Those roles became real to me when I went away to college in San Francisco. A friend asked if I’d join her and go on a blind date with an acquaintance, explaining that it would be a foursome. I agreed because it sounded like fun. That night I got into the back seat with a young man I had never met. All was fine until my friend’s boyfriend parked his car at Coit Tower and pulled a curtain across the middle of the car, separating the front and back seats. My date turned to me and suddenly became quite aggressive. His hands were all over my body as he tried to hold me down and remove my clothing. I finally pushed him away and climbed out of the car. I don’t know who he was or how I got back to the dormitory. I only know that I was scared. The year, 1965.
I suspect most women in my age group have similar stories they could share. Young men and women were not taught how to interact with one another, and they often learned about relationships and sex through James Bond and backroom gossip. This does not excuse inappropriate behavior, but it is the reason why seemingly good people behaved poorly.
Fast forward three decades, Bill Clinton was president when I was the Dean of Students at a prestigious university in the East. When he declared that “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” shock waves traveled across the campus. His words and actions blatantly violated the university’s Code of Conduct, a code which I was charged to enforce. Several times, I had to explain to students why they were held to a higher standard.
Now two decades later, we are confronted with the Kavanaugh vs. Ford case. It is not easy to handle a she said, he said situation, but it is nearly impossible to fairly adjudicate a case that is as old as this one. Details are elusive, memories are fragmented, and slander is a risk.
And yet, this dispute has become a platform for many and an outlet for others. It has resurrected hurts across the population and in so doing, it offers us a rare opportunity for healing.
I sincerely believe we are together creating common ground. This is not only extraordinary, it is also revolutionary. And, it is the reason we must proceed with care.
I share a meditation as a closing.