While I’m sure most people in the United States have heard their share about the hearing that took place in the Senate Judiciary Committee for the Supreme Court Nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and are ready to move on to the next big news story, this article is meant to serve as one last reminder that no matter how much you want to avoid these kinds of stories, they’ll keep coming. It is something that is all too familiar to the survivors of sexual assault, including myself.
I’ll be honest. I really tried to avoid all of the information surrounding the Kavanaugh case, not because I didn’t care, but because I couldn’t bear to hear the details of someone else’s traumatic experience, that while in many ways was entirely different from my own, was in too many ways similar. Instead, I came into the details late and from my subsequent research into the trial, after Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to become a judge in the Supreme Court, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford privately shared an encounter she had with Judge Kavanaugh with Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Her report wound up being leaked, and she decided to go public with her accusation of sexual assault allegations. After already recounting the details of her trauma to Sen. Feinstein, Dr. Ford sat in-front of Senate Judiciary Committee members to recount her story of what happened between herself and Judge Kavanaugh one evening more than three decades ago.
At this point, I was flooded with memories of the months after my own trauma when I decided to report my assault. Like Dr. Ford, I waited to report, and I remember how incredibly difficult it was to go through. For those lucky enough to not be familiar with the process, victims are expected to recount as much of the encounter as possible in excruciating detail in order to eliminate the possibility of false claims. While going through the details of an encounter that was traumatic enough to remember three decades later in Dr. Ford’s case, the fact that she not only went through the process of remembering that trauma again, but also recounted it in front of essentially the entire country speaks to how brave of an individual Dr. Ford is.
While it is understandable that there are concerns from people on both sides of the aisle that Dr. Ford’s testimony to Sen. Feinstein was leaked as a move by the Democratic party to keep Judge Kavanaugh, a Republican, from joining the Supreme Court, it still does not right the wrongs of the many individuals who have openly tried to discredit, blame, mock and belittle Dr. Ford. As a survivor, part of the reason I decided to not report my assault right away was for these same reasons. I didn’t want to be blamed for the action of another individual that I tried with all my strength to stop. Even worse, I didn’t want people to write off my trauma as never having happened in the first place.
Witnessing first-hand the amount of cruelty individuals have within themselves for Dr. Ford sparked that fear that I had long forgotten about. While it started relatively benign, it seemed like everywhere I turned I heard individuals saying something along the lines of, “It was so long ago, how can she be sure it was him?”, “Did this even really happen to her? Seems suspicious that she would report something only when Kavanaugh is in line to be elected,” etc. From there it quickly escalated. There were reports of Dr. Ford receiving death threats, and the next thing I knew President Donald Trump was openly mocking Dr. Ford at a campaign rally. To me, seeing the treatment of Dr. Ford by individuals who had no idea who she was even a few days before her testimony was the perfect summary of why victims of sexual assault often don’t report their assailants.
There are always multiple sides to every story, especially when a story has as many moving parts as this one. While it is always difficult to view political issues in new frames of mind, I implore you to try and put yourself in Dr. Ford’s shoes to understand why she decided to come forward with this information at the time she did. It’s hard to see any clear incentive for Dr. Ford to do this for any reason other than she wanted to help the Committee make more of an informed decision about a man and his character that they are nominating for the highest judicial honor in our country, just as she has said from the beginning. The actions of whoever leaked Dr. Ford’s report cannot and should not be conflated with the actions of Dr. Ford herself. I truly hope that Dr. Ford’s desire to inform the Senate Judiciary Committee was fulfilling for her seeing as Brett Kavanaugh has since received the approval of the Senate to become a Supreme Court Justice with a vote of 50-48, and Dr. Ford has since received innumerous death threats that have kept her from being able to return to her home.
Ultimately, without an investigation, we will never know for certain what transpired between Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh three decades ago or if anything ever did. At the completion of the hearing, I will be viewing Judge Kavanaugh as innocent both because without a trial it would be unfair to treat him as being guilty, and because I simply could not stomach the fact that my government had failed me so miserably in confirming an individual capable of such a heinous act to make the decisions of the most important legal issues in our country. In the spirit of moving forward, I wish Judge Kavanaugh the best of luck in securing his nomination and ultimately getting confirmed. I would also like to thank Dr. Ford for her bravery in reporting her assault. Her actions have reminded thousands of survivors such as myself that while the memories of our trauma may not leave us, it is possible to rise above and become stronger individuals in the process.