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This morning, we saw Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University, come forward to testify in the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who is being accused of sexually assaulting Ford when the two were in high school. This comes one day after Bill Cosby was sentenced to three-to-10 years in state prison for the sexual assault of Andrea Constand.
As the Kavanaugh hearing has taken a turn and the Cosby sentencing has come full circle, one point remains: the intimidation factors used by celebrities and politicians effectively silence many people who even think about coming forward about with allegations of sexual assault, let alone standing to testify.
“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.” This chilling quote was spoken today by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. It speaks to the sentiments of individuals around the world whose lives are impacted each year due to the pain of sexual assault. Ford expressed that she wanted, for so long, to forget about her assault and because of this did not mention it to her parents, or anybody for that matter.
Many don’t realize the pain involved with recounting sexual assault. A great deal of stress and anxiety is involved with having to recount a horrific period in your life, and this may cause people not to come forward with their experience. Blasey Ford has recounted intimidation factors on numerous levels from different people since her allegations were made public. When a reporter she’d mistaken for a student showed up in her classroom, she said she decided, enough was enough.
The assault of Andrea Constand has a similar narrative.
We see that speaking out against a celebrity or a person in power can bring about an overwhelming backlash. A common rebuttal in these situations when people finally bring issues to light is that they are “just now coming out” or “coming out for money.” The idea that anybody who has poured years and years into proving an extreme violation of their body by another person is doing so to be recognized or wealthy is incredibly asinine. Constand was showered with insults, disrespect, and fallacies against her character. A battle she began in 2005 just ended in 2018 and yet, throughout the past 13 years, there were still individuals who believed that she wasn’t telling the truth and urged her to throw in the towel. In 2017, after a mistrial was declared, Constad’s fight seemed to be over. However, yesterday was a victory not just for her, but for sexual assault victims everywhere.
It would be ignorant to say that the fight for society to believe sexual assault victims is over after Bill Cosby’s guilty sentence and if Kavanaugh is not confirmed.
In the case of those two individuals alone, there could very possibly be numerous other lives affected by their actions. There are countless other victims of sexual assault at the hands of both the powerful and the ordinary whose stories still need to be told. The small victories we are seeing today point towards a larger victory of more people coming out and speaking out on the horizon. People being afraid to speak out against celebrities and powerful figures is not dying out, by any means.
Although the #MeToo movement has opened the gateway for many women and men to speak out about their sexual assaults, the God-complex given to those in power is still a barrier to people telling their sexual assault stories. Andrew Wyatt, Cosby’s spokesman, said, “They persecuted Jesus and look what happened” when speaking on Cosby’s sentencing.
It is dangerous and frankly morally and ethically wrong to compare anybody to a deity when speaking on their perceived innocence in a case such as this. Nobody is above the law or above allegations that are proven to be true. Our society needs to move towards taking every step possible to ensure that people who speak out on their experience of being sexually assaulted–especially against celebrities or politicians–are given exceptional care when being reviewed. In the cases that are found to be true, the victims must be protected at all costs.
Kavanaugh and Cosby are not gods. Anybody who is a victim of sexual assault should never be intimidated or shut down for telling their story. To everybody out there who happens to be a victim of sexual assault or knows somebody who is: you matter, your story matters, and your life matters.