September 29, 2018

Yes, sexual assault happens even when victims choose not to report it

If you follow international news, you might notice one name keeps coming up on headlines: Brett Kavanaugh.  So let’s talk about him. Who is he? Brett Kavanaugh is an American attorney and jurist. He was nominated by US President  Donald Trump to be their Supreme Court’s 114th justice. Trump said of him: “Judge Kavanaugh has impeccable credentials, unsurpassed qualifications, and a proven commitment to equal justice under the law. There is no one in America more qualified for this position and no one more deserving.” Now, let’s be real, Trump’s words have no bearing whatsoever on another’s character (if anything, it was a red flag). Still, on paper, no one can argue he is indeed the perfect candidate so his appointment was pretty much cemented for the position– that is, until an anonymous letter was sent to a senior lawmaker, accusing him of sexual assault. Eventually, the sender made herself known. She is Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, who teaches in a consortium with Stanford University, training graduate students in clinical psychology. Her work has been widely published in academic journals.

Dr. Ford alleged that “sometime in 1982, at a friend’s house, Kavanaugh pinned her on a bed, drunkenly groped her, tried to take off her clothes and put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream.” She added that a friend of his, Mark Judge, was also in the room.” Kavanaugh, a republican, denied allegations, citing that this was nothing but a move by democrats. Trump threw a similar accusation, saying that if what happened was “as bad as she says,” then she “or her loving parents” should have filed a charge immediately.

To assert her claims, Dr. Ford wanted the FBI to conduct an investigation, which the FBI duly declined. To this, Trump questioned again why she would involve authorities only now, almost 4 decades after it happened.

On Twitter, #WhyIDidntReport posts, where women shared their own stories and what stopped them from filing a report, poured out.

Stars who bravely supported Dr. Ford with their own stories included Padma Lakshmi who penned an essay recounting her own traumatic experience, Cara Delevingne, Sarah Hyland, and Ashley Judd, among others.

At first hesitant, Dr. Ford finally agreed to a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee. This would lead to a votation by the members as to whether Kavanaugh is fit for the position he was nominated for. According to BBC, “Judges are appointed for their lifetime, and as Mr. Kavanaugh is relatively young at the age of 53, he could serve for decades to come. The US Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter on contentious laws and disputes between states and the federal government, and rules on such issues as abortion, the death penalty, voter rights and immigration policy.”

The momentous hearing happened yesterday. In her testimony, Dr Ford said: “I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.” Throughout the whole testimony, she remained a class act. Showing vulnerability at times when her voice would crack– she still managed to regain composure, even as men tried to discredit her. She said her most vivid memory was “the laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense… they were laughing with each other – two friends having a really good time with one another.”

It was a heartbreaking scene to watch. It’s enough to make you shake with both indignation and anger. Why didn’t she report it? Exactly because of what’s happening to her right now. Because of a f*cked up justice system, where victims have to prove their innocence, instead of the other way around. Because for the longest time, we were told, it’s normal; that “boys will be boys.” As The Atlantic noted, “The allegations against Kavanaugh are particularly painful due to their familiarity. The Weinstein stories had such an effect in part because they were so baroque and exaggerated in their horror. Very few of us have been film stars, but nearly everyone has gone to high school. And the boisterous cruelty of teenage boys and young men, desperate to prove themselves to one another, is one of the foundational components of American education.”

Besides, what has she to gain by coming forward? She would have kept silent all her life if Kavanaugh was never nominated. By stepping forward, she knew her life will be open for public scrutiny; she even received death threats. Meanwhile, composed dominantly of republicans, the senate committee will most likely still appoint Brett Kavanaugh as a justice, one of the most influential positions in their government, regardless of the allegations against him. And in a few years, maybe even months, no one will remember this ruckus affair and Kavanaugh will continue being regarded as an esteemed man by society’s powerful social circles. Because that’s where we are now: Misogynist men sit as judges, senators, presidents.

But this won’t always be the case. At least, we hope not. A silver lining has appeared at least, as Republican Sen. Flake called for the delay of the vote after sexual assault victims cornered him in an elevator. An FBI investigation is reportedly underway, so there’s still a chance Kavanaugh won’t be appointed. For now, we will hold our breaths and pray for things to turn out the way they should. No matter the final ruling on Kavanaugh, Dr. Ford is a hero in our eyes

 

Art by Marian Hukom

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Brett Kavanaugh, culture, patriarchy, politics, sexual assault, victim blaming



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