As a survivor of sexual assault, and a behaviorist, I have to weigh in with my observations — keeping all political partisanship aside — about the recent Senate Judiciary Committee proceedings to hear Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. I am deeply concerned with many issues the Senate and media are creating and how these will impact all the rape survivors in this country. I am also concerned about the investigative and congressional inquiry process and the ramifications it has for Ford and Kavanaugh, who are at the center of this highly publicized battle.
I want everyone to ask: At what point in our culture did weaponizing sexual assault allegations through the media and Congress become politically correct? When did we, as a country, forego expert investigations and confidential inquiries, and rely solely upon emotional and unsubstantiated testimonies in the media to create a “guilty until proven innocent” paradigm? Sadly, neither party had the constitutional protections of a proper legal proceeding for this issue.
We know by experience that rape is a terrible and horrific crime of power that can be initiated by both males and females. This situation, as it has played out in the media, does not help survivors to come forth with sexual assault allegations. It hurts survivors’ credibility if they are put in the public eye and become confused or can not clearly vocalize their narrative. It also makes every person in this country susceptible to a lynch mob mentality if an allegation is made against them. How can either of these paradigms help our country evolve toward enlightened humanism?
For survivors of sexual assault while serving in the military, the situations is not the same as what played out in the Senate. The same Senate that voted against the Ruth Moore Act of 2015, which would have codified protections for survivors of military sexual assault, used a much lower standard of evidence in its hearing than what we lobbied for, and had to provide, to prove our assaults and get medical and mental health services from the Veterans Administration.
As survivors of military sexual assault, we provided evidentiary standards such as rape kits, police reports, military reports and substantiated reports of secondary markers to the Veterans Administration to prove our claims. We also developed behavioral disorders or profound disabilities and became dysfunctional in our personal lives and communities. We fought, sometimes for decades, to have our voices heard. We were stigmatized for reporting. We lost our jobs, our homes, sometimes our families, and for some, even our lives.
I do not (for even a millisecond) doubt that Ford suffered some sort of trauma in the past. I also do not doubt Kavanaugh’s veracity in his defense. Both accounts were credible. However, the details are indeterminate because an expert sexual assault investigator was not used before the hearing to develop a truthful baseline. Instead, we see a woman’s confidentiality and security being breached in typical sensationalized fashion and her story being vilified because she could not remember facts under duress. We also see a man being attacked in a gender-typical way because he exhibited strong emotion. Who among us has never exhibited strong emotions when we felt attacked and persecuted, or forgotten facts when pressed for details in a hostile environment?
The Senate hearing was not fair to either party. I pray Ford can find peace because, like it or not, she has become a lightning rod for the nation, much as I was in 2012. People will seek to associate with her and use and abuse her presence for their personal gain. I also pray for Kavanaugh and his family, all of whom who will have to live with the ramifications of unhealthy or angry people threatening them for many months or years to come. Both parties will never have peace or privacy again. Both people deserve so much better from our country and humanity.
I offer this caution to each of my veteran sisters and brothers: Remember that we are better than giving in to raw emotion. Please exercise self-care and do something good for yourselves. Turn the news off, take a walk, go hiking, eat a forbidden dessert or indulge in a favorite coffee. Practice mindfulness, because nothing good can come of you reliving your traumas. If you need to, call your battle buddies, providers and therapists. Do not face these feelings alone. In this you are never alone.
Ruth Moore of Milbridge is a survivor of sexual assault while serving in the military and the namesake of the Ruth Moore Act. She is also the founder of Internity, a nonprofit organization that helps veterans get access to benefits, services and health care.
If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.
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