Dr. Ford vs. Mr. Kavanaugh: A Moment In History For Sexual Assault Survivors Everywhere

It is not often that I pay much attention to politics, and I have not really kept up with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States for some time. I heard about the allegations when they were leaked, I heard a lot on Twitter about it. But I have not gotten the chance to look into it.

Thursday, while I was working, I listened to much of Dr. Ford’s testimony on Minnesota Public Radio. I caught about half of it, minus her opening statement. I listened also to Mr. Kavanaugh’s opening statement and much of his testimony. Of that, I caught about 3/4ths of what was said. I think this is impressive while working extra that day. It left me drained, conflicted, and sad for American politics. Before I go into my impressions of the raw footage, as it was happening, let me give a spot of background.

The Supreme Court’s Reputation

For those international readers, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is an extremely respected institution. Appointments to the SCOTUS have always been contentious, because it is a lifelong appointment that is taken very, very seriously. The court rulings themselves, while controversial at times, have great respect from all sides, Democrat, Republican, and beyond. It is safe to say that the reputation of the SCOTUS is on the line with this nomination, because of the seriousness of the allegations, and because of the climate we are in, filled with fake news, alternative facts, and a disrespect for science and civility.

Every political party, particularly Democrat and Republican, are at each other’s throats. I saw an excellent sign some time ago that perfectly captures my sentiments on this climate. It read,

Build a wall bridge, make America great whole again.

I believe that Americans should be working together to make this nation of ours great. Not because we are the best country in the world or any nationalistic nonsense like that (sorry, patriots). Because we are human, and we have a lot of international influence. We are every one of us human beings, and it is our civic duty as human beings to leave this world in a better state than which we found it.

I believe in a lot of what the Constitution of the United States has to offer: Innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, due process, free speech, equality under the law, and respecting our fellow man. These elements and much more have founded the basis of the United States. I believe in these elements. While I do not believe we should be taking sexual assault survivors at their word and blindly jailing people if someone says they were assaulted, I do believe their accusation should be investigated by law enforcement and professionals familiar with handling sexual assault cases.

No “Right” Political Party

As was said on Thursday, there is a right way to handle sexual assault cases, which involves collaboration from medical experts, psychology experts, law enforcement professionals, witnesses, and more. I often find myself on the Democrat side of politics because of the issues I value as vitally important, particularly preventing child sexual abuse. Where the Republican approach seems to involve punishment, more than anything else, the Democrat’s approach is far more nuanced and accurate to the research I am familiar with. However, it is the underlying values that I find important, not allegiance to any particular party. The Democrats just happen to have more values in line with what I hold dear to my heart.

Dr. Ford’s Testimony

Dr. Ford’s testimony, as I said, I only heard about half of. I did not catch her opening remarks. I did hear her answering the grueling questions that were being posed to her. Her answers, and her composure, did not seem fabricated. They seemed honest, composed, and dignified. They came from a human being, like any one of us. They were not pandered to any particular honest, she acknowledged the shortcomings of her allegations and expressed a firm wish to be able to narrow down the timeline further. It was hard for me to imagine any kind of refutation to what she had to say, from what I heard of her. Still, I wanted to hear the other side, no matter how sick to my stomach it might make me. I thought it might, given the topic. It was difficult for me to hear the raw emotion in Dr. Ford’s voice when she spoke of her fear that Kavanaugh was going to rape her or accidentally kill her, and she did use the word “accidental.”

It is difficult for me to believe that Dr. Ford would take an oath to tell the truth, say what she said, and not be credible.

Brett Kavanaugh’s Testimony

As I said, I caught about 3/4ths of what was said – Thursday morning was rather busy, and his testimony took place in the afternoon. His opening statements started with a fact that I found very challenging to Dr. Ford’s allegations: That none of the three witnesses she named could recall a party of the sort she described, including one of her longtime close friends, and that they testified as much, under penalty of perjury.

He then described his calendar, which he supposedly kept very meticulously since early on in high school. I imagine such organized people exist, however, my experience in high school was that most students are nowhere near that organized. I thought it was suspicious that he would have kept such a calendar, be it a journal or not, since high school for all these years.

Then he started going on a half-angry, self-pitying, tearful tirade about how he is the victim of a political conspiracy against his nomination, saying in one breath that he respects Dr. Ford and wishes her no ill will, and in another that she is part of a massive well-funded conspiracy to oppose his nomination.

Kavanaugh

He described his growing up, his commitment to having more women in law, how he got the calendar-journal idea from his father, who started his in 1978. Then came questioning. I was already hearing the anger in his voice, though I could not see his face, but I was unprepared for the level of discomposure I heard from Kavanaugh during his questioning.

Beer, Interruptions, And Acting

He repeatedly talked about liking beer… and dodged questions time and again about whether he ever blacked out from drinking, where earlier he stated that he had never done so. He stated he never had problems with drinking, but then went on to say that his friends, including him, sometimes had too much to drink. He repeatedly interrupted almost every senator who asked him questions, at one point turning Senator Klobuchar’s question back on her:

He was repeatedly asked about why he had not requested an FBI investigation into the allegations of Dr. Ford, and he described the process by which an FBI investigation works… and dodges the question, time and time again. He never gave an answer for whether he would be willing to ask for an FBI investigation:

There was an overall lack of composure with which Kavanaugh gave his testimony and his answers:

While I absolutely do not have any tolerance for death threats, the manner with which he answers questions, yells at senators, interrupts… you would expect this behavior from a child or teenager, not a full-grown man trying to get confirmed to the SCOTUS. If indeed these committee hearings are a job interview, and any of us acted that way in a job interview, we would be guaranteed to not get the job.

I Believe Dr. Ford, But…

There it is. I have heard both sides, I have heard the excuses, interruptions, tirades, and more from Kavanaugh. I even heard less of Dr. Ford’s testimony than I did Kavanaugh’s. I gave them both their fair shake. Even if you do not believe Dr. Ford, even if you                think she was lying… I have one question for you: Do we want a man who gets angry at senators, yells, interrupts, and acts totally undignified in front of the entire nation on the Supreme Court of the United States?

I say no, we do not. There are additional factors here: Some have said, well, Kavanaugh was a teenager at the time. We all do stupid things as teenagers. I never acted towards anyone in the manner that Dr. Ford described. I never attempted to choke someone, forced them on a bed, or in a word, sexually assaulted them. Being a teenager is not an excuse for anything, let alone violating someone sexually. It is not a defense.

Some have said that Kavanaugh is a good person, he could not have done those things because of how trusted he is. That is not a defense. Most sexual assaults occur at the hands of someone the victim knows and trusts. Look at Bill Cosby: The nicest man on television for decades, and then you come to find out he was drugging and raping women. Look at Sandusky, same thing: Great coach, well-trusted, and then you find out he was raping young boys.

Blindly believing victims is also not a defense. We should not just blindly trust women because they say they were raped, it needs an investigation. At the same time, sexual assault is a crime in which the police rarely investigate, let alone prosecute people. The Star Tribune recently did a report, blasting Minnesota’s law enforcement agencies showing this to be the case. It is not rare for sexual assault to never be investigated by the police at all. It is common

While science and experts tell us that survivors often do not lie – to the tune of 90% and up – we absolutely need investigations, not only to see justice happen to the perpetrator if the allegations are true, but to hold a false accuser accountable if the allegations are not true. We need to ensure that sexual assault survivors are taken seriously when they take the immensely difficult step of coming forward. That the United States Senate did not pursue an investigation is a black stain on America’s history.

Bottom Line

Senator Flake finally called for a week-long FBI investigation into the allegations of Dr. Ford, and for a delay in the Senate vote for whether Kavanaugh will be confirmed. I believe this is a step that should have been taken immediately. If what the Republicans are saying is true, that they were not immediately investigated when they were leaked, and that the Democrats pushed for this outcome, then I fear for our nation. I fear for what politics has driven us to.

Kavanaugh is not the right man for the job, that much is clear, regardless of the allegations. He has shown that he is willing to succumb to partisan politics in front of the entire nation, and that is simply not acceptable for an institution that is supposed to check and balance the Executive and Legislative branches of the United States government. However, we need to come together as a nation and stop bickering over which political party is correct.

We need to make America whole again.

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