Will we ever hold perpetrators of sexual violence accountable?
by Eszter Sólyom
On Saturday, the 6th of October the US Senate voted to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The decision was made after allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh have dominated headlines for the past month.
It is undoubtedly an overwhelming and frustrating time to be following the news for survivors of sexual assault, who might have been forced to relive their trauma, and the temptation to turn a blind eye to US politics is real. However, almost exactly a year after the break-out of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement, we have to consider that this goes beyond an isolated case of US politics going viral.
This entire incident raises questions about who we choose to believe, and we choose to blame.
Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination for the Supreme Court has been controversial since Dr Christine Blasey Ford accused him of committing sexual and physical assault over three decades ago. Following Ford, two other women came forward: Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick. Both Ford and Kavanaugh appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and their hearings were followed by a brief FBI investigation.
Despite the allegations, Judge Kavanaugh was confirmed on a 50-48 vote – a sadly not surprising, albeit disappointing result for those who have been protesting the nomination.
The significance of Kavanaugh confirmation to the Court cannot be underestimated. Once on the bench, Kavanaugh tips the ideological balance of the court to the right. He has a long history of social and political conservatism, having worked in the past as part of the Bush administration. With a seat on America’s most powerful court, he will be able to define social and cultural policies potentially for decades. Many people fear for the future of abortion rights, affirmative action and protections for the LGBT+ community.
Perhaps more importantly, Kavanaugh’s confirmation shed light on what society’s truly values. It demonstrated a complete and utter disregard of the stories told by survivors of sexual assault. It is hardly surprising when the President himself has openly bragged about “grabbing [women] by the pussy,” and has allegedly paid a porn star to keep quiet about their affair.
Since the emergence of the #MeToo movement, millions of women recounted their experiences with sexual assault, harassment and rape. It has become undeniable that sexual violence is a pervasive problem.
However, discussion of this problem has too often been focused on fake rape accusations and the potential threat to the accused man’s reputation.
Meanwhile, accused men rarely ever really suffer the consequences, and often are able to continue on with their lives, relatively unscathed. The women who come forward, on the other hand, not only relive their trauma but face widespread public condemnation. I wish that there was some kind of silver lining, some sliver of hope for the future. But I’ve got nothing. All that this has shown the women of the world is that even if you’re telling the truth, even if you have PhD and even if you subject yourself to the highest levels of scrutiny possible, your truth does not and will not matter.