The #Resistance to President Trump had already embraced direct confrontation of administration figures, whom Democratic legislators such as Congresswoman Maxine Waters encouraged protesters to harass in restaurants or at home. But survivor-protestors’ demand to be looked at—seen—became integral to their campaign to stop Kavanaugh. “Look at us! Look at us! Look at us!” chanted a crowd of protesters to Senator Joe Manchin. “How many stories of sexual violence do you need to hear in order to believe women?” three protesters shouted at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in an airport. “Senator McConnell, do you always turn your back on women like this?” one asked, as he ascended an escalator. “We believe survivors! We believe survivors! We believe survivors,” yelled a mob surrounding Senator Ted Cruz and his wife at a restaurant.
The narratives of survivors, combined with the spectacle of their distress, are presented as irrefutable proof of their victimization, and by extension, their political rectitude; believing them becomes an act of faith compelling whatever action the survivors themselves dictate as necessary. The intensity of their anger and pain is self-justifying. Sexual assault traumatizes its victims, in this view, such that their manifest agony transcends standards of physical evidence, coherent timelines, corroborating testimony, or the presumption of innocence of the accused. Gaps in survivors’ accounts—such as Christine Blasey Ford’s inability to remember much about Kavanaugh’s alleged assault of her—demonstrate conclusively that the event occurred, because only trauma can distort memory so precisely. Elle praised Maria Gallagher for breaking her silence about her rape to Senator Flake, supposedly for “the first time,” though her statement contradicts that claim, and actually refutes itself: “I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me. I didn’t tell anyone.” Trauma overwhelms history and fact. The narrative is paramount; every telling is the first telling.