As a sexual assault survivor I know the drill. I didn’t watch a second of Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony (other than some of the news highlights) for the same reason I didn’t watch a second of Anita Hill’s, Monica Lewinsky’s, or for that matter George Zimmerman’s testimonies. I know when my heart is about to get crushed again. I know the limits of my ability to cope. And I‘ve learned to do my own sort of damage control: Clean the house. Stay away from TV and social media until it blows over. Do my breathing exercises until it’s safe to look outside my home.
Fortunately I’m in a solid place mental health-wise right now (at least for me). I’ve been in therapy almost 30 years and it has paid off. I’m able to talk about much of my trauma without falling all to pieces. When you’re tender about your own abuse history I recommend avoiding all conversations that stress you out, period. Talk to your therapist.
In my case the obnoxious conversation people keep wanting to have with me is about my #NeverBiden position. As Biden so coyly flirts with yet another run for president I can only imagine a lot of survivors are about to get retraumatized daily. At this writing I feel like I’ve got this. So I wanted to make a little guide available to any survivor (or potential ally) that might be able to use it.
From where I stand Joe Biden’s candidacy is Brett Kavanaugh all over again, but worse. I’m used to the standard lines of attack coming from the right, in defense of Trump, Moore, and Kavanaugh, just for a few recent examples:
*Why is she coming forward now?
*What’s the big deal? / Has it been proven beyond a reasonable doubt?
*Times were different back then, it used to be fine.
*You’re diluting the movement/crying wolf.
The Biden candidacy is like that part of the horror movie when you realize the calls are coming from inside the house. The amount of despair that could fill me, listening to the crowd of Democratic men and unraped women cheering Biden on, would be life-threatening if I allowed it. Luckily I’m strong right at the moment. But Biden’s superpower is his immunity to feedback. This could go much longer than the Kavanaugh debacle and be much more traumatic for survivors.
So if you are a survivor like me, or simply a person who doesn’t get what the furor is all about and would like to be a better ally, read on. I’m here for the TED talk, as they say. I’ve seen that a lot of women my age don’t necessarily understand that this is their chance to step up and be respected. That makes it worthwhile for me to continue sharing despite the marginalization.
If this were a TED talk I’d introduce myself and give my credentials.
My name is Teresa Valentino. In December 2017 I decided to come out as a survivor of child sex trafficking. I refuse to carry these dark secrets alone in shame anymore. Every day of my life revolves around surviving the extreme sexual, physical, and emotional abuse that was my childhood. This is how I became an expert on gaslighting. I’ve written a coming out statement about how sexual assault has impacted my life, called Dear Jimmy: What a Child Trafficking Survivor Wishes You Knew. Please see me on YouTube or my blog at teresavalentino.com to determine my credibility.
That’s one of my prime tips for surviving Joe Biden, knowing who you’re talking to:
- #MeToo v. #NotMePersonallyBut. Eager survivor, beware the mythical level playing field, the one where things are fair and balanced. The illusion of a level playing field is a booby trap set to slaughter the innocent. When someone introduces any sort of false equivalency, whataboutism, or accuses me of whataboutism (which I don’t do) I know they’re trying to do sleight of mouth. For example men sometimes tell me that women can also sexually abuse men. Yes, that’s true. But I already understood that long before they mansplained it. We also don’t live in a toxic femininity culture, so it’s not the point.
Fake fairness happens because privileged, comfortable people need to pretend you’re on their same page, that things are even, so the inequity can’t be discussed. When anyone brings one of these “Joe Biden is fine” conversations to me, my first step is to determine whether the person I’m talking to is #MeToo or #NotMePersonallyBut.
Not personally knowing anything about something has never stopped people from having lots of feelings about it before, and it still doesn’t. The Biden 2020 and #Vote Blue No Matter Who conversations are full of people who have very strong opinions including about sexual assault.
With motivated reasoning logic is beholden to emotion. A motivated reasoner will reject facts that are emotionally challenging for them. Motivated reasoning became a full-on trend with the tea party/freedom caucus crowd, then blossomed with Trump. I’m now seeing motivated reasoning on the left in support of Biden. One problem with motivated reasoning, it can make people very aggressive conversationally in ways that they are mostly oblivious to. But you, gentle survivor, must needs run a much stronger game to survive.
Many people have confronted me about #VoteBlueNoMatterWho. I would go for that if Joe Biden wasn’t in the mix. But as of now he is, and I’m too old — and too marginalized — to play that game, sorry. Next time they ask me to “hold my nose and vote for…” I’m writing in Cthulhu No more lesser evils for this old hag.
When people want to shame everybody who won’t get on board with #VoteBlueNoMatterWho, they often throw out a false equivalency: just because it isn’t your ideal person, just because somebody has weird hair or ate salad with a comb one time, don’t be a baby. Just vote Democrat. But the gripes against Amy Klobuchar do not belong in the same conversation with Joe Biden’s lifetime of trampling women’s sexual boundaries, period. Even if you don’t interact with them, survivor, remember to reject that person’s input along with the false equivalency it rode in on.
All my life the Democrats have been doing this good cop/bad cop routine where they plead and cry, “This is the most important election of our time!” Literally every election. Of course Chuck, Nancy, and Steny want you to promise to lap up whatever weak sauce they ladle out, because hey, at this point the other guy is almost Hitler. As if things got this bad on somebody else’s watch.
So no thanks, I’m not going to let Miss Nancy act like my abusive mother. I’ve learned to disengage from people who don’t care what I need. I’ve worked through my Stockholm syndrome. If the Democrats want me in the conversation they can make a place for me. I’m not cleaning up after a party I wasn’t invited to.
Joe will eventually fuck off. He’s insisting on more collateral damage before he faces reality, because he can.
Thanks to Joe Biden’s vainglorious swan song, I have been pleasantly surprised to see that #MeToo is a smaller club than I had assumed. I grew up in the days before anybody ever talked about sexual assault. There was no way to know about others except when someone dared to whisper it to you. Confessing that to someone back then was like handing them a weapon that stayed sharp against you forever. Still women did tell each other. We lived our lives ready to burst, so eager to tell. It was always both thrilling and horrible to have someone else let me know I was not alone in this way. Such awkward conversations all around. My sexual assault history began in 1972. I went public about it December 2017.
So on the one hand, I’m glad to see so many people weren’t harmed, now that I can begin to see the division. On the other hand, lots of the people who weren’t abused are now the comfortable white people MLK warned me about. They’re Biden 2020, #VoteBlueNoMatterWho. They may have #MeToo in their Twitter profiles, but their arguments and positions are — whether they get it or not — pure rape culture.
It’s usually clear to me right away whether the person has been initiated into this club nobody ever joins voluntarily — or not. Usually not. Nobody ever asks me how I could tell they’d never been raped, which I think is a pretty huge conversational bust. My #MeToo dues are paid in full, I’m a platinum member now. I can no longer be gaslit. If someone wants to educate me they need to tell me what they know about rape and where they learned it. Nobody has ever taken me up on that offer. So if you’re standing your conversational ground, start by asking them for their bona fides. They usually don’t have any.
People with no skin in the game (#NotMePersonallyBut) don’t hesitate to throw out their opinions in competition with those of us who live in isolation. Don’t be that guy. It’s okay to not know how to feel about something. Ask yourself, “Have I suffered from this? What has this social issue cost me personally in my life?” If nothing, the best thing to do is listen to people who have lived that experience and let them help shape your position, rather than forcing them to compete with your voice to be heard. If you’ve never been assaulted, and you’re not willing to listen and learn, please don’t bring it up. It’s painful for the survivor, not for you.
Think about any #MeToo conversation in terms of legal standing. Legal standing is what allows people to state their case in court. If they can show some form of damages, that they have a valid complaint, they are worthy of being heard out. In court the person with the most standing, the one who got hurt most, gets to talk first. The people who incurred no damages whatsoever can STFU to those with standing. So if you’re #NotMePersonallyBut, the polite thing to do is go sit in the gallery and stop talking over the survivors. If you’re a survivor, even with standing unfortunately it’s a very long line. In my lifetime most of us have died without ever getting called to testify. But we can stick together now in a better way, and here we are.
If you’re a survivor entering any rape-adjacent conversation, vetting is your essential Step 1. I’ve learned to just come out and ask people: I’m a survivor of sexual assault. Are you claiming #MeToo? Usually they’re people playing politics with your misery, and that question alone will run them off because they don’t actually care. If they do say they’re #MeToo and they still have a crazy opinion see Point 5 below. Of course if you’re not at the stage of your process where you can comfortably engage this conversation at all, don’t. You owe nobody anything, especially when they’re trolling you.
2. DARVO — Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim-Offender. Understanding DARVO is vital for survivors and allies alike. DARVO is, in brief, what a guilty person does when confronted. The conversation shifts from an accusation against them to the horror of them being falsely accused. The accused instantly becomes the victim. If they DARVO it’s a lock, they’re guilty. Once you learn the pattern you will see it over and over again.
DARVO was Brett Kavanaugh crying that his entire life, including his profession, marriage and family, have been permanently and irrevocably ruined by false accusations. Actually none of that is true. He’s now on the Supreme Court, still married with two kids, probably still likes beer. Every bit of that was just whiny ass DARVO. When he challenged Amy Klobuchar’s authority, turning the questioning around on her, that was another classic indicator of a guilty sex offender. That alone would convince a sex crimes judge he was guilty.
Biden hasn’t officially pivoted to DARVO yet, for the record. But the presumption that all objections to his sexual behavior are purely political is borderline DARVO. His supporters are not entertaining the possibility that it was not okay to constantly sniff and kiss people, that his targets truly didn’t like or appreciate it even at the time.
3. Understand Rape Culture. In rape culture social support is implied for the abuser, not the abused. Someone who begins the Trump/Moore/Kavanaugh/Biden discussion questioning and criticizing the accuser(s) rather than the accused is comfortable in rape culture. The burden of the entire conversation remains 100 percent on the accuser, zero on the alleged abuser. If somebody steals your car you don’t have to prove that you didn’t loan it to them. Even if you left it unlocked, with the keys in, stealing a car is always a crime. Not so with rape.
In rape culture it’s up to each and every accuser to halt Joe Biden’s inappropriate behavior or explain why she didn’t. The one who has been offended has to rebut every political (sociopathic) objection #NotMePersonallyBut can throw. The accuser is guilty until proven innocent, an enemy of the status quo, either a political hack or a money/attention seeking boat-rocker. (Because just like being black is the best way to become president, nothing brings fame and fortune like getting raped, amirite?) The accuser is owed and receives absolutely nothing but scorn from rape culture.
On a healthy planet it would be on Joe to explain why he ever once walked up to any woman or girl, closed his eyes, and took a deep whiff of her hair. Period. When someone tells you that such an overtly sexual gesture is neutral, that’s called gaslighting. Such a person usually has the privilege of never having had their personal space invaded to any significant degree, so it costs them nothing to turn a blind eye to your pain. If something feels icky to you, it is. Don’t let people lie to your face. This was the hardest thing I learned as a survivor, how to not be gaslit.
One woman said of Biden, “Let me know when there are more than a dozen accusers.” That person doesn’t think we’re 3/5 of a man, she thinks we’re 1/12 or less. I recommend not even engaging anyone at that level of failed humanity. On social media immediately mute or block them. If it’s in person laugh or fart and walk away. With friends like that you don’t need Republicans.
As a survivor, when someone asks, “Why is she coming forward now?” your question should be, “why are we questioning her and not him? How did Joe get insta-exonerated on what looks like clearly sexual behavior? Why is it on each visibly uncomfortable preadolescent girl to either regulate the Vice President’s kinks in real time or immediately march to the police?”
Don’t bother with the logical explanation that Lucy Flores gave, about the vetting process being the ideal and often only opportunity to bring such things up. The pro‑Biden motivated reasoners are not here for that conversation any more than the Palin/Trump fans. They’re trolling, whether they get it or not. Drill, baby, drill.
Think about it: Biden had the element of surprise working in his favor each and every time, in case this argument sounds vaguely reasonable to you. Why should random women and girls be expected to thwart an agenda they’re not privy to? One to which many of them were far too young to consent? One so quirky that even sexually mature women couldn’t anticipate it?
To be clear, Joe Biden has a well-documented history of behaviors that appear to meet the DoJ’s definition of sexual assault:
“The term “sexual assault” means any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.”
Touching someone without their approval is called battery, and that’s a crime nationwide even if it’s not proven to be sexual in nature. Joe routinely grabs women and girls he does not know by the chin, hair, or shoulders in a way that surprises and often displeases them. He appears to smell and fondle hair for sexual, or at least highly gendered, otherwise inexplicable reasons. There are highlight reels of him doing this closed-eye hair sniffing over and over, with women and girls who are clearly uncomfortable. I’ve seen preadolescent girls elbow him and step away after seeming to feel a bad touch. The one where he can’t resist smelling the hair of a blonde 2-year-old — not kissing her head, smelling it — was the worst one I saw. He tried and failed to restrain himself because of how weird it was. I’m not looking at any of that again, people can dig up their own links.
Those of us who have dealt with creeps all our lives know them when we see them. Many of us have felt a rapist’s lips on the backs of our ears. It’s a ridiculous conversation to me. See Point 4(b) below. For an idea of how clearly kinky Joe’s behavior looks to those in the know, read Natascha Kampusch’s brilliant 3,096 Days in Captivity, especially the part where he brings her up out of the dungeon and shackles her to the bed when he wants to spoon. Having met lots of very rude perverts in my life, for me this is a true no-brainer. Joe is a creep.
Nobody has ever given me a perfectly fine, not-gross-at-all reason for the hair sniffing. It’s not clear to me how they have all confirmed that there’s no little girl hair in Joe’s spank bank. The closest anyone has come was saying that “some people like the smell of puppy breath.” People often say such things to me without a drop of shame. When they stoop to that level you’re basically talking to a leftish tea partier. #gaslighting #pictophilia #olfactophilia #exhibitionism #pedophilia
There’s one other sexual kink that I see on display with Joe Biden. I don’t know the name of it, but I observed Larry Nassar doing it. Larry had worked things out such that he routinely diddled girls right in front of their parents. That’s absolutely part of the thrill with him, even beyond the exhibitionism aspect, doing it in plain view. He got off on the carte blanche. From prison Nassar is claiming that all he’s guilty of is medical malpractice. Biden says he has nothing to apologize for.
Despite the common refrain, “I didn’t know it was abuse,” throughout the Nassar sentencing I heard dozens of people say that they did complain, many of them in real time. One victim who later killed herself told her mom in the car on the way home. What was so special about Larry that they needed to squash each and every one of those girls, no matter how many came forward? Were there no lady orthopedists in Michigan? What’s so great about Larry/Joe? Why does it need to be him?
4. To survive this pro-Biden gaslighting you must recognize the unspoken articles of faith:
(a) There is no such thing as male privilege.
(b) Lucy Flores was the first person to bring it to Biden’s attention, and even she says it wasn’t sexual.
(c) He says he didn’t mean anything by it and will do better in future. Good enough.
and the one-liner that is expected to never fail:
(d) “I’m a survivor too, and I can accept his apology and move on. Why can’t you?” (See Point 5, below).
4(a) As of this writing the elephant of male privilege is still perfectly welcome in the donkeys’ living room, and apparently will be forever. If you’re a survivor and someone starts working your nerves about Joe Biden, ask them if male privilege is real. They don’t have an answer for that, and it will likely end the conversation. Even woke guys who fight for their own humanity, like men of color and gay men, almost never have our backs on this. Like the famously awful racist white women, guys who have one foot on the short side of privilege rarely see their own privilege over women. Remember, there are many adorable animal videos you can watch for free on YouTube while others work their processes.
4(b) Biden started running for president as soon as he was legally old enough, during the Teddy Roosevelt administration maybe. He has been a senator all my life, and was Vice President for eight years. The idea that he’s had that amount of handling all his professional life and nobody’s ever once mentioned that he should stop compulsively sniffing hair, it’s laughable. In real life there is no way he hasn’t been told about this dozens, possibly hundreds or even thousands of times. Even if he hadn’t, he’s been publicly told he was out of line at least seven times recently, aside from Anita Hill, and still refuses to apologize to anyone for anything.
Let’s pretend for a minute nobody ever mentioned to him about the hair fixation, despite “creepy Joe Biden” appearing on knowyourmeme.com like five years ago. There is credible reporting that female Secret Service agents complained about Biden insisting on swimming and walking around nude while they guarded him. Was that just his grandfatherly way of connecting with them, too? What are the odds nobody ever mentioned that to him at the time? Has Obama endorsed him? [No.]
Speaking now as a lowly former paramedic I can tell you how close to impossible it would be for a Secret Service agent to go public with such a story. The reporter making the claim about Biden’s Secret Service complaints is the same one who broke the story about the agents cavorting with hookers in Colombia. He clearly has excellent sources within the Secret Service. For whatever reason his reporting has only been reviewed by wingnut news outlets. The fact that we’re never going to investigate Joe’s behaviors reminds me of how we never heard from Mark Judge. Same shit, different day.
4(c) “He didn’t mean anything by it” is the new “just locker room talk” “things were different back then” and “I can’t recall/check my calendar/I like beer.” All of that is “boys will be boys.” It’s the bullshit excuse we’re accepting today because rape culture. As a survivor I can assure you this entire Biden conversation is like yet another dreadful sequel of a movie that shouldn’t have been made in the first place.
4(d) As credible ally Seth Meyers pointed out, again, Biden has never apologized to anyone for anything, including Anita Hill. He didn’t apologize to Lucy Flores or the other six accusers that came forward recently. He said, “I get it, I get it.” When did, “I get it, I get it,” stop meaning “shut up already, I don’t care”? Accepting that as an apology would be a stretch even if he hadn’t doubled down by mocking accusers and pressing forward with running anyway. I’m waiting for Joe to take his “I’m a rock star” victory lap after crushing us, just like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham did after they held us down so Bart could boof us.
Think about this: Trump’s video trolling Biden’s non-apology was, I thought, the funniest comedy I’ve ever seen from the right wing. And look how much outrage that caused on the left. The troll in chief actually stopped doing it because of the backlash. Who else has he ever backed down on? Again, how did Saint Joe get pre-exonerated?
There’s not nearly enough daylight between Don and Joe for my money. A vote for Biden is a vote to waive my right to personal agency, protect male privilege, and fully normalize rape culture on the left. Personally I would rather die than vote for Trump or Biden.
5. Beware of fake survivors. Sometimes I do come across a person who is not a Men’s Rights Advocate, not a deliberate rape troll, not a political animal, and not an older woman with low expectations for personal agency, and they still don’t agree with me about this.
Occasionally someone who seems to be a credible rape survivor is okay with Joe Biden, Alyssa Milano for example. The fact that Joe clearly ran around asking people to vouch for him is a self-bust to my eyes. In rape culture as long as he hasn’t touched you personally, he’s fine. If you do watch the Larry Nassar sentencing, your drinking game should be “I hated it, but I didn’t know it was abuse.” I won’t go as far as to say Diamond and Silk, but Alyssa Milano is like the Lynne Patton of #MeToo.
Whatever experiences Alyssa Milano has had, unlike most of us she has also had an extreme amount of financial and social support. She does not seem to have lost any standing by coming out #MeToo, quite the opposite. Alyssa Milano can’t dismiss my objections as a marginalized rape survivor. Just because I’m still out here on society’s margin and she’s rich and famous, just because she easily gets the mic and I never do, that’s not me authorizing her as my spokesperson. Alyssa felt personally safe to come forward long before I did, and has much better support. I’m not sure she’s in front of me in the metaphorical legal standing line.
I ignored the #NotMePersonallyBut woman who tried to shame me about my lack of gratitude “for all Alyssa has done for you.” That’s a lunatic and/or a garbage person. Don’t waste seconds of your life on them. They have so little standing they’re not allowed inside the courthouse.
Let me now discuss the most pernicious and malignant form of rape troll discussed herein: the brazen liar. Kellyanne Conway is the brazen liar archetype personified. She claimed #MeToo just long enough to silence a Kavanaugh critic, wasn’t challenged about it, then never mentioned it again. Mainstream media doesn’t hire people like me as pundits because I would have promptly called bullshit and ruined the whole game.
The brazen liar is usually a political animal like Kellyanne whose only concern is winning the argument for their team. The lives of other people aren’t real for them. Your pain is something they can use to improvise a conversational explosive device.
For example most of the Biden bros assume my objections are Bernie-based. That has nothing to do with my real life, but who cares? They’re political creatures who are comfortable within rape culture, and are literally unable to imagine that anyone else isn’t just as comfortable and morally bankrupt as themselves. It’s an extreme empathy failure, and it’s unfortunately very common. They want to shut you up, so they claim a level playing field (see Point 1 above) and contradict you. Simple!
Brazen liars are challenging for a survivor to deal with. Unless you have your survivor ninja moves well in hand, avoid brazen liars at all costs when they talk about rape. Similar to bad touch, when something sounds ridiculous it probably is. That ridiculous conversation works for the brazen liar even as it eats your cake.
Brazen liars say stuff (before deleting all their tweets) like:
- “I was raped at gunpoint at 17 but I don’t let it define me.”
- “Being sniffed isn’t rape. Rape leaves you screaming on the floor.”
- “You aren’t being fair to real rape survivors.”
Keep in mind that “you aren’t being fair to real rape survivors” is often the first thing people say to try and shut me up, their first words to me. It’s frequently someone who piles on to another troll conversation. I started this article with the most important points, not in the order in which you might need them.
Anyone who tries to define, quantify, or qualify rape in these circumstances (in contradiction to me) is not coming from a place of clarity or integrity. I know for sure because I am coming from clarity and integrity. When somebody credible corrects me, I’ll change.
The person who said “rape leaves you screaming on the floor” disappeared when I pushed her on that bizarre presumption. I don’t know how many times I have been raped. I’m still piecing it together. But I distinctly remember not screaming. See how easily a real survivor can spot a blatant liar? It’s like Todd Aiken’s legitimate rape. At that point you may be educating lurkers, but the other person is beyond help. Expect them to delete all their tweets and flee as that dork did. I end a lot of conversations, but I never delete my words.
The absolute worst scofflaw, for my money, is the #NotMePersonallyBut who tells me I’m “diluting the movement,” “being unfair to real rape survivors,” or any other form of “crying wolf” accusation. Like the woman who needs to hear from a dozen or more aggrieved parties before she cares ever so slightly, the “don’t cry wolf” crowd needs things to be extremely brutal for #MeToo before they can be asked at all. They don’t do sexual misdemeanors.
The idea that a woman’s autonomy is like the good china that we save for special occasions is an enormous red flag. This logic comes from someone who devalues your humanity. Every thought they think about you is a microaggression, whether they get it or not. I find this an especially vicious form of concern trolling, as if they’re looking out for the best interests of survivors. They claim to be protecting me from myself, acting as my guardian and spokesperson. They know what’s best for #MeToo. My goal at such moments is to make the conversation as painful for them as possible, to bring their skin into the game with my insight and honesty.
In other words, when someone tries to shush me by accusing me of crying wolf, I go into wolf mode. I first got raped in 1972 and it’s still my #1 chore each and every day. I have begun spewing facts of my own history at such times, detailing without warning the violent truths I was forced to hide. I’ve realized that rape culture’s extreme investment in silencing me is a clue as to how much my words can hurt them.
A liar who tries to protect the #MeToo movement from me deserves to be traumatized by my truthful sharing. It’s the most compassionate thing I can do for myself, them, and whoever is lurking: inject some reality into the deeply toxic conversation. Brazen liars are never up to a real conversation. Everybody wants to be a wolf until it’s time to do wolf shit.
The wolf thing is an advanced move, which I can do now after almost three decades of therapy. If you’re newer on your survival path, or it’s still too emotionally sore, just avoid them and their trolling conversations altogether. Clean the house. Do your breathing exercises. Watch this video (full screen and subtitles) on a loop.
Remember, dear #MeToo, that nobody is entitled to a second of your time. Nobody is entitled to a response, to know your thoughts, or even to be cursed out by you. I do “verbal hijab” now, modesty with my words whether other people are comfortable with that or not. If you’re a survivor and you are not okay with something even though lots of other people are, do not let anybody tell you that it’s fine and you should be fine too.
Hopefully my words have prepared you to respond in a way that’s healthy for yourself and defies rape culture. Stand up for what you know to be right, no matter what anybody tries to tell you about it. It may be hard in the short term. But in my experience that commitment to yourself and your truth is the armor that will carry you through.