Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Thank you. You are my hero.
I remember thinking I was a hero once. It was a long time ago. A powerful man tried to do that thing to me. I was only sixteen. I reported him within an hour after the event but was brushed off. Years later, I would learn that he raped a 10-year-old girl in his office while her mother sat in the waiting room. It was only a year after I reported him. That was 1970.
He was powerful indeed. He had written a book and had many powerful friends. Am I being redundant? Power. I tremble at the word. I’m old now, and it still makes me tremble.
After my allegations were ignored, I tried to put the event behind me. I feared retribution for my telling for months and then moved on. Something occurred thirteen years later that made me know I had a moral responsibility to move forward about what had happened. I had always known this man did not start or stop with me. I had to do my part—do what was right. I had no idea what kind of hell awaited me.
I started in 1981. I was after a predator. Unfortunately, he was also a doctor. My friend’s father had been a doctor and often told me that doctors never spoke out against doctors. I knew a doctor who was aware of at least one other victim. His name was Dr. Theodore Sheftel. I asked him for his help. He said no. I could see fear in his eyes through my fog of dismay.
“How can you look at your own children?” I said.
I knew I could not move him to help. Something held him back. I kept on trying, all the while being made to feel like a serial killer by other powerful men—not a hero. But in 1987 the phone rang and it was Sheftel.
“There’s another. Can I give her your number?” his voice was excited.
“Yes,” I said.
Sheftel took the bull by the horns and, from what I can glean, made phone calls to our Board of Medicine. The case took off. Other victims came forward. I drove some of them in to give their affidavits. I provided all the support I could. We succeeded—and failed. The man thwarted prosecution by disciplinarily resigning his license to practice medicine.
After 1981, Any record that I had been in the same space as the man had undergone a coordinated and systematic destruction. Other victims’ records had not.
We had prosecutable cases, but they were hung out to dry. I didn’t connect the dots for years. I surmised the District Attorney’s office didn’t want it to become public that they had declined to prosecute the man for his practices in 1977 for another case. He collected a state pension until the day he died for his crimes.
My reputation never recovered. An enormous number of powerful people had covered for this man. They nearly destroyed me, but at least I’m still breathing.
I understand, Dr. Ford, why you didn’t come forward years ago. It seems, in our society, that the victim is always revictimized as you are being now. Stand firm. You are speaking for victims everywhere. Have courage for us all.
Copyright 2018 Joyce Bowen