Ford vs Kavanaugh should teach all men, you will be held accountable for your actions 

Sarah Salvadore
Sarah SalvadoreOct 01, 2018 | 11:44

Ford vs Kavanaugh should teach all men, you will be held accountable for your actions 

A lot of misconceptions are part of the rape culture we live in.

On Thursday, most of the United States and those across the globe interested in politics and gender issues, were glued to their viewing devices, catching the live testimonies of Dr Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Dr Ford, a well-respected professor of clinical psychology, accused Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, while they were in high school.


ford-kavanaugh-insid_093018032452.jpgDr Ford versus Justice Kavanaugh has riveted America — and the world. (Photo: Reuters)

The allegation came during the Senate confirmation hearing of Kavanaugh. Since then, two other women have come forward with their accounts of sexual misconduct against Judge Kavanaugh. 

And on cue, people have been questioning Dr Ford’s motivations for speaking up three decades after the incident. 

The answer to this has pretty much played out in the past few weeks — in addition to having to relive her trauma, Dr Ford has faced a smear campaign, had her character attacked and faced death threats. She had to move her family out of their home for security reasons. 

Contrary to belief, women who come forward to report assault are not motivated by money or fame. In fact, by speaking up, they most certainly enter an atmosphere that is antagonistic — exposing themselves to vicious public abuse and death threats. Sexual assault is a humiliating — and dehumanising — act against someone. And when a survivor has to speak about her trauma again and again, she feels invaded and defiled. Sharing a story of assault requires trust. In a hostile environment, this is hard to come by. 


A lot of misconceptions are part of the rape culture we live in. One of these is that if rape actually occurred, people go to the police immediately. 

police-officer_093018033402.jpgNo, the police are often not the sensitive, empathetic lot they should be. (Photo: Reuters)

This is completely contradictory to how trauma works. 

Trauma is one of the lasting effects of assault and as a society, we have very limited knowledge of it. Women are often forced to compartmentalise their pain – to move ahead rather than speak up, because the burden of proof is always on the victim, rather than the accused. 

And then, there is shame. Linked to that shame is self-condemnation. Victims blame themselves — because culturally victim-blaming is rampant. “She shouldn’t have worn a short skirt, she shouldn’t have been drinking, why did she go out so late at night?” Sounds familiar? 

skirt_093018033755.jpgBlaming rape on an outfit. Not on a criminal. (Representative image: Reuters)

Silence is the best option, because the assaulter is either someone from the family, a friend, an acquaintance or a person too powerful. In Dr Ford’s case, Judge Kavanaugh came from an elite, upper class, privileged background, and his mother served as a Maryland state judge


kavanaugh1_093018034301.jpgThe portrait of an entitled white male. (Photo: Reuters)

In the era of #MeToo reckoning, things have finally started to change. 

However, they haven’t changed enough for one woman’s word to be believed on its own without corroborating evidence. Or, without the argument that her experience has timed out. What people, especially men, don’t realise is that the statute of limitation for trauma does not exist. 

Survivors bury trauma into the deepest recesses of their minds, going on with their lives, without realising the daily impact it has. But when your assaulter is being considered for an eminent position, in one of the highest institutions of the government, it acts as a trigger. 

If one needs more examples of why victims don’t come forward, they should look no further than the #WhyIDidntReport on Twitter, to understand the web of shame, pain and slanted power dynamics that kept survivors from speaking out. 

What happened to Dr Ford resonates with every woman across the globe who’s reported her assault or thought of doing so. 

It’s not an American issue. It’s a women’s issue.

One might argue that today, the laws against rape are stricter than what they used to be. True. But what’s also true is that the criminal justice system is known to drag its feet when it comes to investigating sexual assault or misconduct. While more women are willing to report sexual assault, it doesn’t necessarily translate to a conviction or justice for the victim. The government can strengthen the laws on rape, but it’s implementation is what ultimately matters. And more often than not, law enforcement has mishandled cases due to pressure. They also lack sensitivity and dignity when dealing with victims and their families, found The Human Rights Watch

All these facts bring us to the question of how we view sexual assault and misconduct as a society. 

Women are often seen as ‘expendable’ — easily sacrificed at the altar of men who “don’t know better” or “were too young”. Some of the voices speaking for Judge Kavanaugh that we heard were shocking, to say the least — many felt that Kavanaugh was being targeted for being “young and silly” or “doing what boys do”. 

men-will-be-men_093018035318.jpgThey both believe boys will be boys. (And women should simply take it). 

We are taught from a very young age to look the other way when men commit ‘indiscretions.’ Acts like stalking or groping are normalised. “These things happen. It’s all a part of growing up” — by saying so, society only encourages troublesome behavior. Is it a surprise that an argument like this breeds entitled indifference to girls and women? 

When Brock Turner was sentenced to only six months for sexual assault, it sparked an international debate. The judge worried that a stricter sentence would have a “severe impact” on the 20-year-old, while his father thought it was too heavy a price for “20 minutes of action.” All of this was offensive and completely insensitive to the pain of the survivor. The fact is, Brock is only a product of a rape culture we’ve nurtured by looking the other way. 

brokc_093018040318.jpgRape culture: He raped a defenceless woman. But he, not she, received social empathy. (Photo: Reuters)

A lawmaker recently said that, “If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried.” 

Well, I say it’s a good thing. 

Maybe this will start a conversation and force us to change the way we look at sexual assault. 

This time in history can be used as a teachable moment for young men — you will be held accountable for your actions. 

Let’s not forget that the attitude of “boys will be boys” also lowers the standard of conduct we expect from men - including those aspiring to the highest offices of our land.


Last updated: October 01, 2018 | 20:55
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