Do You Believe Me?
I turned 8-years-old in the summer of 1978. At the time, I was living with my parents and sister south of Amarillo, Texas. We lived in an artist’s colony called Colony Catherine. The colony, which is now defunct, was set on the side of a lovely little canyon called Timbercreek. In those days we were on our own, in the middle of nowhere, just a few artists living in white domes of concrete and steel.
As a boy, I roamed the colony, and the canyon, pretty much at will. My parents trusted that I would be safe, that I could take care of myself. And they were usually right.
One of the artists in the colony was a sculptor, an American Indian man. He was very friendly toward me, welcoming me into his home/studio. He gave me a small, stone bear that he had carved in the Native style. He taught me to value the rocks, saying that everything had a spirit. He made me believe we had a mystical connection to each other.
One day, he raped me. I don’t remember which specific day, or whether it was before or after lunch, or how I got to the studio, or what I was wearing. I do remember walking home. I do remember asking my father if I could never return to his studio. My dad, years later, remembered that request, also. He remembered assuming the man had said something hurtful to me, but he did not know what kind of hurt had occurred. My father told me then that the man had left soon thereafter, never to be heard from again.
I remember the pain. The physical pain, I mean. I remember making excuses for some of the physical results of the attack, including why I walked strangely for a while. I remember the shame. No, I don’t remember the shame. I know the shame, not as a memory, but as a poisoned well I can easily access.
I didn’t tell another human being until I was 20 years-old and in college. I didn’t tell my parents until I was 32 years-old, married with children, and working as a priest. I didn’t speak publicly about it until a few months ago, when I referenced it in a sermon. I’ve never recounted this level of detail in writing or in public, only to a few people. I’m worried about how people I know well, who have never heard this, will feel when they read this. I’m worried about the people who don’t like me, how they’ll use this in their gossip. There is no social, political, or economic benefit to me in writing this.
So why do it? Because I’m angry with this mess around Judge Kavanaugh. I feel like I have to say something, and i want to own all my own stuff in it. I don’t want to just tweet all the snarky-to-outraged things I’m thinking. No, I own my feelings and my experience. Colored by my experience, here is what I think and feel:
I do not have the emotional distance to accept attacks on Dr. Ford. I just don’t. They feel personal, like they’re about me. I think the reason they hit so close to home is because they could just as easily be about me.
If the man who attacked me was suddenly running for governor, I would feel compelled to say something. But I have no evidence. I don’t remember everything about it. I didn’t tell anyone at the time, and not for years after. If he denied it, wouldn’t I be in the same situation as Dr. Ford? So, when I hear people discrediting her, or saying that he’s still acceptable, all I can think is “would you believe me?”
So, that’s my question: do you believe me? And, if you do, why wouldn’t you believe her? And if you do believe her, isn’t there some other equally talented, conservative lawyer who could fill this seat? Are we this cynical now, to actually think Dr Ford, or I, would talk about this for the vague political gain of some group of people in Washington? I pray we aren’t that far gone.
That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. If you don’t believe me, please don’t tell me. I don’t want to hear it.