We know the impasse in the Senate. We are also presented with a Faustian choice between he said, she said situation. It is the easy way out for media and many in society. And I am not talking from the investigators' point of view. What we are facing is a classic power relationship. Brett Cavanaugh is a Federal Judge and nominated to the United States Supreme Court. After the President, this is one of the most powerful posts in the land. You could say this is even more important than the presidency. This is a lifetime appointment.
Christine Blasey Ford is a university professor. She is likely tenured at this point, but her position in American life is nowhere as prestigious as the Judge. What we have seen so far, in both the defense of the Judge and the political games afoot, is a classic power relationship.
Now we even have an ultimatum by the Senate. Either tell us you will testify on Monday by Friday, or it is over. I’d she does not, he will be confirmed.
She wants a fair investigation, involving the FBI, that be law enforcement. This does not even have the prospects of any charges filed. Why? As usual in these cases, the statue of limitations has passed. Add to this that she asked for confidentiality.
Now let’s step away from the politics, and go into the pattern in these cases. Remove the Congress. What happens every time a girl, or a woman, emerges accusing powerful, well-connected men, or boys related to men, the same happens. Incidentally, what we are talking here if the allegations are correct is statutory rape. Let’s be clear, What happens when a boy accuses a priest or a coach of rape? In all these cases American society tends to close ranks around the accused, not the victim.
For example, when coach Jerry Sandusky at Penn State was accused, he was a cultural hero. Likely he was one of the most successful college coaches in the history of the league. He was, to use an old term, a-happening. When Joe Paterno, one of the men who covered up for Sandusky was fired by the board of trustees, there was a riot. Students could not believe that their sports and cultural heroes did this. So a riot was in order.
The Catholic Church has seen a circling of the wagons. Even now the Catholic Church is having an issue with grace, and uttering the words “I am sorry.” Granted, some of this may be on advise of lawyers, who know that those three words will cost the church billions around the world.
However, this is creating a crisis within the church. It may very well bring a papacy down. And while payments have been made, the words still seem to escape the Church. What it did with problem priests was to hide the problem and transfer them from parish to parish. At times from country to country. It was the ultimate in a relationship of power and abuse of such.
There are many other examples. They range from the good girl who came out and was persecuted in her town, to coaches and teachers arrested often across the country. You just need to let your fingers do the searches on Google. These stories are not that uncommon, or rare. We wish they were. So the current round of pressure on Professor Ford is not unusual. Incidentally, since this is a very high profile case, she has received death threats. That is not just a signal to her. She has hired security, moved out of the house, and worries about her children. It is a signal to the rest of us. Know your place, don’t make waves, and women should know better. If you do not, the one tried in the court of public opinion, facing the ruination of their life is not the perpetrator.
So what if she was assaulted as a teen? These are allegations, and they are hardly taken that seriously. The social messaging coming out of Senator Chuck Grassley is clear. What a young boy did should not affect the life of a man. It is not about a judge or a processor. It is about boys will be boys and women should make no waves.
While the #metoio movement is starting to change this social schema, it has not done much to the highest levels of power. Cavanaugh will likely be confirmed, just like Clarance Thomas was almost two decades ago. It will soil the Supreme Court, but the attitudes are what they are. Does one have to wonder if there is another young man who has sexually assaulted a classmate that will get away with it as well? They often do.
These are the current statistics on reporting these crimes of violence: “It is believed that only 15.8 to 35 percent of all sexual assaults are reported to the police.”
What we are witnessing is exactly why people do not report these crimes.
There is another aspect. When I was a first responder, I transported men and women to the Emergency Room who were raped. You’d think that medical providers would be empathetic, and from my experience, you would be wrong. This is yet another reason why victims of rape do not come out, and why it can take decades when they do.
This is one reason why statues of limitation need to go. Sandusky is a good example. He was only prosecuted for the cases that had not run their course. It is suspected that he abused close to a hundred boys. He was only prosecuted for forty-eight. In reality, any of the cases that may have occurred in the 1970s could not be touched, legally, in a criminal sense. There are a few allegations of even earlier assaults.
The Church scandals face the same issue. Many of the cases are so old that charges cannot be brought. In a few cases, more than a few actually, the priests are dead. This is the case in San Diego, for example.
I wish we could say things have changed from the Anita Hill era. However, I do expect Cavanaugh to be confirmed and become a Justice of the United States. Why? As many platitudes as we have, powerful institutions still defend their own from these charges. In reality, if this happened, he should have never become a lawyer. But that will not happen, because as a society we still turn a blind eye. After all, boys cannot be prevented from becoming powerful men. And girls, well, they’d better learn not to make waves.
As to the Supreme Court, it is quickly losing legitimacy because of its highly partisan decision making. This will only accelerate that process. Oh and the Senate role of advising and consent, it has become a joke, no matter who holds the majority.