On Sept. 27, the nation watched Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as she delivered a testimony against Brett M. Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court Justice nominee under the Trump Administration, for sexually assaulting her in 1982. This isn’t the first sexual assault allegation to sweep across the Trump administration, nor is Ford the first woman to come public with her personal and harrowing account of sexual assault. Within the past two years, an overwhelming number of women across different backgrounds and industries have also come forward to share their experiences of sexual assault at the hands of powerful men in this country, notably Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby.
The sudden spark in the revelations of victims’ of sexual assault attracted the disturbingly applicable name “#MeToo,” which works to encourage women who too have fallen victims of sexual assault to come forward with their own story. Allegations within the entertainment industry came forward against branded names including Patrick Demarchelier, Princess Diana’s former personal photographer, in which many of the victims reported traumatic situations where these men used the power they held within their industry to leverage sexual favors. The blanket response to most of the statements deemed the victims liars who were upset for not getting awarded certain positions within specific productions.
Trust was placed with the accused while many victims lost their credibility after their accusations. This unfortunate trend of questioning the validity of the allegations and accusations of sexual assault shows exactly whose opinion and whose story is valued within this country. This mode of thought has ultimately prevailed onto the Kavanaugh case.
Ford’s case stood out as representative of a larger, institutionalized problem. The nation’s reaction to Ford’s testimony is emblematic of the overarching understanding of sexual assault in this country: protecting the comfort and status of white men in power instead of the integrity, sanctity and safety of women. The very idea that Kavanaugh stands as the primary nominee to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat, per the president’s choosing, serves as a reminder of the very real and impactful discrepancy within this gendered country. The extremely important and symbolic role he is positioned to hold — as chief interpreter of this country’s laws — while being investigated for sexual assault, only works to further highlight the country’s inattention to the topic of rampant sexual assault that we have seen within the #MeToo movement.
Ford’s ability to come forward, in front of a panel of 17 male senators, and bravely recount the night she was sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh is a demonstration of unbridled courage. Her composed demeanor in the situation was praised by many.
By contrast, Kavanaugh’s childish behavior in response to the testimony — and many of the questions thereafter — begged viewers to interpret it as representative of white male fragility.
Onlookers present at the trial watched, mouths agape, as Kavanaugh spit and screamed about being a virgin with a calendar, and yet, people still question the credibility of Ford. Again, the inability of this country to deem Kavanaugh’s behavior at the trial as not only representative of his character, but representative of the truthfulness of Ford’s testimony, is a stark example of male dominance within our culture.
Much of the controversy surrounding this case in particular is obviously tied to its political relevance. Both sides of the political spectrum used the case to gain leverage. On the one hand, the Democratic Party is planning on using her testimony, and the calculated timing of its reveal, to unseat much of the Republican influence within the Senate.
The Republicans, unsurprisingly, responded incredulously to the testimony, calling it a ploy motivated by Democratic interests. The nature of this allegation as a political chess piece undermines the severity of the situation. Sexual assault is not something that should be used as a token of power. Coming forward and sharing such a traumatic experience should not be considered something as a selfish act of trying to gain power.
According to some, Ford’s delay in coming forth with her story serves as a form of evidence to support the falsehood of her allegation. However, she was motivated by the possibility that someone with such a reputation would take the seat in the highest court in the U.S., and felt obligated — as a woman of this nation — to warn the country of the nature of his character.
There is no expiration date, no date stamp, on trauma. If anything, the time that has passed since the event should be more representative of how white men in this country hold little responsibility for their actions. The fact that 30 odd years have passed and Kavanaugh has yet to pay anything for his actions speaks volumes regarding the privilege bestowed on men.
Trump’s support of Kavanaugh, then, only acts as further representation of the power dynamic within American culture. The fact that President Trump, who too holds allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against him, supports the idea of a fellow perpetrator of sexual violence in a position of power, offers insight into how incredible the influence men in power hold in this society. If Kavanaugh does end up getting confirmed to a Supreme Court seat, eyes around the U.S. will be watching the cyclical effects of misogyny in action. One woman, in response to this case tweeted, “Brock Turners grow up to be Brett Kavanaughs who make rules for Brock Turners.”
The reality of the statement is shocking.
Brock Turners grow up to be Brett Kavanaughs who make the rules for Brock Turners.
— feminist next door (@emrazz) September 27, 2018
There is a dire need for a shift in attention when it comes to talking about and facing sexual assault. This trial has potential to change the way in which our country surveys sexual misconduct and misogyny. Men and women alike, believing in Ford’s testimony and refusing to side with Kavanaugh solely because of his position within our government and position as a white male, has opened many to the possibility of change.