I got an email from Senator Lindsey Graham last week. It was a reply to a message I had sent him weeks earlier concerning the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the highest court in the United States judiciary system. Like many, I had attempted in vain to exercise my rights as a constituent and make my dissent known. Like many, the answer I received was far from satisfying and far too late. Nearly a week after Kavanaugh was granted his prestigious promotion, Senator Graham’s email served as yet another reminder that the wants and whims of men in positions of power outweigh a woman’s basic right to be respected and heard. It reinforced a sentiment that Graham and other republican senators expressed many times throughout the controversial hearings, that to deny Brett Kavanaugh a job promotion on the basis of sexual assault allegations by three different women would be to “unfairly destroy Judge Kavanaugh’s life.”
Was it fair when Dr. Ford, his first accuser, and her family were harrassed to the point of having to leave their home? Was it fair when her personal trauma was publicly broadcasted and ridiculed? Was it fair when the president of the United States mocked her in front of a crowd? Was it fair when, at age 15, she was sexually assaulted at a high school party by a belligerently drunk teenage boy?
Rapes and sexual assaults are the most under-reported crimes, with 63% of sexual assaults never being reported to the police. The stigma and victim blaming that survivors face when they tell their stories shame so many into never coming forward. With the prevalence of things like the Me Too and Time’s Up movements, one might think that we are entering a new era in which predators may be held accountable for their actions. Women across the nation have raised their collective voice in protest of the misogynistic power dynamic that makes this sort of victimization possible. Statistics show that one in five women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime. For many men, this may be a shocking number. For American women, it is as unsurprising as it is infuriating. Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing was flooded with the cries and protests of women who have had enough, women who believed Dr. Ford’s testimony because it is an all too familiar story that resonates with the traumas so many have endured.
In the end, it seemed to make no difference. The FBI’s investigation was astoundingly limited in scope and Kavanaugh was confirmed in a 50-48 vote, entirely upon party lines. He now sits on the highest court in the nation with a degree of power that most of us can seldom imagine. He will have a voice on issues of women’s reproductive rights and representation.
Republicans have argued that “the rule of law presumes all Americans innocent until proven guilty,” but Judge Kavanaugh was never being criminally prosecuted. It was an interview for a job that gives him the power to sway the moral and ethical standards of American law. It is a position with the power to dictate the actual day to day lives and bodies of American women, who account for 50.6% of the population.
The American justice system is broken. We have known this for some time, but it has never been more evident than it is now. When more Americans disapprove of a Justice’s confirmation than support it, and the credible testimonies of accomplished women are dismissed in favor of a political agenda, it becomes much harder to ignore. It is easy to feel hopeless under a power structure that so obviously disregards the voices and rights of so many of the citizens it claims to protect and serve, but we have to remain vigilant. We must keep fighting for our rights as well as the rights of others who have been disenfranchised.
To all the survivors out there whose voices have been ignored and whose trauma and pain have been trivialized, I stand with you. To Anita Hill, Dr. Ford and all the women who have knowingly put themselves in the eye of public scrutiny for the sake of doing what is right, thank you. We owe you a tremendous debt. I can only hope that your sacrifices will not be in vain.