The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony Thursday from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh regarding Dr. Ford’s assertion that he sexually assaulted her while they were both in high school. For weeks, I heard Republican senators and pundits assail her character and memory, as well as object to the process by which her story came to light.
I felt that it was important to go down to the Senate to bear witness, to the best of my ability, to this momentous day. I was, and am, in awe of Dr. Ford’s bravery.
Standing in the basement of a Senate office building on my lunch break, I hoped to be able to speak with a senator or two about whether they believed the research psychologist’s story and whether, even if they did, it would affect their vote. As I was about to leave to get back to my office for a meeting, Sen. Lindsey Graham entered the hallway and stopped to speak with the press.
I heard every disgusting word that Sen. Graham said then ― that Dr. Ford wasn’t credible because she had waited so long to come forward. That he wouldn’t consider the merits of the claim because he disagreed with the process by which her story had not been shared earlier with the committee. But what hit me hardest was his assertion that we shouldn’t believe Dr. Ford because she couldn’t recall the exact date or location of the assault.
I couldn’t keep quiet on that. When Sen. Graham broke free from the press gaggle, I told him that I had been raped 13 years ago and that I didn’t know the exact date. Would he believe me despite that?
Graham’s callous response was to say that he was sorry but that I needed to go to the police.
I don’t believe his apology was sincere, but, more important, this exchange, along with his treatment of Dr. Ford and countless other women in his tenure in elected office, demonstrated his lack of concern for sexual assault survivors and his complete lack of understanding of the dynamics that keep us from reporting to the police.
Our stories are real. What happens to us is real. And that is true even if we do not ever disclose it to our families or friends, or report it to law enforcement. The response we’ve seen to Dr. Ford telling her story, and to the other women who have come forward about Brett Kavanaugh, is as clear an illustration as any about why people don’t report being assaulted.
Further, senators like Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake, who was confronted in an elevator Friday morning by Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher, are telling the millions of women with stories just like mine that they do not consider possibly having sexually assaulted someone(s) to be disqualifying. It is a clear message that they do not believe that we matter.
Graham told me I should have gone to the police. When I was raped, as a sophomore in college, I did consider it. I’ve also considered it in the years since, though the statute of limitations has since expired. But Sen. Graham knew none of that. He only knew that, to his mind, the only way you could possibly be telling the truth was if you reported it to the police.
Survivors of sexual violence don’t report to the police for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which are that we see every day how police and our nation’s courts ― including the one on which Kavanaugh currently sits and the one to which he will likely soon be confirmed ― fail to achieve justice for us.
We don’t report because overwhelmingly the people assaulting us are our boyfriend, or friend, or family member, or coach, or clergy ― people we’ve loved and have trusted.
We don’t report because people of color and LGBTQ people are at risk of surviving violence only to face further victimization through state violence.
We don’t report because studies show that police officers commit sexual assault and domestic abuse themselves at disproportionately high rates.
We don’t report because, as a tweet from @emrazz notes, Brock Turners turn into Brett Kavanaughs who protect Brock Turners.
The police can’t do anything about my rape now, but Graham and his colleagues can choose to believe Dr. Ford and to give the FBI sufficient time to fully investigate her story, and Deborah Ramirez’s story, and Julie Swetnik’s story. They can choose not to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court to rule over our lives and bodies for decades to come.
The justice we can achieve now could look like withdrawing Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination or declining to confirm him, and finding a new nominee who doesn’t have a mounting tally of credible sexual misconduct accusations to their name. Justice could look like nominating a new associate justice of the Supreme Court who understands that just because a survivor doesn’t remember every single detail does not mean she’s lying or is a pawn of his political opposition.
But I’m not counting on Lindsey Graham to support any of that. After all, he’s already shown us that he’s willing to cavalierly dismiss the anguished pleas of any sexual assault survivor who didn’t pursue his very narrow perception of justice.
And besides, if Dr. Ford or I had recalled the dates we were assaulted, he would surely find any other reason to ignore our voices.