Do you barely remember high school? Me, too. Maybe this is reason enough to discount someone who accuses a US Supreme Court nominee of a sexual assault alleged to have happened more than 30 years ago.

While memories of a bygone era are faint, standout moments reel around on a mental Möbius strip - football games, band practice, parties, underage drinking, snogging...

I view these juvenile pursuits with bemusement and horror, as mum to a 14-year-old girl and soon-to-be 13-year-old boy. The weekend nights I planted myself in a house pumping with passionfruit wine coolers, cheap beer, Southern Comfort and limitless hormones could've turned ugly. I wasn't raped or assaulted not because I was a 15-year-old martial arts expert, but because I was lucky. I insisted on attending parties where I knew my friends' parents were either absent or tremendously permissive. I spent cumulative months of teenage life grounded because my parents inexorably learned of my stupidity (in a town of 20,000 souls, someone will always out you to your folks).

So when someone like 51-year-old professor Christine Blasey Ford accuses Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of attempted sexual assault, I give her story benefit of doubt. Ford said Kavanaugh forced himself on her when she was 15, and they were both students at elite private high schools in Washington, D.C. Kavanaugh has vigorously denied the allegations.

Another woman said Kavanaugh exposed himself near her face at a drunken Yale University party. Deborah Ramirez is now calling for the FBI to investigate. Kavanaugh says those allegations are false, and a "smear".


We ask why women don't step forward sooner. Some fear they'll be disbelieved, shamed, and shunned. Why would anyone want the agony? For justice, to encourage past victims to come forward, and to prevent future victimisation. In Blasey Ford's case, someone she believes is criminally-flawed may attain a lifetime appointment where he'd make decisions affecting more than 300 million American lives.

Jessica Knoll's 2015 best-selling novel The Luckiest Girl Alive tells a story hinging on a party like the one we're scheduled to hear about tomorrow (if the Senate hearing takes place as scheduled). The protagonist is a teenager at a prestigious private school. She gets drunk with boys. After she passes out, they rape her.

The Luckiest Girl made further headlines when Knoll revealed to readers the rape at the centre of the book was based on her own experience at age 15 involving three boys she hasn't named. She told National Public Radio (US) she confronted one of the boys who raped her shortly after the incident, and reported the assault to her doctor, too.

"...And I asked, is that rape? And the doctor responded that she was not qualified to answer that question. I was really rebuffed at every turn. And the message I got was that my version of events didn't matter."

Ford's version of events included Kavanaugh putting his hand over her mouth so she couldn't scream. Had someone done that to me even 40 years ago, the event would've been tattooed on my brain. Ford first mentioned Kavanaugh to her therapist years ago, fearing he'd one day be nominated to the Supreme Court.

A New Zealand Ministry of Justice survey estimates just 7 per cent of sexual violence offences against adults are reported to police. Ministry data shows 24 per cent of women, and 6 per cent of men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. Half of all perpetrators and half of all victims report consuming alcohol leading to a sexual assault. Booze loosens inhibitions, sends good sense for a nap and puts boxing gloves on people with aggressive tendencies.

One in five female secondary school students and one in 20 male students say they've have had unwanted sexual contact from another person.

Pretending it doesn't happen, never happened, won't happen again is naive - or potentially fatal. Sexual violence occurs at all socioeconomic levels - among students and adults in deprived areas, and among trust-fund babies who attend prep schools and later reach high positions in the public eye.

The Kavanaugh case dredges memories we'd rather forget - the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas and Monica Lewinsky/Bill Clinton debacles; the teenage boy who broke up with you because you wouldn't have sex with him; the man on the overstuffed bus in Rome who rubbed his erect penis against you; the senior colleague who repeatedly pulled you into his over-cologned, unwanted embrace when you were 22-years-old; randoms who urged you to 'Smile!' at age 15, 25, 35...for no reason. Women have been socialised to be friendly. But when our bodies are threatened, we must be fierce.

Accusations against Kavanaugh deserve investigation. Neither he nor his accuser deserve death threats.

Fear they won't be believed keeps many women (and men) from ever reporting abuse. Like a hand clamped over their mouths, shame ensures no one will hear their screams.