Congress vs. MeToo: What Dr. Ford’s Testimony Proved About Attempted Rape
When Brett Kavanaugh took the oath for the Supreme Court yesterday, many eyes watched and many averted. Those who averted did so for reasons immeasurably deeper than political dissent. As women, we have endured a spectrum of sexual violence: rape, harrassment, molestation, and assault. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony was a touching and harrowing tale of a teenaged girl subjected to sexual violence. Her story is important for its merit, but also its attention to a horrifying experience too many women have faced–attempted rape.
The apathy of today’s Congress, and certainly much of America’s public square and churches (here’s looking at you Franklin Graham), would tell you attempted rape doesn’t matter because nothing actually “happened” to you. But when Dr. Ford sat in that chair and described her fear and the treacherous laughter, even the front door argument generated so many years later in her new life from this very incident, it was apparent that something indeed happens when an attempted rape occurs. The stench of that fear doesn’t waft away with the summer breeze. It may subside, but when summoned by a trigger it floods the senses as strongly as it first appeared. Trauma does not dissipate with education, or time or marriage.
Yet in the height of the #MeToo movement, political America doesn’t want to acquaint itself with the reckoning. While the government hides and castigates, the MeToo movement isn’t limited to rich actresses in Weinstein’s hotel room, Bill Cosby’s mysterious pills, or sleazy TV hosts and execs slipping their hands under skirts. It’s also about the everyday woman, teenager, and girl who is violated in one form or another in an office, or a car, or a bedroom, or a busy city street. It’s about coming to understand what those violations are and improving our behavior from that point. It is not the single-handed mission to destroy the male race.
Honestly, if there’s anything that is sure to drive women into a more antagonistic seat toward the opposite sex, it’s the utter denial, defensiveness, mansplaining and strawman fallacies that some men use to respond, making it clear they aren’t open to dialogue or acknowledging that actions typically accepted in our society are harmful and have to change.
When discussing the prospect of believing a woman about her assault, it’s usually met with interrogation, judgment, shame, chastisement, and the list goes on. People clamor to cite false accusation stats, but no more than 10% of reported sexual assaults are deemed false, including those that are “baseless” — meaning no incriminating evidence was found. It’s more likely that an assault would be simply “unproven” legally than found to be false. And how many men do you see actually being carted off to prison wrongfully? Most people can tell you someone they personally know who’s been assaulted, but not as many know someone jailed or otherwise “ruined” by a false allegation.
I am the first to say I loathe false witness. Not only is it possibly the worst form of lying, the idea of being punished for something you did not do is absolutely horrific to anyone. Trust me, we care about the wrongfully accused. Do not make MeToo your inspiration for a faux innocence project. It’s about righteous accountability. Much needed, long overdue accountability.
When a woman is raped, as Padma Lakshmi wrote about to the Times, everyone has a finger to point about why she “put herself” in the situation. Let’s look at crime another way, shall we? Let’s say a woman left her purse unattended on a NYC bench to say, throw something in the trash, and a man swiped her purse and ran off. As bystanders, most of us would yell “thief!” Some of the braver among us might go after the man. The rest would call the police. A large handful would capture the crime on our phones and post it to Twitter with a well-thought sermon about crime, bad people, and “where society is going these days.” We would want him to be in trouble.
But the thing is, she was–for even a moment–a bit lax right? She left her purse unattended in NYC, for Pete’s sake, that certainly is not anything we would call wise. We’d encourage her, and she would know for sure now, to keep her belongings close next time. But we’d still be pointing fingers at the thief because you don’t just take something that isn’t yours, unattended or not.
You see, when a woman finds herself in a vulnerable place (even if it’s due to ignorance, lack of judgment, or being overly trusting), and is taken advantage of, we don’t chase after the suspect with our fingers pointed. We lament how unwise she was, how she must’ve known, all the wouldas and shouldas. By the basis of human nature I get it: when horrible things happen it’s easy to find the fault, to think about prevention, so you can feel comfortable knowing why this would never happen to you. But the thing is, terrible things do happen, and it doesn’t always occur in the perfect crime you’d like it to be: with the evil man in the alley who pulls the woman off the sidewalk, rapes her, and leaves her bleeding in the street. Those who prey look for opportunity to do so, if it means gaining enough trust to invite you to an apartment, or looking for the drunkest girl at a party.
What is frustrating about people who don’t want to #believewomen, is how convoluted their minds can be on the topic of sexual assault. In one breath they don’t believe any women who come forward about their assaults, and in another breath, many of them warn their daughters about rape. We take precautions because there are bad people. We get security systems for our homes and lock our car doors and go out in groups at night and watch our drinks at parties and even purchase weapons because the world is filled with thieves, murderers, all kinds of deranged folk who would do you harm. We avoid vulnerable situations because predators are in our space.
So if you tell a woman not to be alone with a man, or give off the “wrong impression,” or avoid going to stranger’s apartment and hotel room, what are you implying? If you’ve ever told your daughter not to be alone with men or not to get drunk around a host of boys I'm guessing it’s because you want to protect her from someone who would take advantage of her. Because you don’t want her to be raped, right? You don’t want her to be assaulted. You don’t want her to be pressured into something she didn’t want to do because you know that will hurt her. So if you tell any woman to take these precautions, you’re telling her how to avoid a predator. But when a woman comes out and says she was alone with a man and he raped her, you don’t think he’s a predator then. You don’t believe he’s capable of a crime. You’ll have all the reasons why that individual was not a rapist, why it is a misunderstanding or even worse, a bald face lie.
This breakdown of logic only wastes time from the real issue. Women have been taken advantage of for generations and now we’re saying “enough is enough.” Congress (both men and women) casted Dr. Ford’s testimony aside like a mirage riding in on a donkey-style Trojan style, and that speaks loudly about the morals of this nation. I’ve read countless articles and comments about what a woman has to gain for lying about rape and why it would serve a political or personal interest. No one mentions that the accused has a lot at stake, that Brett Kanavaugh would have a whole lot of incentive to lie about what happened that day over thirty years ago. Instead, they commented on Dr. Ford’s looks, further proving the entire point of the MeToo movement.
Our Senators want you to believe that the pressure of being held accountable for sexual assault is akin to the terror that victims face daily. They want you to think that the prospect of someone pointing a finger to say “he assaulted me” is the same, if not worse, then the fear that filled Dr. Ford and so many others who knew they were seconds away from being violated in the worst possible way. They want you to know that the promotion of a powerful, smart man is more important than the trauma of an equally intelligent and powerful woman. I find that incredibly terrifying.
To place Kavanaugh in this position of justice despite his egregious behavior these past few weeks when there are many others who could do the job, shows this fight is nowhere near finished. Party lines are stronger than gender lives. The patriarchy is so deeply embedded that even our female lawmakers succumb to their male counterparts’ toxicity. I recognize that we all have various hats we wear. Being a woman of color, intersectionality is the crossroads I find myself at daily when weighing social and political issues. As elections come and go, if we do not turn the tides of who places their hands on Bibles across America’s state and national capitals, we will only enable the bickering that punishes the victimized at the expense of political glory.
To Dr. Blasey Ford: thank you for having the courage and sense of duty to come forward in the midst of one of the most anti-feminist governments we’ve had in modern history. Your words have freed so many American women who have, are, and (unfortunately) will suffer from the traumas of sexual assault. We will continue to fight for a day where we face a more hopeful reality.