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.