Donald Trump said, "If the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local law enforcement authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!"
Trump and others have this idea that victims of sexual assault shouldn't wait to report it. The implication being that women will somehow be believed if only they reported an assault immediately. Convenient rhetoric from a man accused 16 times of sexual assault and/or harassment.
Sexual assaults have been reduced by 50 percent since the Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994, and significantly since the 1980s when Ford reports her own assault occurred. Still, around 30,000 sexual assaults are reported annually in the U.S. However, that number is a fraction of the assaults NOT reported. Research overwhelmingly suggests that a reported sexual assault occurs every 98 seconds. In the time it takes you to read my column, two women will be sexually assaulted. It could be your wife. Or daughter. Or granddaughter.
Of course, it all depends on how you define "sexual assault". That’s the crux of the matter. A significant number of conservatives are attempting to diminish and undermine that argument by defining what allegedly happened to Ford as something other than “sexual assault.” We’ve seen it time and again. “Horseplay.” “Boys will be boys.” “All boys do it.” And back in the 1980s, the police likely would have defined it exactly that way. The same way that the majority of missing young women in the 1960s and 1970s were deemed “runaways” when many were either murdered or sold into sexual slavery.
They might even have arrested Ford for being underage at a party with alcohol. Society would have judged her guilty for it and many STILL would. And do. And are.
Things change in our country. Slowly. Heck — I was 12 when Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment and after 46 years it STILL has not been ratified. Things change slowly. Men change SLOWER.
Once upon a time, it was legal, even moral, to own people in this country. Once upon a time women couldn't vote, couldn't own property, couldn't even have a bank account in their name. Once upon a time, a husband could rape his own wife. Without repercussions.
Laws change. Society changes. Morality changes. How we define things changes. Behavior that we once might have dismissed, we no longer do. That changes how we look at things. It modifies the lens through which we view events. Well — at least for some of us.
Not so long ago there was no support for a 15-year-old girl who reported being assaulted. Even now, it is downright IFFY if a young woman came forward to report a sexual assault. An underage girl at a party with older boys, perhaps she or they intoxicated. If she was assaulted, well, that was her own fault now, wasn't it? She was ASKING for it. She should have known BETTER. Girls have to be responsible for their own safety because alcohol makes good boys and men into something unrecognizable and they should KNOW. Right?
Funny thing about that is that those who are in vocal opposition to supposed Islamic culture in Muslim nations, they point to this same exact mindset and condemn it. “Their women have to cover up! The men can't control themselves! They stone young girls for being raped. The horrors of Islam!” I’ve seen people in this very newspaper make that argument. And yet, this week I’m hearing that very same argument, rewritten as a defense of American boys who apparently can't control themselves. “Boys will be boys.” “All boys do it.” “She shouldn't have been there.” “What was she WEARING”?
The irony is astounding.
Right now there are thousands of reported assaults similar to that reported by Christine Blasey Ford. Yes — thousands. Happening right NOW. Being reported right NOW. There will be 30,000 REPORTED sexual assaults this year. No one really knows how many will go unreported, probably hundreds of thousands.
Don't take my word for it, look up sexual assaults, look up police blotters, look at the statistics from the National Sexual Assault Hotline: www.rainn.org/statistics
Do you believe those reports? Those victims? Women wait months and even years to tell loved ones of sexual assaults. I ask you — if ANY family member told you they’d been sexually assaulted, what would be your response? Disbelief? Incredulity? Dismissal? What if it was a neighbor? A friend? A colleague? At what point do YOU stop believing. A week? A month? A year? A decade? WHY DOES IT MATTER? Would you judge them, or would you stand with them?
Choose NOW. Because there are literally THOUSANDS of Christine Blasey Fords out there RIGHT NOW, scared, alone, judged … and where are you?
YOU say she shouldn't have waited. YOU say none of these victims should wait. Yet even when they speak out NOW, you won't believe them. Yet here you are, telling me that we should put that same old mindset, boys will be boys, all boys do it, on the Supreme Court and it's hard for me to see that much of anything has changed.
A close personal friend told me: “A frat boy who regularly drinks to excess and treats women with no respect and then acts as we saw in front of the Senate isn’t going to remember the women he violated. But a woman — no matter HOW much she’s had to drink — will never forget the face of the man who assaulted her or exactly how she felt in that moment”.
If these women — or men — reported sexual assault by a Catholic priest, you’d all be up in arms. But when the accused is an affluent young Republican headed for the Supreme Court, you have nothing to say. You worry about HIS future. HIS reputation. So yeah — nothing has changed. AT ALL.
(Alan Vervaeke is a veteran and father happily living in Gilford.)