In the follow-up to her first piece, Annabel Steele writes about Kavanaugh, the justice system and #MeToo following his confirmation
It isn’t just about the reputation of the Supreme Court anymore. It isn’t just about whether or not American citizens will trust their Justice System. It isn’t even about whether Kavanaugh is deserving of the Justice title. He could end up being an impartial, meticulous, brilliant Supreme Court Justice. None of this matters now, in the grand scheme of things. The most important repercussion of Kavanaugh’s confirmation has already infiltrated the minds of sexual assault victims all over the world: don’t say anything.
It takes overwhelming courage for a victim of sexual assault to come forward and speak up to authorities. It stirs up troubling memories and forces people to relive their experiences time and time again. If the attacker is a prominent member of society – a celebrity, perhaps, or a politician – you have to thrust yourself into the centre of the media spotlight simply in order to seek out the justice ensured by your basic human rights. Dr Christine Blasey Ford’s situation is a gross caricature of what one might endure in speaking their truth: she has endured death threats which have stopped her from being able to return home; she has been mocked by the President of the United States during a political rally; and now, the man she claims assaulted her has assumed one of the most powerful political positions in the world. Viral Twitter hashtag, #BeersForBrett, united Kavanaugh supporters in their celebration of his nomination – and the fact they celebrated with alcohol, after Kavanaugh’s vehement denial of ever having been drunk in college (refuted by several of his Yale classmates), took the dirt that had been thrown at Ford and rubbed it in her face.
She has been dehumanised by the media and different communities are using her to symbolise whatever works according to their agenda. Democrats are using her to represent the toxicity of a Republican America, and to criticise the largely conservative Supreme Court; Republicans are talking about her as a manifestation of the anti-Trump community; and the #MeToo movement are using her as a symbol of the lack of respect for, and lack of belief in, sexual assault victims. She is the pawn that everybody wants to monopolise in this disgusting political war, but nobody is succeeding. And people are becoming slowly less engaged in the fight to succeed, because since Kavanaugh’s confirmation she has become the symbol of something far bigger and far more toxic: the expectation of silence.
What message does this send out to victims who have suffered in silence- and were perhaps feeling encouraged by recent developments in the global perception of sexual violence- to say something? Regardless of whether Ford’s testimony was true, certain responses to the case have proved that attitudes of doubt and apathy regarding sexual violence crimes are not only residual in modern society: they are prevalent, still. In response to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted, “I’m not tired of winning” ultimately boiling the assault case down to a game – something which I spoke about in my previous article, regarding the Fox News “Who do you believe?” poll. A recent Fox segment which ended with presenters toasting with bottles of Bud Light has been viewed as an apparent nod towards the Kavanaugh hearings. Notorious Townhall columnist Kurt Schlichter called women “bitter harpies” who “hate their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons”, comparing women to a mythical creature about as outdated as his own views, whilst ignorantly gendering the alleged victims and perpetrators of sexual crimes. John Fund wrote an article for Fox News online, entitled “Winners and losers in the Kavanaugh confirmation fight”, writing that feminist groups – “the protestors who screamed and shrieked from the Senate gallery as Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed” – were one of these ‘losing’ communities.
It will be challenging, to say the least, for people to stay faithful in the promise of justice for people whose lives have been affected by these crimes. But we cannot let Dr Ford turn into a symbol of lost hope. If we must use this case to achieve a larger vision, let that vision be positive – because otherwise, the war is over and those who refuse to accept the gravity of the crimes have won. As executive director of the justice organisation Social Labs says, “They think that they’re winning, but they have basically ignited a movement that’s never going to go away”. Dr Ford, if she represents anything, represents the truth: that sexual assault happens, that every victim has the right to a voice, and that every perpetrator belongs in prison, not on the Supreme Court.