The power of shame.

In my early days of reporting, I learned a valuable lesson from an older colleague –

If ever a man won’t return your calls – just call his mother. Call his mother, tell her about the story that you’re working on and then explain that you can’t seem to get in touch with her son. You’ve left several messages, yes, but to no avail. Oh, and even if he just wants to offer a “no comment,” could he please just let you know? You would be ever so appreciative. Thank you.

It worked. I can’t tell you how many times I called mothers – who then called their sons and relayed my messages. Along, of course, with their own recriminations.

This my friends, is called “The Power of Shame.”

Unfortunately, all too many old, white, privileged men have lost the ability to feel shame. And their mothers died years ago.

Enter the next generation of men – who are married to women like me.

Today, we witnessed the power of shame when two women confronted U.S. Senator Jeff Flake in the elevator just moments after he announced that he would support Brett Kavanaugh – the latest example of disastrous lapse in GOP … er, judgement?

Enter two courageous women, who, in public and on camera, shared their own trauma and SHAMED Flake for his intent to give Kavanaugh a pass.

Also, this morning, Flake’s friend from across the aisle, Chris Coons, was clearly stunned and upset by Flake’s announcement that Flake would support Kavanaugh.

Informed of Flake’s decision by a CNN reporter – before today’s vote – Coons said: ““Oh fuck. We each make choices for our own reason. I’m struggling, sorry.”

Again, Flake was shamed, this time by a man he clearly respects and considers to be a friend.

How do we know this? Because after Coons’ emotional response and after the two women confronted Flake as he attempted an elevator get-away, Flake did something that GOP men just don’t do – he actually changed his mind.

He crossed the aisle. He met with Democrats. And then he said he could not support a full Senate floor vote if the FBI were not asked to investigate the allegations against Kavanaugh.


Because he, when confronted by real people – traumatized and angry women – and the disappointment of a man he considers to be a friend, Flake … felt shame.

It’s a pity – no, it’s infuriating – that so many white men – especially those in power – have lost the ability to feel shame.

But it’s apparent that they have.

Exhibit A: Mitch McConnell ensuring the public that the Senate would “plow through” with this confirmation.

Exhibit B: Chuck Grassley’s eagerness to just move on a vote and adjourn. His demeanor throughout the confirmation process can be described only as dismissive and harsh.

Exhibit C: Lindsey Graham’s abject horror over poor, poor Kavanaugh – as opposed to a woman who had, convincingly, just laid herself bare when describing how she was sexually assaulted at the age of 15. (If ever God decides to throw down a meaningful lightning bolt to remind us of who is boss, I’m pretty sure she’ll hurl it at Graham. OK, or Paul Ryan. Or Mitch McConnell.)

I could go on and on where senators of a certain age are concerned.

But the point is this – if only their mothers were still alive, I would totally encourage every victimized woman and every female journalist to call them.

Because apparently, these days, where too many members of Congress are concerned, there needs to be some sort of catalyst in order for them to actually feel … shame.

Of course, we know that some Republican men are simply incapable of feeling shame. And that should disturb us. Remember – Kavanaugh’s wife and mother were present yesterday when Kavanaugh decided to rant about how his (entitled, per him) path to a seat on the highest court in America had been made bumpy by a woman who came forward to accuse him of trying to rape her.

And there his wife sat – in stoic silence. And there sat his mother – in support of her son.

So we can conclude that white, affluent Republican women also have lost the ability to feel – let alone, prompt – shame.

Where does that leave us? Well, if we can no longer depend on mothers, then it’s up to those of us who relate to the “Elevator Women.”

We must use our voices. We must tell our stories. We most show ourselves to be relevant. We must remind them also of this – We. Are. Voters.













I know what it’s like to be sexually assaulted

As many of you know – from my previous blog posts – I was an unlucky 15-year-old who caught the attention of a 24-year-old man who attended our church.

It was the summer of 1985. “Dick” had just dropped out of college and moved in with his parents. I was a high school sophomore. He was a loser. I was an idealist.

One Sunday, after church, I noticed him staring at me. Being a young and stupid and impressionable teenager, I was flattered. I was even more flattered when he and one of the guys in our teen group followed us home. Bear in mind, I was a passenger in my mom’s car, along with my two younger sisters.

In a matter of weeks, he had convinced me to start sneaking out of my parents’ house in the middle of the night. We would drive to Lake Travis and make out.

Thanksgiving 1985 – I finally broke down and confessed. Over Thanksgiving dinner. My parents were totally caught off guard. They’d had no idea that any of this was going on.

But hey – the CHURCH was OK with the whole thing. And so, with the church’s permission, I started “dating” Dick openly.

By December, I’d lost my virginity to him – after weeks of moaning and complaining and self-pity on his part. It wasn’t special. It wasn’t romantic. It wasn’t remotely pleasurable. It was simply an act in which I reluctantly participated to placate my “Christian” adult boyfriend.

Over the next five years, our “relationship” spiraled out of control. Dick was jealous and controlling and abusive.

Ever been held down and forced to have sex? I have. Repeatedly.

Ever spent weeks waiting anxiously for your period to arrive because your selfish boyfriend secretively slipped off a condom during one of your intimate encounters? I have.

Ever wondered what you would do if said horrible boyfriend got you pregnant? I have. (Abort. Abort. Abort.)

During the 5 1/2 years I spent with Dick, I was repeatedly held down, told to “shut up” and raped anytime that I refused sex. Note: I refused it for a variety of reasons, one of those being the fear of becoming a pregnant teenager.

In the fall of 1989, my mother noticed fingerprint-shaped bruises on my left arm. And I finally admitted what had been going on.

In short order, I transferred from my local college to the University of North Texas – 3 1/2 hours away from home. And from Dick.

Only then, did I summon the courage to break it off. I was safe. I lived in an all-girls dorm and he couldn’t get to me.

This week, I’ve read Christine Blasey Ford’s account of what Brett Kavanaugh – the GOP’s pick for the Supreme Court – did to her.

I believe her.

And so do the many women who have found themselves in situations in which they were vulnerable and a man – or men – felt ENTITLED to violate them.

It took me years to work up the nerve to describe all of the horrors that Dick put me through – even though I was the VICTIM.

No woman comes forward with a story like Ford’s unless she is telling the truth. Because not only do you fear that you won’t be believed – you fear the many judgements that will be passed on you, but NOT your attacker.

Because, of course, it’s always our fault.  We dressed the wrong way, acted the wrong way, said the wrong things….

… according, that is, to the patriarchy.

But here’s the truth. No one has the right to do what 24-year-old Dick did to 15-year-old me. And Brett Kavanaugh did not have the right to do what he did to a high school classmate.

My body. My choice. MY decision.

Ford’s body. Ford’s choice. Ford’s decision.

Not Dick’s. And not Brett Kavanaugh’s.