A few years ago I tripped on some stairs when leaving a sporting event. I ripped through my jeans and scraped open my knee. Although it wasn’t a deep cut, it was located in just the right place that made the wound rip back open whenever I bent my knee. It also became quite itchy, and even though I wanted it to heal, my scratching and irritating it resulted in a slow healing process that left a scar the size of a quarter.
Wounds don’t properly heal when they are constantly ripped open. They need to be cleaned and handled properly, and given time to mend. For many sexual assault and harassment victims, the last week has been something of a traumatic deja vu; a deep wound not allowed to heal.
On Sept. 27, 2018 I watched the testimonies of Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford. It was an emotional experience that left me feeling raw and conflicted. When the day was over, I found myself hoping, praying that everyone involved would be able to find peace. A year has passed, and the story is back in the news, this time with questions of journalistic ethics, impeachment and libel.
Voices from both sides have tackled the questions surrounding the questionable reporting and what it means for Kavanaugh. Many point to the holes in the various stories to try and determine who is telling the truth. But as Megan McArdle aptly pointed out for The Washington Post, memory is not perfect, and we may truly never know what, if anything, happened between Kavanaugh and his accusers.
Democrats use the news as fodder for impeachment. Republicans rail against the reporting that started it all. Reporters search for ways to cast doubt or poke holes. Onlookers try to determine the truth. Victims of assault watch the rounds go on and are reminded that not only will nobody believe them, but coming forward can result in being the subject of attacks and brutal questioning that will never end; that all that hurt and fear will never leave.
It gives context to the reason so many women choose not to report their assaults. Some estimates say that only 230 out of every 1,000 rapes are reported, and only 4.6 of those will lead to incarceration. The biggest reason given for not reporting? Fear of retaliation.
Facts, truth and justice are important. Sometimes, though, they are lost — but healing must still be found. The country needs to heal from the wounds the Kavanaugh hearing inflicted last year — and repeatedly hacking open the issue won’t let that happen.
This isn’t to diminish the importance of truth, justice and fairness. Unfortunately, not every issue is so black and white, and not every case has a clean ending. In those instances when the system falls short, healing must be found elsewhere. It cannot be found by constantly resurfacing and reliving the pain.
I speak to this not just as an observer, but as a survivor. It took years for me to come to terms with the unknown and loose ends. While I now live each day sufficiently normally, I can’t help but start to feel anxious, uncomfortable and be overcome by memory whenever an assault case is the center of the news or TV episode.
The Kavanaugh hearing and subsequent rehashings of allegations of his past haven’t just affected assault victims, though. It was tough watching and reading for anyone. It was a brutal show of how far people are willing to go to prove their point and how common courtesy can get lost in the process. The nation as a whole needs to go through the healing process. Things in the past may not have been handled perfectly, and we may never know the full truth, but healing and closure can still be found.
With that healing comes, hopefully, greater strength, knowledge and a determination to do things differently in the future. There is more power in the process of allowing the wound to heal than in succumbing to the temptation of reopening it.