Judge Kavanaugh has taught me so much about how the world works

I can’t stop reading about Judge Kavanaugh. I am learning so much about how the world works.

His yearbook from high school is horrifying. There were derogatory jokes about women throughout the pages. Everyone knew, but the boys were rich, and they were going to top colleges, so it was okay. I didn’t know there were yearbooks like that.

I knew that in those rich-kid private schools the teachers decide who goes to which school. I know that, for example, Yale takes a certain number of kids from Choate, and Choate tells Yale which kids will be the best fit. There is a symbiotic relationship. Choate can say they always get kids into Yale. And Yale knows they’ll get the best kids for Yale without having to do much searching.

What I didn’t know was that the most coveted clerkships work the same way. Judge Kavanaugh always takes law students from Yale. The symbiotic relationship there is that Yale can say their students always get great clerkships, and in exchange Yale law professor Amy Chua makes sure Kavanaugh always has a stream of female law school students who look like models. Really. Click that link.

Kavanaugh fed law clerks to Judge Alex Kozinski. That’s part of what made Kavanaugh such a great place to start a law career. Kozinski was famous. For power. But also for harassment. Chua and her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, also a Yale law professor and also already under investigation, knew about the harassment. It was common knowledge among Yale faculty.

That feeder system is done. Kozinski was forced to resign. And Chua is on mysterious, emergency medical leave, not even able to write her own emails to the press.

People like to hire people who are like them. We have so much research that supports that. The only way to get around that is to be way, way better than everyone else (black men often do this) or to be really hot. Middle-aged men do not have access to young, hot women except when they pay for it, or it’s their daughter’s friends. But if the men have power they can have access to those women at work.

I knew there were not a lot of female staff in the Senate. But I did not realize that every time there was a female issue, the male Senators sent a woman to deal with it. The all-male Republican judiciary committee does not want to have to question Kavanaugh’s accusers. They think the optics are bad. So they want a female staff member to do it. But the female staff are saying no.They say it’s part of a Senator’s job to know how to work with women. The female staff are sick of doing it for the male Senators.

I have done this job for men my whole career. I have stepped in to tell my boss that there are women in the company not making as much as their male counterparts and we have to fix it. I have told male leadership that we have a client who keeps harassing the women in the company. I thought it was my job to take care of lower-level women because I knew leadership would not. I did not even know I was doing that. I never expected the men to look out for the women.

I’m not doing that anymore — I will ask the men why they are not making sure themselves. I will show them how to do it. It’s a mentality. To know what to look out for. It is not the job of women like me. It’s the job of all of senior management.

I didn’t know that women so bright and successful as Christine Blasey Ford got derailed for years after sexual assault. I got derailed for years from sexual assault. But I thought it was because I was weak. I thought I was making too big a deal out of it. I am shocked that the time in her life when she finally told her husband, in couples counseling, is similar to the time in my life I finally told people about my experience.

I was shocked that Debbie Ramirez was so ashamed of having been forced to touch Kavanaugh’s penis that she never talked about it with anyone. I am shocked because I was forced to touch someone’s penis. But, like Ramirez, I wasn’t sure how to talk about it. I’m still not. I mean, I was there with a penis in front of me. And I said no, get away from me, gross. But I still touched it. I am shocked that it’s hard for Ramirez to put a coherent story together. I thought not having a coherent story meant maybe what I thought happened didn’t happen.

But now I understand that not having the words to describe it is part of the problem. We have no word in the English language for being so stressed and so full of shame that you start trying so hard to block it out the minute you get away. Of course we have no word for that. Because it’s only women feeling a loss of power who need that word.

I’m so angry. I find myself checking the news every hour. I lived through Anita Hill’s testimony. Watching the Senate make fun of her was heartbreaking. I was young — I didn’t realize at the time how personally I took that. But I’m sure that’s why I have assumed, through my whole adult life, that I need to keep things to myself and try to help other women by navigating around men instead of trying to work with them.

I knew that people protest things all the time in Washington DC. But I would not have known what to chant if I were staging a protest. I can’t think of a snappy chant to encapsulate all those things I want to say. But I learned so much from the women who are protesting this week at the Capitol. They know what to say. And they are saying it all with men as well. Men, too, are in front of their Senators’ offices, chanting, “We believe Anita Hill! We believe Christine Ford!”

I want to do that. I want to be in this new wave of women who demand that Yale stop funneling women to lecherous men. I want to stand with women who risk their lives to testify in our male-privileged Senate. But most of all I want to say: I believe women.

If I keep saying that, I will believe myself, as well.

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  1. Cheryl
    Cheryl says:

    I have been reading and enjoying your blog for years. This entry, however, is the best thing you have ever written! It perfectly encapsulates all that is problematic about sexual assault. Thank you!

    • Valerie Braimah
      Valerie Braimah says:

      My feelings exactly. Thank you Penelope for drawing out our collective lived experience so raw and so unfiltered it’s undeniable.

  2. Dave Gordon
    Dave Gordon says:

    Good people don’t support victimizers who wrap themselves in victimhood whenever they are confronted with their misdeeds. Truthful people don’t support liars. And friends don’t let friends vote Republican.

  3. athena
    athena says:

    I am so glad the culture is shifting.
    The pope should resign.
    Clarence Thomas should resign.
    The president should resign.

  4. jenn
    jenn says:

    This is a tremendous piece of writing. I have forwarded it to friends who will want to read it before I read again. Apropos of Anita Hille, when I was in high school in Greenwich, CT, my 15 year old classmate Martha Moxley was murdered by Michael Skakel, a Kennedy relative. It took decades to bring him to justice, although once again he has slipped through the bars of prison. Point is: I didn’t realize how personally I took Martha’s murder, a girl who seemed to possess everything I lacked and that wasn’t even enough to save her. And still I was the lucky one. Great piece. I know you’ve been feeling low, but this is just dead on. Keep going.

    • Avalon
      Avalon says:

      True but I hope that you are not suggesting that because one man from one party got away with harrassment (other than being impeached), there’s an obligation on women or society to keep allowing powerful men to continue to gain power even after they have harassed or assaulted women. Because that would be a very strange sports-team-like mentality that you support your team even if they are behaving reprehensibly.

      • Bob
        Bob says:

        Harassment? Try rape. If Bill Clinton was nominated for the Supreme Court, he’d have 100% Democratic support. Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, Paula Jones? Bimbos. Old news.

      • John Thacker
        John Thacker says:

        Your comment exemplifies the bias. He wasn’t just accused of sexual harassment; he was accused of sexual assault and rape. Yet those accusations are quickly minimized, and everything viewed with a hazy “boys will be boys,” even when it comes to committing perjury about it.

        I am steadfast in my belief that if Bill Clinton had resigned or been convicted of impeachment, the world would be much better. Gore would be President, won 2000 without any close race and controversy, we wouldn’t have had a second Iraq War, the entire Me Too movement would have gotten started earlier (including as backlash), and of course, there’s absolutely no way that Trump would be President.

  5. Hillary
    Hillary says:

    Thank you for this eye-opening article, Penelope. We have similar struggles with some of our politicians and leaders in Canada. It is a good reminder that we need to support each other so they can speak the truth.

    I teach this to my daughter; there may be incidents when you feel shame and embarrassment, and your instinct is to stay quiet. That is the exact time, the exact emotion, that you need to tell someone about. It could be me, an older sibling, a councillor. Just don’t stay silent.

  6. cynthiawoodyard
    cynthiawoodyard says:

    Boom, I’m so with you. Thank you for being able to put the whole picture we’ve lived with into words! I’m sick, again, watching this hideous drama play out, again!

  7. colt13
    colt13 says:

    The Kavanaugh thing interests me too. I believe the victim, but I also believe that Kavanaugh doesn’t remember doing this. He may have been a virgin, but comes off as a violent, blackout drunk, with no boundaries. if have to believe this, because if knew he did it, and still denies it, he is a psychopath.

    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      ” . . . if knew he did it, and still denies it, he is a psychopath.”

      But maybe he is a psychopath. There seem to be a lot of them around these days.

      Maybe there always were, and only now are we recognizing — and pointing, and naming, et cetera.

      There must be evidence of sorts, footprints in the snow?

      Any evidence that he is a basically nice guy (these days)? Having a wife and family proves nothing in that regard.

      Any evidence he is (these days) a psychopath? Regularly choosing to have “babes” as law clerks might be a beginning; anything else?

      Maybe he is.

  8. carol of kensington
    carol of kensington says:

    I am so sad that what happened 36 years ago amongst young partying teenagers and was not documented in any believable way is now being discussed as an issue regarding how women are treated in the workplace.

    • Sydney
      Sydney says:

      Just in the last two days, I’ve asked every girlfriend I’ve seen if they’ve ever had any experience with sexual assaults. So far on my unscientific poll, 100% have said yes. And most never mentioned it to anyone at the time. Some of these stories I’ve never heard before even with women I’ve been friends with for decades. Ask around Carol.

      • MJ
        MJ says:

        Thing is Sydney, if Carol is this vocal to her friends about nt believing victims of sexual assault (or at least downplay the seriousnss of it), why would her friends share their sexual assault story with her?

  9. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    We do have a word for that – the word is “trauma”.

    Check out the info at the PTSD association (link below) and also these two books:

    The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma Paperback
    by Bessel van der Kolk M.D. (2014 by Viking) – he now has presentations online that build on this work, based on feedback from other professionals – especially exploring methods that work to help heal from trauma, and their limitations)

    Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma: The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences
    by Peter A. Levine, Ann Frederick (1993 & 1997 by North Atlantic Books)

    And for insight into how trauma and other influences can play out in intimate relationships (attachment styles and evolutionary biology) – check out Chapters 4 and 5 of –

    Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life
    by Emily Nagoski (2015 by Simon Schuster)

    Come As You Are incorporates Waking the Tiger and both include information on how to help prevent upsetting events from becoming ingrained trauma.

    • Amy
      Amy says:

      Thanks for sharing , Michelle. These are excellent resources. And I believe that until we call trauma by its name, acknowledge it and are able to understand the dynamics behind it, trauma will continue to be perpetuated widely.

      A few thoughts: a central problem in dealing with trauma is that its prevalence is hidden — we think there’s a certain kind of person this happens to — some “other” – some other race, class, level of education, etc. However, the types of abuse that lead to trauma are a great equalizer and knows no bounds.

      Also, traumatized people often believe that their trauma is a personal failing or weakness, and therefore experience tremendous shame and isolation, which may not manifest literally — they are out and about in the world, but carry this with them — what I call a “functioning traumatic”.
      My intuition is that sadly there are many among us who fit this description. People who have been traumatized understand very well that our culture is not a safe place to say “I am / was a victim of abuse” — neither personally or professionally.

      The judgements upon victims of trauma are tremendous. An internalized “blame the victim” mythos prevails. We turn away from traumatized individual because it does not fit our American narrative of triumph over adversity and that those who live a certain way are “blessed”.

      This dynamic is propagated both by people who who enact the trauma – in order to protect their positon and power – and those who have never experienced it – because they can’t possibly imagine what it is, and their ignorance is understandable. No one wants to believe it is true because what it says about the world is harsh and difficult to accept.

      A Song on the End of the World by Czeslaw Milosz

      On the day the world ends
      A bee circles a clover,
      A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
      Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
      By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
      And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

      On the day the world ends
      Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
      A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
      Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
      And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
      The voice of a violin lasts in the air
      And leads into a starry night.

      And those who expected lightning and thunder
      Are disappointed.
      And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps
      Do not believe it is happening now.
      As long as the sun and the moon are above,
      As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
      As long as rosy infants are born
      No one believes it is happening now.

      Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
      Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,
      Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
      There will be no other end of the world,
      There will be no other end of the world.

      Warsaw, 1944

      The Collected Poems 1931-1987 by Czeslaw Milosz. Copyright © 1988 by Czeslaw Milosz Royalties, Inc. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
      The Collected Poems: 1931-1987 (The Ecco Press, 1988)

      • Michelle
        Michelle says:

        “As long as the sun and the moon are above,
        As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
        As long as rosy infants are born
        No one believes it is happening now.”

        And it is so overwhelming to believe it is happening “now”.

  10. Minami
    Minami says:

    Do you know that a lot of your writing on this blog through the years has been, whether you knew it or not, begging people to believe you even when you haven’t believed yourself?

    I think people often think that’s putting the cart before the horse, but sometimes (I have noticed especially with extroverts) you need other people to accept your truth for you, before you trust yourself enough to do that for yourself. Because abusers screw up your sense of reality.

    I’ve always believed you, and I know a lot of your readers do too. I hope you can believe yourself soon, too. I think you’ve found a path to doing that.

  11. Leslie Maree
    Leslie Maree says:

    Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

    I have been religiously reading about this too without realizing why. In one op-ed piece in The Guardian entitled’ The Brett Kavanaugh case shows we still blame women for the sins of men’, I read: “…according to the New England Journal of Medicine, rape is about four times more likely to result in diagnosable PTSD than combat. Think about that for a moment – being raped is four times more psychologically disturbing than going off to war and being shot at and blown up. And because there are currently no enduring cultural narratives that allow women to look upon their survival as somehow heroic or honorable, the potential for enduring damage is even greater. A traumatic event like the one Christine Blasey Ford is alleging fractures the self, destroys one’s sense of time and place in the universe and generally changes a person completely. It is literally an encounter with death.”

    I am almost 60 years old and have tears pouring down my face from reading your post. Thank you so much for writing it.

    I believe women. I believe you, Penelope. I believe me.

  12. JWalman
    JWalman says:

    Penelope, I appreciate your post and sympathize with the abuse you experienced. Guess we’ll have to see what happens on Thursday. Just to be fair, did you feel the same concern and empathy for Bill Clinton’s many accusers, and do you believe they were treated justly?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      At that point in my life I don’t think I had any idea how to feel empathy for a victim of sex abuse. I didn’t even feel empathy for myself as a victim. I had never heard people talk about it. I don’t think it occurred to me how devastating it must have been for Monica Lewinsky. That’s why I’m so adamant about taking women seriously when they speak up. It is so so hard to speak up. I don’t think Lewinsky had any idea it was abuse of power. I think she was confused. Abuse is very confusing. That’s part of the abuse.


      • Carol of Kensington
        Carol of Kensington says:

        You are so different to me.

        When I was sexually harassed in the work place, all I did was talk about it. English pubs are designed for passionate discussions.

        Come over and I’ll give you a tour of some Soho pubs. Gosh, the things that went on.

        • MJ
          MJ says:

          I also live in the UK and victim blaming and shaming is alive and well there too. An online poll of 1,061 men and women aged 18 to 50 in London, called “Wake Up To Rape” in the UK in 2010 found that more than half of women (54 percent) questioned in a survey thought rape victims should in some cases bear responsibility for their attack. One in eight thought that dancing provocatively, flirtatious behaviour, or wearing revealing clothing made them partly to blame. More women than men also thought that dressing sexily made the victim accountable for the assault.

          It’s an 8 year old survey, but I don’t think much has changed. Regardless of pub culture.

        • Vanessa
          Vanessa says:

          There is a lot of sexual harrassment and general workplace bullying and intimidation in the UK — I personally experienced years of it in London, in several different industries and companies. The Guardian has run so many stories on these issues that I’d refer people to look there if they want some concrete examples — but it’s not just a Guardianista issue, there are stories in the Mail, etc.: it’s ubiquitous.

  13. S_anon
    S_anon says:

    Apologies in advance as I don’t know all the details, and people like Kavanaught were (and maybe still are) jerk’s or worse, but just wanted to say that should your high school ‘mistakes’ / bad choices continue be counted against you ?
    If your still making those ‘mistakes’ then yes (and qed they are choices now and not mistakes). But if it was something due to juvenile excess and that you’ve learn from and now genuinely regret, then maybe you should be given the benefit of the doubt.

    • Dave Gordon
      Dave Gordon says:

      We forgive others so we might be free. But the Kavanaugh hearings are not about forgiveness, nor are they a trial. They are about whether he should be given a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. We should hold our Justices to the highest standards of ethics and professional competence.

    • S-anon
      S-anon says:

      Update to the ‘high school juvenile mistakes’ aspect – this is discussed more thoroughly than I can in the comments section of the NYT article.

    • Mary
      Mary says:

      In addition to ceasing the behavior, it would be essential, in the face of accusation, to own up to one’s wrongdoing that caused harm to another, however long ago. Ongoing public denial ought not to elicit our sympathy for a perpetrator at the expense of the victim. The perpetrator may need counseling in order to face his past and receive help in owning up to it, perhaps finding a way to earn forgiveness and ultimately forgive himself. In that sense I can extend some sympathy to anyone who has regrets about past transgressions. But vehement protests that he is wrongly accused and being victimized himself, and lying about many collateral details, does not put him on the road to recovery and forgiveness.

  14. Dan
    Dan says:

    so sad and disappointing to see you’ve bought into this heinous smear campaign. I’ve read you for years but I’m done.

    • Carol of Kensington
      Carol of Kensington says:

      Dan, people are wired differently, and where one person hears Mozart another hears a high pitched whine.

      Listen to Scott Adams – these days, he’s on fire! Today especially, one of the things he said “the accusers are unusually not credible”, ie, not just unbelievable but spectacularly so.

      Look into your heart and feel sorry for these women. What kind of childhoods must they have had.

      Penelope has children and I think it’s safe to say that 36 years from now she won’t want them found guilty of sexual assault based on a single accusation alone.

  15. Maria Miccoli
    Maria Miccoli says:

    When I was in 6th grade science class I sat next to a girl who only smiled, giggled (I now see as embarrassment and nervousness) and curl inward trying to prevent boys from molesting her. The boys didn’t get the message and periodically would mollest her.

    I had never seen this behavior and had no context for it so I said nothing.

    That summer I was taking classes with these same boys and I walked to the park in a line. This same girl was riding her bicycle across the street. Those same boys yelled slut shaming insults at her.

    I had never seen this behavior and had no context for it so I said nothing.

    Then the school year started. I never saw this girl again, however I became a target. This boy grabbed my ass. As I turned around to see who had done it, he smiled.

    I had never seen this behavior and had no context for it so I said nothing.

    Instead, a rage came forth and I started kicking and kicking my offender and didn’t stop until he ran away.

    Since he wasn’t too smart, he did it again the next day after complaining that I had given him bruises on his legs. I kicked him again repeatedly until he ran away.

    The boys must have exchanged information, because the next one grabbed my ass while I was facing my locker. I looked around and there he was 3 lockers down smiling at me, then he looked down at his combination lock.

    I didn’t say a word. Instead walked over and stood behind him and body slammed him into his locker with such force I chipped his tooth. He threatened to report me to the principal and I threatened to do the same. He never did.

    They started calling me Virgin Mary after that. I was fine thith that, they had called my friend worst things.

    I am a peaceful and shy woman, but when touched without my permission, a primitive rage erupts and I barely recognize myself. I am silent, I have no words could say, instead I attack. Sometimes they were bigger than me.

    When sexually harassed verbally, I have learned to use my words and my words are often a warning of what’s to come.

    I once took a knife and went into the shower and carved off my leg cast because I was physically vulnerable and was sexually harrassing by a midget in the military who was my supervisor for that shift. My direct supervisor came to visit me asking me to report it. I refused, but the midget knew to stay away from me.

    The point is we as parents need to do more to prepare our daughters on the harsh realities of dealing with boys and men who teach each other on how to assault women and not get caught.

    Many women when faced with an event that is so shocking and out of context they are traumatised and almost sleepwalk through the event and later feel the shame and humiliation and self blame have no words for what happened to them because they have no context for it.

    There are no words that can be used with psychopaths who abuse their power for their sexual gratification. They are predators who have targetted the most vulnerable (physically and psychologically…how badly do you want to keep your job or that promotion?) on purpose.

    That’s why they choose the young, inexperienced, petite, and naive. That’s why their office walls and doors are no glass and are not transparent.

    As long as women blame themselves, lacking context for their experiences, they lack the words for the traumatizing events. Until they understand that they were prey and at their most vulnerable they were set up and felt trapped that they cooperated in order to escape, they will continue to self blame.

    Exposing the predators will help other women who were targetted. Is legal recourse the only way?

    I never filed a complaint and never filed a police report about my own experiences as a victim of harrasment. I quit those jobs and watched those companies go out of business.

    My actions always seemed to communicate far better than my words.

    • carol of kensington
      carol of kensington says:

      Good for you! I love this comment! When I was in 6th grade I was getting harassed and my sister, in 5th grade, took out her glass jar with a butterfly in it and prepared for battle. They melted away.

      That’s what we need to teach women, from very young. Look out for each other.

      Plus “make friends with people who want the best for you”, which would not include parties with drinkers and older guys.

  16. Liz Sisk
    Liz Sisk says:

    I have read years of your open and honest posts. I have so appreciated each and every one for your heartfelt openness and honesty. This one might be your best one. Thank you so much. I am sending it around and sharing with family and friends.
    Please keep writing and sharing and know you are appreciated and valued.

  17. LG
    LG says:

    I really like your posts and I usually agree with you, but not this time. IMHO, the details are too foggy and inconsistent for these women to be believable. But if he actually did do something stupid as a drunk teen (like many of us did), he does not have a history as a sexual predator like Harvey Weinstein or Bill Cosby to justify the hoopla and political invective. P.S. I’d like to see some of the same fervor directed at Keith Ellison.

    • Hope
      Hope says:

      Keith Ellison is not being vetted for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court where he would make decisions that change people’s lives forever. False equivalency.

  18. Sydney
    Sydney says:

    Thank you for writing this post. I have never experienced a sexual assault and yet I have been so angry reading the reactions to this situation by many Republican legislators and our president. I am also glued to the coverage. It was comforting to read I am not the only one who feels so much anger over the dimwitted (mostly male) response. And I appreciate your response regarding Monica Lewinsky, I find myself in the same exact place as you on that.

  19. #me too
    #me too says:

    No surprises here. Only disappointment is that more women have not come forward. There is no shame in the truth. There should be no guilt at being unable to recall one of the most traumatic events a woman might have. Took me 20 years. Sadly – silence only perpetuates the bullying. And men — I think — believe they can get away with it. Courage … not silence. our daughters should not inherit this!

  20. Gwen
    Gwen says:

    I am so glad you wrote this. I too have been reading everything about Kavanaugh. I was sexually assaulted in college and cannot remember the details surrounding the event which is so strange because I have thought of it every day of my life for the past 15 years.

    I am horrified by the lack of compassion and hatred for the victims. I keep reminding myself of the long game. This is a moment in time and it sucks, but this moment is part of a process and will make it easier for my daughters, and for society to be better to women in the future. At least that is my hope.

  21. ValterPF
    ValterPF says:

    > “But most of all I want to say: I believe women.”
    This is a slippery slope and, above all, it’s against true justice.
    Because if you always believe women, no matter what, then all women are innocent and all men are guilty, by default.
    (but, you know, sometimes women lie – because humans lie)

    And if we, as a society, accept that a whole category is guilty by default, then everybody can be assumed guilty by default.
    We have seen that happen in the XX century with blacks, with jews, with communists: they all have been considered guilty by default, because part of their category/group.
    Even 9/11 can be seen in a similar way: if all Westerners are guilty by default, why not blow them up in bulk?

    When we blindly take side with a category (and it’s always “us vs them”), a priori, we’re back to witch hunt times.
    And justice becomes blind.

    • MJ
      MJ says:

      I don’t get this type of arguments. Take a statement literally and then lecture someone about “This can’t be real justice if you take this one sentence about believing all women literally”. It is so not the point of the post to cerate a black and white rule about who can or cannot be guilty. When Penelope writes about Anita Hill being made fun of in her hearings and internalizing the message of “don’t think you will be taken seriously about sexual assault”, she is not writing that we should regard all men as guilty.

      Chill your beans, no one is assuming all men are automatically guilty, and by being so keen on bringing devil’s advocate arguments into this discussion you are distracting from the message (a message that, as you can see, resonates with many followers. So many women who internalised the victim shaming and blaming they saw grwoing up, and still see). This performative way of ‘being reasonable’ without addressing the real issue being discussed, and ignoring the humanity of the matter, always (like really, always) pops up in discussion about #metoo and frankly it is tiring and boring. It also underestimates the writer’s sense of judgement and behaviour, all for the sake of making a point that the writer for sure is aware of (yeah yeah yeah, not all men, we know!!).

      • Trey
        Trey says:

        But she jumping to conclusions that Ramirez and Ford have been assaulted, even with the numerous holes. Taking seriously yes, but going that far to me morally irresponsible. And it the second paragraph, you say aren’t for believing all women, but then you criticize any Devil’s Advocate arguments because it
        distracts from what victims. But that’s basically making the assumption that the accusers are victims and the men accused are guilty. So while you no one is assuming men are guilty, but aren’t you doing that by presuming to be truthful, whether than withholding judgement. Yes we should treat
        accusers with respect by when people start labeling the accusers
        victims and survivors, it’s hard to argue they aren’t automatically assuming the men are guilty. So I am question your sense of judgement and behavior.

        • MJ
          MJ says:

          When it comes about being morally irresposible, the point of Penelope’s piece is how morally irresponsible it is to have a world where victims blame themselves. Where women internalize the message that no one will believe them anyway. To perpetuate systems where powerful en can get away with their misconduct.

          This piece is not the court room and does not intend to be. To treat it like that, as if this was written to find the accused guilty or not guilty, or to support evidence for it, is distracting from the message that some layers of society will get away with sexual assualt because they have enablers, and that women get trained to blame themselves for it.

          It is in the nature of sexual assualt and rape that evidence is hard to find. I have a friend wo was quite violently raped by the brother of a friend. She had evidence of threatening texts from him, a blood and sperm stained dress, a whole timeline of te part when it happened and it still was not enough to convict the guy (though she went to the hospital, they did not take photos of her brises, which is what they should have done, apparently). I believe her though. I had also believed het without the dress or the threateing texts. Her story would have had holes, but I would have believed her. Is that so morally irresponsible of me, to believe a victim of a crime so traumatic it apparently causes more PTSD than going to war?

          Penelope Trunk is not a DA, not a judge or a stakeholder in this case. Why accuse someone who writes that she believes these victims is ‘morally irresponsible’? That’s a pretty big accusation to make, so I wonder what the point it is? What’s the agenda (consious or unconsious), behind this eagerness to call someone who believes a victm ‘morally irresponsible’? And don’t say ‘justice’, because as I said, this is not the courtroom.

          • Trey
            Trey says:

            Justice and doesn’t just exist in a courtroom. And I’m saying it’s morally regardless of her occupation, because she’s pushing “the guilty until proven innocent” and the sexist “believe all women” narrative which is morally irresponsible whether she works in a law or not. She doesn’t know Kavanaugh or Dr. Ford as far as I know, so she is projecting her own biases into the situation. She doesn’t know they are victims, that’s the problem. Not to mention it’d hyprocritical because generalizes men as being predators and women as innocent victims.

    • Leslie
      Leslie says:

      Women can abuse & women can lie & say they didn’t. There needs to be more evidence; your gender shouldn’t be the only evidence.

  22. Sean Rutledge
    Sean Rutledge says:

    I can’t begin to thank you enough for explaining this as a trauma issue instead of a political issue. I don’t believe anything the two political tribes say – they’re simply trying to win at any cost.

    My divorce has finally been completed. Trauma from back surgery activated PTSD from childhood activated bullying (and continued trauma) from a narcissistic spouse. I’m not “like” those abused spouses you hear about, I am one. It’s been emotional abuse as an adult and emotional/physical as a child.

    It’s invisible to outsiders, and especially invisible because I’m a man.

    It’s unfortunate that this issue has become so politicized. You turned a two-minute political read (win at any cost) into a real issue for me.

    Thank you.

  23. Jimmy
    Jimmy says:

    I remember when we treated other humans with grace and dignity, something I rarely see in the press anymore. People have become incredibly polarized by something that appears to have only been half reported, and every story I see has a spin one way or the other. Why not wait to form an opinion until everyone involved has an opportunity to speak?

    I would hate to be judged today for the sins of my high school years, but as the father of 3 now grown daughters, I’m in favor of punishing predators of any sort as far as we can go.

    I find the complete lack of due process, the very foundation of the constitution they are trying to “protect”, reprehensible.

    • MJ
      MJ says:

      It depends on the sins of your high school years of course. If you knowlingly raped someone and have not atoned for it, I think you should be held accountable.

      If it was just getting drunk for Haloween and egging a house in the neighbourhood it’s a less serious matter.

      Having said that, why would you not take responsibility for the things you’ve done in your life, even in your young adult life?

  24. Pearl Red Moon
    Pearl Red Moon says:

    Huzzah! wonderful commentary Penelope. I’ve re-posted this to my FB page. I’m nearly 60 and was sexually abused, along with my sisters and all female cousins, by my grandfather from when we were infants. Pedophiles have an instinct for seeking out vulnerable young girls and by the time I was 16 there had been a number of other assaults within the family and from strangers. I honestly thought that sexual predation from men was a “normal” behaviour women had to modify their behaviour to try to avoid. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I realised it was a criminal offence. But that seemed laughable as I’d been wholly inculcated to the rape culture by then and understood you said nothing, or else…..

  25. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    I went to a high school just like that. And some of the guys there treated me terribly. I was fair game because I was pretty but not Catholic. I still strongly dislike those people and realize now that living in the state later on in life was hard for me mainly because of that.
    I think a lot of women have a high school story like that. And no one tells them to anyone because ‘it was a long time ago’ and ‘we were all kids’ and to some extent I guess I understand that. People are idiots when they are teenagers, full stop. But still, you can’t act like that. I will strangle My son if he EVER speaks about a girl that way.

  26. HarriedandHopeless
    HarriedandHopeless says:

    Aren’t we forgetting innocent until proven guilty? I recognize this is a hot topic and if this happened, I agree with everyone’s sentiments but I don’t feel Dr Ford has proven her claim just yet. I think we are in danger if we do not uphold the standard of innocence before guilt. Remember the Duke LaCrosse Team debacle? I have a son and husband and fear that being unjustly accused would ruin them. That being said I find the fact that Dr Ford wished to remain anonymous compelling. She never expected to be called as a witness, she simply wanted to give some information to the senators so that they could make an informed decision. Yet she is dragged into testimony. It DOES make one not want to share the story. It is a tough one. I simply think we need to tread justly and carfefully.

  27. HarriedandHopeless
    HarriedandHopeless says:

    ‘I need to keep things to myself and try to help other women by navigating around men instead of trying to work with them.’

    I found this quote chilling and provocative. As many of your quotes are. It is a sad commentary on our times, isn’t it?

  28. brooklynchick
    brooklynchick says:

    I’m so sorry you went through that, and yet I am so glad the news has provided you with affirmation and with a louder voice. It wasn’t ok, it wasn’t your fault, and I hope you will speak loudly on behalf of survivors.

    And, I hope you will teach your boys about consent.

  29. Skylar Rule
    Skylar Rule says:

    Hi Penelope, I’ve followed you for a while. So sorry to hear about your marriage. I thought about commenting then, but this post and the comment about psychopaths finally pushed me to do so.

    Neurotypicals are funny about things, sometimes the scapegoat actually is guilty, but he’s still a scapegoat because neurotypicals need to make an example in order to get what they really want.
    He’s a scapegoat because he’s being held responsible for the sins of the community.

    The reason he behaved that way was because he was allowed – no, encouraged – to do so. If you read Rene Girard’s “Violence and the Sacred” you’d see that the kings are encouraged to break the law. White, rich, young men are raised to feel entitled. They are “the golden child” in our culture.

    If you ask a psychopath why he does what he does, he’ll say, “because I can.” He feels entitled. I came to realize that “toxic masculinity” is caused by having been raised as “the golden child” after I spent time observing a psychopathic woman. The sense of entitlement stood out in stark relief. And then I made the connection.

    My point though, is that we – our community – participated in this culture and then we blame the kings, when after all, it was we who put them on the pedestal. But that’s the way it’s always been done. Nothing new here.

    If the world was run by Aspie’s, it would be much simpler. We’d start at the root and examine the culture. ALL of it.

  30. deimos
    deimos says:

    The leftists know they can lie about anything because the dinosaur media will breathlessly report their version as fact. This is a perfect example.

  31. Vicky
    Vicky says:

    I hope it’s OK to ask this here. I looked on Google but couldn’t find anything. Is there a free test online where I can find my personality type? Thanks so much.

  32. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I just spent the day writing in notes on my iPhone a long and still growing list of all the incidents In which I was sexually assaulted, once physically, peeped on, had a guy on a beach openly masturbate in front of me and worst, my own cousin coming in my room late at night with a hard on( I did not know what that was in his underpants or how?) I was 14. All the other 6+ incidents happened to me by age 24. I did not even mention the very most traumatizing one, which sounds almost exactly like what happened to Dr. Ford, which is why I am exceedingly angry this week and wanting to call up Gloria Allred. Did I tell you one of these rapists later became a Superior Court Judge?!!

  33. Bob
    Bob says:

    Her testimony (assuming it happens) will be nothing more than theater, since her claim is unprovable. It’s merely plausible, so it simply comes down to who you want to believe.

    It’s plausible because almost every alpha teen boy who discovered alcohol did something similar at one time or another, whether they remember it or not. So by today’s standards, the only people qualified for the Supreme Court are women and nerdy incels.

    • Maria
      Maria says:

      This comment implies that since everyone is doing it, sexual harassment should be acceptable. That is part of the problem, no girl or boy should sexually assault or harass others. This should never be viewed as an acceptable behavior. Specially not for somebody who is expecting to receive a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Then I guess the Supreme Court will have to be all women and beta males. So what? I think we have a lot bigger problems in this world than the underrepresentation of alpha males in places of power.


      • Isabelle
        Isabelle says:

        All women and “beta males” (I’d phrase it “men in tune with the Divine Feminine”) in power sounds like a SOLUTION to most of our problems as a culture.
        Let’s do a couple hundred years of that and then see how things stand.

        • Caitlin
          Caitlin says:

          I like men. I think it’s important to believe in and be supportive of men, both alpha and beta. Men and women needn’t be at war with one another, or be willing to throw one another under the bus. I have a great husband, a great dad, and have lots of wonderful, reapectful and protective friends who are men, and I’m happy to see them succeed and be leaders in various areas. I don’t think the world would be a better place if they were all “benched”, and I think it’s sad and unjust to them to suggest that.

      • BW
        BW says:

        Even beta males won’t survive these new rules of evidence.

        Kavanaugh may well have been a drunken sleaze in high school. No shortage of those. But this particular accusation is absurdly flimsy. She can’t say where the party was, or even what year it was. She can’t identify a single person who was at this party other that Kavanaugh and Judge. She told no one at the time, not even a girlfriend. There’s no proof she ever even met Kavanaugh. In fact she has no evidence at all that would be admissible in court. Literally the only reason for buying this story is “why would she lie??”

      • Stephen
        Stephen says:

        Won’t work, the women will lust after the Alpha males and procreate with them, their genes will live on . The Alpha Males will build a new society that comes and conquers the one of women and beta males. Say what you like but ultimately Alpha Males make the world go round.

    • MJ
      MJ says:

      “It’s plausible because almost every alpha teen boy who discovered alcohol did something similar at one time or another, whether they remember it or not.”

      That’s such BS. There are plenty of young men with enough empathy and sense (and decent upbringings) who don’t go around assaulting and raping girls. Not when they are sober and not when they are drunk. Don’t normalize shitty behaviour jst to make your point or because you perhaps crossed a line sometime in your life. (BTW. There is no such thing as ‘alpha teens’. The whole idea of alpha males as aggresive domnators is crock and is not a thing in socio-biology. Do some reading up about alpha males in other primates. They are not bullies or aggresive fascists, they lead a group because they help the weaker indivuduals in the group and foster good group relations. Yes they are also often strong – but not always particularly not always in chimps. Anyway, the term alpha male is completey overused and wrongly used by men anywhere on the the PUA-Incel spectrum).

  34. MB
    MB says:

    Well, I seem to be one of the only women reading this that hasn’t been assaulted by a man. I’ve been married happily for 46 years to my high school sweetheart.

    We both had our times of overdrinking, trying drugs, etc., but we were mutually accountable for making the decision to have sex.

    However, I was sexually abused by a WOMAN as was my brother–our mother was the culprit.

    For a boy to be assaulted/abused in this way is very underreported & causes a huge amount of shame, humiliation, & psychological damage, so no, WOMEN are not automatically qualified for anything.

  35. Joy
    Joy says:

    I replied to a comment made early this morning to agree with the commenter (Stacy, I think was her name). She and I both expressed our dismay that this man is not being presumed innocent until proven guilty. My comments and her comments have disappeared. Neither one was nasty or demeaning, just expressed our opinions. I’m very disappointed that our comments were deleted. Evidently there is no room for opposing viewpoints on your blog anymore. That’s a shame, I will miss reading your blog, but I will not participate in the hanging of a (possibly) innocent man. I sincerely hope that all of you who are rushing to judgment don’t find yourselves or your children on the receiving end of such an attack.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Hi, Joy. I almost never delete a comment. I’m not sure where the comments are. I adore this part of my blog because of all the clashing points of view. I hope you’ll continue to post contentious — non-contentious! – comments. And I’ll look out for them.


      • Joy
        Joy says:

        Please accept my apologies, I did not realize that there were 2 posts about Kavanaugh. As an unschooler I only subscribe to the education posts, which I read on my phone. I went to penelopetrunk.com on my work computer at lunch, and went straight to the comments of the top Kavanaugh article, not realizing it was the wrong one! My comments are still there, and I’m glad you still welcome opposing viewpoints, so many sites do not anymore.

  36. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    There’s a great opinion piece at the Time magazine site today titled “Monica Lewinsky was My Intern.” He writes about how all the women involved in accusing Bill Clinton were treated terribly. He also basically says Clinton should have been impeached. He apologizes for not seeing that. And he apologizes to Monica Lewinsky for not protecting her. It’s a touching, timely piece. I recommend it:



  37. Athena
    Athena says:

    I just read the comment from the woman who said she must be the only one here not assaulted. I thought, me either. And then I realized, yeah, I guess I have been. Assault? Probably Harassment. Constant sexual advances by my CEO in my lost job. An advance by the CMO there that was really lewd. And back in my high school and college days, groping and that kind of thing was THE NORM. So much so that I’ve forgotten. But I’ve never groped a man. So, there’s that.

  38. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I believe Judge Kavanaugh and the testimony he has given in this hearing. I have read countless articles and listened to numerous people share their experiences and give their opinion. Low down and dirty politics has made this confirmation process a spectacle beyond belief and it resembles a star chamber. I can give names, dates, and events of just the last few months that would take more than the length of a post. I’m of the belief that the Supreme Court should be the weakest of the three federal branches of government. I also believe in following the Constitution and its meaning as written and the laws set forth which align with it. I agree with much if not all of Judge Kavanaugh’s approach to the law which includes not legislating from the bench. As for Dr. Ford or anyone else, male or female, I believe they have the right to be heard. As for believing them, it is necessary to listen closely but it is my decision as to whether or not to believe them. Also, I leave it open as to whether or not I believe some, all, or none of their account. I have a link to an article ( http://thefederalist.com/2018/09/25/10-red-flags-sexual-assault-claims-employment-lawyer/ ) written by an employment attorney published yesterday with the title – ’10 Red Flags About Sexual Assault Claims, From An Employment Lawyer’. The tagline to the article is – “It’s not nice or politically correct to say, but people do sometimes lie to get money, revenge, power, attention, or political advantage. False allegations of assault have been documented.” One more thing. I was somewhat leery of the MeToo movement when it caught fire last year. What I see now is it has been weaponized – knowingly and unknowingly. There are innocent people finding themselves in the middle and being sacrificed for a movement.

    • MJ
      MJ says:

      Unjust accusations should be dealt with of course. But way more women have been sacrificed to keep powerful men in their place, compared to those men have been ‘sacrificed’. (Hey, even those who’ve admitted doing wrng like Louis CK can still count on a large fan base. It’s myth that being called out on your sexaul misconducts ‘ruins’ your career. Some people still work with Roman Polanski, for example, or R. Kelly. The USA has a president who openly boast about grabbing women by their pussies and people don’t care enough not to vote for that scumbag. Being guilty of reprehensible behavior does not ruin careers, neither do accusations). With al these kinds of comments, the meta-message to women is: “The justice for the people who have suffered is less important than for the 2-4% false accusations that happen (research shows that false accusations in these cases are not more often than for any other crime)”. And: “Don’t you think for a second the world cares enough about you victims as we do about those in power”. If you are this vocal about caring more about unjustly accused (which do deserve justice, I do not say they should be sacrificed), I would never tell you if you were my friend that I had been raped or molested by my boss ten years ago.

      • Mark W.
        Mark W. says:

        I read the following ( https://thehill.com/opinion/judiciary/408302-judge-kavanaugh-and-the-weaponization-of-metoo ) earlier today – “The idea of ruining a potentially innocent man’s life seems to be OK with some supporters of the #MeToo movement. Teen Vogue columnist Emily Lindin wrote, “If some innocent men’s reputations have to take a hit in the process of undoing the patriarchy, that is a price I am absolutely willing to pay.” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said Kavanaugh doesn’t deserve a presumption of innocence because of his judicial philosophy. She has also quipped that men should just “shut up and step up.” I also heard Sen. Schumer say the same thing about Kavanaugh not having the presumption of innocence. That’s not the way it works in this country. And I don’t think that’s the way it should work in the Senate. As I said earlier, everybody gets their say. They also get to face their accuser and they get to respond to every allegation. The accused doesn’t get questioned first with the accuser doing a followup. Dr. Ford (and/or her attorney) is asking for many special conditions. Many red flags are being raised in this particular case.

  39. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    “. Of course we have no word for that. Because it’s only women feeling a loss of power who need that word.”

    Ask the alter boys who were raped.
    Or the frat boys who were raped.
    Or the actors who were coerced. (Asia Argento anyone?)
    Non-consent is non-consent.

  40. Randy
    Randy says:

    This is the first coherent argument I’ve seen against Judge Kavanaugh. I am still suspicious because she waited 30+ years to come forward, and she came forward a critical political point – is she or her supporters interested in truth, justice & fairness or just democratic politics? I think the moral of this story is it is important to come forward sooner rather than later, not stigmatize victims, and keep an open mind to both the accuser & the accused.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      It’s not the victim’s job to come forward when it’s convenient for the accused. And it makes sense to me that Christina Ford wouldn’t testify until the last minute. She is not getting a job from his hearing. She gets nothing from doing this. It’s awful for her and she’s doing this as a voluntary act of public service. So she waited until she had no other choice.


  41. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    I’m copying my comment from your education blog post because it’s relevant here as well.

    It’s horrific that sexual predators and rapists, even when convicted, are slapped on the wrist instead of spending many decades behind bars. I don’t think it’s aceeptable that we tolerate sexual assault in the way that we do, by giving men like Bill Cosby a few short years in prison.

    I think it’s a mistake to protest here, in this case, in the sentiment of #metoo, using Kavanaugh as the archetypal of oppressive male rapist who has gotten away with slimy behavior and the abuse of power for many years. The evidence that he has assaulted someone is *so* far from clear. As I write this, I see reports that 4 women have come forward with stories of sexual assault. Dr Ford, whose story most clearly accuses Kavanaugh in particular of sexual assault *believes* that he *intended* to rape her. If we take her seriously and believe everything that she says, there is still room for interpretation, even within her own story. The media and your commenters are calling him a rapist and saying that he assaulted multiple women, when that is far from obvious. Your willingness, and the willingness of others, to jump on this as an opportunity for (much needed) catharsis demonstrates how fickle human beings are. Most of us want to believe that we are good, fair people, who easily see the truth and are always courageous enough to act on it. The reality is that people are sheep and easily led by emotion and the zeitgeist, and that’s why we have heuristics like “innocent until proven guilty,” because we’re poor judges. You know this. Your blog is interesting because you have thoughts and ideas that diverge from the packaged narratives readily pushed by the media, education establishments, and institutions around us. I’m surprised that you haven’t been more skeptical of the press in this case, with their headlines (ex “Third Woman Comes Forward Against Kavanaugh for Gang Rape”) being so much more decisive and extreme than the content supports. This is not proper journalism. If they wanted me to be more comfortable taking these women at their word (and I would like to do that), they would report with clear facts and analysis instead of packaging a narrative in the form of propaganda.

    I can make up my own mind about Kavanaugh. And I will do it using specific facts and data available, and in light of the political and cultural zeitgeist surrounding this “trial”, which must be taken into account. Fair people ask “what is an alternative explanation for this?” And they keep that question in the front of their minds.

    • Carol of Kensington
      Carol of Kensington says:

      All the male comments I’ve read seem to indicate they hated Rachel Mitchell’s interviewing technique. I loved it.

      After an hour of asking the accuser questions, Rachel said “did anyone ever advise you…to go get a forensic interview (ie. a cognitive interview). Answer: No – the accuser was advised to get a lawyer and a polygraph test in Maryland on the day of a family funeral.

      Also, didn’t it seem that the accuser had not been told by her lawyers that she had been offered the opportunity to give her statement to the committee anonymously in a location near her home?

  42. J.E.
    J.E. says:

    Is the Amy Chua mentioned here the same Amy Chua who wrote that Tiger Mom book? If so, she’s tanked her credibility.

  43. Philip Dawson
    Philip Dawson says:

    I am a husband and father of four precious and strong daughters. I believe that selecting whom you will believe in advance has the benefit of convenience. It eliminates the work of due diligence, and confirms without facts your views of humanity, derived incorrectly from your very real but anecdotal experience. It also creates its own victims, who will be denied a voice and, by extension, the possibility of justice. This is simply not a responsible solution.

  44. Christine
    Christine says:

    Your post sparked so much emotion within myself. It tells my story along with many other women’s story. Thank you again for having the courage to speak out and share your personally tragedies. You’re vulnerability and just raw transparency is greatly admired and appreciated. Thank you for your post.

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