Republicans Send a Chilling Message to Survivors of Sexual Assault: Stay Silent

Oct 9, 2018

By Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

The Republican rationale for confirming Brett Kavanaugh would make it impossible for virtually any woman (or man) to ever prevail when alleging unwanted sexual behavior.  I thought we had cleared up this confusion when I chaired the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Commission issued sexual harassment guidelines, later affirmed by the Supreme Court. 

A confirmation is not a civil proceeding and will not affect how the Commission regards sexual intrusion matters before the EEOC.  However, the Republican rationale for believing Justice Kavanaugh over Dr. Blasey Ford could significantly weaken the confidence survivors need and have shown in coming to the Commission and going to court to allege sexual misbehavior of various types.

Republicans embraced the standard of corroboration, and then found insufficient the strongest case of corroboration that most experts in the field have seen.  Serious, unwanted sexual intrusions are almost never witnessed.  Yet, Mark Judge, who claimed faulty memory but may have participated in the alleged sexual, has never said he was not in the room.  The 36-year lapse in time was more than overcome by the corroboration offered by Dr. Blasey Ford.  The alleged attack she suffered was so traumatic that she had to receive treatment by a therapist years later.  No wonder, you may forget most events that occurred years ago, but you will never forget a sexual assault.  Moreover, Dr. Blasey Ford took the extraordinary step of undergoing a polygraph examination before testifying.  Contrast the thoroughness of her evidence and testimony against what was offered by Kavanaugh, who refused to endorse the call for an FBI investigation.

We can only imagine the message now sent to victims of sexual assault or harassment.  If serious sexual harassment is almost always unwitnessed, sexual assaults, like most felonies need secrecy.  Such allegations, therefore, most often will come down to whom do you believe. President Trump at his ceremonial swearing-in of Justice Kavanaugh went out of his way to apologize to Kavanaugh for the “suffering that [he was] forced to endure” and said he was “proven innocent.”  In effect, the most powerful man in the world called Dr. Blasey Ford a liar. This heartlessly unnecessary treatment of Dr. Blasey Ford can be redressed in our democracy. It will be up to women and men to do what they did in 1992, which became the year of the woman.  Elections for that memorable year, which brought the most women to the House and Senate at one time than ever before in our history, had to wait a full year.  Notwithstanding Clarence Thomas’ confirmation to the Supreme Court, the American people showed they believe Anita Hill.  In less than a month American voters can do the same.