By Heidi Stevens
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Columnist Heidi Stevens shares why Connie Chung’s recent letter in the Washington Post is isnpiring sexual assault survivors everywhere.
Connie Chung’s open letter to Christine Blasey Ford is powerful to a degree that’s almost impossible to quantify.
I’m going to try anyway.
In Chung’s essay, first published on Oct. 3 in the Washington Post, the broadcast journalist reveals that she was molested by her family doctor when she was in college.
“What made this monster even more reprehensible was that he was the very doctor who delivered me on Aug. 20, 1946,” Chung writes. “I’m 72 now.”
She chronicles the experience in gut-wrenching detail that both illustrates a typically gaping power differential, him, a long-practicing doctor, her a young college student; him, clothed and standing, her undressed and in stirrups, and reminds us, anew, how much survivors choose to reveal when they come forward.
“While I stared at the ceiling, his right index finger massaged my clitoris,” Chung writes. “With his right middle finger inserted in my vagina, he moved both fingers rhythmically. He coached me verbally in a soft voice, ‘Just breathe. ‘Ah-ah,’ mimicking the sound of soft breathing. ‘You’re doing fine,’ he assured me.
“Suddenly, to my shock, I had an orgasm for the first time in my life. My body jerked several times. Then he leaned over, kissed me, a peck on my lips, and slipped behind the curtain to his office area.”
It’s tremendously brave, and terrifying, to add that to the public record.
“At the time, I think I may have told one of my sisters,” Chung writes. “I certainly did not tell my parents. I did not report him to authorities. It never crossed my mind to protect other women. Please understand, I was actually embarrassed about my sexual naivete. I was in my 20s and knew nothing about sex. All I wanted to do was bury the incident in my mind and protect my family.”
But a year of #MeToo stories and Ford’s testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee inspired her to break her silence.
“Will my legacy as a television journalist for 30-plus years be relegated to a footnote?” she writes. “Will ‘She Too’ be etched on my tombstone instead? I don’t want to tell the truth. I must tell the truth.
“As a reporter, the truth has ruled my life, my thinking. It’s what I searched for on a daily working basis.”
In telling her truth, she will no doubt inspire others to do the same. Every painful, public reckoning inspires countless others.
“I have had over a dozen women tell me a story since last week,” my friend Judy wrote on Facebook. “They had put it away, but now feel compelled to share. It is now safe to tell.”
Isn’t that interesting? It is now safe to tell.
Never mind that the president of the United States publicly mocked and mimicked a woman who decided to tell.
Never mind that his supporters laughed and cheered.
Never mind that the woman is receiving death threats and living in hiding.
Never mind that many, many, many survivors are doubted, disbelieved, jeered.
Never mind that this president is trying to make this a conversation about false accusations. (Which is an irony almost too rich for my blood: The man who launched his political career by falsely accusing the nation’s first black president of lying about his birthplace is suddenly worried about false accusations?)
Never mind all that.
Survivors, everywhere, every age, are saying it. Literally. Never mind. I’m telling my story anyway.
We are witnessing a cascade of bravery that is stronger than the desperate barriers attempting to contain it.
The bravery will prevail.
That’s the power of Connie Chung’s essay.