I Am Not Surprised

By GRACE VEDOCK

I watched Dr. Ford’s testimony on my phone, earbuds in, catching snippets of the spectacle whenever I could. It was gut-wrenching, but I needed to see it. I was walking across campus from one class to another; my eyes were glued to the phone. As I turned a corner to proceed along the sidewalk, I looked up for a brief moment to double check that I was headed in the right direction.

When I looked up, I saw a deeply depressing but telling sight: multiple women walking in various directions across campus were watching the testimony, some with tears in their eyes, some with open mouths, some shaking their heads.

I sat down in class, still watching the testimony, not knowing how to process Dr. Ford’s pain. I was visibly upset. A male classmate tapped me on the shoulder to ask if I was okay (I wasn’t). I took my headphones out and pointed to the testimony happening on the screen. Remarkably, he responded by turning to me and, looking quite confused, asking: “that’s today?”

It baffled me that he could somehow miss this. If you are a survivor of sexual assault, it is almost impossible to avoid Dr. Ford’s testimony and its implications about the deeply-entrenched misogyny enshrined in the highest halls of government in this country.

I see so many people reliving their traumas — people who are brave enough to step forward, like Dr. Ford, and people who don’t report, because they know that justice is rarely served when the offender is rich, white and can capitalize on the culture that accepts “I like beer” as an excuse. I was one of the many people who hung “Believe Survivors” posters around campus later that day. I wanted to spread awareness. I wanted to send a message to everyone: if you are a survivor, we believe you. If you are not, the sign sent a clear message — you need to believe them. Not a few hours passed before some of those posters were viciously torn down.

I am angry. I am upset. I am distraught. I am baffled that my classmate was blissfully unaware of the testimony. I am offended that someone tore down the signs. I am stunned that the Senate has learned nothing from Anita Hill. I am deeply troubled that perpetrators of sexual violence can continue their lives without being properly held accountable for their conduct, while their victims (since most offenders are repeat offenders) relive their trauma every day. I am terrified that these offenders benefit from this culture that privileges their humanity over another person’s. I am furious that this culture informs the power structures present in the world, in this country and at Middlebury.

But as a survivor myself, I have seen the reality of the world that doubts my story as much as it doubts Dr. Ford’s. And I am not surprised.