On a Friday night in the fall of 1998, I went to a party with my sorority sisters at the Delta Tau Delta fraternity. I was 19. I wasn’t remotely excited about going to this even as I just started dating a new guy from a different fraternity. But the sorority was obligated to go so I went, making my friends promise as soon as it was socially acceptable to do so that we would leave to go to the party at my boyfriend’s fraternity.
We donned our black pants and cute tank tops and trudged over from Washtenaw to Geddes. When we got to the party, we were taken upstairs where some fraternity boys were playing bartender. There were strawberry daquiris and I had one. We shuffled out of the bar area and into a big open room and danced to the subpar DJ. We saw more people were filling the dance floor and we took this as our opportunity to leave.
The walk was less than a mile, but it felt like forever. Just a block into the walk, my legs began to feel like Jell-O. I repeatedly fell over, unable to hold my own weight. My friends were supporting me, undoubtedly wondering how much I had drunk in the short time we had been at Delta Tau Delta. I stumbled again and again. By the time we reached Washtenaw, another friend was feeling very sick. A few of the girls peeled off to take her back to our house and watch over her. Despite their pleas that I return home too, I was insistent that I go to Alpha Sigma Phi. I simply would not be dissuaded. I had only had one drink; I couldn’t be drunk.
By the time I got to Alpha Sigma Phi, the world was incredibly hazy. I could no longer stand. Two fraternity brothers helped support me against a wall while a third went off searching for help. The world felt like a tunnel closing in. My boyfriend came and collected me and got me over to a couch. I will not recount my behavior at this point but will instead focus on his behavior. Believing me to by drunk, he walked me — or more likely carried me — home, got me a glass of water and put me to bed without ever taking the slightest advantage of the situation.
This was my #MeToo moment. I knew the next morning I had been roofied. I felt lucky I had not choked on my vomit (which was in a pool on my bed when I woke up.) I felt lucky that I had left the first party. I felt lucky that my boyfriend — whom I now call my husband — proved himself to be a good man. I never even considered calling the police. I never considered what might happen to the next girl or the one after that who might not have been so lucky. I simply counted my blessings and moved on with my life.
In reading the recent Torah portion of Noach, I churned with anger. The women in Noach are nameless. Noah has a wife, but she is not named. Noah’s sons have wives, but they are not named. The lineage between Noah and Abram is recounted — seemingly devoid of daughters. While I am far from a biblical scholar, if you were trying to repopulate the world after a flood, it might be helpful to have some women around.
With some exceptions, the Torah is the story of men. In Reform Judaism, we elevate our matriarchs to stand beside our patriarchs, but the text makes clear which gender the author believed had supremacy, which gender was worthy of having their stories heard.
In reading this portion, I wondered about Noah’s wife. I wondered if he had any daughters, and if these daughters made it on the ark or were left behind as they were of too little import. I wondered how Noah’s wife felt when he told her he had to build an ark. I wonder if she thought him crazy or picked up wood and started building alongside him. I wonder what his wife thought about the bizarre verse about Noah’s drunken behavior. I wonder why the author felt her — and most other women — unworthy of being given a name and having their stories told.
If there is a lesson to take from #MeToo, from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, from Noach, it is that we must include women’s stories. My story, which I share here, is not unique except for the reality that my assault was thwarted by good luck. As women have felt free to share their stories, their recountings have poured onto social media and private conversations. Our collective hearts break with each memory, but the saddest moments come from the women who cannot yet find the voice to share their stories.
At my weekly minyan, an older gentleman asked our rabbi to offer a prayer for the women of our country. In response, our rabbi offered that opportunity to me. After some reflection, I would like to offer three prayers.
First, I would like to offer a prayer for those that have sinned, those that have assaulted and harassed and demeaned and raped. May these people find their way back to God and holiness through repentance by acknowledging their actions and the damage these actions have wrought. Through their actions, they have both sinned against God and against individuals as these individuals were each made in the image of God. May they seek forgiveness both from God and from those they have harmed. Teshuvah — repentance. Tfilah — prayer. Tzedekah — justice. While repairing the damage they have inflicted on both individuals and the world may be more than can be accomplished in a lifetime, let that be the goal for the rest of their days.
Second, I would like to offer a prayer for those that are allies. May God give each of you the strength to protect those who need protecting. May God give you the voice to speak up against those who would inflict damage. May God give you the compassion to be there for those that need nothing more than to hear the words, “I believe you.”
Last, for the women. May you always remember you were made in the image of the Divine. No matter how many generations have tried to erase you from the stories, you stand as a sacred partner in divine creation. You are worthy of dignity and love and respect. No matter what has been inflicted upon you, may you find the strength within yourself to rise above and continue fighting so that the sisters who come after you enter a better and safer world than you were given. May you own your power given to you by the Divine. May you link arms with all those generations that have pled in silence hoping for equality. May you find your voice to tell your stories.
Alicia Chandler is president of JCRC/AJC.