Ninian Reid VIA FLICKR
On Sept. 16, Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulting her surfaced across various media outlets. She reluctantly came forward, knowing the negative impact it would have on her life because she believed it was her civic duty. Ford stated that the incident occurred during their adolescence in 1982. She detailed her allegations in a letter addressed to Senator Dianne Feinstein in July, though she only recently, with incredible bravery, narrated her truth. Since then, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick brought forth two other accusations against Kavanaugh. He denied all of these claims.
During the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, Ford delivered a harrowing account of the incident. She said she distinctly remembers Kavanaugh’s hand covering her mouth. She remembers thinking he would accidentally kill her. She remembers the laughs shared between two friends who stripped her of all her agency for their own pleasure.
When Ford was asked how certain she was that Brett Kavanaugh was her assailant, she stated: “100 percent.”
She remained composed and courageous as she replayed some of the darkest moments of her life to a national audience. Her story spoke to millions of Americans who were still trying to overcome the social pressures of being a survivor. These pressures had previously inhibited them from coming forward and reporting their account of sexual assault. As a result, her testimony inspired survivors and allies to attend rallies and share their own stories of sexual assault.
Before the hearing, President Donald Trump tweeted that if Ford’s encounter was as bad as she described it to be, she would have reported it sooner. Instantly, #WhyIDidntReport was trending on Twitter. Survivors shared why they did not come forward. Fear, shame, trauma and denial were just a few reasons. Another could be found in numbers: Out of every 1000 incidents involving sexual abuse, only 310 assaults are reported. Of those, only 57 will lead to an arrest and six will lead to the incarceration of the rapist.
Following the hearing, Trump said that Ford’s testimony was “compelling.” He called her a “credible witness” and a “fine woman.” Even then, on Oct. 2, he made a mockery of her testimony during a Mississippi campaign rally. Trump, who has at least 15 allegations of sexual harassment against him, completely misconstrued Ford’s account of the incident. He summarized the hearing to be a series of questions directed to Ford to which she continuously answered “I don’t remember,” or “I don’t know.” He claimed the only thing she could truly recollect was that she had one beer.
By misrepresenting an alleged victim’s account, it is possible to suppress survivors from coming forward and telling their stories, in fear of being socially guillotined the way Ford was.
After weeks of contention on both sides of the political spectrum, the Senate voted 50-48 to allow Brett Kavanaugh to occupy the ninth seat of the Supreme Court. After which, Trump defended his derisive comments about Ford’s testimony: “if I had not made that speech [mocking Ford], we would not have won,” Trump said. This response sets the tone for this coming election season: win at all costs. Even at the expense of hurting probable constituents who survived sexual assault.
Trump apologized to Kavanaugh on behalf of the nation. He lionized Kavanaugh as someone who “under historic scrutiny,” was “proven innocent.” However, this hearing was not a trial. The FBI did not conduct a complete investigation to either validate or invalidate Ford’s claims. Kavanaugh may be innocent until proven guilty, but there was no time to thoroughly examine the allegations.
The only thing his victory revealed was that Republican senators would rather advance the political career of a man who reflects an ideology similar to theirs than investigate the credible claims of a victim.
During the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, Kavanaugh consistently deflected questions about whether or not he would have the confirmation hearing postponed until an investigation could be carried out. Additionally, the American Bar Association and three Republican governors urged to delay the confirmation vote. Ideally, the confirmation hearing would have been pushed back, an investigation would occur and Kavanaugh would either clear his name or answer for his actions. Instead, the disastrous collision of the two political party fronts resulted in a man, with a dubious character epitomizing the power of privilege, assuming a seat in the highest court with a lifetime tenure.
The Republican senators that continue to stand behind him amidst the public uproar of his victory remind us of their motives to merely serve the party’s political interest. Brett Kavanaugh was not the only eligible conservative to be appointed as a Supreme Court judge. Someone else with the same political ideology and no history of sexual assault could have been nominated. Instead, Machiavellian politics prevailed and Kavanaugh was appointed amidst great uncertainty and unsettling consequences.
Though we live in uncertain times, the bravery Ford exhibited in her testimony will, without a doubt, empower survivors of sexual assault nationwide. We should not remember Christine Blasey Ford as collateral damage in the battle for political dominance, but rather as a beacon of hope and courage for survivors across the country who have been silent for far too long. She was courageous enough to come forward and name her attacker despite knowing that he would likely acquire one of the most powerful platforms in the country. Ford’s testimony was a watershed moment in American history. We saw how our government and media tried to squander her reputation and silence her. We saw how a man accused of sexual assault was able to acquire a seat in the highest court in the country. We saw one of the most divisive periods in American history. No longer will credible allegations of sexual assault against people in positions of power, wealth, and status be silenced. We will no longer be silent.