By: Lauren Johnson
In 2018, Christine Blasey Ford, a Psychology Professor at the University of Stanford, came forward accusing Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, of sexual assault in their teenage years. This trial went viral throughout the U.S. as Republicans and Democrats became very involved and loud in their opinions. Senators stated they believed Kavanaugh and see him to be fit to receive the lifetime appointment as well as Donald Trump repeatedly tweeted how these allegations have destroyed a good man’s reputation. Others strongly disagree and think Kavanaugh is at fault and believed Ford’s testimony.
This topic has more recently come back into headlines suggesting that there were more sexual misconduct allegations made against Kavanaugh that weren’t properly investigated. This has brought about questions on Brett Kavanaugh’s eligibility to sit on the highest court in the land.
Did the FBI conduct proper investigations?
Since Blasey Ford came forward with her allegation, three more allegations were made against Kavanaugh. One was from Kavanaugh’s classmate, Deborah Ramirez, another was 51-year-old systems engineer, Julie Swetnick and the other from a Yale classmate, Max Stier. Julie Swetnick said to have seen Kavanaugh engaging in sexual misconduct but didn’t directly accuse him of doing anything sexually abusive to her. Ramirez’s allegation was recognized during the initial investigation but, recently, reports indicate that Max Stier’s allegation came out at the same time but was never investigated. Donald Trump gave the FBI six days to perform initial investigations. Some argue this time frame was an artificial time limit to conduct investigations of this depth and importance. It has recently been reported that during this investigation the FBI didn’t interview, Max Stier, who made the third allegation nor were the 50 witnesses interviewed “whose names the lawyers of Ford and Ramirez sent to them.” Instead, the FBI investigated nine witnesses over six days.
Was Ford’s side of the case handled with dignity and respect?
Whether a young boy is convicting a family member of sexual abuse or a college professor from Standard University is convicting a Supreme Court nominee, it’s obvious that all cases with this kind of sensitivity deserve to be handled respectfully and with care. When Blasey Ford came out with her allegations she was blatantly mocked on social media and in public forums. Donald Trump made social media and public statements regarding his opinion on the case that many would say “crossed the line” of respect of dignity. And many would say that Ford was automatically placed in a position of vulnerability and defense coming forward with such allegations as victims usually have a more difficult time being believed.
Coming forward regarding sexual assault allegations in such a public sphere would be intimating for anyone to say the least. Ford understood who she was accusing and how it could impact her. Ford stated at the beginning of her testimony“I am here today not because I want to be,” and “I am terrified.” These words expressed her understanding of what she was embarking on by accusing a Supreme Court nominee of sexual misconduct. But as stated she felt it was her duty to the people to bring her truth forward. Regardless of who is right or wrong – this case lacked the sensitivity and respect that something of this depth requires.
What do Americans Think?
Both Republicans and Democrats will have different opinions on what they believe is true in the Ford vs Kavanaugh case. We saw many #MeToo rallies that started slogans of “Kava Nope”, #WhyIDidntReport, #ImpeachKavanaugh, “We Believe Survivors” and so on. We also saw and heard many State Senators, Political Leaders and everyday people say that Kavanaugh was the real victim by being falsely accused. In an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll the results were that 45 percent of respondents thought Ford was telling the truth, compared to 33 percent who believe Kavanaugh.
We do find that there is a gender gap when it comes to whom to believe. 39 percent of men believe Kavanaugh and 37 percent believe Ford whereas, 52 percent of women believe Ford and 27 percent believe Kavanaugh. That Gap disappears when we look at it by party - 80 percent of Democratic men believe Ford as do 74 percent of Democratic women, but 77 percent of Republican men believe Kavanaugh as do 73 percent of republican women. As we can see, Partisanship plays an important role in dividing public opinion.
What does this mean for survivors of sexual assault?
Many debate that the Ford vs Kavanaugh case became a partisan issue. That the situation became a Republican vs. Democrat fight. Others suggest that it is more than this. USA today wrote that “This debate lays bare how sexual assault claims are minimized and victims’ trauma misunderstood – even in the post #MeToo age.” Many say that the Kavanaugh’s case has brought about more attention to the problem of sexual abuses and to societies tendency to victim-blame. There has been an uproar within the country to believe survivors and to support those who have experienced sexual assault. It is safe to say after seeing this uproar that the U.S. has a very heavy and negative narrative around survivors being believed. If the U.S. wishes to change this climate regarding sexual assault and to accomplish a better environment for survivors to speak up, than showing that victims can and are being listened to is likely to get us there.