He couldn’t stand it a second more. Randall Margraves sat in the Michigan courtroom where former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was on trial. Forced to listen to the sobs and anger from the dozens of young women he molested. Margraves’ three daughters were among Nassar’s victims, prompting the distraught father spontaneously to interrupt the court proceedings. He stood begging Judge Janice Cunningham for time alone “in a locked room with this demon,” first asking for five minutes and then, “Can I have one minute?” Judge Cunningham reminded him, “That’s not how the legal system works.”
Moments later Margraves lunged at Nassar, cursing. As security escorted him out, Michigan’s Assistant Attorney General told him his reaction to the convicted molester wasn’t appropriate in a court of law. But, the father of three daughters screamed back, “You haven’t lived through it, lady.”
When I saw that emotional scene captured by the court’s cameras, I wondered about the moment when Randall Margraves’ daughters first told him they’d been molested. During the last couple of weeks, I’ve flashed back to his desperate action as I absorbed the many stories of women — daughters all — revealing long-hidden sexual assaults.
I’m convinced that the national debate about Professor Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations of sexual assault has prompted many first ever father-daughter conversations. Fox News Network anchor Chris Wallace divulged before the Ford and Kavanagh hearings, “Two of my daughters have told me stories that I had never heard before about things that happened to them in high school.” Wallace revealed that what happened to his daughters was not as serious as Professor Ford described, but added, “There are teenage girls who don’t tell stories to a lot of people, and then it comes up.”
Sometimes I wonder about some fathers of daughters, fathers like President Trump, who proclaimed recently, “It’s a very scary time for young men.” Later, at a Mississippi political rally, he mocked the details of Dr. Ford’s testimony. I can only assume that they — who’ve either been downright hostile or sharply skeptical of accusers — see their own daughters as different. Different from the thousands of ordinary women who’ve continued to come forward with horrific stories in the wake of Ford’s testimony.
But it could be that daughters may be the key to drawing male allies — the real good guys — to the #MeToo movement. Brandeis Professor Anita Hill thinks so. Nearly 30 years ago the father of the respected legal scholar sat in the row behind her as she shared ugly details of her harassment. Now Professor Hill is the head of the Times Up Commission on Sexual Equality and Advancement in the Workplace. And she has seen fathers’ relationship with their daughters — not their wives or mothers — advancing men’s understanding about sexual assault and harassment. Where might we be if every little girl’s first protector thought of every woman as somebody’s daughter?