All week long I’ve been reading posts about Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh. I’d like to share some ruminations with you. I should disclose that I’m not a Kavanaugh supporter, although that is independent from the line of reasoning here. I’d be making the same arguments here if Merritt Garland was the nominee and she was accusing him:
- Why didn’t she come forward at the start of the hearings? Most likely, fear. After all, we’ve all seen what has happened to her and her family for her coming forward: she’s been doxxed (had personal information released on the Internet), and her family has received death threats and had to go into hiding. Her personal life has been ridiculed. All for making public that someone attacked her. This is often why women are reluctant to speak up: there are men in the world that don’t like women who report their bad behavior, and take it out on them. Here’s a longer article on why some women take so long to come forward.
- Why didn’t she report this to the police when it happened? Less than all half of all sexual violence is actually reported to law enforcement. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, rape is the most under-reported crime; 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police. There are numerous reasons: fear, shame, worries about retaliation, post traumatic stress. The treatment many women get when they do report — being blamed as if it was their fault — is a large part of it. Some are afraid to admit they might have been drunk when it happened. But remember this: even if the women was drunk, that does not give a man excuse to attempt rape. This also means that we shouldn’t blame the woman if she didn’t report, or discount her claim that the incident happened. Believe her and investigate it.
- Why should we believe something from 30 years ago? Funny how we believe boys who say they were molested 30 years ago by a priest, but doubt a woman when she says she was forced to do something sexual by a man. What does that tell our daughters about how much we value their word? I’ve even seen some people pointing out that she must be lying, because the Bible says that all women are liars. In any case, her claim is a starting point, but we must believe the claim and that she believes it to be true. This is true even if the memory is spotty — many trauma survivors have spotty memories due to the trauma itself.
- But could she be lying? She could, but people rarely ask the FBI to investigate them when they are lying or have something to hide. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that a review of research finds that the prevalence of false reporting is between 2 percent and 10 percent. Just look at the President, who specifically does not want the FBI investigating him. If he was clean, they will find nothing. In this case, having the FBI investigate will determine if there is any corroborating evidence to back up her story, making it more than “he said, she said”. Ask yourself: What is in it for her in making such a claim? The DNC doesn’t have deep pockets, and even if they paid her, it would be discovered. Coming forward is asking to be insulted online, have your family harassed. There is no upside, other than possibly righting a wrong done years ago.
- But they were teenagers, and boys will be boys. Being young doesn’t excuse you from your actions; indeed, we teach our children from the earliest ages that actions have consequences. I’m willing to believe that Kavanaugh was young and stupid when he did this. Many teenage boys let their little head control their big head, and try to force themselves on women. However, that doesn’t make it right or legal. Further, being drunk doesn’t give him a pass. We hold drunk drivers responsible for their actions. If you commit a murder in a drunken rage, you’re still liable. Drink doesn’t excuse criminal behavior.
- But it was 30 years ago. So? The question here is what Kavanaugh did afterwards. If he realized that he was wrong and apologized, changed his ways, and never did this again — then I might give him a pass. But if he was unrepentant — if he continued to behave that way towards women, then there is a bigger problem.
- But it was one time. Was it? This is the second reason there should be an FBI investigation: There needs to be a determination if this was the start of a pattern of behavior towards women, or a one-time drunken incident. If one time and unrepentant, it is still a problem — although one where redress and restitution might be possible. If there is a pattern — if throughout his career he has devalued women and treated them only as sex objects, then there is a significant issue (for example, if he hired clerks based on how sexy they looked as opposed to their legal skills). [ETA: Since this was written, a second women has come forward with a claim, and Michael Avenetti is reporting there is yet a third women with a claim.).
- But the FBI has already investigated him. True, but they didn’t look specifically in this area. Ask yourself what the FBI was looking for, for they will only discover findings in that area. Unless, of course, they were looking for your lost car keys. Then they’ll find loads of stuff. Seriously, the FBI likely didn’t investigate claims of sexual harassment — rather, they were looking for reported criminal activity, involvement with foreign governments, and so on. Legal reviews and background checks would also not look in this area. There might not have been previous claims, for the simple reason that many women are scared to make claims against powerful men, because of the backlash to them.
- But this hearing has gone on long enough. Much as you would like the hearings to be done and done, we are talking a lifetime appointment to the highest court of the land. Better to take a little extra time and do the job right. After all, we went almost an entire year when Congress sat on its hands and didn’t even meet with President Obama’s nominee. Surely we can investigate for a few more weeks.
- But is an attempted rape from 30 years ago significant in the scheme of things? That’s an interesting question. If it was a one time, childish indiscretion, an apology and restitution might suffice (and recall that I said I opposed Kavanaugh for reasons separate from this). But if there is a pattern of this behavior, that implies a number of things. First, it implies that Kavanaugh puts his personal attitude towards women above the law of the land — and a SCOTUS justice must put the law first. It also indicates that he might discount the word of women or the value of women, which would translate to putting them at a disadvantage in the courtroom — either when testifying or bringing a case. And that would be wrong.
We should and must take the time to slow down and investigate this properly. Believe her enough to start the investigation and determine if the story can be corroborated. If it is true, discover if he understands and admits what he did wrong. Discover if there was a pattern of behavior towards women. Then, and only then, can we move forward based on those findings.
One additional note: There are those who still blame the victim (the woman) for the attack: for not reporting it, for being drunk, for wearing provocative clothes, for doing it to get ahead. However, it is the man’s responsibility to be moral and ethical, and to not take advantage of situations and to obtain informed consent. Nothing is forcing us men to attack; we have the ability to keep it in our pants, and keep our hands to ourselves.