This is why the Brett Kavanaugh sexual assault hearing is *important*.

Besides being vaguely aware of the Brett Kavanaugh sexual assault allegations I have not kept up with the progression of the case. Perhaps it’s unsurprising to see another high profile man being accused of sexual assault, and in turn being supported by other high profile men, even before a testimony from the victim has been heard.

Perhaps it’s because as a South African woman I am more concerned of the current local spate of deeply disturbing headlines. But nonetheless it is important for me, and for you, to know why the Brett Kavanaugh case is happening. It’s outcome will inevitably ripple on an international level affecting many things- not limited to- how we react to, vote, prosecute, and speak about sexual violence affecting us politically, socially and legally.

Quick facts:

  1. Kavanaugh is a Republican judge who is being considered as a US Supreme Court nominee.
  2. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is a professor of psychology at Palo Alto University and researcher at Stanford University.
  3. In July this year Dr Ford came forward with her story to her senator, Dianne Feinstein, requesting confidentiality.
  4. The story was leaked, and the public nature forced Dr Ford to come forward publicly.
  5. Since then Kavanaugh has been accused of two other misconduct allegations by Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick
  6. President Donald Trump has supported Kavanaugh saying in a press conference that the accusations are a “big, fat con job” to undermine the Republican party.

The allegations have inspired a wave of public sentiment who are endorsing and outlining the importance of believing sexual assault victims when

The Hearing

The testimonies of both Kavanaugh and Ford were heard yesterday.

Here are the highlights and what we can learn from the hearing:

Senator Chuck Grassley opened the hearing chastising the timing of the allegation

“Only at an eleventh hour, on the eve of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination vote, did the ranking member refer the evidence to the FBI,” Grassley stated.

This is a common attitude in court proceedings, where the validity of victim allegations are based on the time period between the event and proceedings. It totally neglects the psychological effects that hinder victims from speaking out, not the least the fear of repercussions victims face when deciding whether or not to open a case.

Senator Feinstein opened her statement by introducing Ford

Which Grassley failed to do. This is a move that insists on humanizing her, rather than subconsciously encouraging the act of theorizing the person as a ‘victim’ and that only.

Feinstein then explained a very problematic nature of how women are treated when coming forward with their stories of sexual violence. “Too often, women’s memories and credibility come under assault”, Feinstein said. “In essence, they are put on trial and forced to defend themselves.”

This sentiment reflects the practice of putting women’s reputations and state of sobriety on trial, instead of putting emphasis on the allegation at hand. Holes in memories surrounding the event are used as evidence against them, a tactic clearly illustrated when prosecutor Rachel Mitchell questioned Ford.

Ford gives her testimony

“I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened…” Ford said, addressing the allegations questioning her timing and motives.
She then points out that she has recounted the events twice before, bringing attention to a victim’s need to constantly repeat their stories which can bring on panic attacks and other emotional side effects triggered by PTSD.

“I truly wish I could provide detailed answers to all of the questions that have been and will be asked..”, she continued.”I don’t remember as much as I would like to. But the details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget.”

She then recounts how at a house party Kavanaugh and his friend,  Mark Judge, pushed her into a bedroom and laughed as Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her before she escaped and hid in a bathroom. “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter of the two, and their having fun at my expense.”

Senator Mazie Hirono questions the prosecutor’s tactics

Mitchell repeatedly asked Ford questions regarding the music playing during the event as well as whether she had been drunk or on medication.

“We all know that the prosecutor.. is asking Dr. Ford lots of questions about what happened before and after, but not during the attack,” Hirono said, bringing attention to the incompetent approach. “The prosecutor should know that sexual-assault survivors often do not remember … information such as what happened before or after the event, and yet she will persist in asking these questions all to undermine the memory and the credibility of Dr. Ford.”

Senators Blumenthal and Brookers’ messages to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

“I have found your testimony powerful and credible and I believe you”, Blumenthal said.

“How we deal with survivors who come forward right now is unacceptable”,Corey Brooker pointed out, and then continued to say,” the way we deal with this unfortunately allows for the continued darkness of this culture to exist.”

He commended Ford for her bravery addressing her by saying: “Your brilliance, shining a light onto this and speaking your truth, is nothing short of heroic.”

Kavanaugh calls the allegations an “orchestrated political hit”

He repeatedly cried, banged his hands on the podium and lamented the effect the allegations have had and will have on his career and family. A deep concern expressed by President Trump as well. A tactic that we see often in the media where perpetrators’ actions are belittled by focusing on their humanity and appealing to public empathy. This trivializes the effect the perpetrator’s actions had on the victim.

Kavanaugh denied the allegations vehemently but said he had no doubt that Ford was assaulted- by someone else. He also interrupted Feinstein during her questioning. Senator Kamala Harris then asked him if he had watched Ford’s testimony to which he replied that he hadn’t as he had been preparing his own.

Following the hearing it has been announced that the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on whether or not to recommend Kavanugh’s Supreme Court confirmation today (Friday, Sept. 28).

Via Marie Claire SA

Feature image:  by Kevin Dietsch for 

Words: Zoya Pon