Thoughts on Juanita Broaddrick and Hillary Clinton

This post is about Juanita Broaddrick, which involves discussion of sexual assault.

I’m surprised it’s taken this long for the Juanita Broaddrick case to be brought up. I suspect it’s because Trump’s advisers told him not to go there. I’ve been asked various times about my thoughts on it. Now that Trump is retweeting Broaddrick, I’ll share my thoughts. As will likely be inevitable with doing so, I may upset people. This is such a complex case that I don’t think it’s possible to discuss it without that happening. And there are always other perspectives that all of us, including me, should consider if worthy ones are brought up.

— Women should be believed. Rape cases are incredibly complex, and false accusations are far, far, far less common than real ones in which a woman isn’t believed. The mind does not remember details easily in during extreme trauma, and the pressures of society after an event can complicate discussing it, particularly for the victim. I do not know if Broaddrick was raped by Bill Clinton. The evidence was found insufficient, but that is not uncommon in rape cases, regardless of reality. There is no question that B. Clinton has had plenty of dalliances and has sexually harassed other women, so it’s no stretch to believe he did. I will not say that he definitely raped Broaddrick. I will not say that he definitely did not rape Broaddrick. Despite the fact that our justice system rightfully starts with “innocent until proven guilty,” I often wonder if there is some way to put a stronger burden of proof on the accused rapist to show he (or she) did not rape given the complexities of rape, trauma, memory, rape culture in our society, etc.

— For the sake of the rest of this post, let us assume that B. Clinton did rape Juanita Broaddrick and that there was insufficient evidence in our court system to convict him, potentially in part because of complicating affidavits by Broaddrick which, again, may or may not reflect reality.

— B. Clinton is not running for president. Hillary Clinton is running for president. Yes, Hillary Clinton is the wife of Bill Clinton.

— We *DO NOT KNOW* what H. Clinton did and did not know when she approached Broaddrick to thank her for everything she has done for them years ago.

— The primary argument about Broaddrick these days surrounds the question of whether she defended/protected her husband and/or is a rape apologist. Here is my response to that:

1) H. Clinton has a long history of protecting/defending/promoting women and children’s rights. It’s among the best records in present-day politics. If there is any question whatsoever about H. Clinton’s dedication to promoting women and protecting their rights, including their human rights and rights not to be raped or otherwise violated, then whoever is calling that into question has not been paying attention.

2) The personal and the public are complex and should not be confused or automatically translated. Humans are fallible creatures with all kinds of cognitive mechanisms designed to help us survive, including emotionally survive. There is a reason 25–35% of the electorate is voting for Donald Trump despite all that he has said and done.

3) In light of those two points, consider: We get into a really dicey, possibly indefensible territory when we begin passing judgment on how a political wife, with her own career and her own public vilification well-established, victimized by her husband’s repeated infidelity, responds to that experience, both at the time and in the years and decades after. If she knew of the situation with Broaddrick at the time, I do not think H. Clinton should ever have approached or spoken to Broaddrick, but I also find it hard to pass judgment on her without knowing what goes on in her head, heart, and relationship.

I have known many women who were cheated on, sometimes in truly horrific ways (including rape and pedophilia), including some EXTREMELY close to me (about as close as you can get). Having seen from the inside what happened in those different relationships, some of which ended and some of which continued, some involving the court system and some not, I don’t think it’s anyone’s right to judge how a victimized wife — even if she’s not the only victim — responds in these situations. Yes, Hillary Clinton is *also* a victim of her husband’s sexual exploits, and it’s not our place to judge why she has remained with him despite being that victim. There is SOOOOO much we don’t know, and I’ve learned first-hand to take a step back and be a bit more more charitable and empathic with women making these decisions, regardless of whether I think I’d have done the same as them or not.

No one knows what they will do for certain in any specific situation until they are IN that *specific* situation. It would be hypocritical for me not to apply the same restraint of judgment to a public figure I don’t even know in person. I also find it anti-feminist to not consider those complexities and reserve judgment. If you are a true feminist, you recognize that Hillary Clinton has agency but also has pressures acting on that agency that we cannot know. If that is a dealbreaker for you, so be it, but I would urge you to consider the following in making it a dealbreaker:

Hillary Clinton is an imperfect person, like all of us, who has experienced all kinds of things we cannot imagine, and who has accomplished far, far more than almost any of us can imagine. She is part of the reason that children with disabilities get the public education they are federally guaranteed but were denied for years. She is the reason that millions of children in the U.S. have healthcare who otherwise would not, meaning she has undoubtedly saved the lives of hundreds or thousands of children in the U.S. She has spoken for women’s rights in the heart of a country that ranks in the top 5 for violating them as a matter of course. She is the reason that 9/11 first responders got the healthcare they deserved. The list goes on.

She also voted for the Iraq War. She was part of what got us involved in Syria and Libya. She may have played a role in the events in Honduras that led to the murder of an activist. (She was not, by the way, responsible for the four Benghazi deaths any more than any other American is.)

Ted Kennedy caused the death of a woman. All the Kennedys had sex with women who weren’t their wives, and I strongly suspect some of that was not consensual. “Saint” Mother Theresa has a long list of shameful acts. Nelson Mandela was directly responsible for the murder of many people. No, I’m not suggesting that Clinton ranks with Agnes Bojaxhiu or Mandela or a Kennedy. I don’t know or care if others would rank her as such or not. But she is a human being who has done great things for women and children, who has plans for continuing those things, and who has a complicated history that historians will spend years picking apart in decades to come.

What we also know is that she is not a racist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic bigot who wants to torture people, build walls, personally sexually assault women, dodge taxes, malign veterans or start a nuclear war. That would be her opponent.

How can we begin to speculate what is known and unknown in their relationship?