Senators will soon consider the credibility of allegations of sexual assault against a Supreme Court nominee.
The court of public opinion is also paying close attention. Voters, including parents worried about similar scenarios that their own high-schoolers may witness or experience, are taking note. And a series of logical questions prevent reasonable people -- including several Republicans -- from simply dismissing the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.
Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University, reluctantly spoke out about a traumatic assault at a party when she was in high school, more than three decades ago. She says Kavanaugh pinned her down, groped her, tried to rip her clothes off and covered her mouth so she couldn’t scream. She said she thought he could have inadvertently killed her in his drunken state. She was 15. He was 17.
There are those who have tried to discredit her before any further investigation has happened. But for those considering her account more objectively, it raises questions that go to the heart of what is believable and credible.
First of all, why would Ford tell the same story to her husband and a therapist six years ago, in 2012? The therapist has documented notes of the same incident.
Why would she willingly take a lie-detector test (that she passed)?
If she was making up a story, why would she say there was another person in the room? She even names this person: Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School. In her account, Judge jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling, which allowed her to escape possibly being raped. Judge and Kavanaugh have both denied all the allegations.
Even more telling, after seeing what happens to women who speak out against powerful men -- such as what happened to Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991 -- why would Ford subject herself to humiliation, death threats and harassment by coming forward?
Why would she want to relive what must be among the worst memories of her life, publicly, in front of the nation? What could compel a woman to stand to lose so much -- her credibility and her privacy -- while risking her safety?
Ford tried to raise her concerns anonymously, and eventually spoke out after reports of her story came out. Most women and the vast majority of children and teens don’t report it when they are sexually abused or assaulted.
But how many women would attempt to bring to light information about their attacker if he were about to assume a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the country? It doesn’t make sense to invite this amount of pain and trouble into your life unless the stakes are too high to remain silent.
Perhaps the answers suggested by these questions is why Republicans like Sen. Orrin Hatch and an editorial in the Wall Street Journal are bringing out the worst sort of defense for Kavanaugh -- that even if he did it, it’s not that bad. These defenders are trying to claim that an attack on a girl is irrelevant to the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice, and they are doing President Trump’s nominee a grave disservice.
Attempted rape is not youthful indiscretion. There are 17-year-olds sentenced to prison for it. Supreme Court nominations have been derailed for far less.
Each of us will have to decide whether Ford’s allegations or Kavanaugh’s denials ring true. We will have to consider who has more to gain from lying. We will be able to judge if our values align with those who say an attempted rape in one’s teens is really no big deal.
Perhaps there was a time when such allegations, even if most people believed they were credible, were not taken seriously enough to impact a powerful man’s rise.
That is not this time.