When hotlines and help lines that provide support for victims of rape and sexual assault were flooded with an unprecedented volume of calls last week, it wasn’t because women across the nation wanted to promote liberal political agendas or ruin men’s lives.
It was because they needed to give voice to their pain.
The call volume at the National Sexual Assault hotline spiked 201 percent Thursday during the Senate questioning of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and one of his accusers, Christine Blasey Ford, because sexual assault of women and girls is devastatingly common. It often goes unreported. It can be ignored or minimized if it is reported. It can go unpunished even when victims seek justice.
Women responded to Ford’s halting, compelling testimony last week by finally letting their own stories out. And many men responded with rage not against men who attack, but against women who speak out.
Tuesday, in answering questions about Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump said, “It’s a very scary time for young men in America.”
In a TV interview that aired this week, Donald Trump Jr. said he is more worried about his sons being falsely accused of sexual assault than he is about his daughters being sexually assaulted. That’s nonsense.
About 400,000 rape kits taken from the medical examinations of traumatized women who filed reports are sitting untested.
It is these sexual assaults, and the efforts to diminish and dismiss them, that are a tragedy. For the Trumps to say that the real worry is an epidemic of false accusations, which does not exist, is a brutal kind of madness. A man who did nothing wrong rarely has anything to worry about.
Ford’s accusations against Kavanaugh may be clarified by the FBI investigation being conducted this week. Those who want Kavanaugh’s confirmation stymied believed Ford when she said he pinned her with his body, tried to pull off her clothes and covered her mouth to stifle her screams, as a friend of Kavanaugh’s looked on, behind a bedroom door the boys had locked. Those who want Kavanaugh confirmed say they believe that Ford’s trauma was not at Kavanaugh’s hand. With Ford’s memory gaps about an event from 36 years ago, a lack of corroboration from others she said were there, and Kavanaugh’s absolute denials, it’s not clear what happened.
Unfortunately, many say the assault does not matter even if Kavanaugh did it.
In a Marist Poll for NPR and the “PBS NewsHour,” 54 percent of Republicans said Kavanaugh should be confirmed even if Ford’s accusations are true, and only 34 percent said he should not. So the fear of many, then, is not that even false claims will undermine the lives of men, as the Trump father and son claim, but that true allegations will.
In the past year, women have courageously spoken out about being sexually assaulted, at times against powerful men. Careers have been ended, criminal charges have been filed. The accounts of false claims are comparatively few. The fight is over whether our society is ready to end its open tolerance of sexual assault.