Blind Belief is Not Justice for Sexual Assault Victims
Christine Blasey Ford was the subject of last week’s headlines since she was revealed as the author of a letter accusing conservative supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of attempted rape. Sunday she was joined by Deborah Ramirez, Kavanaugh’s alum at Yale University. Ramirez admits hesitation in coming forward, but ultimately gained confidence in her recollection enough to seek counsel and share with The New Yorker that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a college party. #WhyIDidntReport trended over the weekend as high profile actors and executives shared their painful, personal accounts of sexual assault and the reasons they waited to come forward — sometimes for many months or even years without ever sharing the incident(s).
Sadly, only about 30% of rape victims will ever come forward at all. The minority of sexual assault victims who do come forward will often delay doing so. Trauma manifests in neurobiological and physical ways. Vivid reenactments of assault occur when victims verbalize their experiences. Our physical bodies respond to such stress by preparing for the worst — heart muscles contract, adrenaline and cortisol are released, blood pressure elevates and breathing becomes more difficult. But the most unfortunate cases, the impact of trauma is psychological. It occurs when the mind adapts to stress by restructuring itself resulting in brief psychotic breakdowns and even lifelong psychotic disorders.
As such, President Donald Trump’s belief that if someone is sexually assaulted “charges would have been immediately filed”– is ignorant. At first glance, the long-delayed report by Ford and Ramirez seem commonplace per the trauma-delayed reporting common in assault victims — but their statements and subsequent actions suggest that neither Ford or Ramirez ever suffered the symptoms of trauma previously described. Instead, their motivations seem largely, if not solely political.
Since the #MeToo movement’s viral spread last year, our culture is progressing, seeking to correct sexual violence and those complicit in all corners of society. Supporters of the movement have often taken swift action to shame accusers in public life, private industry and in government. Today, it seems anything, but the blind belief of a sexual assault claim is by default victim-blaming or victim-shaming.
When claims are clearly motivated by ideology, they disrespect the very purpose of our justice system, which aims to right wrongs, and offer compensation to victim claims are so clearly motivated by ideology, they disrespect the very purpose of our justice system, which aims to right wrongs, and offer compensation to victims. If left unchecked, our intent of correcting sexual violence is leading to a staunch over-correction and backward justice, one that blurs the lines between assault and discomfort, criticism, and investigation — so while all allegations of assault must be taken seriously, they should not be readily believed.
Several factors contribute to the idea that Ford and Ramirez have not come forward in the brave admission of a personal tragedy, but rather to inhibit a conservative supreme court. Per Ford’s letter, she initially came forward because she felt “compelled as a citizen. A classmate of Ramirez told The New Yorker, “It’s been on my mind…(once) his name came up.” Ford described her life as “derailed” following the incident, but her actions over the years and into the present, do not appear to be genuine attempts to get it back on track. Ramirez, other than describing her immediate feelings during the incident as ‘embarrassing’ makes no reference to suffering the trauma of any kind thereafter. “It was kind of a joke,” Ramirez says of her immediate response to the alleged exposure.”
Ford initially that FBI investigation was conducted before she agreed to testify, presumably, with the knowledge such an investigation would be improbable to perform since Ford could not remember the year, let alone the date of the assault, nor how she arrived or returned from the house party. Though Ford did attend therapy six years ago, her therapists’ notes make no mention of Kavanaugh. Also, they state that 4 boys were involved in the assault, though Ford’s letter described 2 boys. Ramirez’s account was corroborated by one witness but debunked by several others.
Of course, victims often do struggle to remember precise details of the assault, however since Ford has agreed to finally testify, one can presume she would have been equally apt to do so at any point in time while Kavanaugh was a D.C. Circuit Court Judge or at any point in the decades preceding. That goes double for Ramirez, who said that two other males were present to witness the alleged exposure, who may have recalled clearer details, but whom she refused to name publicly.
Sexual assault can be reported in any number of ways even decades after it has occurred. Certainly, Ford and Ramirez could have pursued the matter privately sans-politics by informing local authorities and pursuing criminal charges, as Maryland holds no statute of limitations for criminal attempted rape. Many victims also pursue civil lawsuits, especially if fear of testifying on the stand in front of strangers is a factor. In civil court, the burden of proof is lower, rather than a unanimous decision, one only need convince a judge the accusation is more likely true than untrue (preponderance of the evidence.)
Ford and Ramirez did not seek their own justice, or to spare another woman of being potentially assaulted since they did not report their allegations to any formal authority. After such long-silence, Ford sent a letter directly to a political official. Ramirez in tow disclosed her allegations to Democratic senators through her lawyer. The timely disclosure to Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif) suggests their only motive are to give the Democratic Party ammunition — impeding Kavanaugh’s confirmation is a big political win, but not a win for #MeToo, or for justice.
Further politicizing the very real terror of assault are Democrats themselves. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) did not act on the allegations for two months after receiving Ford’s letter. One can only conclude she did not find the allegations credible enough to do anything but prevent Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Since Ford’s letter, Democrats have become relative Archbishops of blind belief, a dangerous stream of thought that will ultimately harm countless innocent people.
“I believe her,” says Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) about Ford pre-testimony.
Long before Ford agreed to testify without an FBI investigation Sen. Chuck Schumer (D- ) told ABC’s The View “I believe Professor Ford,”
The Women’s March, Planned Parenthood Action and dozens of other progressive organizations have organized a National Walkout to take place Monday, all wearing badges in support of Ford.
Newman, a writer for Vox News wrote an editorial based on her own research stating “Ford’s allegation does not, based on what I’ve researched, have the characteristics of a false rape accusation. She ended the piece writing: “…we cannot continue to elevate alleged sex offenders to the highest positions in our society.”
Supporters for Ford in these and other instances do not often cite any actual evidence, but rather their contempt for Kavanaugh’s pro-life values. Clearly, the court of public opinion enacts its judgments in near-real time, with rapid consequences and no possibility of redemption. Newman’s words reflect the naivety most hold about the presence of ‘smoke’ and the existence of ‘fire’ when it comes to the criminal justice system. Such sentiments prove ignorance, considering how easy it is for one to be accused of a crime. If knowledgeable, one would never suggest that anyone’s allegations ought to be taken as fact.
Once a crime is reported, the details are usually electronically accessible to the general public, including the accused’s friends, family and future employers. Even when someone is found innocent, the catalyst of damage to their professional and personal lives has already begun. Once reported, an accusation can always be uncovered. Some believe such access is protected by the first amendment — never mind that innocent or not, sexual allegations can ruin employment prospects, home ownership or apartment leasing, regardless of the matter’s outcome.
For all of these reasons, people are just plain wrong when they state that women coming forward should be believed. We cannot correct our past wrongs by swift acquiescence to anyone who claims to have been wronged. An independent investigation of facts in a court of law is the only method of justice we can rely on.
Finally, the allegations by Ford and Ramirez are serious. Should Thursday’s testimonies prove fruitless, and Kavanagh is ultimately confirmed, the ripple effect will reach far beyond the Supreme Court — but a universal demand for justice and equality, cannot be in pursuit of our own personal politics.
The ideological inspiration for Ford’s letter warrants fair criticism of the incident, but much worse than that, it feeds the anti-feminist counter-culture who will retaliate with callous skepticism or scorn on future sexual assault victims. Authentic claims may not matter to Democrats, but they will be met with intense scrutiny, affecting all future victims of sexual assault. The unveiling of sexual predators is important for our country’s safety — not its Congressional minority, and those of who have made partisan sport of it, are of no service to women.