“I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school…”
More than 20 million people watched as Professor Christine Blasey-Ford stood in front of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee and recalled an alleged sexual assault by Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.
I was not one of them.
I chose to log out of all social media accounts and spend the day watching movies, keeping away from all news I could surrounding the hearing. As a victim of rape, I was not prepared to have those feelings bought up again. I especially didn’t want to see the he-said-she-said debate raging on social media, hear the doubts around sexual assault validity if it’s not reported immediately, or expose myself to the vitriol of people who value a mans reputation over the safety of women.
I couldn’t do it. Not this time.
So I logged off. Not because I didn’t care, and not because I wanted to avoid it forever. I just wanted to delay having to deal with the notion that a man who may have sexually assaulted someone could soon be a sitting judge in the highest court in the country.
How did we get here?
Ford heard of Kavanaugh’s potential nomination to the Supreme Court and felt it was her “civic duty” to tell someone of her experience so those who were considering him for the position would know about his conduct in the past. She called The Washington Post with an anonymous tip, and wrote a letter to Senator Diane Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, detailing the assault, and opting to keep her identity confidential. She did this in the hope that the allegation alone would be enough for the Senate to consider Kavanaugh’s demeanor, and she could protect herself and her family from any attacks.
But her attempts at staying anonymous were unsuccessful.
She came forward and gave an interview with The Washington Post, saying that if her story was going to be told, she was going to be the one to tell it.
Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegations, but the vote on his seat on the Supreme Court was nevertheless postponed and interrupted with last Thursday’s hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which Ford spoke about the alleged assault, giving moving testimony and calmly answering the questions asked of her.
“I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school,” Ford said in her opening statement to the Committee, putting her motivations for coming forward on the table. The rest of her testimony was just as candid.
She was honest and admitted when she couldn’t recall details from the night, over 30 years ago. She used her expertise as a psychologist to give an explanation for her memory retention and memory gaps with scientific exactness.
She told Senator Feinstein that she knew Kavanaugh was her attacker because “the neurotransmitter epinephrine codes memories into the hippocampus,” and that the most vivid memory of the attack – the laughter between Kavanaugh and his friend in the room, Mark Judge – was “indelible in the hippocampus.”
She was the perfect picture of what society asks of survivors of sexual assault; composed, credible, and a spotless record.
The picture which was taken of Ford with her head back, eyes closed and right arm raised as she swore an oath to tell the truth mirrors that taken of Anita Hill, 27 years ago, when she stood in front of an all-male committee – many of which witnessed Ford’s testimony on Thursday – and was questioned about the sexual harassment she’d experienced by Clarence Thomas, an upcoming Supreme Court nominee.
We were given a second chance to change how we as a country should hear out accusations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominees, and we have learned nothing at all.
While Ford was an example of the perfect sexual assault victim, Kavanaugh was evidence of what society tolerates from those accused of it. He was angry. He was belligerent. He dodged, reflected or just avoided answering questions asked of him by those on the committee. He raised his voice and shouted, he cried, and even turned questions back on Senators when he didn’t want to answer them.
“So you’re saying there’s never been a case where you drank so much that you didn’t remember what happened the night before or part of what happened?” the Senator Amy Klobuchar asked Kavanaugh.
“I don’t know—have you?” Kavanaugh responded.
While some could argue this behavior was that of a man wrongly accused of sexual assault and facing the loss of a grand career move, it definitely was not the behavior fitting for a Supreme Court Judge, the position he is up for.
We must do better
When I did finally get back online and catch up on the hearing, my PTSD went into overdrive. I was shocked at how similar aspects of her sexual assault were to my own rape. In her emotional opening statement, she detailed how she was pushed onto a bed, and Kavanaugh pinned her down, running his hands over her body, grinding into her, and trying to take off her clothes.
“I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming. This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life,” she read out. I watched this testimony on my phone, sitting on my couch at home. And yet, as she spoke those words, I was back in the house I was raped in, with my assaulter on top of me, covering my mouth to stifle my screams.
This is why women all over the country – and across the world – were the ones who were paying the closest attention to Thursday’s hearing. This is why so many cried watching Ford’s testimony or were enraged watching Kavanaughs. This is why hashtags sparked by the allegations thrived on Twitter. The things Ford said in her statement is a very real, lived experience for many women. One in five women experiences sexual assault in their lives. That means that one in five women have had an experience like Ford, and like me, and like the three other women who have come forward and said Kavanaugh assaulted them, as well.
We cannot have a Judge sitting on the Supreme Court who has four allegations against him, who cannot remain composed in the face of adversity, and who has shown his inability to stay impartial.
How could a woman who’d experienced assault feel confident she was being given a fair trial with Kavanaugh staring at her – a man who claimed he couldn’t sexually assault someone because he was still a virgin at the time, as if being a virgin renders you incapable of attempted rape. A man who has expressed his want to reverse Roe vs Wade, and doesn’t believe a President can be impeached after wrongdoing. How can we, in good conscience, appoint this man to the Supreme Court?
Comment: What do you think about the Kavanaugh hearing, and Dr. Ford’s testimony?