Thursday, 20 September 2018

Women victims still can’t get a fair hearing

Jenni Russell @The Times

Eleven months on from Weinstein’s disgrace and the exploitation, brutality and damage to women revealed by #MeToo, this week’s response to the accusations of sexual assault against America’s Supreme Court nominee exposes how little has changed in society’s assumptions about whose voice has credibility when these reports are made.

Believe the men. That’s been the default position, not just for decades, but for millennia. A woman’s standing is instantly undermined by making an allegation. Women are dismissed as hysterical, or fantasists, or crazy for attention; as vengeful careerists or untrustworthy young girls.

There is incredulity that accused men of high reputation could be guilty. Other people, mostly men, flock to testify to their good character and many accomplishments. The accusations are incompatible with the civilised, decent men they know.

That prejudice, that lack of imagination about the range of human behaviour, is what has allowed male abusers to flourish in so many places. The Catholic Church, international aid agencies, British boarding schools, the Boy Scouts of America, CBS, Hollywood, Jimmy Savile, the USA gymnastics coach now in jail after assaulting more than a hundred girls.

Even men without high standing tend to be seen as more credible than the women they attack. That’s why grooming gangs in Rochdale, Rotherham and many other towns could rape girls with impunity over years, as police and social services dismissed it. “Believe the men,” has always been the instinctive, effective, protective response of the male-dominated power structure.

Now it is being deployed against Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who has reluctantly come forward to tell the Senate committee responsible for confirming Brett Kavanaugh for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court that he sexually assaulted her when she was 15.

Dr Ford says she was at a party with the 17-year-old Kavanaugh when he and a friend waylaid her coming out of an upstairs bathroom, pushed her into a bedroom, shut the door, thrust her onto a bed and tried to rape her. The music was too loud for anyone to hear. Kavanaugh, a well-built football player, allegedly lay on top of her, groped her, rubbed himself against her, tried to pull her clothes off and put his hand over her mouth to stifle her screams, so that Dr Ford feared he might accidentally kill her. It was only when his drunken friend jumped on the two of them that Dr Ford escaped. She told no one. Kavanaugh categorically denies that this ever happened.

Dr Ford did not want to go public. She has seen how society treats women who do. But she had been haunted by the attack all her life, told friends about it last year and had been discussing it in therapy since 2012, as her therapist’s notes confirm. She was alarmed that a man with Kavanaugh’s history should be given such power over women’s lives.

In July she sent a confidential letter to a Democratic senator on the committee, describing the assault and asking to talk. That letter leaked. Reporters turned up at Dr Ford’s house. She decided she had to identify herself before others did. She went public, saying she would testify to the Senate committee. The storm broke.

Every traditional tactic used to destroy a woman’s credibility and will has been deployed against Dr Ford. She has been jeered at, dismissed, menaced. Republicans have said this serious-minded professor is about to be exposed as “the loon she is”. A powerful Republican senator says Dr Ford is conducting a “drive-by shooting” on Kavanaugh, and that although he will listen to “this lady”, the confirmation will go ahead.

Dr Ford’s life has been shipwrecked. She has had so many death threats that she has had to go into hiding, take leave of absence from work, send her children away and employ security guards. No such danger has troubled Kavanaugh, who has a security detail provided by the state and whose wife has been giving out cupcakes to the camera crews outside their house.

It is horrifying to watch this unchanging pattern play out. Kavanaugh denies the attack but the Republican defence of him goes much wider. They dismiss such behaviour as “loutish” or “horseplay” or teenage high jinks. They simultaneously condemn a woman for making such a damaging accusation while asserting that such an event could not be damaging at all.

It seems incredible that so many men still don’t understand how common sexual assault is and why it hurts. Since #MeToo I have found almost every woman I know has been assaulted, and two raped. Most men don’t do it, so they have no idea of what women deal with and the fear and vigilance it instils.

When a man that you know and trust, socially or professionally, turns into a determined, brutal attacker, indifferent to every emotion you have, or to your screams, all your fragile pride and sense of self is shattered. Minutes before, you might have thought they admired you for your wit or character or mind. Then they turn you into a thing, or a nothing, and the agony is that you discover you were never a person to them, only prey.

The vast majority of women never report any of this. We know about the scorn, the lack of proof, how we’ll be dehumanised and attacked all over again. We know how men with sterling reputations can behave. Which is why when a woman with so much to lose is brave enough to speak, we want her to have a fair hearing. Justice is being betrayed by society’s bias towards believing men.

25 comments:

  1. Dr. Ford used to work for a company that made Morning-After abortion pills. Now, she wants to destroy the justice who might overturn Roe vs. Wade. I think her motives for making the allegations are clear...

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  2. ps - Do "reluctant" people lay the foundation for the accusations four years prior (when Kavanaugh appeared on Romney's SCOTUS short list) by planting a memory recovery in a therapist session (she's a psychologist herself), write letters to the WaPo and multiple representatives, hire Washington-based attorneys (she lives on the West Coast) and take FBI polygraphs???

    THAT signifies "reluctance"???

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  3. Farmer.

    Thanks for confirming what Jenni wrote: women who complain about sexual misconduct must have an ulterior motive!

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  4. Confirming a truism if ever there was one.

    People complain for NO reason?

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  5. She never complained BEFORE Kavanaugh become a SCOTUS candidate (in 2012)... I WONDER "why"...

    ...must be "something" to do with "SCOTUS"

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  6. btw - Ford's "gone into hiding" GoFundMe collected $100k for her "expenses" within 24 hours.

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  7. I wonder why Ford scrubbed her social media accounts before stepping forward...

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  8. ...it was probably a random act w/o motive. You know women. They're soooo irrational!

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  9. If she wanted a "fair hearing"... perhaps she should have made the accusations in a timely manner... and not waited 38 years. She's getting far more than the hearing she deserves.

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  10. Given all the procreative prevention measures available to them, shouldn't "rape" have been downgraded to a misdemeanor by now?

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  11. She didn't report this in the 80's because what happened couldn't even get her pregnant. No harm, no foul.

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  12. Let's see what happens when she testifies, eh?

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  13. I can't wait for her to pull his picture from a line-up.

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  14. Whatever.

    So far, it's been fun watching you anti-SJW types falling over yourselves to defend your new Golden Boy (a banal arch-Conservative if there ever was one)!

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    1. Who's defending him? I'm attacking her...

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  15. Modern science has rendered "rape" a nearly "victimless" crime. It no longer results in a child unless the woman decides to keep it.

    It's high time we took rape, per se, off the list of crimes and make it a "ticketable" offense, like "marijuana use".

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    1. "Modern science has rendered "rape" a nearly "victimless" crime."

      Come again? You know how terrible most rapes are? VICTIMLESS? BS to the power of 5.

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    2. But how is it distinguishable from "assault"? Assault is already a crime. Do we need special crimes for each body part assaulted?

      So there's "felony assault" (the victim goes to hospital) and misdemeanor assault (the victim walks away, no bruises). The former means "prison", the latter a "fine".

      Kavanaugh doesn't even qualify for the latter.

      Christy Ford's just a lying whore. ;)

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    3. "It's high time we took rape, per se, off the list of crimes and make it a "ticketable" offense, like "marijuana use"."

      Unless you're being 'ironic', you've no idea just how awful that idea is. It would be blatantly encouraging sex crimes.

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    4. You mean there's a moral hazard when you do things like decriminalize rape or sodomy? Who knew.

      Somebody call SCOTUS and tell them before they vote on another Lawrence v. Texas type issue...

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  16. Stop pandering to the British PoundMeToo #Movement!

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  17. "But how is it distinguishable from "assault"? Assault is already a crime. Do we need special crimes for each body part assaulted?"

    The vast majority (me included) of people recognise assault with a sexual angle to be different form 'ordinary' assault and with good reason.

    But be the outlier if you like...

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    Replies
    1. That's antiquated, before the pill/abortion thinking. And you call yourself a "progressive"?

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