Bankole: Kavanaugh case shows need to rethink reactions to assault claims
Not even the public revelation of the 65-year-old daughter of a former president and standard bearer of conservatism, about her claims of being raped 40 years ago, can convince some Republican lawmakers in Washington of the need to take seriously any allegations of sexual assault involving presidential nominees or anyone slated for top appointment in the government.
Add Patti Davis, the daughter of Ronald Reagan, to the growing list of women who have decided to come out to bear witness to the fact that sexual assaults do happen. They are not a myth but reality. In a column in the Washington Post, last week Davis, explained her own encounter with sexual violence involving an unnamed music executive, and why she kept silent for this long. In doing so, she outright dismissed the ridiculous, demeaning and patriarchal question among some in the GOP, about why Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers are coming out now.
“What happened next, though, is indelible. He crossed the room. There was a dark-green carpet, but his footsteps seemed loud, hard. He was against me, on top of me — so quickly — with his hands under my skirt and his mouth on mine, that I froze,” Davis wrote. “I lay there as he pushed himself inside me. The leather couch stuck to my skin, made noises beneath me.”
Like Ford, who is set to testify today before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Davis, too doesn’t recall all of the details that took place in the 1970s.
“I don’t remember what month it was. I don’t remember whether his assistant was still there when I arrived. I don’t remember whether we said anything to each other when I left his office. I never told anyone for decades. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that for more than 30 years, Christine Blasey Ford didn’t talk about the assault she remembers, the one she accuses Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of committing,” Davis wrote.
Then came this line in Davis’ piece: “Your memory snaps photos of the details that will haunt you forever, that will change your life and live under your skin. It blacks out other parts of the story that really don’t matter much.”
I thought some of the powerful “aging men” as Davis refers to them, who are trying to punch holes into Ford’s story would listen to a Reagan. That her own recollections should remind them that the veracity of such allegations should not be determined through a political lens, but rather by an independent investigating agency. That we should also treat all claims seriously and move with all deliberate speed to get to the facts instead of responding with callous indifference. But the way some of the GOP senators have so far treated the emerging accusations against Kavanaugh is only going to force other women to retreat instead of coming forward.
What Davis and the other women who have taken to Twitter lately to explain why they didn’t share their own stories of sexual misconduct until now demonstrate is that these stories are not the exclusive preserve of one political party. They are not the product of the so-called left-wing conspiracy. They are allegations of abuse that affect all women regardless of party affiliation.
If the voice of a Reagan can no longer seal the deal by forcing some lawmakers to step back and examine their deeply paternalistic responses to Ford and others, then the GOP has really gone off the rails. The party is hitting a new low with women irrespective of political identity. After all, Davis, chose her humanity over partisan loyalty in a way that shows women of all backgrounds can relate to the same experiences.
But there are still some few remaining voices of conscience on this issue like Sue Snyder, the Republican first lady of Michigan, who just announced a website for victims of sexual assault to report abuses. She’s been leading a needed crusade against sexual assault on college campuses.
We should commend the women who have decided to come out and share their stories and not engage in character assassination attempts to discredit them at all cost for political gain.
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