“Do most women wait 40 years to claim someone tried to rape them? Or is that just liberal women?” –A meme posted on my Facebook news feed by a high school friend.
When I read those words, I sighed.
Last December I wrote about being assaulted when I was 12. And it took me 40 years to talk about the attack I endured.
On a day when we were baling hay on our family farm in 1977, a man grabbed me in the barn, held me down, repeatedly kissed me and groped me. I was able to break away before worse things could happen.
For decades it was a family secret.
Most folks who know me now think of me as a big man. But back then I was slight, no match for a full-grown man. I’ve never had a more terrifying moment. Never.
At the time, I told my mother what happened. She listened quietly as we sat at the kitchen table. She told me to take a shower and then instructed me never to speak of it again.
For years, I blamed myself for what happened. Like many 12-year-old boys, I could be loud and sometimes obnoxious.
It is never acceptable to touch someone against their will, let alone throw a person on the ground and kiss and grope them. That isn’t “roughhousing” or “horseplay.” It’s criminal assault.
I know that now. But back then I blamed myself. It was especially hard because I was forbidden to ever speak of it. I wondered what I did to provoke him. What did I do to bring this on myself? Was I a bad person because this happened to me?
Those aren’t unusual things to contemplate. Over the years, as a reporter, I’ve talked to plenty of survivors of assaults. They too wondered what they did wrong.
The answer is nothing. No one but the perpetrator is responsible.
The lasting impact of such crimes is great. A decade after my assault, I’d wake up in terror in my college dorm room reliving the incident. It shaped me. I’ve always been a bit shy and awkward in my personal interactions and this incident made me sink even further into myself. And I became reticent to trust others.
The first time I spoke of this was the online column I write. No one accused me of having hidden motivations. In fact, I received many messages from people thanking me for speaking up about my experience.
While I usually vote Republican, I have few good things to say about Donald Trump. He doesn’t reflect the kindness this nation is known for. But I do like his first pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch. His conservative legal philosophy reflects mine.
When I heard of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, I was ambivalent. He struck me as a low-key Republican establishment figure. As a political reporter, I anticipated he would be confirmed by the Senate on a partisan vote. But then I heard Christine Blasey Ford’s story. She contends when she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17, the two were at a party and he pinned her down and groped her. Kavanaugh denies the allegation.
I’m not going to offer an opinion on his guilt or innocence until I’ve heard both of them testify. I advise you to do the same. Don’t render a judgement until you have all the information.
But I can say I don’t find it suspicious that someone would wait 40 years to speak out. It took me that long and it was difficult then. Let’s just listen to what Ford and Kavanaugh have to say and then decide.
Scott Reeder is a veteran Statehouse journalist. He works as a freelance reporter in the Springfield area and produces the podcast Suspect Convictions.