With the explosion of the #MeToo movement in 2017, women (and men) have been coming forward with their sexual assault experiences. Some of these people had reported their abusers in the past and some were reporting them as they told the world—Dr. Christine Blasey Ford being one of these brave people. But, considering the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, people believed that Dr. Ford falsely accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault and that there was a lack of evidence provided by her. How much evidence is needed? Should mothers be worried for their sons? Will the United States continue to place abusers in power?
About 90% of reported sexual assault is based off “he said, she said” testimony given by the abuser and the victim. The typical evidence that can be collected includes forensic rape kits (if reported days following the incident), witness testimony, and any form of proof of the exchange of conversation between the abuser and the victim. Considering the trauma and hesitance that victims feel, it is very rare they have a rape kit conducted on them.
Additionally, it is incredibly horrifying and difficult for somebody whose bodily rights were just violated to allow anybody, professional or not, to swab their body for evidence. Witness testimony is even more difficult for investigators to obtain. The more witness testimony, the better—but the more witnesses, the harder it is for investigators and the victim to get in touch with possible witnesses. Exchange of conversation between the abuser and the victim, if they know each other (most of the time this is the case), can be another source of evidence. But messages can be deleted or altered; photoshopped or faked.
What do we do in a situation where there is little to no evidence? Some would say that we consider the abuser being falsely accused. They would add on that the victim is reporting them for monetary gain, publicity, or to ruin the lives of these “good” people—they’re innocent until proven guilty! I’d like to also point out that this was not a court case, this was a hearing.
The “innocent until proven guilty” pertains to court cases, if we’re going to be technical. Without physical evidence, most cases are carried out by observing polygraph tests taken by both victim and abuser, background checks, social media interactions, changes in activity patterns, and workplace behavior.
However, the victim should always be given the benefit of the doubt, regardless of evidence presented.
Majority of victims cannot sue for money damage as there is no civil claim for rape. As for publicity, the aim of a victim is to bring attention to the abuser and to have justice served. Dr. Ford is a well-decorated professor and researcher who does not need publicity. Even after these hearings, Judge Kavanaugh was still confirmed to the Supreme Court.
His life is not ruined. Donald Trump’s life is not ruined after sexual assault allegations that had plenty of evidence to deem him guilty of those crimes.
There is no gain for the victim besides to have legal justice served. However, Dr. Ford put her career and her name on the line. Now that Kavanaugh was awarded a position in the Supreme Court, victims persist to have trauma, flashbacks, triggers, and backlash against them from those who support the abuser, even after legal justice has/has not be served.
One in three women are sexually assaulted and about 30% of those are reported. Less than 5% of those reported sexual assaults are false accusations. Parents are claiming that they are afraid for their sons in a world where men are being accused of rape. Men are claiming that they, too, are afraid that they will be accused of rape.
The good news is unless you’ve sexually assaulted someone, you should not be afraid. Men are more likely to be sexually assaulted than be falsely accused, which is where the focus of fear should be placed.
However, I have a fear that is residing within my body and lays heavy on my mind—what can we, as progressive beings, do to stop people like Trump and Kavanaugh coming into power? The simple answer is this: vote and protest.
We have these rights as U.S. citizens which are not exercised enough. Generation X and millennials make up most of the electorate—but if we do not go out and vote, we will not be heard. Every person’s vote counts, and if the younger generations vote the most, our outcomes are to be more progressive. We need to vote in the primaries, midterms, and general elections. We need to be educated and research the candidates, ensuring that whoever we vote for is someone we want to represent ourselves. The candidates we choose are those who guide our future.
We need to protest when we see that something wrong and inexcusable is happening. Voices from every demographic must be heard. There are protests that happen locally, regionally, and nationally. The Women’s March is holding a march in January of 2019 in Washington D.C. Men and women both should be present at that march, supporting one another.
The victim should never feel as if they are at fault. Victims are not to be treated as someone’s daughter, son, niece, or nephew. The status of their relations to other people should not be the reason for people to have sympathy for victims—people should support the victim because they are a human being who has experienced something incredibly traumatic and something that may have ruined their lives forever. We will continue to fight for victims and for people to have their voices heard.