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This is reposted from my blog from last Friday, 9/29/2018

What exactly is “Normal”?

I just spent some time on Facebook reading (and sometimes responding) the many discussions about Dr. Ford and Kavanaugh and his nomination to the Supreme Court. Before I go further, this is NOT a political statement and is not a condemnation of either individual — this is an observation (and some frustration) about other people’s perceptions and comments.

The facts: Christine Blasey Ford came forward with an allegation of an assault that (allegedly) happened while they were both in high school in the 1980s and was not disclosed to anyone until 2012, has never been brought to the police, and is now being highly publicized with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to a SCOTUS position. The White House originally refused an FBI investigation, but the house judiciary committee did finally schedule a hearing to hear both sides before any vote takes place.

On Thursday of this past week millions of viewers were glued to the television set watching as Dr. Ford recounted her story and answered numerous, sometimes rough, questions; then Brett Kavanaugh testified, denying all allegations that have been made against him. It was an emotional day for viewers as well as the people involved; many viewers decided not to watch fearing that it would be too “triggering”, indeed RAINN reported calls from sexual abuse victims nearly doubled after the televised event. (After the hearing it was decided to have an FBI investigation “of limited scope and lasting no longer than one week” before voting on Kavanaugh’s nomination.)

The Facebook debate that riled me most was one where a woman stated her doubt about Dr. Ford’s validity because she wasn’t “the normal shrinking flower” after such an assault. She also added unequivocally that IF the assault actually took place the length of time that it took to be reported at all made Ford (and other victims who delay) GUILTY of every assault that took place after!

So how exactly should a woman (or man) react after being sexually assaulted? What is the NORMAL SHRINKING FLOWER (a derogatory term in itself) like? When I wrote my book Bartlett’s Rule about a rape survivor and the man who fell in love with her I gathered (anonymous) info from several survivors, not one of them reacted the same way as another. There were some who said they didn’t report the incident because: some were filled with undue shame and guilt; some worried they might not be believed; and some were made to believe they “asked” for what had happened”. Some who did call the police did not feel that they had reached a sympathetic ear or were terrified when told they would have to testify in front of strangers and their assailant. Many chose not to say anything for years and then only opened up to a few who they felt should know. So which way was NORMAL?

Some victims can’t talk about an assault at all. Some try to deny it ever happened, they have to find a way to accept it was real and then TRY to find a way to move on. Sometimes moving on means not wanting to relive it because isn’t that what a victim does when questioned by police, hospital personnel or an opposing lawyer? Maybe, MAYBE, if the perpetrator is prosecuted and jailed, other victims might be saved, but the original victim is being “re-assaulted” with each retelling; and what happens if the alleged perpetrator winds up free and on the street anyway? One rape victim I spoke with was told by a supposed friend that she “probably asked for it, so stop whining”, this woman was filled with self-doubt and even self-imposed-guilt for years — do not add to her suffering by blaming her for what the rapist, and only the rapist, was guilty of doing! ? Coming forward after such a personally destructive incident takes immeasurable courage and strength.

This particular poster also cited The Innocence Project multiple times, I don’t know what her experiences might have been with this very worthwhile group, she herself wasn’t that forthcoming. No one can deny that sometimes the wrong people do go to jail. It is my personal assumption that most of those wrongly convicted were not deliberate, vengeful attacks, but rather innocent and tragic mis-identifications, or questionable evidence. Most crimes are only obvious to the people immediately involved (and a Higher Power if you believe) and no matter how convincing later testimony may be, the only way to POSSIBLY learn the truth is with a thorough investigation and open minds.

Hopefully the FBI investigation, limited in time and scope, of Dr. Ford’s accusations and Brett Kavanaugh’s denials will allow the truth to surface and perhaps justice will be done.

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