Sex & Gender

#whyididntreport gives voice to sexual assault victims

September 25, 2018
88 Picks

Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination process has been mired by controversy above and beyond the obvious ire of the judge being a Trump pick. The process has been overtaken by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s explosive allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her three decades ago —and a second set of allegations by Deborah Ramirez, from her time as Kavanaugh’s classmate at Yale University, published in The New Yorker. One response to the allegations was the usual chorus of doubt and denial, with Trump himself coming to Kavanaugh’s defense in a tweet that questioned Ford’s motives by asking why she and her parents had not come forward sooner.

Notice how Trump himself does not even deny that the attack happened, just the severity of it. Ford shared details of the incident in an anonymous letter, but Kavanaugh’s denial and the unencumbered nomination proceedings prompted Ford to publicly reveal herself in order for the allegations to be given proper consideration. “Brave” does not begin to cover Ford’s decision to come forward, especially in a culture that fosters an environment which protects sexual predators while putting survivors on trial. It is that same culture that forces many victims into silence owing to internalized victim shaming. Women, men and gender-non-conforming survivors of sexual violence often offer the same reasons for not speaking that perpetrators use to defend themselves, speaking to the warped and insensitive cultural dialogue around sexual violence.

“It’s really the only crime where people doubt the victim immediately,” she added. “If your car was stolen, they don’t say, ‘Are you sure it was stolen? Why were you driving such an expensive car?’” – New York Times

In the wake of Trump’s attempt to attack Dr. Ford’s credibility, survivors of abuse came forward in show of solidarity by sharing their own stories in the #WhyIDidntReport hashtag. Coming forward is a distinct hell on its own so the hashtag was used to highlight the shame, anger and fear that influence a person’s decision to seek justice for an assault. According to The Times, “It may take a survivor a while to process that trauma, and even to identify what has happened,” said Carolyn M. West, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington who has written and spoken extensively about sexual abuse and trauma.”

Our culture protects perpetrators of sexual assault. It puts puts them on TV shows and in movies. It allows them to run studios and broadcast networks. It allows them onto the highest court in the land and to occupy the most powerful office in the so-called “free world.” Defenders of these deviants always lament the damage that an allegation can do to the reputation of the accused, but the sheer number of people that keep quiet about the violence they endured is proof enough that the damage is truly felt by the accuser.

Dr. Ford came forward after 30 years because she realized how important her story might be to the millions of Americans whose lives would be affected by his appointment. Her actions are brave because we don’t live in perfect world where sexual assault allegations ruin a man’s ability to serve on the Supreme Court. Anita Hill’s harrowing experience was the lesson America didn’t learn and now we find ourselves in a similar place—with Roe vs. Wade on the line.

When women come out in defense of Kavanaugh on the basis that it’s just “boys being boys,” I have to fight the urge to burn my bra and throw it at them. Sexual assault survivors have to contend with living in a world where their trauma is reduced to something as trivial as “rough-housing.” It is a travesty on justice that will force humanity to look back and cringe. Reporting is reliving for survivors; having to to go through the experience again and again, just so the perpetrator isn’t free to do the same to another innocent soul; and then, only to be met with the same doubt they themselves had to overcome in order to report in the first place.

Our culture protects sexual assaulters and it is chilling that we are still here, playing hostage to the violent whims of unapologetic men. Survivors deserve better. We all do.