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Voices of Trinity: Sexual Violence and the Kavanaugh Hearing

 
 

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Tom Williams/AP/REX/Shutterstock (9898721a)
Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington
Supreme Court Kavanaugh, Washington, USA – 27 Sep 2018

We have received more than 200 responses from Trinity students, faculty and staff to our survey of the campus community on issues about sexual violence.  My last blog summarized the results of the first question, and in this blog, I provide the results of the question about the Senate hearings on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to become a justice of the Supreme Court.

The question posed:  Did you watch or read about the Senate Judiciary Hearing in which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford presented her allegations against Supreme Court Nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, and Judge Kavanaugh responded? Please write your opinion of the issues that came up in the hearing in the comment box.

76% of the respondents said that they watched all or part of the hearing, while 24% did not.

Following are select comments offered by students, faculty and staff — “Professional Students” are those in SPS, BGS, NHP and EDU.

  • A CAS student comments:  “I believe Dr. Ford. She was very calm and on point when answering while Judge Brett was yelling and very loud. Justice should prevail!
  • Faculty/Staff comment:  “Dr. Blasey’s testimony was credible, believable and heart-wrenching. Judge Kavanaugh on the other hand, appeared unhinged. He was disrespectful to every female who asked him a question. He was essentially in a job interview where he cried, screamed, and was disrespectful to the people deciding on his suitability for employment.”
  • A Professional student:  “While I must admit it was hard to watch, the parts I did see were incredibly disturbing. Just the thought of being violated while someone is laughing at you is more than I could bear. No one deserves that sort of treatment, and unfortunately, things like this happen all the time at college parties.”
  • A CAS student writes: “I do not believe Ford. Her testimony was weak and unsubstantiated. Her testimony proves nothing. None of her witnesses confirm her story. I believe this is all a political stunt because of the timing, the lack of evidences, and the lack of collaboration. Brett deserves to be a Justice.”
  • A Professional student:  “First and foremost, I applaud the women that have told their personal story of sexual abuse to the world. Just telling your story is a huge milestone and accomplishment. Secondly, I can understand why you choose to tell your story now because too many incidences have been occurring, that are being broadcasted and mainstreamed on social media, and the world needs to know that this has been going on for ages and that it is not a new issue. Sexual abuse and violence is real and it can exist in any shape or form. It is not prejudice to any race, gender, religion, etc. However, unfortunately it happens more to women worldwide. I just want to encourage women like Dr. Ford, Bill Cosby’s victims, the Olympic doctor’s victims and many more that you are not alone. Myself and many other women stand with you. We encourage you to stay strong and fight the good fight because your voice matters and your voice will be heard!”
  • Faculty/Staff comment: “Dr. Blasey Ford was extremely sympathetic, credible, and brave. Kavanaugh presented himself as angry, partisan, disrespectful, and rude – qualities that we should not want in a Supreme Court justice, even if the sexual assault allegations are not true. The hearing raised a number of issues that need to be addressed by our society. Victims of sexual assault should not feel guilt or shame, which often cause them to remain silent. This is not a problem with the victims, it is a problem with societal perceptions at large. Changing this may be nearly impossible, but it seems that we should be focused on educating the public and adjusting perceptions. The #MeToo movement has brought so much into the open, and we should make sure it doesn’t stop there. We need a greater support system for victims, and less tolerance of attitudes that enable, support, and lead to sexual assault.”
  • A CAS student:  “I think the hearing brings up the issue of the culture surrounding sexual assault. The automatic defense of Kavanaugh is common and it is something that really needs to be changed. Most supporters of Kavanaugh believe that the problem is that he is being portrayed as guilty until proven innocent, which is valid. However, in their defense they imply that he or any other “decent and respected” man is totally incapable of doing something as bad as sexual assault. This is where the problem lies. Decent and respected men are capable of assault. Even when sexual assault is proven in a case, it is treated as if it is no big deal.”
  • Faculty/Staff comment:  “The “gender gap” was never quite so evident as the way in which the two testimony sessions were “conducted” and how they were “received”. A quiet, earnest, honest woman was questioned and gave honest answers and was apologetic for even needing to be there. A loud, angry white male shouted at the world to exact some sense of apology from the world at large for the very fact that he need be there at all. We cannot bring ourselves (based on political world view) to believe the woman is telling the truth but we can completely understand why the man is angry. I’ve had to simply stop watching the news at all concerning this issue. Why is it that women who believe in #metoo, who have been in the position of Dr. Ford or, God forbid, in much worse circumstances, STILL cannot be heard by men with open hearts and a willingness to see the world from another point of view?”
  • A Professional Student:  “Very unfortunate on Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh to have these accusations brought up for the entire nation to judge his character at this point in his political career. Kudos for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford for being bold and courageous enough to make the allegations against him because the public should be made aware of it. The timing of these types of allegations tends to make society stop, think and certainly judge a persons character; however, it is up to our legal system to determine the guilt or innocence if there was a trail. It makes one wonder why Dr. Ford would step up now at this time to reveal such a personal situation that happened so many years ago during high school. Is she being vindictive or honestly responding from a victims’ voice and perspective? I believe it is definitely a strategic move on her part to expose his character by engaging the consciousness of society at this time and during his nomination. Personally, it would have been better to discuss this personally with him and/or their attorneys many years ago to get some kind of resolve; however, that is the approach far too many women have taken with regards to perpetrators’ and sexual violence, and the lack of retribution. She is a representative of so many women and men who are unable to go public with their personal tragedies. In any case, I’m glad she spoke up and it deemed important enough for the President to actually intervene requiring an FBI report.”
  • Faculty/Staff Comment:  “Her testimony brought tears to my eyes. She described a horrible incident that no woman, especially a 15 year old child, should ever have to endure. I really felt her pain, especially because I am a father to two daughters and a grandfather to three granddaughters.”
  • A CAS student: “The right-wing media has been demonizing Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford and making it seem like she deserved what happened to her just because she drank at a certain time or because she was wearing something. They also bring up every possible thing about her that can be misconstrued just to make her seem less than human. Judge Kavanaugh should not be on the Supreme Court; not only is he a repeat assaulter, but he disagrees with abortion and gay marriage. Disagreeing with these things is one thing, but wanting to have laws in place that disparage them is another.”
  • A Professional student: “Privilege does not make anyone exempt for committing any crime. It was repulsive to watch his defense and I would never support someone like Brett Kavanaugh. He is the epitome of male patriarchy and the white man’s complex of entitlement. I feel as though the lines become skewed within certain communities. I am so proud of Professor Ford. I stand by her. I believe her. I am 100% an advocate for justice. I believe in the authenticity of sharing a personal story to impact the awareness of others with the intention of altering the trajectory.”
  • Faculty/Staff comment:  “The issues go far beyond the simple he said / she said so how do we objectively decide what happened and who is telling the truth. I understand the difficulty, and the damage to reputation and career that can be done by a false or mistaken accusation if it were simply a matter of believe the victim. As a victim of sexual assault that went beyond what Dr. Ford says happened to her I easily identify with Dr. Ford in her reluctance to come forward, in her precise memory of only some of the details of what happened, who else was involved, and where it took place. I also have a sense of some of the enormous courage it required for her to do what she did. …in paying very close attention to everything Judge Kavanaugh said in his responses there seemed to me to be a complete lack of candor and of much evasiveness in his responses to the questions put to him. Instead of answering simple question after simple question about his character and social activities as a student in high school and college he repeatedly insisted on reciting how good of a student he was, how committed he was to athletics, and his lack of time for a social life. …Anger about be unjustly and falsely accused and the damage to one’s reputation is one thing, but in my opinion Judge Kavanaugh’s frustration with the process would have been much better served with candid and honest answers to each and every question.”
  • A CAS student:  “I believe that the hearing put on further display the unequal and unfair treatment of women. The great disparity between Dr. Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh’s actions and treatment was truly upsetting to see. Kavanaugh got away with doing everything a women is never allowed to do in a professional setting under any circumstance. His attitude put on full display the ridiculous, childish, and immature nature that many man have when they don’t get what they feel they are entitled to. But it was not only a disgrace because of the actions of Kavanaugh but also the way in which the GOP congressmen are acting, most notably senator Graham. The whole situation was infuriating, heartbreaking, and upsetting to see, not only as a women and a survivor of sexual assault but a human being seeing someone being treated that way.”
  • Faculty/Staff comment:  “The abject failure to understand how we got to this moment needs to be discussed. Historiographical workshops and teach-ins may help to combat the level of paralyzing ignorance that’s infected the nation. It is also necessary to understand, in a Foucault-inspired way, the exact “episteme” of the religious right in the United States from 1994 Gingrich revolution to the Kavanaugh hearings. In other words, religious conservatives are willing to compromise their ethics over and over again as long as a candidate or political operative intends to challenge Roe v. Wade. This “at all costs” approach is literally killing us, as Catholics, as citizens, as members of a faith-based education community.”
  • A Professional Student:  “Overall, I applaud Dr. Ford for her courage to stand but am absolutely disgusted with the lack of compassion she has been shown in this process by members of the Administration and Trump. It is insane and angers me because that level of ignorance is just dangerous. It sends a horrible message to all of my fellow survivors that somehow the victim is the criminal.”
  • Faculty/Staff comment:  “Although I am not in favor of Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, I find the current situation of an accusation being made as grossly unacceptable. The issue for me is the long time delay between the alleged incident and the publicity it has now generated. Yes, I have read reasons that are given by females for not coming forward, but I believe they should in all cases share such incidents with someone, if not the police. At least their reports will be on record and may establish a pattern that can be used in the future. … No matter how this situation is resolved, the Kavanaugh family has been traumatized; I think of the children in school and how they may be treated or viewed. I think of a wife who is suffering along with her husband. I think of the judge, who will have this incident in his memory for the rest of his life. Yes, I think of Dr. Ford, who initiated this matter, but I think she can look in the rear-view mirror now and realize that she may have caused ruin to a family and a particular individual.”
  • A CAS student:  “I found Ford’s testimony very strange. I watched the testimony with a open mind, I made sure to be objective and impartial. I listened to her opening statement and it was very heart breaking to say the least. But then she answered questions and I noticed that she made multiple inconsistencies throughout her testimony. I really wanted Ford to be probe thoroughly, I did not like that she was being treated like a child with special needs. … I watched Brett’s testimony, awhile people were berating him about his fierce testimony, I found it to be human. From his perspective, he is being falsely accused of a unsubstantiated accusation. When he speaks of the Democrats targeting him, he is not wrong. The Democrats were protesting President Trump’s nominee from the very beginning. Even before he was picked, there were protests. During the first hearing, they attempted to delay the confirmation. They have lambasted this man, accused him of racism, sexism, and being misogynistic. Kavanaugh has a impeccable record, a good social circle, and twelve years of experience as a federal judge. So when Brett was crying, I felt for him. Just think about his daughters hearing other kids calling their Dad a rapist. Just imagine what would be like if you had to tell your impressible children of you being accused of sexual abuse and having to explain it to them.”
  • A Professional student:  “Disrespectful and unfathomable action and responses by a potential Supreme Court justice.”
  • Faculty/Staff comment:  “The rules of order in the senate hearing were both ignored and used to inhibit a better questioning of the nominee. Additionally, his responses were inflammatory and accusatory. While I can understand the discomfort he experienced, women and people of color are expected to moderate their behaviors and language or run the risk of being labeled as hysterical or as and angry ____. In contrast, Dr. Blasey Ford’s discomfort and trauma were evident for all to see, yet she was victimized again. Senator Graham was also intemperate and caused the ending of the rather prudent questioning of an expert in interrogating or questioning victims and abusers. We will likely never know what she might have inadvertently uncovered if she was allowed to continue. The hearing should have taken a recess after Sen. Graham’s outburst. The hearing could have been better managed under Sen. Grassley’s leadership. However, this is an example of how organizations and their leadership often avoid seeing and hearing the truth. It also shows why they cannot address complex social issues.”
  • A CAS student:  “I feel disappointed with the fact that the Republican Party continuously ignores the voice of justice for women, who are victims and survivors of sexual attacks. The messages that the Chair man, who guided the vote on Saturday morning in the Senate House, to me sounds like this: ” It is ok for young man or teenagers to get drunk and rape women or teenagers.” If this sexual harassment is part of the US culture, this does not mean that it is ok. No! That is absolutely wrong! This sexual harassment culture can be changed!”
  • Faculty/Staff comment: “I feel that it is extremely frightening and telling of the true face of America. This country does not care for any and all minorities, including white women. I find that this emboldens white men even further in their debauchery by creating an narrative that says that you will suffice no consequences for your actions or you are untouchable. Furthermore, I hate that Dr. Ford had to perform an “acceptable” sense of victimhood by being polite and humorous during an hearing that was meant to explore her sexual assault. Nonetheless, she is still not being believed because she cannot pinpoint the exact date when she has had to live with this for decades.”

Next up:  your responses to the survey question about the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church…  If you have more comments, please add them in the comment box below.  Thanks to all who have participated in the survey!

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: president@trinitydc.edu