Think of his future, what you’re doing will ruin his career, “a man’s life is in tatters.” A chilling quote spilled from the president’s mouth. The attention given to the plight of the accused over the plight of the victim never ceases to impress . Prof. Christine Blasey Ford’s case has struck a chord coming up at just the right time for it to be properly addressed. It’s hard to deny the #MeToo movement’s involvement in shaping public perception of the trial.
Not too long ago Prof. Anita Hill accused the then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual assault, and was subsequently ridiculed by the press, the senate, and the public. Multiple media outlets and even then-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Joe Biden, dismissed Professor Hill as a delusional woman spurned.
The litany of attacks by angry media presenters which Blasey Ford receives have thus far been confined to circles in the Alt-Right. Unfortunately this has recently extended to the sitting President,, who mocked Prof. Ford’s claims at a presidential rally. Not only is this culture toxic towards lower profile and shyer victims, this culture purveys an unachievable standard for victims of sexual violence.
Victims of sexual violence do not necessarily recall experiences as accurately as what is asked by the court. The standard of proof in criminal trials necessitates precise testimonies, particularly in cases such as these where it is often difficult to gather concrete evidence against the accused. When the body experiences trauma, it releases hormones which impede the ability to remember those events clearly. The nature of these attacks also makes it difficult for victims to focus on anything other than survival. The result of this is that victims can often give the mistaken impression of uncertainty in their testimony, when the reality is that the body is naturally inclined to resist attempts to recount traumatic events such as these.
The current way in which mostly right-wing, but at times liberal, pundits and personalities attack victims of sexual assault is particularly distressing. Victims are held to a standard that it is not always reasonable to expect them to meet, and this large-scale scrutiny trickles down into smaller, lower profile cases. When reporting their case to the police in Australia, a friend of mine faced a barrage of intrusive and interrogative questions that very clearly framed them as the cause for this crime, not the perpetrator.
Something has to change in the way our society treats victims seeking justice. It’s simply not good enough to expect them to provide perfect accounts of events as if like any other crime, because the mental reality of processing such acts is substantively different. Though the nature of our justice system requires these modes of inquiry. There are surely better ways to achieve justice than through the gas-lighting of victims.
- Maximilian Lechner-Scott