In late July, Professor at Palo Alto University Christine Blasey Ford came forward with sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, the U.S. Supreme Court nominee poised to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy. The allegations were described in an anonymous letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Representative Anna Eshoo of California’s 18th Congressional District. In a Washington Post story published last Sunday, Ford alleges that Kavanaugh forced himself onto her during a party in high school when she was 15 years old. In the recounting she describes being pinned down on a bed by the then seventeen-year-old Kavanaugh as he attempted to take off her clothes and covered her mouth when she tried to cry for help. Ford told the Post, “I thought he might inadvertently kill me.” Kavanaugh, unsurprisingly, has denied these allegations.
The President of the United States never fails to disappoint. President Trump responded to Ford’s allegations by tweeting, “The radical left lawyers want the FBI to get involved NOW. Why didn’t someone call the FBI 36 years ago?”
These words have not only culminated in the intense debate around Kavanaugh’s nomination, but also mark the absolute ignorance that victims of sexual assault are forced to confront on a daily basis. Firstly, the FBI is the last agency one would consider calling if they have just been assaulted. Secondly, Trump’s cloaked rhetorical question merely forces the misguided notion that all sexual assault victims call the police. The FBI Crime Report proves that nearly two-thirds of people who have been raped or sexually assaulted do not go to the police at all.
Trump went on to clarify where his sympathies stand at a White House Press Conference last week: “I feel so badly for [Kavanaugh] that he’s going through this, to be honest with you. I feel so badly for him. This is not a man that deserves this…It’s a shame, because this is a great gentleman.”
Trump isn’t the only ignorant member of the U.S. government to discredit Ford’s allegations. Congressman Kevin Cramer discounted Ford’s claims as “absurd,” because they were inebriated teenagers at the time, and it was “supposedly an attempt that never went anywhere.” The real absurdity lies in a statement such as this: must we wait until a person has been raped in order to tell the rapist that he is in the wrong? An attempted rape is called “attempted” because the rapist intends to rape the victim. Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape Christine Ford, and that is all that matters. Does the United States of America want a criminal to serve on the Supreme Court? It sure looks like it.
Much of the reason why victims of sexual assault don’t come forward with their allegations is due to offhanded statements such as President Trump’s and Congressman Kramer’s. The trauma that victims face is indescribable, but it is never too late to speak out, once one has personally and internally dealt with their pain and emotions. The last thing a victim of assault needs are claims that marginalize their trauma because of how late they report the incident. It is never too late, and Ford deserves to be heard, regardless of how many years lay between her attack in high school and now. And regarding whether a crime committed decades ago should have repercussions on the perpetrator today––when it comes to rape and assault, absolutely. If the emotional marks and scars left on the victim can still be felt today, why shouldn’t the perpetrator have to deal with it too?
Ford claims that this incident has been a source of trauma for many years and has notes from couples therapy sessions in 2012 which reveal the veracity of her claims. Additionally, Ford took a polygraph test in August that demonstrated her honesty regarding the incident.
Since Ford has come forward, naysayers have rallied to the defense of Kavanaugh. For example, 65 women who claim to have known Kavanaugh when he was in high school wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee attesting to his integrity and decency. The letter reads, “For the entire time we have known Brett Kavanaugh, he has behaved honourably and treated women with respect.”
However, over a thousand other women who attended Holton Arms High School with Ford penned a letter that expressed their collective support for Ford, stating that they believed her. The letter read, “Dr. Blasey Ford’s experience is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves.”
Kavanaugh’s friendship with retired federal judge Alex Kozinski, who has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by at least 15 women, doesn’t help his case. In an interview on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”, Hillary Clinton was asked about her opinions on the accusations against Kavanaugh. She declared: “[The Republicans] have held back information … which was always made available for other nominees, and they’re trying to rush this through to the detriment of the American public, who deserve to have answers to whatever charges might be presented.”
“Have an investigation, it won’t take that long,” Clinton concluded. “Let the investigation go forward, present it and then go from there.”
I strongly agree with Clinton’s words. Without an FBI investigation into the accusations of assault, this case is based almost entirely on first person testimonies and accounts, which is just not enough. Interviews with witnesses and others present at the time of the incident would allow for a more concrete understanding of the events that took place at the party and the involved persons. Letting go of a rape allegation under the pretense that it happened years ago is what makes sexual predators, and it is the reason for lifetimes of trauma for victims who remain silent in the fear that they will not be heard. We are doing victims everywhere a disservice by refusing to listen to Ford’s claims. Ultimately, Ford deserves to be heard and taken seriously, and the US Senate needs to hold people in positions of power accountable for their actions regardless of when they transpired.