Where Is The Due Process?
Hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh began over three weeks ago. The nomination had been contentious, if for nothing more than the way that an Associate Judge Kavanaugh would swing the ideological balance of the court. But for all the hysterics, the worst attacks against the sitting federal judge had been complaints about how he buys baseball tickets and how “fratty” his name sounded.
This all changed when it was revealed that Senator Diane Feinstein (D-California) had received a complaint of sexual assault against Kavanaugh six weeks before the hearings began. In the frenzy that followed, two more women came forward. All claimed that Brett Kavanaugh sexually harassed or assaulted them, with claims going as far back as high school and going as far forward as his school time at Yale.
In the post-#MeToo era, the politicization and weaponization of sexual assault are absolutely disgraceful. The nature of the crime demands that accusations be treated fairly and respectfully. It also demands fair treatment of the accused without ulterior motives or goals. The problem with the majority of the accusations against Judge Kavanaugh is that they seem too overtly political; they are poorly substantiated and destructively timed.
His first accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is by far the most credible of accusers. She has therapist documentation referring to a sexual assault going back to 2012, long before Kavanaugh was ever nominated to the Supreme Court. The documentation also states that her assailants went on to become “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington.”
But even her story lacks clear and explicit evidence tying Kavanaugh to the assault. One of the witnesses Ford claims was present at the party, her lifelong friend Leland Ingham Keyser, said she does not recall any assault at a party. Furthermore, she doesn’t remember ever being at any party with Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford together.
The other accusations are even weaker. In an attempt to corroborate the claim of sexual assault from Deborah Ramirez, the New York Times interviewed dozens of people and found not a single one with first-hand information of the event. Ramirez herself called classmates to see if any remembered the incident because “she could not be certain Mr. Kavanaugh was the one who exposed himself.”
Women deserve to be heard and too often, we silence them. We don’t take their accusations seriously. We ask if they were drunk or if they were dressed the “right” way. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, for every 1000 cases of sexual violence, 310 will be reported and only six will actually go to jail. So women don’t report. #MeToo has had real and positive effects on the conversation over how we treat survivors.
But as a society, we have let the pendulum swing too far. Now, with a vote to confirm or fail a new Supreme Court Justice looming, the stakes are high, the burden of proof is non-existent and everyone is suffering. We need to do better and protect both women and men. Innocent until proven guilty is not meant to be an empty sentiment in the U.S. and we need to stop treating it that way.
Aida Vazquez-Soto is a senior majoring in political science.