I gaining from speaking the truth at this point in life?” And to that end when we look at the Kavanaugh situation, who is set to gain by lying? I can assure you it is not Dr. Ford.

For those of you who assume that this is some sort of political strategy from the democrats, I say the same back to you. It appears that the Republican Party is willing to hang their hat on the fact that this man did not commit this crime. Why? This is the best choice out of ALL the people in our country to sit on our highest court? I am confident there are way more people who have not been accused of sexual violence then who have been in our country, so why go to bat for this individual? Do you know him? Would that matter? Some facts....only 2% of sexually violent crimes are falsely reported. And with that said, in the 70% of cases that are brought to trial, the average sentence for 1 count of rape is 128 DAYS!!!! So if we are going to have a conversation about injustice, please let’s begin there.

Can I without a doubt prove what happened in that room that night? Can she? The only proof are our statements, our voices. And if you don’t believe that every person on this earth has a right to voice, then I honestly think we will never see eye to eye.

Now, more than 16 years later I have gone through my journey of healing, found my voice again and have been a therapist who solely focuses on sexual violence. I can tell you that my experience was not the norm. Most survivors never disclose and if they do, the average age of disclosure is 42. Why, you ask? Look at what is happening!

Survivors all over the country are being triggered and re-victimized with messages of disbelief, hate, and the good ol’ boys club sentiments, from not only the news, radio, newspapers, and politicians but their family and friends. The same friends and family who have or would believe us when we spoke our truth.

So what’s my point? Well I have many, but what I would love, is for everyone who reads this to consider pausing, reflecting and recognizing that when you publicly say you support Kavanaugh, many of us survivors feel like you are saying when it comes down to it, we don’t believe you either. During this contentious time our country is in, I just ask that you strive to be kind, humble, and above all else empathetic.

-Amber Wagman

#kavanaughhearings #whyididntreport #ibelieveher

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