This is going to be messy. If you’re looking for a clear-cut explanation then I suggest you go no further. I’m going to spend the next several paragraphs explaining my perspective on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Brett Kavanaugh and the larger #MeToo movement.
First, a little about myself. I’m a pretty average white guy. I’m married and have two sons. I work a middle-class job and have a mortgage. Politically, I’m center-left and moving further left every day. I have a bachelor’s in communications and a master’s in creative writing. I’m pretty unqualified to talk about this stuff but I need to unclutter my mind. Ever since November 2016 I’ve felt compelled to say something, even if what I have to say isn’t very useful to anyone.
Okay, let’s begin. I believe Dr. Ford and I believe pretty much all women when they say they’ve been the victims of sexual abuse. I say this with a certain amount of unease. I’ve always been told that people are innocent until proven guilty and that everyone has a right to due process. These ideas are firmly rooted in my mind. Honestly, its taken a long time and a lot of thinking to see clearly on this issue. I should say my misgivings weren’t because I thought women were lying-they generally don’t. Rather, I couldn’t square what I’d been taught about justice with the stories I was hearing.
It wasn’t until Dr. Ford testified that I found some measure of stability on this issue. All the talk of treating Brett Kavanaugh fairly and making sure his right to due process was honored struck me as cruel, if not perverse. I don’t know when the moment of clarity came but I was suddenly struck with insight. What about Dr. Ford’s right to due process, the one denied her for almost 40 years?
Of course, the popular refrain is, “why didn’t she tell the police?” Well, and I’m just spitballing, here: I’m assuming Dr. Ford didn’t feel comfortable. She was 15. She’d been at a party where there was lots of underage drinking. Perhaps she felt shame or embarrassment or perhaps she thought no one would believe her or, worse, perhaps she thought others would blame her for what happened.
I admit, this part has been hard for me to understand, then I did some reading. I have a news background and need something tangible to wrap my head around before I can change my mind on pretty much anything. Well, hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits is proof that something is wrong with our system of justice. Women came forward. They handed over evidence to police and nothing happened. Where is the outrage about their due process?
If your house gets robbed the police might ask if the door was unlocked but they wouldn’t drag you into the public square and berate you for inviting a criminal into your home. No, they’d go looking for the perpetrator because, locked door or not, that person had no right to do what they did. So, why do we grill women about their behavior or ask what they wore when a man attacked them? Why would any woman report they’d been violated only to be violated again by people who are supposed to help? Where is their assumption of innocence? Also, it’s a twisted world we live in when a woman who’s been victimized will remain silent out of concern about what will happen to her if she says something.
The more I thought the more I realized my belief in the system clouded reality. I started to think about the other ways in which women in this country are ignored or brutalized. Take Hillary Clinton for instance. Just look what happened when a woman became the nominee for a major political party. I mean, a foreign country actually interfered in our election because they were that afraid of a female president.
Then there’s the mind-bending double standard of calling someone “Crooked Hillary” while throwing your weight behind a notorious womanizer with questionable business practices and a habit of lying. Hillary is still the boogeyman for so many people and yet many of these same people chalk up bad press about Trump as “fake news.” Hillary was convicted long ago but never got her day in court.
Just look around. Women are still paid substantially less than men for the same work. Men commit most of the crime in the United States but it’s women who are more likely to be the victims of domestic homicide. Men can make laws about women’s bodies but last I checked men can masturbate without fear of being dragged into court (unless of course there’s a crime attached to the act, like masturbating in public). The two probably aren’t comparable but the way I see it, a side effect of masturbation is the voiding of potential life. Yet unlike abortion, we don’t work ourselves into a dither when a man wastes his seed.
This indifference to the rights of women plagues our history. Look no further than the 19th amendment. Women had to fight tooth and nail for a right that white men gave themselves at the founding. And this is just the most obvious example! If you really want to blow your mind, consider the human nipples. Why is it that I can walk around town shirtless and no one cares and yet a woman would most likely get arrested for going topless in public. What’s the damned difference? Why is my nipple fine but a woman’s obscene?
All this is to say that it’s no wonder Dr. Ford and countless other women didn’t/don’t come forward. Our country has a long track record of seeing them as second class citizens. I understand this better now but I still grapple with the question of innocence. Personally, I need some way to rectify this imbalance. I’ve settled on incentive. Who has something to gain by lying? In the case of Dr. Ford and Brett Kavanaugh, it seems clear to me. Dr. Ford knew what would happen to her if she went public and tried hard to avoid that outcome. I don’t see the upside for her in this scenario. Kavanaugh stood to lose everything and so he doubled down. He had a choice between saving the sanctity of an institution or himself. He chose the latter.
Do women lie about sexual assault? Sure, but that has nothing to do with their gender. You put 100 people together in a room and you’ll get a handful of liars. Most women are telling the truth about their experience. We’ve been trained to see innocence first when objectivity should be the standard. Both parties should be heard and treated fairly but this only makes sense if each person feels like they’ll be heard. I understand due process doesn’t extend to things like a Senate hearing, however, too often these matters are litigated in the court of public opinion when they should be handled in a court of law. And for a country that prides itself on law and order, we should ask ourselves why this is.
This post was originally published on Medium and is republished here with permission from the author.
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