Despite multiple allegations of sexual assault, Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh advanced to the Senate floor last Saturday for a confirmation hearing. The hearing resulted in a 50-48 vote in favor of Kavanaugh’s confirmation. After following the entire process with scrutiny, it is evident that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was spoken down to for simply coming forward with her truth, and that an unqualified man now holds a position on the highest court in the federal judiciary. The normalization of sexual assault and the dismissal of survivors’ stories on a national level has made it seem acceptable to excuse inappropriate behavior and the belittlement of survivors who choose to come forward.
During the hearing, Kavanaugh failed to display the composure and coolheadedness that every judge should maintain. For instance, after Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar questioned Kavanaugh about whether he had ever blacked out from alcohol, he replied by rudely snapping back, “Have you?” He acted irrationally and exercised rude behavior towards the U.S. Senators, but in a courtroom, a judge must never act irrationally given any circumstance, even if their reputation is at risk. On the other hand, contrary to Kavanaugh’s lack of self-control, Ford responded to the questions in a civil, calm manner even when she had to recall and restate the night that caused her years of trauma. Excusing Kavanaugh’s behavior because he had ‘more to lose’ is outright inappropriate and ignorant, because it ignores the experiences of Ford.
Furthermore, Ford’s intentions for accusing Kavanaugh were to fight for justice, hope, and change, but her motives were constantly questioned during the hearing. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham went as far as to accuse Ford’s testimony of being a Democratic move to prevent a Republican-nominated candidate from becoming a Supreme Court Justice, thus belittling the immense courage Ford possessed in coming forward. By publicly accusing Kavanaugh, Ford shared a very vulnerable and intimate event in her adolescence with the world. She believed that giving her testimony was her responsibility and a moral obligation: “I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.” With millions of people viewing her testimony, Ford risked everything to speak her truth: her career, her privacy, and her dignity.
Her testimony not only showed her bravery, but also brought to light the injustice survivors of sexual assault are met with everyday. Ford represented so many women — women who want nothing more than to have someone believe their truth. It is important to understand that one must respond to sexual assault survivors with compassion and empathy. It is unacceptable to vilify and disparage people for simply using their voice.
After hearing government leaders mock the courageousness of Ford, I cannot help but question my faith in the future. This hearing made it clear why victims don’t speak up. We have created an environment in which the truth isn’t accepted. There are moments when justice for sexual assault victims seems hopeless.
It is, thus, our duty to make sure that the truth is heard. In order to do so, we must welcome all voices with respect and empathy. You never know what someone might be going through. For some, telling the truth might seem like the simplest task in the world. But to others, it takes years and years of overcoming the fear of rejection to renew trust in people. Although it is the individual’s choice to use their voice or not, we the people have the opportunity to listen to their stories and give their stories power.
Jane Park is a Junior from Long Island, N.Y. Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.