FACING THE PERPETRATOR

Poster and photo by Maria Wulf

“It’s the first days of fall, Aussie.”

“I LOVE the fall.”

“Look at the leaves turn red out front.”

“I LOVE the leaves.”

“Hear the greater silence in the mornings because many birds are gone.”

“I LOVE silence. I LOVE birds.”

“Watch the men build that house up the road.”

“I don’t like men.”

“Why do you suppose she doesn’t like men?” Bernie wonders.

I have no answer. She came from Texas and we know almost nothing of her past. It’s easy for the imagination to go wild and think all kinds of things, but there isn’t much else to suggest trauma or abuse. “Puppies sometimes fear guys because they’re so big, and then they get over it,” someone told me.

Maybe, maybe not. I’ve watched men train dogs in big, loud voices, and the dogs quail. I’ve watched women train dogs with a barely raised voice, maybe a higher-pitched sound—“eh eh eh”—or a “tsk tsk tsk” with their tongue, and the disobeying dogs get right into line. And on the other side of that—and there are other sides of everything—I heard yesterday of one training philosophy that dogs need harsh correction. You give it to them, they get it, and then it’s over. No trauma, nothing.

I think of the Kavanaugh hearing that had originally been scheduled for today and will now take place on Thursday. Maybe. It’s so easy to take sides, especially if, like me, you don’t want another conservative judge on the Supreme Court. But memory is a tricky thing. Someone recently sent me a harsh email about an event that took place 27 years ago. He pictured me in a certain place at a certain time of which I have no memory; in fact, my memory places me someplace else entirely at the time he described, and I was immediately convinced he was mistaking me for someone else. And then I ask myself, are you sure?

Maybe if someone had done to me what Christine Blasey Ford describes, I would clearly remember his face and name, have no doubts whatsoever about who it was that acted so brutally.

In the meantime, mothers say their daughters tell them that what Ford describes is rampant at parties where alcohol and drugs run freely. Other mothers report that they’re afraid for their sons, afraid they’ll be accused of doing things they never did.

Imagine an old-fashioned golden scale. If we were to put all the women subjected to harassment, molestation, and assault on one pendant of that scale and the men falsely accused on the other pendant, the latter would go right through the ground, all the way to China and beyond. Which isn’t to deny the existence of those men being falsely accused, only to point to where the weight lies. And to bear witness to how relatively few of the women on the first pendant ever tell their stories to anyone, never mind face their perpetrators.

Face the perpetrator. He doesn’t have to be a Supreme Court nominee in a good suit, it could be anyone, and he will make all the right sympathetic noises while claiming she’s confused. In the end, he’s sorry the world is this way, and she’s confused.