Editor’s Note: Patti Solis Doyle, a CNN commentator, served as an Assistant to the President and Senior Adviser to then-first lady Hillary Clinton, was chief of staff on Clinton’s 2000 and 2006 Senate campaigns, and Clinton’s presidential campaign manager in 2007 and early 2008. She is president of Solis Strategies, a Washington-based consulting firm that specializes in serving non-profits, NGO’s and corporations. Follow her @pattisolisdoyle The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers. View more opinion articles on CNN.
One morning, when I was in my early twenties, I left my apartment for the bus stop. I was living on Chicago’s North Side, headed to a temp job downtown. A block and a half from my bus stop, a man approached me from behind and tapped me on the shoulder.
I turned around. He was in his thirties, overweight, short blond hair, mustache, jeans and a T-shirt. He had a beer can in his hand and smelled like he’d been drinking.
He grabbed my breast roughly, yanked my nipple, and said, “I was going to rape you – (****) that sweet ass.” I stood for some seconds – dumbstruck, then scared. “I was going to drag you in that alley over there,” he continued, pointing over my shoulder. “You’re lucky there are too many people around.” He stared at me another moment, then turned and walked away.
My first instinct was to flee, so I turned around and walked briskly to my bus stop. My second instinct was shame. I looked for witnesses as I walked, but not to corroborate a police report. I was worried someone saw the humiliating thing that just happened to me. All I wanted was to get on the bus, get to work, and, as impossible as it seemed, to forget it happened. Calling the police never occurred to me.
Never occurred to me.
When I got to the temp job, I excused myself to the restroom and sobbed. A few minutes later, I pulled myself together and went back to work.
According to Donald Trump, if it had been a real attack, I would have called the police and filed a report. Getting on the bus and reporting for work somehow counts against me.
Senator Chuck Grassley would question my ability to remember a 30-year-old event. He seems to disagree with me and every other woman sharing her story on Twitter under the hashtag #WhyIDidn’tReport. I, for one, remember the feeling of those fingers on my breast – the threat, humiliation, indignity, and fear – in excruciating detail. You just do.
That’s why I believe Christine Blasey Ford’s description of what happened to her at that party in high school 36 years ago, where she said Brett Kavanaugh pinned her down on a bed, covered her mouth to keep her from screaming and tried to take her clothes off. Kavanaugh strongly denies the allegations.
Since Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, have become public, four people have been identified as being at the party. None remembers the incident, or the party. Of course they don’t. It was 36 years ago, and they were not the one allegedly assaulted.
I don’t remember every walk to the bus stop in my twenties. I just remember the one where a man threatened to rape me.
On Sunday, Senator Lindsey Graham said, “I’m just being honest. Unless there’s something more, no, I’m not going to ruin Judge Kavanaugh’s life over this.” Maybe Senator Graham doesn’t believe Ford and thinks the attack didn’t happen. My read on his comment is that events that allegedly happened 36 years ago when a man was 17 and drunk should not affect what is an otherwise successful career.
If so, Senator Graham is not alone in his sentiment. Other members of Congress and plenty of pundits (male and female) have expressed it: We don’t know if it happened, but, even if it did, should it really be disqualifying? “I’m thinking, is there any man in this room that wouldn’t be subjected to such an allegation? A false allegation?,” argued Congressman Steve King. “If that’s the new standard, no man will ever qualify for the Supreme Court again.”
Congressman King, if a man commits sexual assault when he is 17, whether drunk or not, he should not be allowed to, for example, serve a lifetime appointment in the highest court of the land. Period.
There is a new standard. And yes, this new standard may indeed preclude an entire generation of men from judgeships, elected office, and running Fortune 500 companies.
But how is the idea of someone being held responsible for what he (or she) did unfair?
Meanwhile, a generation of women (who, notably, have not been accused of assault) have long been precluded from holding these seats in government and business due to discrimination. Now they might get their chance.
Another answer to Congressman King is that by disqualifying any nominee credibly accused of sexual harassment or assault, or firing them, such as in the case of now-former CBS CEO Les Moonves, or indicting them, as with Harvey Weinstein (both men deny the allegations), a new generation of boys and young men will know that their actions have consequences.
The “boys will be boys” defense no longer holds. Let’s be as crystal clear to all of our sons as my husband and I are to our 16-year-old boy: If you sexually assault a woman, you are committing a crime, and it will affect the rest of your life. Isn’t that what we tell our sons will happen if they get behind the wheel while intoxicated? How is sexual assault less significant?
In less than two years, the universe has changed dramatically. The #MeToo movement changed our culture and the way we, as a society, look at sexual assault and sexual harassment. Women are coming forward. They are working through their fear, shame, and trauma in order to change the rules.
And just as this seismic shift will have an effect on a new generation of boys, it will also have an effect on a new generation of girls. If my 20-year-old daughter gets attacked or harassed, she is much more likely to report it than I was.
As I write this, a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, has come forward. She has accused Kavanaugh of inappropriate sexual behavior in college.
In spite of this, the White House and the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are forging ahead with Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination without an independent investigation looking into the allegations against him. A hearing is set for Thursday where Ford and Kavanaugh are expected to testify.
President Trump, Senators Grassley and Graham, and the rest of their party may never get it, and Judge Kavanaugh may still be confirmed. But make no mistake, the rules have changed. As millions of American women share their #Metoo moments, it becomes harder to argue this “boys will be boys” nonsense.
It gets harder to question 30-year-old memories. It gets harder to ignore women like Ford.
Women across America will be watching on Thursday, and, in just a few weeks, they’ll be voting.