“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter,” Dr. Christine Blasey Ford said, choking up, in response to a question regarding her memories of teenage sexual trauma during the Kavanaugh Confirmation hearing on Thursday Sept. 27.
The thing she remembers most vividly of her assault by Brett Kavanaugh (and Mark Judge—where is he?) is not necessarily the date and time she was pinned to a bed, or the exact second she escaped, or which hand he used to cover her mouth while she screamed, but the fact that he found it enjoyable. Blasey Ford—a psychology professor at Palo Alto University and a research psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine—knows what she’s talking about.
She knows her attempted rape was not a direct attempt to hurt her, but rather a common and tragic case of male bonding had at her expense. She knows exactly how her PTSD and anxiety have manifested for the past decades. She knows where in her brain it hurts most to watch her attacker get a promotion. If there were something she could have done to avoid such pain, she would have.
This alone is credible testimony: a memory so vulnerable and vivid she can answer before the question mark is even typed by the court stenographer. Blasey Ford is believable and the Republicans know it. Even if they don’t say it, even if they’re busy forgiving Kavanaugh “in the eyes of God,” they believe her. They just don’t care.
For those who aren’t up to date on the situation: Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was accused of sexual misconduct by three separate women—most notably Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. The Democrats believe his accusers and do not want him on the Supreme Court, while most Republicans believe Kavanaugh and think he is a fine man with a bright future. The day after Blasey Ford’s testimony, the Senate Judiciary Committee still recommended Kavanaugh as a nominee, but did initiate an FBI investigation (which has since quickly concluded).
Still, and especially since we live in a country dominated by rape culture, Kavanaugh has a very good chance of becoming one-ninth of the highest court in the land—to vote on issues that will directly affect women’s lives for his entire lifetime. Spoiler alert: Kavanaugh may be the deciding vote on repealing Roe v. Wade and will remove the reproductive rights of women across this nation.
Kavanaugh is wrong for our country and always has been. His nomination should not have to hinge on a scandal for us to recognize how detrimental his appointment would be. As someone who has spent his career putting a damper on the rights of the oppressed, we know he will only serve the interests of his party, and we deserve better.
Even just his childish, violent, and quite honestly disgusting show of anger on Sept. 27 is proof enough that he does not have the temperament, neutrality, or courage to be a Supreme Court Justice. However, since his political affiliations were enough to get him to this point, that’s not the discussion we get to have anymore.
The first thing to note is that it feels like history is moving backwards, as we remember the disappointing verdict of Anita Hill’s testimony in the early 90s. She came to the U.S. government with sexual assault allegations against Clarence Thomas, and as most of us know, Thomas sits on the Court to this very day. We cannot go back in time and fix the wrongdoings to Hill, but we can change what we do now.
One of the arguments against Blasey Ford is that she (and by association, Senator Diane Feinstein) waited too long to report this attack, meaning that her memories must be unclear or that she is making up her story for political gain. Besides the fact that Blasey Ford was privately coping with her traumatic memories for years and she truly has nothing to gain from speaking up, it should be noted that according to Psychology Today, victims of sexual abuse often don’t report their experiences for a slew of reasons, not limited to shame, fear, denial or disbelief, or even a lack of information.
However, in the hours and days following Blasey Ford’s testimony, women I know, love and admire began divulging their most horrific and personal stories of abuse on social media. Blasey Ford said she came forward—not because she wanted to—but because she feels it is her civic duty. While I definitely agree and will spend the rest of my life being grateful for her bravery, I have already seen the effects of her individual story transforming women to feel safer and less alone in their communities. It is bold, life-changing, courageous—and yet, deeply sad.
Healing takes place in that small space where victims can share their experiences—and simultaneously be believed, understood, and helped—at any time in their lives. Women shouldn’t have to be cross-examined on their fears, memories, and counseling sessions to be believed. Judging by this recent affair, we haven’t improved much in that realm.
While we have yet to know the outcome of this hearing and FBI investigation, but shortly will, one thing I know is true: If it is a woman’s civic duty to live through and tell the story of her darkest moments, it should be a man’s duty to step aside and let her speak.