I don’t really want to talk about Brett Kavanaugh.
I don’t want to because I’m sad, because I’m disappointed, because it is all I have been thinking about for two weeks. I don’t want to talk about his embarrassing testimony, the petulance and partisanship I felt he displayed, the misplaced anger, the inability to answer questions straight, the disrespect for the judicial process. I don’t want to talk about all of this, because I am exhausted by it, I am drained, I have just reached my limit.
However, I do want to talk about rape culture, I do want to talk about why we believe survivors, and I do want to talk about the national response to Dr. Ford’s bravery.
In case anyone has missed the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings this past week, here’s the rundown: In July, President Trump nominated conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. Shortly after his nomination, professor and research psychologist Christine Blasey Ford anonymously then publicly reached out to representatives about Brett Kavanaugh. Dr. Ford alleges that Kavanaugh and his friend assaulted her at a party in high school.
The country was immediately shocked by Dr. Ford’s testimony last Thursday. She spoke in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in an effort, as she put it, to do her duty and tell the truth. I urge anyone who has not seen or read her testimony to do so. In my opinion, Dr. Ford has done an incredibly brave and, in the word’s of Cory Booker, heroic thing by speaking out about her assault.
While many people rallied online to support Dr. Ford with the #IBelieveHer, the response from many has been quite angry. One of the most popular questions I see online is “Why do we automatically side with the woman?” I have to admit, I understand where some skeptical people are coming from.
People are in fact innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law, and due process is necessary.
Nonetheless, I believe Dr. Blasey Ford because I understand the power of rape culture. I believe her because this accusation is in no way unbelievable, to me or to most women I know, because she is taking a massive personal and mental risk by reopening trauma and because this type of assault happens incredibly often.
I think we believe survivors because it is the human thing to do. When someone expresses that they experienced trauma, pain, and violation, one would imagine the response would be to do everything one could to find out what happened, who is potentially responsible, and how to help the person -- a fellow human being -- heal.
I also believe that Brett Kavanaugh did not think he was doing anything wrong at the time. That is not a defense (believe me I will not be defending Kavanaugh any time soon). However, it would not be hard for me to imagine that this sort of horrendous behavior was normalized to him and his peers at the time.
Pictures of his page in his high school yearbook feature some disturbing comments, normalized references to being an “alumnus” of a female classmate and friend, references to anal sex, and the phrase “Devil’s Triangle” which typically refers to threesome between two men and a woman.
There is a problem with our culture. We perpetuate the idea that boys can’t control themselves when it comes to sex, and that things like this are bound to happen when people are drinking. That is rape culture. We question the victim, berating her for not remembering if she turned left or right, finding any way to turn the situation on her. When I was young, I was told by teachers and older friends that drinking and dressing “slutty” was how girls got raped. Assault became the effect and the woman the cause. That is rape culture.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford showed incredible bravery by coming forward in a culture like this. She also started a national and federal dialogue about sexual assault and why victims have trouble coming forward sometimes. However, her bravery is inspiring other women and men to be brave and speak about their sexual trauma. During her testimony, the National Sexual Assault Hotline’s calls spiked 147%. Like we saw with the #MeToo movement, there is power in numbers. Dr. Ford bravery is speaking to survivors and letting them know that, when they are ready, it is OK to speak out. It can be freeing. It can be scary. And it could even change the world.
Brett Kavanaugh will likely become a member of the Supreme Court. However, Dr. Ford’s efforts were not in vain. She has brought assault awareness to the forefront of national news. She spoke to legislators, some of whom seem to be inspired by her bravery just like we are.
I believe Dr. Ford and I am thankful for her courage to address this cultural issue head on.
Emma Ragusa is a copy editor at The Rational Creature.