She didn’t use the hashtag, but today, Fuller House star Jodie Sweetin swapped her usually light-hearted social media posts for a much more serious one, as she added her voice to the ongoing conversation about believing survivors of sexual assault. The reaction? Well, quite frankly, it’s been disgusting.
“I stand with her. I AM her. I was the girl who never reported because I blamed myself.”
Jodie posted these words on her Insta today as Dr Christine Blasey Ford faced a Senate Committee hearing, recounting a time in the 80s when she was just 15 years old, pinned against a bed, sexually assaulted and scared for her life. She says Brett Kavanaugh did it. He says he didn’t.
What’s followed is a clear example of why so many sexual assault survivors don’t speak out in the first place. Just look at some of the vile comments (hopefully some of which have been removed by Instagram) left on Jodie’s page after she showed her support for Dr Blasey Ford. I will not repeat them here, but what it clearly shows is that survivors are not believed. They are questioned. They are taunted. They are ridiculed. They are judged.
But no, they are not believed.
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I stand with her. I AM her. I was the girl who never reported because I blamed myself. I was the woman who never reported because I didn’t want to go through the pain and ridicule. The same sort of pain that I witnessed Dr Christine Blasey Ford walk through today. What we saw today is about a much bigger issue of survivors of sexual assault being persecuted, judged and re-traumatized when they do come forward. We are told that if it were “real”, we would have reported it at the time. Often when we were merely children or young girls. Girls who were assaulted and then had “whore” written on lockers because rumors spread. Girls who were afraid of becoming a pariah in their social circles because they told the truth. It was easier to stay quiet. And as we grew older and it happened again, we had been trained to remain silent. We had learned the lesson that no one will believe us. That even if someone DOES, it holds no consequence. We had watched other women come forward, only to be told “there were no witnesses, so it’s your word against his”, knowing that “his” story is always more believed than “hers”. This isn’t about politics for me. This is about a panel of people brushing aside someone’s trauma. I will not sit still. I will not stay quiet. Although I may never be as brave or as unflinching in the face of such an inquisition as she was today, it has given me hope. That maybe, just maybe, female survivors of sexual assault may be heard. Even if our voice is barely above a whisper. #imwithher #listentoyourwomen #tellyourtruth #ihearyou
“We are told that if it were ‘real’, we would have reported it at the time,” Jodie continues in her Instagram message. “Often when we were merely children or young girls. Girls who were assaulted and then had ‘whore’ written on lockers because rumours spread. Girls who were afraid of becoming a pariah in their social circles because they told the truth. It was easier to stay quiet. And as we grew older and it happened again, we had been trained to remain silent. We had learned the lesson that no one will believe us.”
Jodie’s words and those of all others who are speaking out, are so, so important because changing ‘rape culture’ and shifting the focus to believing the survivor is going to be a long, slow process. But every time we stand up and speak out, it does change, even if only a little bit.
Today, of all days, seems to be a time to listen to those who are speaking out. To reach out to others if you need to be heard. And to just be there for each other.
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And yes, while there were lots of incredibly disappointing reactions to Jodie’s post, there were also many messages of support, including one from co-star John Stamos who said, “PROUD OF YOU JODIE! And love you. You continue to be an inspiration to me and to many others. Thank you, Uncle J.”