Sexual Assault Politics
News is swirling around the political fight about appointing Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Christine Ford’s allegation of a teenage Brett attempting to rape her has renewed public interest in the issue of sexual abuse. Both the political Right and the Left are digging in with their arguments for and against Kavanaugh’s appointment in relation to these allegations. The defenses coming from the Right show a misunderstanding of the dynamics of sexual assault. The purpose of psychological defenses is to deny reality to some degree. These defenses include denial, “This did not happen,” to minimizing, “boys will be boys; it wasn't that bad; that is what boys are like; if she was traumatized she would have spoken up earlier; he was drunk, so it doesn’t count” to cross-blaming (blaming the victim), “it was her fault for being there, being provocative, drinking, tempting him, dressing provocatively.” These are the usual scenarios of blaming the victim of sexual assault. I even once heard a man blame a 5-year-old girl for being, “seductive.”
When people bring their views and experiences into the light, it forces the culture to address what they see. Without that the status quo is reinforced. There has recently been another wave of #metoo females telling their history of sexual assaults. A woman writer wrote an open letter to her children, the youngest a nine-year-old boy, about her various sexual assaults from age 3 to adulthood. At the end she reassures them that she now has relationships with men that she can trust, but her final comment needs to be heeded and understood, “Most sexual assault stories go untold because there is no safe place to tell them.” How sexual trauma works is that the victim experiences a combination of feelings, which may include shame, guilt, shock, and dissociation. You pull into yourself for protection. You do not feel safe reaching out again after you were just violated. And if you do tell, you often lose. As a sad example, foster care is full of sexually abused teens, who when they told their families about the assault, were rejected and thrown out of the house. These families chose to protect the accused and often used the same denial, minimization and blaming the victim that is endemic in the culture.
What has been brought to the light in the ME TOO movement (and relevant in the Brett Kavanaugh case in particular) is the issue of responsibility and the value of men versus women in our culture. Illustrated by a term I saw pop up in posts, “drunk boy rapists”, we are asking if we should be responsible for what we did at 17. A friend of mine wrote, “This is what happens when attempted rape by a drunken 17 year old is forgiven. It gives permission for all 17-year-old boys to attempt rape.” One man wrote, “If we are now saying that what we did as guys at 17 is something we need to take responsibility for, then I think that is a good thing!” In terms of gender equality, a friend sent a post about this from #YesSheCan: “When a woman says, ‘This man raped me a long time ago,’ we say, ’but that was in the past.’ When a girl says, ‘This boy raped me last night,’ we say, ‘but we can’t wreck his future!’ And there she stands, suspended between HIS past and HIS future, with no value of her own.”
The ME TOO movement is making a dent in the consciousness of the nation. It is pulling back the veil from the eyes of the entrenched old boys club where, “boys will be boys” minimizes sexual assault of females. They don’t like it and in an authoritarian culture they have had the power to first shrug their shoulders, then smirk, and then when women threatened to come forward, use money and power to silence them, like Harvey Weinstein got away with for years. But he is in jail now. Trump slipped through, which is thoroughly disgusting to me, but now we have a chance to stop Kavanaugh. God, I hope we do.