Opinion: Why Kavanaugh’s confirmation is so painful

Brett Kavanaugh's Yale University yearbook photo. Photo from whitehouse.gov

By Susannah Sudborough
BU News Service

BOSTON — As a sexual assault survivor, I believe, in full, the accounts of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and all of Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers. I am not going to make the case here as to why I believe their claims to be credible, as many others have already done this.

In the past several weeks, I have seen many different reactions from other sexual assault survivors. Some have bravely shared their experiences on social media, while others have been unable to fully or even partially take in the developments in his confirmation. They felt what was at stake personally, and the debacle that Dr. Blasey Ford is experiencing is all too real and familiar for them.

I can’t blame them. Everything about this situation reveals how little our country supports sexual assault survivors, even after the #MeToo movement. The plainness of this incident is difficult for many of us to think about.

Let’s begin with the fact that what was done to Dr. Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, has been considered normal for as long as most people can remember. The culture that normalizes sexual assault is painfully evident in this case.

From the title of “Renate Alumnius” and mentions of the “devil’s triangle” in Kavanaugh’s yearbook, to Swetnick’s description of “Beach Week” as a week where rich white boys would party and hook up with girls, their culture and their view of women is clear.

It’s indicative of terrible norms our culture has treated as acceptable, even sometimes as comedic, until very recently: that men should try to get women so incapacitated by alcohol and drugs that they cannot resist sexual advances; that women are conquests to be acquired as a badge of manly honor, and that the effects such acts have on women are not of import or consequence.

The salt on the wound is that the effects Brett Kavanaugh’s actions have had on his victims have not, until recently, had any import or consequence. Kavanaugh has thus far had a very successful career in law. Mark Judge profited from the book he wrote about his youthful days of partying with friends.

Meanwhile, Dr. Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick have suffered trauma in silence. It is even possible Kavanaugh’s actions were so normal to him, so run-of-the-mill, that his assault on Dr. Blasey Ford wasn’t notable enough to stand out in his memory. He truly may not remember the assault.

And then there’s everything that Dr. Blasey Ford and the other accusers have endured to make the trauma they’ve experienced relevant in Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

It is clear that Dr. Blasey Ford took every measure she could to tell her truth about Brett Kavanaugh, without going public. And why wouldn’t she? Who would want to recount and relive their worst, most traumatic memories in front of the entire American population only to be judged, criticized, and doubted?

Who would want their career as a professor of psychology overshadowed by their account of their own sexual assault? Who would want to have their privacy and safety threatened by trolls online and death threats?

Despite everything Kavanaugh’s accusers have been through, the controversy and the accusations, Kavanaugh’s confirmation would most likely have been secured even earlier if not for the two sexual assault survivors that approached Sen. Jeff Flake at an elevator, pleading him to value the input of survivors.

The worst part is, even with senator Flake’s call for an FBI investigation, they only delayed the inevitable.

I believe these women are telling the truth. That means sexual assault survivors will now have to live in a country controlled by a man who bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy,” who was able to nominate another sexual predator to serve a lifetime appointment in the country’s highest court. And Kavanaugh will soon have a hand in deciding what rights and freedoms these survivors are allowed.

I can only imagine the sheer, deep anguish Dr. Blasey Ford now feels at having endured so much, only to have the man who attempted to rape her appointed to the Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation will stand out in the memories of sexual assault survivors as a crossroad at which our country’s leaders had the chance to stand with us, but instead chose to ignore us, as they largely have up to this point. Some of us opened ourselves to the hope that the former might occur, only to be devastated when the latter happened instead. Some of us were wise enough to look away from the entire process.

The indifference to the suffering of Kavanaugh’s accusers and the potential threat they have alleged Kavanaugh to be, is in some ways worse than disbelief. Unfortunately, this lesson isn’t new to many, maybe even most survivors. Many of us were pessimistic from the beginning of the hearings.

The limitations senate Republicans have set on the FBI investigation of Kavanaugh, the way they’ve defended Kavanaugh without question, and the fact that they went forward with his confirmation despite having many other conservative judges to choose from, all send the same message to sexual assault survivors: “we know what you’ve been through, and we don’t care.”

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