A few years ago, a young lady very dear to me confided that she was repeatedly raped by a close member of her family beginning when she was just seven years old. An innocent child. She was thirteen when she was assaulted for the final time, and by then her attacker was a legal adult. Yet no charges were ever filed.

Travis Naughton

“I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local law enforcement authorities by either her or her loving parents,” President Donald J. Trump tweeted in response to sexual assault claims made by a woman against Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh for an attack that allegedly occurred in 1982, when the two were in high school. In another tweet, the president asked, “Why didn’t somebody call the FBI 36 years ago?”

Let’s get some things straight, Mr. President. First of all, the attack wasn’t on “Dr. Ford.” It was on Christine Blasey, a fifteen-year-old girl. An innocent child. Second, a 2014 report by the Department of Justice estimated that only 34.8% of cases of sexual assaults are reported to the authorities. And third, Mr. President, you’re asking the wrong question.

When my loved-one shared her horrible secret with me several years after the incidents occurred, I didn’t ask, “Why didn’t somebody call the FBI?” Instead, I asked, “What can I do to help?”

I told the young lady that if she wanted to file charges, then I would be there to support her every step of the way. She chose not to report the assaults because she didn’t want to turn her private nightmare into a public spectacle that would subject her and her family to even more pain and heartbreak.

I respect her decision, because I respect her.

When Dr. Christine Blasey Ford decided to come forward with her story, she knew what my loved-one did; her life would never be the same again. She knew her family would suffer as badly as she would. Dr. Ford has received so many death threats since speaking out against her alleged attacker that she and her family have had to go into hiding. She had nothing whatsoever to gain in inviting this public scrutiny upon herself, yet she came forward anyway, because she felt that it was the right thing to do.

I respect her decision, and I respect her for making it.

In an interview on CNN last week, former congressional candidate Gina Sosa, a Republican from Florida, said of the Kavanaugh allegations, “Tell me, what boy hasn’t done this in high school? Please, I would like to know.”

Well, Ms. Sosa, I was a boy in high school back in the 1980s, (I even went to the same types of beer-soaked parties that Kavanaugh allegedly attended,) and I somehow managed to never attempt to rape anyone. My oldest son is currently in high school, (he doesn’t drink or go to keg parties, thank goodness,) and I’m positive he has never pinned a fifteen-year-old girl to a bed and tried to sexually assault her.

Even if Sosa were right, that every boy in high school tries to rape girls at parties, that would still not excuse Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged actions. And I cannot for the life of me understand why any woman would simply dismiss such abhorrent behavior as just another example of “boys being boys.”

It’s a fact that thousands of women are raped every year in this country. If we dismiss sexual assaults perpetrated by high school boys as normal behavior, then we will only make the problem worse. Make no mistake, although it happens with alarming frequency, there is nothing normal about sexual violence. It is not normal behavior for a teenager to rape a seven-year-old family member. It is not normal behavior for a teenager to sexually assault a fifteen-year-old girl at a party. Boys need to be taught that when a girl says no, she means no.

Respect her decision. Respect her.

Dismissing Dr. Ford’s allegations against Judge Kavanaugh is exactly the same as dismissing my loved-one’s allegations against her assailant. For reasons that are entirely their own, neither girl felt that they could report their assaults to the authorities. Physical evidence is lacking in both cases, and it is impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime occurred. However, in both instances, these women have risked everything in sharing their painful memories with others. We owe it to them to take these accusations seriously.

I believe the young lady who shared her heartbreaking story with me. I hope that it gives her some measure of comfort to know that someone believes her. I also believe Dr. Ford. I hope it gives her some measure of comfort to know that there are others like me who respect her for speaking up when remaining quiet would have been far easier.