Trauma Tells the Truth: How Sexism Shaped the Kavanaugh Case

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An intense discussion in many senior AP Government classes suddenly emulates a spark of controversy that completely takes over the student body. The world is taken by storm as the public receives the story of another possible Brock Turner, Harvey Weinstein, or Kevin Spacey. The injustices of sexual assault cases are not hidden; the environments of said cases span from school campuses to behind the curtains of Hollywood. Brett Kavanaugh is now amongst those who can be credited for amplifying the silence forced upon those who have fallen victim to sexual assault, as well as perpetuating sexist stigmas that continuously harm the female population.  

On September 27, students listened attentively as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, an American professor of psychology at Palo Alto University and a research psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, recounted the traumatic experience of being sexually assaulted by Mr. Kavanaugh nearly 36 years ago during a high-school gathering. The controversy surrounding the case begs three questions: Why did she wait until now to bring these allegations forward? Is her evidence enough to condemn him? Why were these allegations brought against Mr. Kavanaugh specifically? It’s with these questions that the general public, including students like us, became invested in the nature the issue was approached.

The events that occurred during the hearing frame what many people feared to be a conflict between the government and the people. The Supreme Court handling a case of this nature becomes unsettling as it transforms the conversation away from vilifying sexual assault into a political issue, dissolving the morality of the situation into a partisan based argument. Representatives from both parties became concerned with who was at fault for delaying the course of action, rather than focusing on the impact an accusation such as this one can have on both individuals and their families. The priority of recognizing the protocol of law can become muddled in an effort to understand the harsh reality of trauma, and how it can manifest over a lifetime. Kavanaugh proclaimed the allegations to be a “left wing conspiracy”, failing to sympathize with Ford’s experience of sexual assault and instead, focused on the political effects surrounding.

Furthermore, many students argued against the credibility of the accusation, defending the idea that Kavanaugh should be viewed through a scope of being “innocent until proven guilty”. The problem with this approach is that it replaces human empathy with political practicality, and supports the stigma that victims of assault should not come forth with stories in fear of not being believed. In these cases, how much evidence is “concrete” and “enough”? Thus, a space of thought is created where the victim is disregarded altogether.

In a setting where the most important decisions are made to dictate the lives of the American people, the temperament displayed during the hearing is dubious especially when taking into account the position for which Brett Kavanaugh was nominated. While it may appear as the accused defending his reputation against the fire of controversy, his phrasing was harsh and adamant towards dismissing the cries of those he possibly may have scarred. While the anger incurred during his trial is justified, his speech and unwillingness to offer any sorrow on behalf of Dr. Ford and other victims of sexual assault is what issues criticism. The Republican Party appeared transparent in rushing the hearing, limiting the amount of time Dr. Ford was given to exhibit her sorrow; it fell amidst a potentially premeditated plan to admit Kavanaugh into the Supreme Court regardless. Are we protecting the powerful or preserving the sacred title of representing the American people? While many speak on the harsh way Kavanaugh’s image has been tainted, they fail to forget the same repercussions Ford faces as a woman placing herself in the eyes of the public. Why is trauma’s altercation in her life justified, but brought up as a red flag for Kavanaugh? Are women supposed to walk on eggshells around males, and reap the results of actions forced upon them?

While Kavanaugh may have presented himself as a successful nominee for Supreme Court Justice over the years, it does not hinder the possibility that in his youth, he may have been a different person. The mentality of “boys will be boys” is one rooted in sexism and instilled in adolescents across the country, seemingly as if the misconduct towards the opposite sex is justifiable or forgivable if you are willing to cover up and change in the future.

With sexist controversy lining the ranks of our President as well, an ugly taste was left in the mouth of the public following the final Senate decision to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The President issued a national apology to Kavanaugh for the absence of “every notion of fairness, decency, and due process.” His apology illustrates a conflict of interest and again, fails to acknowledge the severity of admitting a potential offender to the highest court in the nation. By apologizing on behalf of the nation, President Trump furthers the narrative that men cannot be at fault.

To many of us, it is increasingly frustrating to be on the sidelines witnessing a time gaslit in reckoning and perfumed with the hopes of rebalancing power in society. To many of us women, it is demeaning to witness the regression of the power female voices have- not only in society, but in the eyes of the government as well.

Where do we stand in society? A woman’s basic desire to be heard, to be believed, and even to be respected should not be ignored when challenging the opposite sex. Countless times women have been failed by systems of power and now more than ever, is the time for action.