I can tell you two things about childhood sexual traumas such as described by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser. You don’t report them and you never forget them. I know because it happened to me.
I was 14 in 1964 and had landed a job as a paperboy for the Hartford Courant. At the time, the Courant, and its afternoon counterpart the Hartford Times, used young folks like me (mostly boys) to deliver papers to homes in the greater Hartford area. They published and we delivered 365 days of the year. It was sometimes very hard work; it’s why I still start my workday before sunrise.
I was lucky enough to land a route that included a newly constructed apartment house. Apartment houses are great. You can quickly deliver lots of papers, out of the cold and rain. The Courant had a contest to sign up new subscribers, and I easily won the top prize, a trip for me and other high achievers to the World’s Fair in New York.
On the appointed day, I took the bus to Queens with a bunch of other kids. Many of them seemed to know each other, but I didn’t know anyone. Thus, when we arrived at Flushing Meadows I wandered off to explore alone. As I walked along, a gentleman stopped to ask me directions. We spoke briefly (I had no idea where anything was) and then he offered to buy me a Coke. What followed doesn’t really matter, other than to tell you that as I write this I am crying.
Fourteen-year-olds don’t have a lot of coping skills, so I didn’t know what to do. I thought about assaulting the guy, which might bring a police response. I was concerned that he might react violently, and doubted anyone would believe my word over that of an adult, so I said nothing. I tried to forget it and enjoy the rest of the day.
Forty years later I was Connecticut’s chief disciplinary counsel. A case came in involving a lawyer who had been accused (and I believe convicted) of sexually abusing a boy, the son of a couple he was friendly with. I took the case because, as chief, it was my job to take the hard cases. I spoke to the lawyer’s lawyer, and told him exactly what I thought of his client. There was a pause, and the lawyer, someone I respected, told me that the level of vitriol and tension in my voice seemed uncharacteristic for me. I said that I had some firsthand knowledge of the conduct involved. After another pause, he gently asked if maybe I was too close to the case to be objective. I agreed and passed the file to one of my colleagues. I don’t remember what happened after that because I tried to totally shut the matter out of my consciousness.
Fifteen years on, I’m again reliving the events of 1964 again as I read about Blasey Ford’s courage in coming forward and how she is being attacked for not reporting an event supposedly involving Kavanaugh when they were both teenagers. Yes, as many folks have noted, time can change memories and the past isn’t always prologue. People get over trauma much worse than what I or Blasey Ford experienced. Young people, especially when dealing with drugs or alcohol, sometimes do terrible things. Some mature and go on to lead exemplary lives. That’s why we have statutes of limitation.
But speaking of statutes of limitation, the politicians who have condemned the Blasey Ford allegations as old news unworthy of credence forget (or ignore) the fact that most states have adopted very long statutes of limitation and repose on claims related to childhood sexual trauma. This is because of the way deeply troubling childhood experiences can lay dormant in the psyche of victims for a long, long time, only to bubble up years later in response to an unexpected trigger.
To some extent, Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh are vessels where we work out our own values, experiences and conflicts. Those who have walked in her shoes believe her and want Kavanaugh to withdraw. Those who believe in redemption and forgiveness, or perhaps that a greater purpose will be served by appointing a very conservative Supreme Court justice are willing to overlook what appears to be the only blemish on Kavanaugh’s exemplary record of public service.
I’m too close to it to venture an opinion.
Former Connecticut Chief Disciplinary Counsel Mark Dubois is with Geraghty & Bonnano in New London.