Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Why More Women Don't Come Forward


For the record I think Christine Blasey Ford is getting bad legal advice. Her decision to demand an investigation by the FBI into her claims of sexual assault as a condition for her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee is doomed to failure. There is no way Chairman Chuck Grassley is going to grant any further delays. Like it or not the only avenue she had to tell her side of the story was to appear next Monday. Now Senate Republicans have all the justification they need to proceed with a vote next Thursday, which barring any additional damaging revelations, will result in Brett Kavanaugh being confirmed as the next justice on the Supreme Court.

And make no mistake about it, had Ford testified, even without a formal investigation, she would've made a compelling witness. Those who think this is nothing more than a he said / she said debate haven't been paying very much attention to what's been going on in the country over the last two years. This isn't 1991. The Me Too movement has not only empowered women to come out and report incidences of sexual misconduct, it has forced a long-overdue conversation about the role of women in society and the manner in which they've been treated.

Politically, this was a nightmare for the GOP. Do not be fooled by the bravado coming from Senate Republicans and the White House. They're sweating bullets over this confirmation. Mitch McConnell would rather have a tooth pulled without Novocaine than have this on his plate. His party wasn't all that popular with women voters before this story broke; the specter of seeing a repeat of the Anita Hill debacle would only drive those anemic poll numbers further south. Most Republicans are resigned to the House flipping; if they lose the Senate as well, you can kiss goodbye any future Supreme Court confirmations

Now, with Ford not testifying, they catch the break they've been praying for. Grassley comes off looking magnanimous, while Diane Feinstein, whose decision not to release the letter from Ford back in July when it might've made a difference, has some serious explaining to do, not only to her fellow Democrats on the committee, but to the party in general.

But the real scandal here isn't political. Kavanaugh's views on presidential powers and Roe v. Wade are certainly relevant, but they pale in comparison to the damage Ford has had to put up with since her letter was leaked to the press. Her address and phone number have been posted on line and she has received death threats that have forced her to relocate herself and her family in order to keep them safe.

If you want to know why more women don't come forward to tell their stories this is why. It is bad enough to be "slut shamed" in front of a committee of mostly men - many of whom have already made up their minds - divulging every single detail of what your abuser did to you, but to add injury to insult and have to endure the constant onslaught of threats and harassment from mostly anonymous people, not knowing which nut job might act on their rage and harm you or your family, that is more than any woman should have to bare. Do not think for a moment that Ford hasn't watched what happened to Hill 27 years ago. Who in their right mind would want to go through that kind of humiliation?

Face it, there was never going to be any justice for Christine Ford whether she testified or not. But at least she would've had her day in court, such as it was, and maybe that would've encouraged other women to come forward. My fear is that this ill-advised decision by her may give them the permission they need to keep quiet. And that means more perpetrators will get away with inexcusable  and, in some cases, criminal behavior, and a movement that could've brought about real change will wither and die.

As for the the Republican Party, ever since they decided to bed down with the sexual predator in the White House they have had to deal with the political fallout. Whether that fallout leads to actual consequences this November is yet to be determined.

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