And still she rises!
Another powerful man has been accused of sexual assault. Another female accuser is having her life altered because she came forward. Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, has come forward after 35 years to state that Brett Kavanaugh—the man going after the highest judicial job in the world—sexually assaulted and attempted to rape her when they were both in high school.
As usual, many people are angry—at the accuser. Many people are denigrating the reputation—of the accuser. Many people are making death threats—toward the accuser. Dr. Ford has had to go into hiding after her identity and address were made public. She and her family had to literally leave their home because of her accusations.
The man accused has not had to leave his home. He does not fear for his life. He is not afraid for the safety of his family. No, instead, Brett Kavanaugh is getting the sympathy of men and women far and wide:
- Donald Trump, the President of the United States, shares his empathy: “I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this, to be honest with you, I feel so badly for him. This is not a man that deserves this.”
- Trump also states, regarding the Kavanaugh allegations, “But I can only say this, he is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened.”
- Senator Orrin Hatch, member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, claims, “This woman, whoever she is, is mixed up.” Even if the assault accusation were true,” Hatch says, “it would be hard for senators not to consider who he is today.”
- Bob Corker feels compassion for Kavanaugh, stating, “I mean, I can’t imagine the horror of being accused of something like this.” (Apparently the horror of Dr. Ford’s alleged sexual assault is not quite as horrifying for Mr. Corker.)
In my own conversations, I have heard women complain that Ford waited so long, doubt her story and be angry that she came forward at all. Every woman in the world should understand why she didn’t come forward—because to do so means there will be hell to pay. It’s time that women stop attacking one another and start supporting each other. Coming forward post #MeToo is likely one of the safest times for women to come forward and yet Ford still had to move out of her home (with her family!) due to death threats. Instead of questioning her, how about we applaud her courage? We need more women to come forward and fewer women attacking them. Supporting women coming forward doesn’t mean you have to immediately assume the men’s guilt. It does however mean you have to stop assuming she’s lying and stop attacking her for daring to speak up.
On the other side of the coin are the men. I’ve heard men say Kavanaugh should not be blamed for what he—or they—did in high school and jokingly say that all men would be in trouble if women came forward. The men seem to get nervous about what they themselves did and want to minimize the issue.
Men, it’s time you stepped up across the board regarding your support of, treatment of and respect for women. In my experience, most boys in high school—even back in the 80’s—were not locking girls in rooms and trying to rape them. This accusation is not about a dumb 16-year-old boy grabbing a girls butt. If Dr. Ford’s accusation is true, it’s about two boys locking a teenage girl in a room and forcing themselves on top of her, trying to take her clothes off and rape her. While you do not need to immediately assume his guilt, it is your job to stop immediately assuming she is lying.
It’s time we all raise the bar on the way we respond to accusations of sexual assault, harassment and rape. We need more victims coming forward and a culture of men and women who are courageous enough to handle that. We need to get out of the extremes in our responses. It is ridiculously old school to be blaming victims for the depravity of their abusers. It is just as irresponsible to immediately attack the alleged perpetrator. How about we all breathe and not attack anyone while we allow the data to come out? And finally, if the data shows that the man did, in fact, do the crime, how about we stop slapping him on the wrist because “his life could be ruined” and instead have him serve a legitimate sentence?
It’s time men and women RISE. It’s up to all of us to create a safe, loving world for everyone. Stop bashing those trying to do so and stop hailing those who protect the accused, deny the accusation and offend our sensibilities.
Challenge: Get out of the old archaic patterns of response regarding sexual crimes and find the courage to step in differently. When an alleged victim comes forward, stop the attacks, discrediting and threats. Instead, breathe, slow down and listen.
Note: Before anyone comments about women making false reports, know that the data shows that only 2% of sexual assault reports are false (the same as with any other crime). And I believe that if a person falsely accuses someone of sexual assault, that person should serve jail time. Worse, the data also shows that only two out of three sexual assaults are reported at all! For women to come forward, it takes tremendous courage. Let’s start changing the tide by not immediately assuming that victims are liars.