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  • Writer's pictureKathy Rumsey

Bearing witness

Updated: Oct 10, 2018

An uncomfortable thing happened to me today. Brought on by an uncomfortable thing that had happened to me three decades ago, that was brought on by the senate judiciary hearings this morning.

I had been watching CNN as it broke to a live video of Sen. Jeff Flake (R) who had been confronted by a few protestors as he got into an elevator. He got in, and the two women stood in the doorway, preventing the elevator doors from closing. The proceeded to ask him questions about supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, which he didn't answer. They then told their stories of being sexually assaulted and spoke of how they are worried that if the nominee is confirmed what it will mean to have a justice on the court for life who might have committed similar assaults. They continued to ask the senator questions, and he continued not to answer. It was uncomfortable and infuriating to watch. The most infuriating part? As reported by CNN: "Flake did not address the two women's questions directly, but repeatedly said, "thank you" -- including when he was asked by Archila if he thinks Kavanaugh is telling the truth."

Watching this prompted me to post on my private Facebook feed this quote by Robert Kennedy: "when we tolerate what we know to be wrong, when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy or too frightened, when we fail to speak up and speak out, we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice". I'm not a political person; I don't talk politics. I generally avoid political posts from both sides, but this to me isn't about politics. This is about doing what you know to be the right thing. And that's why I posted it.

A few minutes after I posted it, I got a notification about some people who had "liked" it, and someone I knew in high school had commented on it. His comment was something along the lines of "thank you for posting this, it's terrible what that democrats have done." I responded quickly that he was part of the problem. He responded back about being surprised by my personally attacking him about it. So I deleted all the comments and decided to message this person privately. In the meantime, I got a text from my husband saying "good for you for holding your ground on that FB post." I texted back to him and said "you know that story I told you last night about my experience when I was a young teenager? That was one of the guys I was referring to".

I included the screenshot of the private messages I sent to this guy here because I don't want to spend any more energy on reliving it to write it out again. In addition to my husband saying that while he understands and respects my decision for handling it privately with the guy, he thought it would be more meaningful to talk about it, another friend (in real life, mind you, not just an "I knew you at one point in my life friend on FB") made this comment to my post: "Truth. 'There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story or trauma inside you' Maya Angelou. Now - it is so very important at this moment for all to Bear Witness - to share in the communication of traumatic experiences and to do all and more in our power to prevent it from sporulating."

And so, I am bearing witness. Sharing my story. It was not a sexual assault, but it was a traumatic event that I still remember vividly to this day. I remember those one or two minutes of feeling helpless, and I remember breaking free from them and walking away from the gathering by myself. Interestingly, I don't remember which actual park we were in, and I don't know how I got home. The traumatic parts though, as Dr. Blasey-Ford said are "indelible in the hippocampus."

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