A letter to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, after her testimony 9/26/18 #BelieveSurvivors

by Crystal Paradis-Catanzaro

I was moved to write a letter to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford during her testimony and subsequent questioning, on Thursday, September 26, 2018. I wrote this letter after she left the hearing, in the early afternoon, and sent it to her, in care of her lawyer. I am so glad that I wrote this before I saw the second half of the hearing — because it’s a capsule in time of what I felt after seeing her part of the day. Things certainly shifted after that, and have many times since.

Friday night, September 28th, I pulled together a Solidarity Gathering at South Church in Portsmouth, NH. I was compelled to hold space for everyone feeling like they needed community. Only a few people showed up, but many more expressed gratitude for knowing that it was happening at all. It felt important, urgent. It was totally necessary for me. We lit candles, we shared our stories, we shared our feelings, we talked about how we could change our culture from perpetuating the dangerous circumstances that make situations like these all too common. It was healing.

During that gathering, I read my letter to Dr. Ford. I wasn’t sure at first if it made sense to share publicly, since it felt like a private note of gratitude — but in sharing it, I felt healed again. And by the example of Dr. Ford, I know that women sharing their private stories, and being open about their feelings and experiences, is important, it matters and it creates further healing. It also continues to break down shame, often the only thing keeping us from sharing openly about our experiences.

With that in mind, I wanted to post my letter to Dr. Ford publicly, in the hopes that others who might have felt similarly will be able to remember and capture that feeling of solidarity that Dr. Ford created simply by telling her story.

Dear Dr. Christine Blasey Ford —

Like millions of others, I watched your testimony live today. In preparation for this hearing, I made necessary preparations to take care of myself. Thankfully, I had the option to stay home and watch the hearing privately, and I gave myself permission to take a break if I needed to.

As Senator Diane Feinstein reported at the beginning of the hearing, the CDC estimates that one in three women and one in six men (roughly 51,798,189 women & 25,043,918 men, according to 2010 US Census population estimates) have experienced sexual violence. I am one of these roughly 76.8 million Americans who are survivors of sexual assault.

As a survivor, I expected watching your testimony to be a difficult and emotional experience. It was. I expected to cry. I did. I expected to experience flashbacks to my own traumatic experiences. I did.

What I was not expecting was the feeling that started slowly and grew stronger throughout the morning session, when you were questioned alternately from two sides of the hearing room. This unexpected feeling was a deep sense of strength and healing.

As Senator Richard Blumenthal articulated how your testimony was a teaching moment for our nation, I wept in agreement with that gratitude to you for indeed offering this teaching moment to the millions of people lucky enough to not previously have had personal experience with this kind of trauma.

But beyond that, those of us who already related to your experience — your enormous community of fellow survivors — were also being shown something else: a model of resilience. You were demonstrating by courageous example that though you could acknowledge, live with and still be affected by this trauma, you were also completely capable of maintaining your dignity, humanity and connection to others — even to those in the room who were not treating you with even a baseline of human respect.

That resilience enabled me to not only watch the entirety of your testimony and subsequent questioning, but also to feel that I was being profoundly and deeply healed by continuing to watch you. Your strength was fueling my strength. Your resilience and humanity was rebuilding my own. I would not have expected that watching this hearing would be a healing experience for me. But as a survivor of sexual assault and countless other traumas endured in the pervasive rape culture of our society, witnessing your composure, intelligence, forthrightness, clarity, openness and good will throughout this otherwise upsetting hearing, was cathartic, inspiring and enormously freeing. Your example gives strength to millions.

It is my deepest hope that you felt the flood of solidarity and strength that was being sent to you by the millions of people who were simultaneously receiving it from you during your hearing.

There is a visual that came to me a few years ago during an emotionally difficult time. I pictured myself being lifted up by all of the women in my community, and simultaneously saw myself lifting them up, too. It’s an impossible image, and doesn’t make much logical sense. But it’s an image that has returned over and over in the years since, reinforcing my values and purpose. This image became reality today as I felt simultaneously uplifted by your courage while I — along, I expect, with millions of others — willed you strength from my whole being.

I hope you felt, and continue to feel, this solidarity from the millions of people who were symbolically and literally being present and bearing witness to you and your truth today.

Thank you, Christine. Regardless of what else happens today, tomorrow or in the future, your resilience and courage was an enormous gift that will multiply in perpetuity. As an individual who experienced deep, unexpected personal healing today, I am forever grateful. If there is any way that we, your community, can bring you more strength and healing, I hope you let us know.

I speak for myself when I quote you from the start of the afternoon session today — “I’m ready.”

— Crystal Paradis

If you are a survivor of sexual assault or violence and are in need of any kind of support, please contact a support service organization:

  • If you’re in the Seacoast, NH area, contact: Haven — 24-Hour Confidential Support: 1-603-994-7233
  • Anywhere in the country: RAINN —  800.656.HOPE (4673)