A week ago I was sitting on the floor of an airport, listening to Professor Christine Blasey Ford tell the Senate Judiciary Committee – and the world- the haunting story of surviving an attempted rape in high school. The attacker she named: Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. I felt paralyzed; like every survivor I knew, I felt the weight of pain and distress at hearing the details of her being dragged into a bedroom, and of this person who held her down and covered her mouth as she tried to scream – the same powerful man who could shape our country for generations to come. Dr. Ford’s story is all too familiar to me, and the truth is, there is a lot at stake for LGBTQ survivors of sexual assault with Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court nominee. As a sophomore in college, I was sexually assaulted at an off-campus party by a male student. At the time I hadn’t yet come out as queer. When I told people what happened, I was asked whether the assault was actually just a “bad hookup.” I had always been taught that sexual assault was something that only happened to some women — cisgender, heterosexual, white women, according to the media . As a first-generation Latinx student on scholarship, I had always felt the pressure to prove that I belonged at an elite university like The University of North Carolina. That pressure tripled after I was sexually assaulted. Like fellow Tar Heel Dr. Ford, I struggled academically while I carried the weight of my secret and tried to pick up the pieces. As a young girl, I was taught that if I was in danger, I should call the police and report the incident immediately. What I wasn’t taught was what to do when your assault doesn’t look like the movies. What do you do when it’s a member of your community and it happens in a college town that fancy brochures sell as safe? At 20 years old, I wasn’t ready to explain how, as a lesbian, what happened to me wasn’t a “bad hookup.” I heard from classmates that coming forward rarely resulted in justice, even for survivors who fit the mainstream narrative of a “perfect victim.” Like Dr. Ford, I too didn’t call the police.

I didn’t feel safe coming out simultaneously as both queer and a survivor. In the United States, someone is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds . Many of us within the LGBTQ community have experienced the devastating impact of sexual violence firsthand, and we rarely go too long without hearing another one of our queer friends say “me too.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, LGBTQ people are more likely to experience sexual violence across the board. Almost 50 percent of lesbians and half of transgender people will survive sexual violence in their lifetimes. Of bisexual women, 61% experience interpersonal violence in their lifetimes, and half of these survivors face such violence before the age of 18. The statistics on sexual assault illustrate a crisis in this country, and with the rise of the #MeToo movement, many ask “why don’t survivors just come forward?” And “why did Dr. Ford wait 35 years before she said “me too”?” Despite having first shared my story as a survivor six years ago, this is the first time I have written about both of my identities at once. For many survivors, especially queer survivors , there’s more to lose than there is to gain by coming forward. Most survivors reveal being dissuaded by police to report, with one study finding over 69% of survivors are discouraged from reporting, and up to 90% face secondary victimization in the form of victim-blaming and shaming comments from police and institutions. Many LGBTQ survivors, especially queer people of color, are hesitant to report their assaults to police or seek medical care because of the added likelihood of facing homophobia and racism when seeking support. In many states, rape laws remain heterosexist and can barr queer people from reporting all together. Given these and other barriers to reporting, as a survivor I know that coming forward years later does not make someone’s experience less valid. I believe Professor Christine Blasey Ford and as a survivor that has shared her story on a national stage, I know the strength it takes to come forward in a society that questions victims and not perpetrators. Many claim Dr. Ford is not a perfect victim, and have dissected the details of her story looking for evidence that discredits her. There is no such thing as a perfect survivor, and many LGBTQ community members understand that more than anyone. Survivors can be queer. Survivors can be trans. Survivors can be undocumented. Survivors can be sex workers. Survivors can be prisoners. Survivors could have dated their perpetrator.

Survivors could have said yes, and then said no. Our laws and criminal justice system weren’t created with the intention of protecting survivors, and the system doesn’t prioritize due process for the accused, unless they’re wealthy and white. President Trump has repeatedly mocked Dr. Ford , and s everal other Republican leaders say that Judge Kavanaugh should not be judged based on his actions as a teenager. These comments disregard the fact that for many survivors assaulted as children, sexual violence impacts them — psychologically , physically and financially — for life. Watching Dr. Ford testify and then watching Brett Kavanaugh dismiss her horrific story was among the most difficult experiences I have lived through as a survivor of sexual assault. I will never forget what it was like to see our nation’s leaders laugh in the same room where Dr. Ford held back tears as she recounted her fears of death at the hands of a possible future Supreme Court Justice.

As a queer survivor, I cannot remain silent when I know how much is at stake for queer people who will be impacted by sexual violence. At no point has Judge Kavanaugh given any indication that he understands the challenges LGBTQ people face in our country, much less if they are survivors of sexual violence. A person who faces credible accusations of violating another person’s rights or bodily autonomy, and who doesn’t understand how that violence can further impact marginalized people in our country, does not deserve to sit on our nation’s highest court. Sexual violence is a critical issue in the LGBTQ community, and as queer people we must rise to support Professor Christine Blasey Ford and all survivors. It’s time to stop Brett Kavanaugh.