BY SRISHTI MUKHERJEE ’21
People both in the U.S. and abroad fixated on their TV screens as the chilling testimonials of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh aired on Thursday, Sept. 27. This hearing is one of the main deciding factors in whether an alleged perpetrator of sexual violence will earn a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.
The hearing saw both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh assure the nearly all-male panel of representatives that their memories (or lack thereof) of the attempted rape 36 years prior was accurate. The job of the Senate then became to decide whether this was a false accusation (an apparent threat that white men have been bemoaning since the beginning of the #MeToo movement) or the testimony of another woman who has been silenced for too long because the devastation she faced was not important enough to destroy the career of a successful man.
I believe that, from a completely analytical point of view, it is clear from the style of their speeches that Dr. Ford is far more likely to be telling the truth. Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony consisted of a wide range of emotions, from fits of rage and shouts of incredulity to tears of sorrow. He launched into a rant claiming the accusations were the result of a plot by Democrats to get “revenge on [...] behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars from left-wing opposition groups” — accusing Dr. Ford of volunteering to be a political pawn. He seemed to have forgotten that Dr. Ford resisted coming forward because she knew that her life would be upended by this testimony. Since coming forward, she has been harassed, received an onslaught of death threats and ultimately been displaced from her home. Judge Kavanaugh made it clear that in his view, the entire hearing was a “circus,” but was unable to articulate why he was unwilling to authorize an F.B.I. investigation into Dr. Ford’s claims, or why he disallowed outside witnesses who could have contributed to the case from testifying — both measures that Dr. Ford willingly agreed to.
Perhaps the most astonishing part of his testimony was his refusal to admit to even the smallest of wrongs, balking at the supposition that he had ever blacked out from drinking, despite numerous reports from friends and classmates of his heavy drinking habits during college. On the other hand, Dr. Ford willingly and carefully dignified each question thrown at her with a well-constructed response throughout her testimony. In contrast to Judge Kavanaugh’s blanket denials, she openly and honestly admitted to there being lapses in her memory of the day of her assault, without fearing that this admission would result in disbelief from the millions of ears listening to her every word. Then came the account of her actual assault, which left most of us chilled to the bone, bringing grown women across the country to tears and causing sexual assault survivors to relive their own trauma. They clearly believe her — and so do I. A popular criticism of Dr. Ford has been that it is unfair of her to bring up an event that took place in high school (a time when “boys will be boys”) so many years later, when the boy that acted out has already turned into a man with a family, job and, most importantly, a reputation to uphold. It does not matter that the assault shaped Dr. Ford’s life for years to come — or that she and her family will continue to be harassed for the forseeable future as a result of her coming forward. Others have been calling the entire testimony atrocious, or as Judge Kavanaugh stated, “a national disgrace.” Now, I am not suggesting that we should take every statement at face value — I am sure that there are times when women wrongly accuse men of a crime they did not commit — but isn’t that the case with every type of crime? There will always be the smallest amount of uncertainty in the judicial system. But the current climate in which women who stand up against successful men have their credibility harshly picked apart shows that some people are more concerned with a potentially innocent man being looked down upon than an actual victim gaining justice. At the end of the day, I cannot force anyone to believe Dr. Ford. However, I would ask them to consider whether a man with such limited control over his emotions and clear contempt for Democrats deserves a lifetime appointment to a body that is supposed to be an impartial branch of the government.