Unless it has happened to you, you’ll probably never fully understand. And that’s okay. My intention is not to try and persuade you, but to explain why I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. In my quest to know her story better, I think it’s finally time to re-examine my own.

I was too young during the Anita Hill hearings to grasp how difficult it must have been to describe, in clinical detail, the advances she experienced from her employer. The humiliation of a come-on is difficult to convey to those who still believe “boys will be boys,” or that a man’s advances could, by some women, be considered a compliment. My own parents talked like this.

And when the Me Too Movement was, too quickly in my opinion, abbreviated by the hastag-loving public to #MeToo, I feared something about its effect would be reduced, too. I felt an emotional shift because of the movement, but it’s Dr. Ford who has finally budged me.

My long delay in writing this stems from fears we’ve all heard: that people wouldn’t believe me, that it would sound like sour grapes, that it was my fault since I agreed to meet one of my employers for lunch, and another for a drink. There is little I miss about writing for major media, but, so young at the time, I was desperate to have my work noticed. I made the naive assumption that “friendship” between all colleagues was possible. What is more intoxicating to a young writer than her employer showing interest in her work? It’s one of our deepest human desires to have one’s work be noticed.

I was too inexperienced to realize how some employers are used to young writers willing to hand their souls over.

In my case, both men — one my editor at one of two major papers in our city at the time, and the other my producer at one of Seattle’s NPR affiliate stations — gave me a great opportunity. And soon after, they took it back. Because they could. One day I was writing for the paper, and then I was not. One day I was airing my commentary for the station, the next I was not.

Years later, I got an email from the editor. He wrote how my stories were some of the best that “ever crossed his desk,” but said nothing about what happened. Was this his way of apologizing without having to say the words? I will never forget how enraged he became when I mentioned weekend plans with my husband.
“You never said you were married!” he yelled.

“Why does that matter?” I asked.

To be honest, I knew by then that it did matter. So, I’d learned to slip silently between my professional and private life because I, too, had willingly handed over my soul. I suspected he’d stop publishing me if I mentioned my husband, but I was tired of hiding. And for weeks after he stopped accepting my work — it was a period of my life when disappointment entered my bloodstream so overwhelmingly that all confidence left it.

Thinking back, I was excited to move to a city again after having lived in a small town on the Olympic Peninsula. Living in Belltown, where the whole messy mix of colorful humanity passes by, I was proud to write for a major paper that I could walk to, and a radio station I could bus to. I went on to write for another section of the paper. I thought it might be better for my career, and for my psyche, if I spent my time counting my blessings about this new opportunity, and less time thinking about what had happened to me. Women learn to cope with certain humiliations. I thought my only choice was to be willing to learn how.

When I met my radio producer for a drink, he rubbed his middle finger up and down the back of my hand. I pretended it was nothing. I brushed his hand away. He stopped returning my emails. I was “let go.” The worst part is that it was all just a game to these men. They both had families at home.

But the main reason I believe Dr. Ford is that, for the last 14 years, I never told anyone, other than my husband.

The first stranger I told was my LYFT driver just last week. The radio station was on, and I asked him to turn it off. And when I told him why, and that I’m sure this man would also deny it, he reached over and turned the radio off.

I told my friend Stephanie the next day.

It seems I am forgiving these men finally, leaving the anger behind bit by bit.

No, that’s not quite true. It’s me I’m still trying to forgive. For staying silent so long.

Mary Lou Sanelli is an author and speaker who lives in Belltown. Her latest book, “A Woman Writing,” is available wherever fine books are sold. For more information, visit
marylousanelli.com.