Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed to the Supreme Court despite, or perhaps in spite of, the allegations against him. Senator Lindsey Graham stated, even before Dr Christine Blasey Ford had testified, ‘I’ll listen to the lady, but we’re going to bring this to a close. Here’s what I want to tell you: In the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court.’ This suggests that the Republicans were determined to confirm Kavanaugh, no matter what was revealed during the testimony.
Dr Ford insisted upon confidentiality initially as, in her own words, ‘Why suffer through the annihilation if it’s not going to matter?’ Is it really surprising that she wanted to keep her allegations confidential when senators were so determined to push through their President’s pick for the Supreme Court, regardless of any accusations brought forward?
In a recent interview, Melania Trump stated that sexual assault survivors ‘need to have really hard evidence’ before making accusations. I understand that you cannot just accuse people of things, but sexual assault most often does not leave ‘really hard evidence’.’ Does this mean then, that by Melania Trump’s standards, evidence of assault should be photographic before it is legitimate? People also seem to forget that a testimony made under oath is classed as evidence. Making an allegation is one thing, but testifying under oath and facing consequences for perjury is another. False accusations comprise of roughly 2 to 10% of accusations, and whilst false accusations can ruin lives and are nothing to scoff at, it does not discount the fact that for some the immediate response to allegations of sexual assault are not sympathy or a willingness to listen, but disbelief. ‘Maybe you read the situation wrong, maybe you lead them on, maybe you were wearing the wrong thing, maybe you were drinking, maybe you’re lying?’ In any other circumstance, involving any other crime, accusers are met with a listening ear, not with doubt.
Her courage has been met with harassment, disbelief and threats
According to a 2012 report by the Ministry of Justice, Home Office, and Office for National Statistics, only around 15% of those who experience sexual violence report it to the police. There are a multitude of reasons as to why survivors don’t come forward, and every individual reacts differently, as is only human. Dr Ford put her career and reputation on the line, and her courage has been met with continuous harassment, disbelief and death threats. In contrast, the man concerned has been granted arguably one of the most powerful positions in the United States, that of a Supreme Court Justice. So when you ask why women don’t come forward, consider this case. Why would you risk your career and your life to come forward when it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference to powerful men? What does it say about the way society views sexual assault when the President of the United States openly mocks Dr Ford at one of his rallies?
It’s true that Kavanaugh’s hearings were not a criminal trial, and senators were not required to judge whether the allegations were proved beyond reasonable doubt. However, the hearings were somewhat of a job interview, to see if he would be a good fit for the court, and Kavanaugh’s behaviour during the hearings was not necessarily indicative of this. There was a noticeable difference between the testimony of Dr Ford and Brett Kavanaugh’s opening statement. A judge must be impartial, and his comments about the left and the Democrats, in the context of a confirmation hearing to the Supreme Court, leave doubt about his temperament and ability to be impartial.
By bravely sharing her story, Dr Ford has helped others deal with their own experiences, but sexual assault survivors should not have to continuously bare their scars and trauma over and over to prove that they are telling the truth. #MeToo might have given a boost and higher profile to the conversation around sexual assault, but the way that society views it is still far from changed. Saying I Believe Women does not mean much when you approach most allegations with scepticism. Innocent until proven guilty is a key tenet of a fair judicial process, but until the stories and testimonies of survivors are seriously considered, we can only progress so far.
How many of you are familiar with the #MeToo movement? You’ve probably heard the phrase circulating around social media. You may have even used it. For those of you who may not be so familiar with it, this movement spread virally in October 2017, and continues to do so today. The movement demonstrated the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace. It followed the Harvey Weinstein scandal and people were encouraged to use the #MeToo and speak out about their experiences of sexual abuse and harassment. Since October 2017 many people have taken to social media to share their stories, including many high profile celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lawrence.
The latest individual to speak out in this new #MeToo era has been Dr Christine Blasey Ford. In late September, Ford shared her story about the man who sexually assaulted her, whom she identified as Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee. This admission has sparked one of the most high profile cases of sexual assault in the #MeToo era, with many people backing Ford following her emotional testimony. Ford’s admission has dramatically altered the current Supreme Court run as many have turned their backs on Kavanaugh in disgust.
By coming forward, Ford has helped others reveal their stories
#MeToo has had such a profound impact on all aspects of society and has been named as one of the largest feminist movements in recent years. The original purpose was to empower women through empathy, especially young and vulnerable women. The hashtag has also been used to reveal the extent of problems with sexual assault and harassment by showing how many people have experienced these events. I think it is safe to say that this movement has fulfilled its purpose. Everyday more and more people come forward to share their stories and make their voices heard. More people coming forward means more people sharing their experiences, so giving hope to those who have suffered. By coming forward and sharing her story, Ford has helped others to reveal their stories. Thanks to the vast amount of media coverage this admission has garnered, the supporters of the #MeToo movement are once again shedding light on these unspeakable crimes which plague society.