Why are you afraid of flying? Why do you have two front doors? What music was playing when you were leaving the party? None of these are relevant or appropriate questions to ask a potential rape survivor.
But the relentless and condescending panel of senators posed them to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford anyway.
Ford was recently thrust into the national spotlight after her allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh were leaked to the media in September. Ford has accused Kavanaugh, in a confidential letter to CA Senator Dianne Feinstein, of covering her mouth and trying to remove her clothing at a party in the ’80s and decided to tell her own story instead of having others tell it for her.
Since the leak, Ford endured question after excruciating question from a panel of senators on Sept. 27. During this same hearing, Kavanaugh avoided as many questions as he could and insisted the allegations are part of a Democratic smear campaign.
These hearings are supposed to be to see whether Kavanaugh is fit to be U.S. Supreme Court justice, and for Ford to testify that he allegedly assaulted her. Blatant misogyny and perpetuation of rape culture echoed throughout the Capitol that day, as prosecutors bombarded Ford with questions and eased the heat for Kavanaugh.
While prosecutor Rachel Mitchell grilled Ford for hours on end, she questioned Kavanaugh for no more than 15 minutes before Republican Senators silenced her and took over. Also of note, Mitchell is a sex crimes prosecutor in Maricopa County, AZ, which is notorious for unprosecuted sex crimes. The double standard in questioning reinforced the U.S. culture of invalidating lived experiences of potential survivors, perpetuating the “boys will be boys” mentality.
There are still many individuals, including the president of the United States, who do not believe Ford and want to dismantle her story. No matter how many people support survivors of assault, there are always others working to disprove them. People immediately jump to conclusions and blame, and don’t want to believe survivors of sexual assault.
Ford testified and passed a polygraph test. Other people like Julie Swetnick and Debbie Ramirez spoke out, also alleging assault by Kavanaugh. Despite this support of her case, people continue to doubt her, put her down and send her death threats.
There is an FBI investigation of the sexual assault allegations toward Kavanaugh, but the FBI does not currently plan to interview Ford or Swetnick. Instead, they interviewed Kavanaugh’s high school friend Mark Judge, whom Ford said was in the room when then-17-year-old Kavanaugh allegedly tried to rape her when she was 15. The blatant bias against survivors of sexual assault shown by the FBI and the Senate Judiciary Committee throughout the hearing lacks general empathy toward those who are survivors of assault.
There is so much concern about whether or not a man’s future should be impacted by an allegation of rape, yet there is no consideration of the impact of rape on the life of the survivor. The double standard when it comes to how men in power are treated compared to anyone else is disgusting.
An accused sexual harasser has already been allowed onto the Supreme Court. In 1991, law professor Anita Hill testified against Justice Clarence Thomas during his confirmation process. She was also grilled with sexist, unrelated questions that belittled her and truly showed how the senators did not care about her.
It takes courage for survivors of sexual harassment and assault to be vulnerable in front of people they don’t know, and relive the trauma they went through. It is incredibly difficult for them to come forward about their experiences as they, more often than not, are treated like Hill and Blasey Ford — gaslit, blamed and made to feel ashamed for something they did not have control over.
If this is the kind of behavior he might have exemplified in the past, he could only make matters worse for survivors as a member of the Supreme Court. It is embarrassing that we have already allowed Clarence Thomas, one alleged sexual harasser, onto the Court. Now, we not only need to stop the Senate Judiciary Committee from approving Kavanaugh’s appointment, but we need to address the persistent and pervasive rape culture in the U.S. that consistently allows the accused to keep power over the accuser. To do so, people need to continue to let their voice be heard by calling senators and protesting.
Stop the blaming of survivors for things they did not do.