Dear 100 Hour Board,
Where do you stand on the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh?
The accusations leveled against him are serious...but the accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty...and thus far, we've only seen insubstantial evidence pointing to Kavanaugh's guilt.
I keep hearing people tell me that we should always believe women who claim to have been assaulted, but what about cases like Brian Banks?
How do we get justice for sexual assault victims while also protecting folks from false accusations?
First of all, false accusations are SO RARE. They happen, but the incidence rate is much lower than the incidence rate of actual rapes and sexual assaults, so I don't know why we act as if every time someone reports a sexual assault it's a fake report. That only contributes to people being afraid to report and get some sort of justice, and empowers abusers and rapists. Also, I keep hearing people talking about how "women make up rapes so they can get famous," but who on earth would want the sort of fame that Christine Blasey Ford now has? She's received death threats, for crying out loud! Also, how many of Bill Cosby's 60 accusers would you recognize if you saw them walking down the street? Would you stop them and go ask for their autograph? Do they make more money now based on their fame? No, so let's stop pretending that sexual assault is a great platform for building your personal brand. Furthermore, why do we care so much about innocent until proven guilty, but so many people assume women reporting rape/sexual assault are lying until proven innocent?
And on a somewhat related tangent--it's horrifying to me how many women have been sexually assaulted and it scars their lives forever, but if you ask the man about it, he only vaguely remembers it, or only vaguely thinks of it as a problem. How can something that has the power to ruin a woman's life forever be so commonplace that men don't even realize they're doing it? If you believe Dr. Ford that Justice Kavanaugh assaulted her, there are two options: either Kavanaugh is lying about it, or he honestly doesn't remember because for him it was just a normal night. Both options are horrific. I know so many women who have been sexually assaulted and/or raped, and a lot of the perpetrators didn't even realize how much they were harming those women. A lot of them replied with, "Oh, was that a problem?" when their victims (my friends) talked to them about how awful it was for them. We need to change the way we think as a society, because men can't continue to ruin women's lives and barely even register it.
I also heard a lot of people complaining that Kavanaugh wasn't getting his due process. However, due process doesn't apply to jobs--employers are allowed to hire you/not hire you/fire you on pretty much any criteria they want, as long as it's not a protected status (gender, race, sexual orientation, etc). So although Dr. Ford's accusations may not hold up in a court of law beyond any reasonable doubt, they certainly had a place to influence whether or not we should have appointed Kavanaugh to the highest and most insulated governmental position in the entire country. It was also weird to me that this was the hill Republicans were willing to die on. We all know they wanted another Republican Supreme Court Justice, but why Kavanaugh specifically? Why not pick one of the dozens of other qualified individuals with a less embattled pass and a better temperament? Why send the message to women that their experiences don't matter, and that even if they report sexual assault, we won't care?
Overall it's just sad to me that people were so okay with immediately casting doubt on Dr. Ford. Maybe Kavanaugh assaulted her, maybe he didn't, but why wouldn't we want to at least give a fair investigation into the events of that night? Why would we hold Kavanaugh up as a hero and cast dirt on Ford? It's also sad to me that someone as clearly NOT impartial, with a giant axe to grind against all Democrats, would be appointed to a position that's supposed to be completely impartial.
First, allow me to quote from this op-ed from the NYTimes, courtesy of Anne. I think it sums up my opinion quite nicely:
"Judicial Temperament is one of the most important qualities of a judge. As the Congressional Research Service explains, a judge requires 'a personality that is even-handed, unbiased, impartial, courteous yet firm, and dedicated to a process, not a result."
The article is signed by 2400+ law professors in the United States. They all agree that during his hearings, Kavanaugh displayed a "lack of judicial temperament that would be disqualifying for any court, and certainly for elevation to the highest court of this land."
"The question at issue was of course painful for anyone. But Judge Kavanaugh exhibited a lack of commitment to judicious inquiry. Instead of being open to the necessary search for accuracy, Judge Kavanaugh was repeatedly aggressive with questioners. Even in his prepared remarks, Judge Kavanaugh described the hearing as partisan, referring to it as "a calculated and orchestrated political hit," rather than acknowledging the need for the Senate, faced with new information, to try to understand what had transpired. Instead of trying to sort out with reason and care the allegations that were raised, Judge Kavanaugh responded in an intemperate, inflammatory and partial manner, as he interrupted and, at times, was discourteous to senators."
So there you go.
To me, regardless of whether or not Dr. Ford is telling the truth, the behavior Kavanaugh let out showed, to me anyway, that he is not able to act as a worthy, unbiased judge.
Now, we all know that 'unbiased' judges aren't a thing. The reason this is so charged is largely because of the politics of it. I do think it was kind of a low politically strategic (but morally unsound) move on the part of the Democrats to wait until now to do it. And the Republicans want to put him in as fast as possible to gain more sway in the Supreme Court. So sure, it was a little unfair. But I also think Kavanaugh is responsible to prove that he is committed to the process of law and investigation because that's about to be the rest of his life. And right now, I just don't feel confident in his ability to interpret laws and make important decisions that affect the entire country.
I can hardly even watch the hearings anymore. I want to stand in solidarity with women who claim sexual assault. They deserve justice and the world needs to start recognizing the humanity of women and the terrible things some of us have to endure. But I want to also make two points: 1) False accusations are very rare, and statistics support that. BUT 2) human memory is not reliable. Remember Brian Williams? Yeah. Even with traumatic events, we can't trust our memories. So I believe something happened to Dr. Ford, and I am very sorrowful for that and proud of her bravery. But maybe it wasn't Kavanaugh, and maybe he was there but wasn't as involved as she remembers. By the nature of the best part of the justice system, Kavanaugh is innocent until proven guilty. I think he's not a great character, and he clearly doesn't have a ton of patience, but I'm not going to say I think he's guilty because there isn't enough evidence. (Granted, 2 other women have also made accusations. But let's focus on the hearings.)
What they're both going through sucks. To have your reputation dragged through the mud because of something that happened 30+ years ago SUCKS. Being sexually harassed/assaulted SUCKS. Dr. Ford and all of the women who have dealt with the trauma of their experiences deserve justice. But Kavanaugh deserves that same justice.
What neither of them deserves is slander. I think Trump did a terrible thing by mocking Dr. Ford. That's one of the lowest, most inconsiderate things a person can do. But saying Kavanaugh is a bad person without a guilty verdict is on the same level.
TL;DR - Kavanaugh is innocent until proven guilty, but regardless of the verdict, the irrational behavior he has exhibited proves to me that he does not have the respect for the process of justice or the judicial temperament required for him to properly fulfill his potential duties as a Supreme Court Justice. And for this, I don't think he should be confirmed.
P.S. - I had finished this answer before he was confirmed. Now that it has happened, all I have to say is that I feel maybe he was confirmed to prove a point, and maybe people just don't care anymore. Basically, the political situation of this country has me very disappointed, in general. I wish we cared more about the welfare of our country and its inhabitants and less about the money and political strategy that corrupts the whole system. However, I cannot change the outcome, so the least I can do is hope that he does a better job than I expect him to.
How do we get justice for sexual assault victims while also protecting folks from false accusations? This is a pretty sensitive topic because it deals with very important and sensitive issues. I think everyone can agree that we need to protect the innocent: both those who are victims of crime, and those who could possibly falsely accused of crime. I'm going to take a bit of a roundabout path to how I think we can protect both parties, so stay with me here.
The first thing you should do if someone tells you that they have been the victim of sexual assault is to listen to them and believe them. They are going through something that is terrible and scarring. They need to be loved and feel like they are safe and supported. They need your trust and your help. Listen to what they have to say and help them get the help they need. There are certain entities that need to follow due process in verifying information such as law enforcement agencies or the press but you are not one of those entities. Our job isn't to determine legal justice and punishment, it's to stand with victims and support them.
Without an atmosphere and culture where victims feel safe reporting, sexual assault will go unreported, or will not be reported until much later. This is an issue for several very important reasons. First, if those guilty of sexual assault go unpunished it is possible and probable they will continue to abuse or assault people. The second issue is that the longer victims wait to report sexual assault, the harder it is to investigate. Shortly after the crime there's evidence such as DNA, fingerprints, ways to verify when and where people were, and possibly even witnesses. The longer time goes by, the harder it is to get solid evidence. (guppy of doom also mentioned that at many police stations rape kits go unused even when reported. If you or someone else you know is reporting make sure that the police do an actual investigation.)
A timely investigation is not only important for protecting victims, but also for protecting those who could be falsely accused of sexual assault. Why is that? Well, if we can get better at finding evidence and bringing justice to those who do commit a crime, it then becomes easier to show the innocence of those who don't commit one.
Now, one thing that I've heard people say about the situation "it is so easy to make false accusations and damage other people", and frankly that is something I don't believe. It sounds like in theory it would be really easy to accuse someone to damage their reputation, but there are several reasons why it is not easy. The first is that falsely accusing someone else of a crime is a crime. The punishment for falsely accusing someone of a crime isn't always large, but it can include jail time and reparations (source).
What I think is a more powerful reason to not falsely accuse someone of sexual assault is that regardless of whether or not the person is guilty, people that make those accusations often face pretty intense backlash. Dr. Ford has received threats on her life and been verbally attacked by politicians, media, and thousands of people across the nation. The backlash was so intense that Dr. Ford and her family had to move to get away from it (source).
This doesn't just go for high profile cases. Someone I know was sexually assaulted by a family member as a child. They got up the courage to report what happened and they faced significant backlash from their own family. A large portion of the family sided with the abuser and treated the person that got abused poorly. There a lot of people out there that blame victims, or don't care, or just let things slide and that is hurtful to people that are dealing with abuse.
The tricky thing about sexual assault is that it's a crime that usually happens when two people are alone. It would obviously be a lot easier for law enforcement to make the right call if their were other witnesses but there's often not. Other writers pointed out that false accusations, while damaging, are extremely rare. It's up to law enforcement to make those calls, but we can make the choice to support victims. Most of the time when people say they've been assaulted it has happened, and we as individuals need to support those individuals and not damage them further.
If we can help victims and create a culture where people feel safe to report real crimes, we will do a lot of good by stopping criminals, helping victims feel safe, and protecting those who are falsely accused. I don't know everything about this topic, but I think that it costs nothing and does no harm to listen to, believe, and support those that trust us with the information that they have been assaulted.
P.S. This is the number for the National Sexual Assault Hotline in case anyone needs it or knows someone who does: 1-800-656-4673
All of this Kavanaugh stuff has pushed me to the brink of losing all faith in humanity. Whatever happened with Ford, it's almost certain Kavanaugh is lying about what he was like as a teenager. He is a dirtbag and no decent person should support him. What is wrong with people?
At first I was uncertain of how to take the hearings, but that quickly changed once I started talking to my friend who has been assaulted, knows others who have been assaulted, and has intensely studied abuse and assault since then (quite similar to Dr. Ford, actually).
First off, sexual assault is quite common. In America, one in three women will be sexually assaulted and one in six (some reports say five) women will be raped at some point in her life (source, source). While on my mission, two of my companions confided in me that they had been sexually assaulted by a family member. While I am so incredibly grateful that I have never been assaulted, I know that many women do not have my experience.
Second off, false sexual assault allegations are quite rare. There are many articles I could link to, but instead I'm just going to send you to these two great Twitter threads, because they cite the studies and sum it up in a much better way than I could. These studies have found that false allegations occur between a range of 2-10% of the time (with most studies finding it occurred between 3-5% of the time; only one study found 10%), which is about the same rate for falsely reporting a house burglary. Think about it: people are as likely to call the police and lie about their home being broken into as they are to falsely report a sexual assault. Furthermore, the people who make these claims fall into a few consistent categories: "Teen girls trying to cover up a pregnancy or a missed curfew. People with extensive criminal convictions for fraud. People with Munchausen's Disorder who fabricate a million health conditions. People seeking revenge, usually for petty things like someone stealing their truck." As one study concluded, "If a woman without any history of dramatic falsehoods says she went home with a man and, after they’d kissed a while consensually, he held her down and forced her into sex—in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, you can just assume it’s true." In fact, statistically you are more likely to be struck by lightning while in your house than you are to be falsely accused of sexual assault.
To put that into perspective, I (and all women) have a 33% chance of being sexually assaulted and a 17% chance of being raped at some point in our lives. Men have a less than 1% chance of being falsely accused of sexual assault. This report (granted it is for England and Wales, not America) puts a man's chance of being falsely accused of rape at 0.00021281%. Men, you are more likely to be raped than you are to be falsely accused of rape.
Third, many sexual assault allegations are not treated seriously in America. While innocent until proven guilty is a very important in a court of law when prison or other capitol punishment is at stake (which was not the case for Kavanaugh, I might add), it becomes difficult to prosecute sexual assault cases when punishments differ by state and police and other authorities are often unwilling to help. When the Justice Department investigated the Baltimore Police, for instance, they found that "the department didn’t take sexual assault allegations seriously, with an officer describing one victim as 'a conniving little whore' and one detective allegedly claiming that 'all our cases are bull****'" (source). Thousands of rape kits sit untested in police departments, though the DNA in them could solve rape cases (source). Even when these rape kits are tested and the DNA evidence confirms the woman's words, the DA may refuse to prosecute, just as Utah's current DA has refused to prosecute 4 assault and rape cases (source). Men in South Carolina can have longer jail sentences for beating their dogs than for beating their wives (source). If a man is found guilty of rape—even if he is caught in the act of raping an unconscious woman—he could serve only 3 months in prison.
Meanwhile, women who are raped and sexually assaulted are more likely to develop PTSD, suffer major depression, develop alcohol or drug problems, suffer flashbacks, develop mood or anxiety disorders, be unable to trust men, be unable to have fulfilling sexual experiences, experience disrupted work and family life, experience the "second rape" (when victims receive victim-blaming, disbelieving or minimizing responses, or do not receive the services or help they need), and are more likely to commit suicide (source, source). In other words, one in three women in America likely suffer one or more of these consequences because they have been sexually assaulted or raped.
Women who are not raped or sexually assaulted, but like me are very wary and take actions to avoid being assaulted, are less likely to feel safe in situations where they are alone with men, avoid going certain places or even leaving the house after a certain time, may be more deferential to men for fear of retribution, avoid certain runs or hikes alone, spend money on protective items like pepper spray, never leave their drinks unattended, always tell their friends details about the locations and times of dates they're going on (often with "if I'm not back by this time, call the police"), and feel a heightened sense of caution and fear when traveling alone or at night (source, source).
Finally, to directly address your fear of false allegations, I want to end with my friend's comments on the Kavanaugh hearings. As she said, "I understand why people are upset/scared about the potential precedent being set up for anybody to make an accusation and that having the power to bring somebody down or whatever. Like I am furious about the damage false reports have done to the credibility of victims of abuse and violence. I get it. But this is a two-sided coin and the other one (which is the current precedent) is that reporting abuse or assault doesn't matter. That nothing happens. That no one will believe you and that perpetrators don't have consequences. (Not to mention the fact that the men 'taken down' in #metoo early on like Louis CK and Aziz Ansari are already 'back' and I haven't even finished a bottle of shampoo.) Like EVEN IF we were willing to give women the benefit of the doubt here. Like sure Kavanaugh wouldn't get the Supreme Court seat (which for the 3 millionth time @ the people in the back HE IS NOT ENTITLED TO). But he's not going to lose his job. His reputation is already exactly what it will be. Republicans will praise him for being "brave" and 'an American hero'. (I mean not all Republicans but I'm generalizing for the sake of clarity.) I will continue to believe that he's human garbage. Like we've already set this precedent where even when men are PROVEN to have assaulted women it's a 'shame' and 'we should give them another chance'. So why do people think that if Kavanaugh wasn't given the seat (which like—barring a miracle on East Capitol isn't gonna happen) he's going to be ostracized from society. MEANWHILE I (and many many others) get to relive the trauma of not reporting my abuser/attempting to get help when my mental state when to s*** over it and like I AM SO SO ANGRY BECAUSE I CAN SEE EXACTLY WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF I TRIED TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT NOW. And like for the next 16 (plus or minus whatever) years I am going to have to watch ANOTHER person make decisions about the rights of Americans who has proven themselves to be at the least angry and aggressive and most likely a perpetrator of abuse. SO HOW THE HE** are we going to make any progress on abuse and assault prevention when two of the nine people who get the final say on the laws in this country have benefited from the status quo. Like this is actually hell for so many people. And I hate watching this argument because as far as I'm concerned it's a 'do we believe men or women?' argument at face value AND AS IT TURNS OUT it's always men. Men systematically have more access to the law. Full stop."
-guppy of doom