Dr. Ford's Testimony Visualises My Inner Trauma. This Is My #MeToo Story
I am a survivor of mild sexual assault as well as a survivor of bullying. Dr Christine Blasey Ford is my hero.
**Warning: My experience talks about sensitive issues like bullying, alcoholism, sexual assault and suicide**
Written on 07/10/2018
I watched Dr Ford's testimony and questioning in full on YouTube a week after they happened, because I wanted to see for myself what she was subjected to which didn't pick up the headlines.
What I watched wasn't just a testimony, it was a visual display of what Dr Ford characterised herself: An annihilation.
The cover picture of this story is one that visually shows the pain that people with deep trauma suffer. Every time I look at it whilst writing this, I burst into tears. Dr Ford's face shows the pain deep down. The pain I have locked away for 20+ years.
From the age of 6 or 7, I remember feeling different in how I was treated at school. There was a gut feeling that I was different but I never knew why or how.
I remember being in the playground at my first school and other kids were playing games with each other, whilst I was standing against the wall just watching with admiration and curiosity. In my middle and high schools however, I wasn't just against the wall watching—I was sometimes against the wall because someone was pinning me there.
As I was hitting double numbers I remember not only feeling curiosity, but now what I describe as loneliness. This is when I remember names being directed at me and people chastising and making fun of me. My surname is Sugg so I was the butt of being called "slug," which I became used to but it laid the foundation of the emotionally broken person you’re hearing from today.
When I got to high school in 2002, it turned from words by individuals to orchestrated attacks by groups of people.
My home life really effected me also. Having an alcoholic mum and an absent father (I never met him and I never got a chance to) made things worse as I didn't have any support network.
I'm going to be courageous like Dr Ford and actually name the people who have physically assaulted me.
Leaving home every morning after a night of endless crying into my pillow and listening to Evanescence whilst my mum and step dad were arguing downstairs, I got on the bus to my high school thinking it would be the only bit of breathing space I got from the abuse at home and school.It was from the age of 14 that I remember someone who was 2/3 years younger than me, Chris, chose to pick on me. He and his friends would move seats to be closer to me and just call me names and throw stuff. The other kids would sit and watch as someone who was in high school was being bullied by someone younger and just taking it. I faintly remember retaliating once or twice but this made it worse because I was then seen to be bullying someone younger... Then I was trapped.
After the harassment and bullying on the bus and feeling emotionally crushed already, it was then time for school. Going up to the classroom in high school and knowing that my Form (registration class) generally disliked me. Some would make it obvious whilst others would be less vocal about it. Out of all the places, registration was one of my sanctuaries where I only had to say my name and then could get on with thinking about how I would get through the day. After 15 minutes, I would hear the bell go for first lesson and that was the continuation of my day of being emotionally beaten to a pulp.
Every lesson there was always at least being laughed at or picked on by sitting next to someone. Sometimes I would be left standing in the classroom with all empty chairs held closely to the table as I would look around to see where I could sit... The teacher sometimes shouting at me to sit somewhere, and forcing someone in the class to let me sit next to them so the lesson could just start. If it was a class which was "setted," I'd be with different people than my Form and this meant a new wave of bullying.
The one person I dreaded every second of every day of bumping into, let alone being in a lesson with, was Adam. Every time he saw me, he found anything and everything to say to me and, when he could get away with it, whatever he could throw at me. I quickly learned in high school not to go out into the playground at break times because Adam would hunt me out. I stayed in my classroom, often crying, watching from the window whilst everyone was having fun. At lunchtimes, I would run from the classroom when I saw my year being called into the dinner hall, hoping I'm not called names or picked on. After eating, I’d go back to the classroom.
Adam and his "friends" Chris and Charmaine would sometimes find me in break times or outside the classroom we were going into and push or kick me. I didn't want to fight back because I just didn't want to make things worse, and also I didn't have the strength or people who would support me. The experiences every morning (and most afternoons) with Chris on the bus taught me that I was either going to be bullied until I broke down in tears and/or a teacher came around the corner, or retaliate and get punched, kicked and verbally abused.
I had one friend who stuck with me from kindergarten to beyond school—Alfie. He was someone I grew up with but lived about 8 miles from and was a really popular guy. We were only ever in one or two classes together in high school, and seldom spent time in the playground because either I wasn't out at break times or he was with his group of friends.
However, I remember him often speaking to me for 3 hours on the phone outside school, and we would go round to each other’s houses most weekends and spend time together. I often told him how I felt and he did try to help by talking to his friends to give me a chance to fit in, but this didn't work. I remember an occasion after we had left school where he apologised watching me getting bullied and I just burst into tears and said "it's ok." The fact he had noticed, and on a rare occasion saw Adam bully me, and apologised comforted me a lot.
6 hours of school a day and the bus journeys there and back, living on an emotional edge and often being annihilated, belittled, and degraded would take its toll when I would go back home. Every night I would lie under my duvet and cry in emotional pain. There were a couple of times when I would call ChildLine and try get support and listened to.
I lived in a hamlet of 12 houses where I was the only young person. About half a mile down the road was a village in which some kids from my school lived, but didn't show any interest in me. I didn't want to confront anyone and try force friendship because I had no experience of this and didn't want to embarrass myself.
I quickly resigned myself to the fact that I would be bullied every day but without a clear idea as to what about me it was. No one ever told me what they were mocking or bullying me for, it would just happen. I still don't know to this day.
In Dr Ford's testimony and questioning she could only remember significant details of her trauma which have been stuck in her memory whilst the rest have disappeared, and this is perfectly charactised in the Time Magazine cover a week after the trial.
I know who my bullies were. I know some features about the room I was in on occasion. I remember the look on Adam's face. I remember the feeling of having all my confidence knocked out of me.But what I don't mostly don't remember is what was said to me. I don't remember how I got through the days. I remember crying, but I don't remember smiling in school.
Just because I don't remember everything doesn't mean it happened to me any less. My repeated crying and breaking down whilst writing this is enough to evidence the lasting emotional impact on me.
#MeToo: My Story of Sexual Assault
Like Dr Blasey Ford and millions of others, I too have been a victim of sexual assault. When I was 18, I had split from my ex-partner and moved out of our flat. I was young, naïve, and wanted to stay in college. My partner was emotionally abusive, had cheated, and was controlling to the point where I couldn't see my friends. Enough became enough. I moved out and separated from them after they shook me awake at 3.30am asking me who I'd been talking too.
The day after this incident, I packed my belongings and went and stayed with (who I thought was) a friend of ours who lived in the house we first moved into together. Vernon was old, probably in his late 60s or early 70s. He lived in a bedsit with a tiny sofa and a double bed against the wall. It seemed a good place because it was a short walk to college and I was trying to deal with my relationship breaking down.
The living situation wasn't great which meant that I was too tall to sleep on the sofa, so shared the bed with him. This seemed a worthy sacrifice to pay for staying in college. Also, he was friendly to me and this was something that I was new to (it came as a shock after my school experiences). He told me he would see his kids and grandchildren often.
After a couple of months of staying there with this arrangement, one night it was cold and he was sleeping closest to the wall because I had to get up earlier to get to college and didn't want to disturb him by climbing over him. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
It must have been about 4am and I remember waking from a deep sleep near the edge of the bed facing the room to a rhythmic movement from behind me and an arm clasped tightly around my chest. He was aroused and I could feel it against my lower back as his arm would clench me every 4-5 seconds. I was in complete shock. He was thrusting against me and making noises.
I had not expected this, I had not asked for it, and I assumed it was just going to be another night of a situation I wasn't entirely happy about, but coped with because the alternative was worse.
When I realised what he was doing, I made a conscious decision not to make too much of a fuss about it because I didn't want him to know I knew. My right arm was locked in by his clasp, so I pretended I was still asleep and made a fake half-asleep grunt as I forced his arm away from my body and back to his. I turned from being sleeping on my left to rolling onto my back as I pushed him off me.
He turned over and went back to his side of the bed as I lay as close as I could without falling off. I lay there with my eyes open in a dark room feeling upset, confused, angry, disgusted, dirty and abused. I lay there for what felt like an eternity shaking with fear, anger and pumped with adrenaline. I eventually rested for a short time and woke up much earlier than my alarm, got up quietly so as not to alert him to what I was doing, grabbed my stuff and left the house for the final time—heading up to college. This was the day I became homeless for 3 months and was the start to my life being turned upside down and backwards. I was forced to deal with my homelessness and therefore not deal with the assault that I had just been through.
It was months before I would think about it again and I was frightened to go to the police, but I did. Probably a year and a half after the night it happened, I gave my statement and was told that it would be logged. Because it was a long time since it happened, it wasn't an active case but something that would be put against his name.
I felt good about telling the police and even though no justice was done straight away, the fact I got it off my chest helped so much. It was about 3 or 4 years later when I got a phone call and then a letter saying that there had been other people who had come forward describing unwanted sexual behaviour from Vernon. In the letter also it asked if I would stand in court to testify about my experience. The trauma of the night came back as I sat on the stairs of the YMCA uncontrollably crying wondering what was going to happen.
Thankfully I eventually didn't have to go to court and he admitted multiple charges, one of which was sexual assault against a minor (not me). I was lucky that there was enough evidence against him to convict him of those offences without my testimony. I think he was charged for sexual assault on me, but I'm not sure and I couldn't care when I saw his name mentioned in a newspaper article and a prison sentence that he would most likely not live to see the other side of. He deserved this he helped destroy my life
This is not the first time I have ever told this story, but it is the first time since it happened in 2008 (apart from the statement) that I have written down his name. I haven't written his name before today because I have never thought it would do any good—but this will do good. It has done good. It's allowing me to break through that pain of keeping it locked away.
This picture of Dr Ford smiling, whilst recounting the event that changed her life, is just as powerful as the one of her crying at the top of this page.
Like so many women, men and children who go through abuse of any and all types, it is something that you are compelled to keep hidden for fear of not being believed.
As Senator Booker said in the hearing, Dr Ford is "a hero." She is my hero. It has taken me a few hours to write this because I have too often stopped and completely broke down in tears, but knowing that I have told my stories, empowered by Christine's 3 hour Senate hearing, has done a lot to help the healing process.
I hope it is useful. I hope it inspires one person to know that it is ok to not be ok. It's ok to share your story, in your own time and there are more people than you realise that will BELIEVE YOU.
Thank you Dr Christine Blasey Ford. Thank you #MeToo. Thank you to you for reading this.
With lots of love,Hugo Michael Sugg