Donald Trump remarked that it’s “very hard for me to imagine anything happened” between Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
Funny. It’s not for me.
The “anything” he’s referring to is sexual assault. That in the 1980s, when both Ford and Kavanaugh were high school students, Kavanaugh and his friend Mike Judge drunkenly pushed Ford into a room at a party, and Kavanaugh allegedly held her down, pressed his hand over her mouth, and tried to take off her one-piece swimsuit and clothes.
“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” Ford has said, “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.” She says she managed to escape after locking herself in the bathroom. She told the details of the assault for the first time in therapy in 2012.
Unlike Trump, it’s quite easy for me to imagine this happened. Mark Judge has written extensively about his drunken prep school days in his 1997 book Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk. In it, he describes hanging out with a drunken “Bart O’Kavanaugh” at a beach house for a week. He describes that time as a “week-long bacchanalia of drinking and sex, or at least attempts at sex.”
The fact that Kavanaugh was immortalized in a book 20 years ago as being part of a tribe of drunken prep school boys who were aggressively trying to have sex makes the likelihood of him assaulting a woman a lot less surprising. It seems sad, and infuriating, but it doesn’t seem that shocking. Following the release of a letter by Senator Chuck Grassley in which 65 women said they stood by Kavanaugh (thus far five have reaffirmed their support), 200 of Ford’s classmates signed a letter supporting her. In it, they testify to Ford's good character and say they remember a similar climate to the one she’s described.
It is far easier for me to imagine that this happened than that a seemingly unassuming woman would expose herself to a slew of death threats for… fun, I guess. Because there’s nothing more fun than having to flee your own home.
Critics always seem to think that women lie about assault for attention, as if women could not get consequence-free attention merely by wearing a quirky hat to a party.
.@IngrahamAngle played calls from rape victims last night in an effort to discredit Dr Christine Blasey Ford's allegation that Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her.- Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 18, 2018
"Being a rape victim, you do not go about this the way it is coming out. This is for attention." #StayClassy pic.twitter.com/WzRBs91izC
False accusations of assault are exceedingly rare. I can’t say that enough. False accusations of assault are exceedingly rare. They happen on par with false accusations of other crimes, like robbery. The difference is that if someone says they’ve been robbed they generally do not automatically get a ton of calls saying they’re a liar.
For women who come forward with assault claims about powerful men, there are a thousand ways to be discredited. Ford might have been in some profession for which publicity is a benefit. She might have been an actress or an adult film star. She is not. Ford is a professor in clinical psychology. She might have embarked on any of self-destructive behaviors that often follow assault. Seemingly, she did not. The worst thing that people seem to have dredged up is that she once got poor reviews on a website called Rate My Professors. Or, they thought she did. Those reviews turned out to be about a different Christine Ford. (And unless the reviews said, “this is a bad class because Ford is too often sidetracked by discussing how she plans to ruin the GOP through her vicious womanly lies,” I can’t see what the reviews would have had to with anything.)
Drudge gets VERY EXCITED about a report on "grabien dot com" about Christine Ford's student reviews- Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) September 17, 2018
It was the wrong Christine Ford pic.twitter.com/WygdA378jS
But no woman could ever walk the tightrope of respectability narrowly enough to merit this administration’s belief. Buried deep within Trump’s psyche is the notion that nice white boys simply can’t do anything wrong. Though it seems black boys, if you take into account the fact that he still thinks the central park five are guilty, are another story altogether.
But when it comes to white men, Trump has long felt women to be untrustworthy in their accusations. That’s true of his own accusers, who he has called liars and threatened to sue. It’s also true of his treatment of former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter-Trump encouraged people to remember that he said he was innocent when his two ex wives said he struck them.
It’s a sense he shares with countless other members of the GOP-Republican Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah has said that Ford must be “mixed up.” Chris McDaniel, a Republican senate candidate has claimed in Kavanaugh’s defense that “These allegations, 99 percent of the time, are just absolutely fabricated.”
I suspect, if you hold women in this low regard, the only thing that would make Trump’s cronies believe Ford is if Kavanaugh himself said her claims were true. And even then, a lot of them would say he was just being polite.
As it is, there’s a fair amount of grasping to try to make Ford’s story seem less than feasible. People are very upset that she can’t remember more specific details about the party from the mid-'80s, despite the fact that experts claim, “the hippocampus goes into a super-encoding state briefly after the fear kicks in. Victims may remember in exquisite detail what was happening just before and after they realized they were being attacked, including context and the sequence of events. However, they are likely to have very fragmented and incomplete memories for much of what happens after that.”
So, it’s unlikely that she’d remember all the details, but she would have quite a vivid memory of her attacker.
But none of this matters if we live in a culture where women simply aren’t believed. That’s one of the most torturous aspects of being a woman. Some studies indicate that, for abuse victims, the act of not being believed is as bad as the abuse itself.
Judge Kavanaugh's accuser Christine Blasey Ford, does not want to testify as she says she is getting death threats. Awwwwwww. What about Judge Kavanaugh and his family after your lies? You do not want to testify as you know you are a liar.- Carmine Sabia (@CarmineSabia) September 18, 2018
It is terribly unfortunate then that we have been calling women liars since the beginning of time.
We did this to another entirely respectable professor who accused a Supreme Court nominee of sexual harassment in 1991. Anita Hill’s shadow hangs over these proceedings today. The buttons reading “I believe Anita Hill” from that time are essentially identical to those reading I believe Christine Blasey Ford.
Hill has written an excellent op-ed for The New York Times on how this might be handled better than it was in 1991, in which she states that, “In 1991, the phrase 'they just don’t get it' became a popular way of describing senators’ reaction to sexual violence. With years of hindsight, mounds of evidence of the prevalence and harm that sexual violence causes individuals and our institutions, as well as a Senate with more women than ever, “not getting it” isn’t an option for our elected representatives.”
I am afraid that the senators in question do get it. #MeToo has made women’s fury about sexual assault in our culture abundantly clear. They simply choose not to believe it when it’s inconvenient for them to do so. They may believe sexual assault happens. But surely, a man who looked like them could never possibly do it.
For a woman to be believed by this administration-well, that seems almost impossible. For a man to be believed, he has to be white and have a nice haircut. Otherwise as Trump says, it’s just impossible to believe anything happened.
('You Might Also Like',)