The Confirmation of Rape Culture
On July 9th, President Trump nominated Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States. On September 16th, The Washington Post published an article about Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a woman who claimed Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her in high school. Now, political commentators seem to think that Kavanaugh’s confirmation might be in jeopardy.
I am not of the opinion that this allegation will change much.
In the Post article, Dr. Ford, a research psychologist, spoke of her traumatic encounter with Kavanaugh. She talked about how he groped her and attempted to pull her clothes off while covering her mouth with one hand so she could not scream. “I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” she said.
Many news organizations and reporters expected President Trump to viciously criticize Dr. Ford, especially considering his own history of sexual assault accusations. When the story broke, however, he said, “Why would I attack her?”
Five days later, of course, he proceeded to do that exact thing. President Trump went on a multi-part Twitter rant where he attacked Dr. Ford’s credibility and stated that “Judge Kavanaugh is a fine man with an impeccable reputation.” But Trump was not the only one to dismiss the allegations as untrue or unimportant. There have been a whole host of political commentators, lawyers, journalists, and elected officials saying varied levels of the same thing.
Lawyer Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative organization, claimed that while Dr. Ford remembered the incident as attempted rape, it was so long ago that she might have confused “horseplay” with something more sinister. Others, like Senator Orrin Hatch, have insisted that Kavanaugh is an exceptionally good man. Senator Hatch even touted a conspiracy theory that Dr. Ford has been planted by special interest groups to derail Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
The way supporters of, and those close to, this administration are handling Dr. Ford’s accusations is a perfect example of the persistence of rape culture. Nobody besides Kavanaugh seems to be denying that the incident actually happened. But in a culture where sexual violence is commonplace and a part of adolescence, Kavanaugh’s violation of Dr. Ford is not seen as a crime like any other. In an administration and a society where rape is dismissed, the worry that men could be falsely accused and lose their livelihoods or their reputations trumps the obligation we are meant to have toward victims of crime. Currently, President Trump himself has 15 accusations of sexual assault still pending against him, not to mention the history of abuse perpetrated by those in his inner circle.
Whether Kavanaugh assaulted Dr. Ford three days ago, 36 years ago, or 70 years ago, he has still committed a crime. And no illegal activity, whether it be murder, drunk driving, or attempted rape, is behavior befitting a Supreme Court Justice.
Boys will be boys, however, and White House officials remain confident about Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
So do I.