Believe Survivors

Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been nominated by President Trump and his administration to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court. Coverage of his nomination has been ongoing since July, when his selection was first announced. But since then, coverage has gone from moderate to absolutely ceaseless in recent weeks. Why?

He’s been accused of sexual assault and misconduct by three women.

We read his name in every news story, but only occasionally do we see the full names of those women. For the most part, they’re referred to simply as “the accusers.” We don’t know much about Dr. Ford and Mrs. Ramirez, other than the fact that plenty of Kavanaugh’s supporters believe that they are only coming out of the woodwork to sabotage his nomination.

Ford went to high school with Kavanaugh and alleges that he forcibly grinded on her in a bedroom upstairs at a party, covering her mouth as she screamed for him to get off. Ramirez went to college with him at Yale and says that he exposed himself to her at one of his fraternity’s parties. Kavanaugh’s supporters have pointed at these accusations and laughed. They have dismissed the victims and claimed that their accusations are made-up, politically motivated, and occurred too long ago to be relevant to his nomination.

The truth of the situation will hopefully come to light after the completion of the ordered FBI investigation. But until it does: I believe these women, and I think that you should, too.

I believe that this sexism and quick dismissal of female accusers, both in this case and in general, are insults to all American women and smears on our country’s proud reputation as ‘The Land of Opportunity.’ How can women live here freely, safely, and successfully when they feel that their perspectives and voices are not respected?

Say Their Names: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez

These two women are professionals and mothers, living productive and successful lives in California and Colorado. Dr. Ford is a highly published psychologist and a respected professor of statistics, and Ramirez works with a domestic violence victims’ advocacy organization. They are both well-educated, have either worked at or attended Ivy League institutions, and are contributing greatly to their respective fields. How many more degrees and glowing letters of recommendation do these women need in order to be taken seriously?

I am certain that Dr. Ford and Mrs. Ramirez have seen how female accusers of sexual assault are dragged through the mud. The #MeToo movement was a perfect demonstration of how disbelievers will slut-shame victims who point fingers at their favorite actors, directors, and public figures. Do you really think that these women are willing to subject themselves, and their families, to the media slander, harassment, and even death threats, for no reason other than to make Kavanaugh look bad?

A Kavanaugh supporter would challenge my point and say that is exactly what is going on. They would throw the “Why didn’t they come forward sooner?” criticism in my face. But let me say that as a woman, if I came forward about every single man who honked his car horn at me while I’ve walked down the street, every innuendo that has been made at me, and every inappropriate touch, I would never have time to do anything else.

Beyond that, women are conditioned to suck it up, take it, and generally blame themselves. At the time of the instances, both women were young students and probably felt that it was their fault for going out to the parties. They may have even justified the assaults with the fact that Kavanaugh was drunk and didn’t know what he was doing. They probably figured it was only a one-time instance, and that they had no reason to come forward and make a scene.

That is until years later when they saw his face again and learned that he’s potentially going to be appointed to the highest court in the country to a position that gives him the power to make decisions about women for the rest of his life. It’s then that they decided to come forward and make a scene—to protect the rest of America from him when nobody was there to do the same for them.

Check Your Sexism

Saying that these women are misremembering details of their situation and confusing Kavanaugh with someone else is a high insult to their intelligence.

In the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn-Queens, four men recently came forward about the abuse they faced as children in the church. But, is anyone telling these now-grown men that they are misremembering? Would anyone ever dare insult them and their trauma like that? Of course not. We have faith in the fact that they would know what happened best, so why do we not extend this same faith to women?

The legitimacy in these accusations will continue to be challenged and studied over the coming weeks, but please think before you dismiss them. Coming forward as a victim is difficult in any situation, but especially on such a public stage. Recently, a third woman named Julie Swetnick has come forward with new information and accusations that are going to be covered and discussed alongside Dr. Ford and Mrs. Ramirez's accounts. With women finding strength in numbers during this investigation and the earlier #MeToo inquisitions, Swetnick may not be the last one to arrive on the scene.

I ask that you pay attention to the news, respect the courage of these women, and believe survivors. But most importantly, call your representatives. Our nation will never have justice if our Justices themselves are threats to our safety and sovereignty.

Image Courtesy of Jim Bourg / Reuters

Kathleen LarkinComment