There’s no time limit on public accusations of sexual assault

By Michael d’Oliveira

When Christine Blasey Ford made her allegations against now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, it produced the usual questions that come with accusations of sexual assault: Why would a woman wait 40 years to come out with her story?

Why would she stay quiet while the man who allegedly assaulted her was nominated for other judgeships or positions of power?

Why didn’t she say something sooner?

There are a lot of stories about why women stay silent, and the two main reasons they give are shame and a belief that telling their story won’t matter.

As for when a woman should reveal her accusations against powerful men, the answer is simple: when she decides. It’s not for anyone, especially men who have no idea what it’s like to be raped or harassed, to assign a time table for women who claim they are the victims of such behavior.

Ford may or may not be telling the truth. But she’s not subject to anyone else’s judgement as to when she should have come out with her story.

Human beings are complicated. They don’t react in the neat and tidy little ways you want them to. Sexual assault is an emotionally scarring experience. Beyond the physical trauma, the victim is left emotionally devastated with huge self-esteem and image issues.

You can’t expect someone still dealing with the impact of sexual assault to have the courage or clear-mindedness to be able to take on everything that comes along with going public with their story.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), an anti-sexual violence organization, sexual assault can cause PTSD, depression and flashbacks. “After a traumatic event, it is typical to have feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear, making it difficult to adjust or cope for some time afterwards,” states RAINN’s website.

There is a huge cost to accusing a Supreme Court nominee of attempted rape.

There are death threats, huge amounts of public ridicule and the uncomfortable saga of having to reveal possibly the worst moment of your life to the world.

It’s very reasonable to think someone would want to avoid that. It’s also reasonable that when Kavanaugh was nominated for his previous positions, Ford decided that maybe telling her story wasn’t worth the trouble.

But there are few positions of power and influence that compare to being a Supreme Court Justice. She may have finally decided she couldn’t see this man rise any higher.

Our decisions aren’t made in a vacuum. There are repercussions for those who accuse powerful men of unseemly actions, especially if there are powerful interests invested in his success.

When women do come forward, we should keep an open mind and be cognizant that speaking about sexual assault is no easy thing.

Accusations should not be automatically believed or dismissed

By Michael d’Oliveira

The following is quite insane:

“The charge of sexual assault against [Supreme Court nominee] Brett Kavanaugh is disqualifying and we call on him to immediately withdraw his nomination for the Supreme Court,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America in a New York Times article about the sexual assault accusations against Kavanaugh.

Did you catch that?

“The charge of sexual assault . . . is disqualifying.”

So, apparently, for at least one person, accusation is all that’s required to decide someone is guilty.

No proof needed anymore.

No need to investigate or verify.

Just assume its true and be done with it.

And Hogue’s statement on skipping past the trial part of the court of public opinion, and going straight to sentencing, came when the accusations by Ford were still anonymous.

Would Hogue call for a liberal, pro-choice Supreme Court nominee to step down if someone made anonymous accusations against that nominee with no proof? Very doubtful. But if Hogue’s attitude were applied to everyone who submitted themselves to public office, every single person, no matter if they were truly innocent or guilty, could be derailed with a few minutes spent creating a Microsoft Word document and an email account.

I don’t want to see Brett Kavanaugh confirmed as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court. I don’t think his ascendency to the highest court in the country would be a good thing.

But I do want to see him afforded the basic right to have the accusations of his accuser investigated before he is judged on what she claims happened.

When someone is accused of sexual assault, no one should automatically believe or dismiss the accuser. But each accusation should be taken seriously and investigated. False accusations can ruin careers, relationships and reputations. But individuals who are truly guilty of sexual assault need to be punished accordingly. They certainly shouldn’t be allowed to be placed into positions of power and influence.

That’s why accusations should be investigated before they are taken as fact.

That’s a right that should transcend politics.

Sadly, it’s not.

When some public official gets accused of sexual assault, so many of us either automatically believe or dismiss the accuser based solely on the political background of the accused. And that’s really quite sad and pathetic.

It’s one of the most shameful aspects of our public discourse.

When Democratic Senator Al Franken was accused of bad behavior, many liberals dismissed his accuser of being politically motivated. Likewise, many conservatives automatically believed her and called for Franken to step down. Which he eventually did.

Now, we find ourselves in a situation where the shoe is on the other foot and no one seems to remember what they were wearing just a short while ago.