Salisbury Press

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Another view

Thursday, October 4, 2018 by The Press in Opinion

A voice for the millions

Many Americans tuned in Sept. 27 to live coverage of the testimony hearing of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court Justice nominee and U.S. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee. If you were like me, you were hanging on to every word of Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh. Additionally, if you were like me, you were personally familiar with the actions (or similar actions), responses and feelings she described of the alleged summer 1982 sexual assault in Maryland.

There have been two other women who made allegations against Kavanaugh as well.

On average, 321,500 victims, age 12 or older, are raped or sexually assaulted each year, according to the RAINN.org website citing the Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization survey in 2015, based on 2010-14.

RAINN is the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network and is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.

According to the survey, many rapes and assaults are not reported to law enforcement.

“The majority of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. Only 310 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police. That means about two out of three go unreported,” RAINN states on its website, also citing the same above-mentioned survey.

Some of the reasons victims gave for not reporting violent sexual crimes — according to the Department of Justice’s Female Victims of Sexual Violence survey in 2013, based on 1994-2010 — included 20 percent feared retaliation, 13 percent believed the police department would not do anything to help and 30 percent either gave another reason or did not provide one, among other reasons listed.

According to National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website, “The prevalence of false reporting is low, between 2 percent and 10 percent.”

By coming forward with this allegation against Kavanaugh, Blasey Ford had nothing to gain from it.

In her testimony Sept. 27, she said, “I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.”

In The Washington Post’s Sept. 16 article titled “California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault,” writer Emma Brown says of Blasey Ford, “She told no one of the incident in any details until 2012 when she was in couples therapy with her husband.”

Some portions of the therapist’s notes were given by Blasey Ford to The Washington Post.

“(They) do not mention Kavanaugh’s name but say she reported that she was attacked by students ‘from an elitist boys’ school’ who went on to become ‘highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington,’” the article states.

During the interview, Russell Ford, Blasey Ford’s husband, said during the 2012 therapy sessions, he remembered his wife using the name Kavanaugh.

The article states, “She contacted The Post through a tip line in early July when it had become clear that Kavanaugh was on the shortlist of possible nominees to replace retiring justice Anthony M. Kennedy but before Trump announced his name publicly.”

Blasey Ford contacted California Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo, D-18th, also around early July. By late July, Blasey Ford sent a letter via Eshoo’s office to California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. After describing the incident in the letter, she signed it as Christine Blasey. She expected her story to stay confidential, The Washington Post reported.

In early August, Blasey Ford took a polygraph test administered by a former FBI agent, the article states, on advice from her lawyer, Debra Katz, who “believed Ford would be attacked as a liar if she came forward.”

The results of the test proved Blasey Ford was truthful in her statements of the allegations.

“By late August, Ford had decided not to come forward, calculating that doing so would upend her life and probably would not affect Kavanaugh’s confirmation. ‘Why suffer through the annihilation if it’s not going to matter,’” she said, according to the article.

The allegations then became public around the middle of September, and Feinstein released a statement.

“I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities.”

The Washington Post article continues: “The FBI redacted Ford’s name and sent the letter to the White House to be included in Kavanaugh’s background file, according to a Judiciary Committee aide. The White House sent it to the Senate Judiciary Committee, making it available to all senators.”

Also around the middle of September, “Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (Republican Iowa senator) released a letter from 65 women who say they knew Kavanaugh when he attended high school from 1979-83 at Georgetown Prep,” the article states.

The letter addressed the “character and integrity” of Kavanaugh, who “treated women with decency and respect.”

Blasey Ford faced reporters coming to her house as the public and media were beginning to identify her. Blasey Ford and her family received threatening emails and letters. Kavanaugh and his family received these types of harassments as well. Neither of these individuals or their family members should endure this kind of hateful and detrimental treatment.

During Blasey Ford’s testimony Sept. 27, she remained calm, respectful, responsive and answered questions to the best of her ability. If there were corrections that needed to be made, she addressed them; if she did not know an answer, she said so.

During Kavanaugh’s testimony on the same day, just a few hours later, he was yelling during different points of his testimony, did not answer some questions clearly (meaning a simple yes or no), was disrespectful to U.S. senators and even asked Democratic Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar if she herself has ever blacked out from drinking too much alcohol. Kavanaugh later apologized for this after the hearing commenced from a break.

Although appearing before a Senate Judiciary Committee because of sexual assault allegations may be stressful and nerve-wracking, what I saw Kavanaugh display was aggression, guilt, a lack of respect for senators and the incapacity to manage one’s temperament and uphold the Constitution fairly and unbiasedly (i.e., revealing political resentments) — all characteristics I view as unfit to take a lifelong seat on the Supreme Court of the United States.

When the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send the nomination of Kavanaugh to the Senate Sept. 28, Republican Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, in a surprising action, said he would like to see a probe completed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation before a full Senate vote is taken. Committee members agreed, and later in the day, the White House ordered a supplemental investigation regarding the allegations, which will take no longer than one week. There will be no search warrants or subpoenas involved.

On Sept. 30, The New York Times reported a Yale University classmate of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh “issued a statement saying the Supreme Court nominee was not truthful about his drinking in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.”

In his public statement, Chad Ludington said, “In recent days, I have become deeply troubled by what has been a blatant mischaracterization by Brett himself of his drinking at Yale. [...] For the fact is, at Yale, and I can speak to no other times, Brett was a frequent drinker and a heavy drinker. I know because, especially in our first two years of college, I often drank with him. On many occasions, I heard Brett slur his words and saw him staggering from alcohol consumption, not all of which was beer. When Brett got drunk, he was often belligerent and aggressive.”

As of late, our country has been experiencing an awakening in the me too. movement. Rape, sexual assault and harassment are all too common. They should not be on a political party agenda.

I have read many comments on news articles and watched news videos interviewing individuals regarding Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh. On camera talking with a CNN reporter Sept. 22, Gina Sosa, former Florida GOP congressional candidate, said, “What boy hasn’t done this in high school?”

This is partially true — some boys have sexually harassed or assaulted their fellow classmates. I myself have faced this treatment in high school, among other assaults in my life.

But the phrase “boys will be boys” is pathetic. It is a poor excuse. Can you imagine how boys, who wouldn’t conduct themselves this way, feel when they hear this reasoning? I will teach and expect my 18-month-old son to grow up being respectful and to understand consent just as much as I would if I had a daughter.

In this country, you are innocent until proven guilty. I am glad the FBI is investigating, and I hope those individuals the agents communicate with and question fully participate and tell the absolute truth. By conducting this probe, we are at the very least letting women and the future generation of girls know that a rape or sexual assault allegation is important and will be looked into legally, if desired.

If the FBI finds no corroboration of these allegations, there will still be many women and men who believe Blasey Ford and not Kavanaugh. And if the FBI does find corroboration, I hope the Senate takes appropriate action and not approve Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice. If not, it will only contribute to more women and men not coming forward because they will think their rape or sexual assault doesn’t matter and that there will be no consequences for the offender — and the cycle will continue.

Our nation now needs to understand and respect that women’s and girl’s bodies are their own; that no means no; that only yes means yes; and that rape, sexual assault and harassment are never OK — no matter when it took place.

Stacey Koch

editorial assistant

Whitehall-Coplay Press

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