In spite of my busy schedule, I’ve followed this case as closely as time allowed. My interest in the case is not even a smidge political, other than how this will impact the future of victims who have legitimate allegations, and who will undoubtedly be questioned because of the political nature of this case. There is no doubt that it became a political weapon in the hands of Democrats. As a survivor of horrific things – along with many other survivors, including some who would otherwise praise the Democrats for taking a bold stand – this is violating and counter-productive. I am concerned it will do great damage to society acknowledging the trauma of victims and giving them a voice.
This week staying somewhat up to date with the case meant squeezing in time for Ford’s testimony and abandoning the last segment (because missing class and sacrificing marks seemed excessive). By the time I returned home, people had sent links to the the testimony and I watched the rest. I read some reasonable pieces about the case, and some with glaring biases. I tried to pick out the ‘information bits’ in them. In the process I’ve formed some strong opinions, most of which I will lay aside because opinion or assumption is all they are.
Speaking of assumptions and speculation… Any argument based on that for which there is neither evidence nor witness, does not sway me. And I’m amazed by how many people put full stock in speculation to the point that it becomes their truth. (Keep in mind that a victim’s trauma and experience are evidence, albeit less and less verifiable with the passing of time.) That in mind there are a few things that I really don’t put much weight on until evidence surfaces:
1. The two phantom men who allegedly came forward claiming to have been the ones to assault Dr. Ford. While a possibility, I have zero reason to believe such men actually did come forward. The media producing such a story, with no names and nothing to show that such men exist, looks glaringly like the clean up crew getting called in. At first, I admit, it made sense of the story for me, based on things I had already observed, but when no names or identities were forthcoming, that all flushed down the pipe real fast. I’ll believe it when these alleged men have the cajones to make themselves known publicly, and their stories check out under intense investigation. Until then, they are a phantom in my mind. (If you were to ask me whether it is possible that two men, not including Judge Kavanaugh are guilty of the assault, the answer would be a resounding, Yes. It’s very possible. In fact, given other observations, that makes the most sense to me. But that teeters on the edge of speculation, so I leave it only as a possibility, nothing more.)
2. The claims that Dr. Ford was paid by the Democrats for launching allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. I would expect politicians to be far more self-serving than to leave an obvious trail, though it is again one of the possibilities, and if it surfaces, I won’t be shocked. I do know there’s a ton of fundraising happening – though I didn’t know that until recently – but I’ve seen nothing to corroborate claims of any association with the Democrats and money. I would welcome such evidence being produced. (Again, knowing how crooked political games are, do I think it’s possible? Yes. Absolutely. But, at this point it is pure speculation based on what I have seen or heard. Stating as fact what has no evidence is not only troublesome, but it amounts to saying “We can make unfounded allegations, but you can’t.”
I don’t like them in any case, and when I recently used unverifiable information – which I discovered to be unverifiable after the party denied it, an outcome I did not anticipate – I took ownership. After the party declared his innocence, combined with realizing that the person who told me in good faith could not produce evidence, I publicly apologized. I hold the same position in this case. If it cannot be proven, don’t hold to it as truth. If you present it as fact and there is no evidence, apologize.
3. People are saying if you’re innocent of charges, you don’t respond in anger, thereby assigning guilt to Judge Kavanaugh. That is bogus. And that is one of the things I will reference a bit later, based on my experience with confronting alleged abusers. Especially religious ones. (Keep in mind, this is based on my experience; it is not scientific evidence. It has not been proven or stated by anyone else, that I am aware of.)
The part I am interested in commenting on, is based on observation in this particular case (drawn completely from watching the testimonies and producing my own screenshots) as well as what I have observed in eight years of working with victims and offenders.
Was Dr. Ford assaulted?
Watching Dr. Ford’s testimony, I have no doubt that the woman experienced the traumatic event she describes. I believe she was assaulted, at least close to the manner in which she describes. And I say ‘close’, not to minimize her experience, but to account for things that may have altered her memory. So I believe she was sexually assaulted, but am not sold on the facts she presents, but I do believe she genuinely believes them to be fact. Furthermore, she spoke with various people over a period of years as she processed that trauma, indicating that trauma was not conjured out of thin air for political agenda… which is not to say such agenda was absent in her timing. It’s glaringly obvious, in fact, that it was present. (Keep in mind that no names were ever formally documented, so there is no evidence that she previously named Kavanaugh. Also no evidence that she didn’t.)
What about the booze?
Dr. Ford says she had one beer. Maybe that is true. Maybe it is not. I promise you, when I partied in my teens, if there was booze available, I did not stop at one and I couldn’t tell you after the fact how many I had. If she had more, then her memory would be altered based on that. And, without searching, I expect there’s scientific evidence saying that booze alters mind function and memory recall. But with or without scientific study, just hang out at such a party and watch them walk and talk, or talk to the victim of drunk driving and we will all agree that booze alters memory and reality. However, it does not eliminate the ability to recall some information with shocking detail.
I was drunk out of my mind in this excerpt from my memoir, yet I recall vividly the kindness of the taxi driver and the grace he spoke into my life that night. Ironically, I do not recall the actual scenes to which I awakened, other than being completely horrified.
Time will tell… But will it tell the truth?
We have to account for the passing of time. I am a trauma survivor, and I have one heck of a longterm memory. I’ve had people from Mexico corroborate things that I wrote in my memoir; things that even some family members questioned. I was writing from a place of memory that, at times, felt too surreal to be real. But it was real. When I visited Mexico in 2017, I returned to a childhood home where several traumatic events took place. I was five when we left. Yet, forty-three years later, I was able to tell my driver which direction to turn out our lane to drive past Hildebrandt’s home, to the first road left, and to a field on the left, just a short distance down that road, past a creek. My driver called his father to confirm that it was, indeed, my father’s field. It was.
Memories with significance, for me, are deeply rooted. I know them to be true, even while they have that sense of surreal-ness about them. Even so, I know my memories are not perfect. I approached a woman who, as a girl, I recall molesting me. She was shocked when I described an event that happened to her too! She named the girl – some years older than her – who molested her. And from that moment on my certainty about which of the two molested me was forever questioned. I do not, to this day, propose to recall the accurate identity. They had similar features, were both older than me and had access, and at about five there is no way to be 100% certain which of them molested me. But, regardless of any uncertainty, I do know without question that I was molested that day.
If we, who work closely with sexual violence, cannot acknowledge this reality, we will contribute to grave injustices to both the victims and the falsely accused. Because false allegations – whether intentionally or through faulty memory – do happen.
EDIT: A reader brought to my attention a failure to acknowledge what I already acknowledged numerous times on social media, and what I intended to address here but overlooked:
Just as it is possible that Dr. Ford’s memory is not perfect, it is also possible – always possible – that Judge Kavanaugh does not remember that night even if he was there. If he was there, and if he was inebriated, then we must also conclude that what applies to Dr. Ford in the way of faulty memory, also applies to Judge Kavanaugh.
What about Judge Kavanaugh’s anger; does it suggest guilt?
Soon after Judge Kavanaugh gave his testimony, I started to see comments like, “If he was innocent he wouldn’t be so angry”. Wherever that evolves from, it makes no sense. I have confronted many religious sex abusers who were either proven to be guilty, or who at some point admitted guilt. The one response I have never seen from a guilty party is anger. Never. It has always been some form of quiet and calculated defence, some form of deflection, some form of religious justification or denial, or – if absolutely, inescapably caught – then a rush to repent and make things right. (The latter, while maybe not always the case, is a strong clue that there are other victims they don’t want to come forward or be discovered by the allegations going public, therefore the rush). And it has always involved some form of manipulation. At times they start preaching to the victim; “where would you have spent eternity if you had died, knowing all these years I had sinned and you did nothing to help me?” (At which point I interrupt and stop the abuse.) Or, “How can I make this right?”… “I had no idea that is how it felt to them… I thought it was mutual consent…” (Ummm… no… 8-year-olds can’t consent to 4o-year-olds wanting to have sex.) Or, regardless of age, “I didn’t abuse them; they wanted me to do it”…
The list of deceptions, manipulations is endless. But anger is the one thing that has never manifested in my experience. (And a short study into the workings of a sex offender would quickly explain why that is, but I won’t get into that here.)
I would argue that many of the expressions displayed by Judge Kavanaugh are not only anger, if anger at all. Studying them, there are a few that appear to be anger and an array of conflicted emotions besides, but many show incredible grief. Not the kind of grief that Larry Nassar showed, or that I have seen repeatedly when speaking with both men and women guilty of abusing. There is deep, genuine pain in both of these individuals. What lacks in Judge Kavanaugh’s eyes that is very present in Dr. Ford, is terror. Her eyes seem constantly to dance between terror and numbness or disassociation from reality. Neither hold contempt in the above, though there are several that suggest contempt in Judge Kavanaugh’s expression. (However, as you will see in my further comparison, this is not reliable). Both seem to be pleading for truth to be acknowledge; for their story to be understood.
(Note: Photos such as this are being circulated as evidence that Kavanaugh is angry. So I watched the testimony again, looking for similar expressions, since the likelihood of finding the exact ones is quite unlikely. The next three photos are screenshots I took at between 9.58 minutes and about 10:40 minutes into this Youtube of his testimony: Click here)
(In this photo Judge Kavanaugh is in the middle of saying “Allegations of sexual assault must always be taken seriously. Always”. Yet he looks ‘angry’. Or does he?)
(In this photo Kavanaugh has just made the statement, at almost exactly 9.59 minutes into the clip, that victims and the accused should both be heard.)
(Here Judge Kavanaugh has just said, of his parents, “they’re here today”. He looks yet angrier.)
(Here Judge Kavanaugh has just said how hard his mom worked when he was 10).
(And here he is addressing the sexual harassment his mom had to overcome and “that so many women faced in the time, and still face today.”)
(Here Judge Kavanaugh has just said “not even a hint” and just before “a wiff, of an allegation like this” at 11.40 minutes).
(And this final screenshot is at the moment immediately following his statement that there has not even been “whiff, of an allegation like this” at 11.46-47 minutes).
So, I would propose that reading expression without context is not particularly effective. Where he should be angry, he shows less emotion. Where he looks angry in the pictures I screenshots of, he was speaking with emotion and passion that held no anger or reason for anger. There is certainly much emotion, but that should be understandable. And fighting to gain or hold composure has seldom made anyone particularly photogenic and chipper-looking. Let alone emotions under these circumstances, assuming he is innocent.
As for the notion that Judge Kavanaugh is guilty because he got angry, or seemed angry? Utter nonsense. Nothing of that speaks to his guilt. While I would not go so far as to say it speaks to his absolute innocence, I would argue quite emphatically that it certainly does not speak to his guilt. If it speaks to one or the other, I know which I would vote for, but that would be as inappropriate as being certain that Dr. Ford is intentionally deceiving the nation. I may not trust her motives for choosing this moment in time, but would put a generous burden of responsibility for how this played out on whoever leaked the story, if she genuinely played no role in that and had no knowledge of it. On that front, and with the assumption of that being true, and assuming Judge Kavanaugh is indeed innocent, she and Judge Kavanaugh were both victims and both wronged.
Again, assuming her trauma is as real as I believe it is and she sincerely believes the Judge is the offender, and also assuming his innocence (for the sake of argument), that political move did more damage to victims of sexual abuse being heard – especially in historical cases – than any other impact. Judge Kavanaugh, if innocent, will thrive. This will empower the Republicans and all who support them. Dr. Ford, even if telling the truth about the trauma, as I believe she is, will bear the consequences quite personally if at some point it is proven she had the wrong man, or men. In this, assuming the previous sentence is reality, the Democrats deeply wronged both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. Dr. Ford’s vulnerability was exploited for political gains, and Judge Kavanaugh falsely accused. While lawsuits are not my recommended usual ‘go to’, assuming this paragraph is accurate, I hope both sue the pants off of whoever got this ball rolling in the way that it rolled.
Those who care for victims will also be cautious about not launching unfounded allegations, or even questionable allegations, for selfish gain. All allegations brought forward in good faith, or believed to be presented in good faith, should be taken seriously, And they should be investigated. If there is failure on the part of those who should investigate to do so, in my opinion (and I recognize it is not a broadly held view), there is a time to expose and go public. In this case there was no attempt at such an investigation, and that is one of the biggest strikes against the credibility of this whole case against Judge Kavanaugh. Any attempt to have it investigated or addressed before going public would have given it much more credibility.
I cannot and am not interested in determining innocence or guilt, but those observations are some of the things I cannot ignore. There is strong indication that Dr. Ford was assaulted, and strong indication that Judge Kavanaugh is not the person responsible for that assault. Surmising all manner of things on the sidelines by either side – (ie; the claim that Dr. Ford was paid off, or that Judge Kavanaugh is guilty… well, just because he is and he didn’t even bother to get a lawyer) – those things weaken the arguments of their respective sides and distract from the real issues.
My status on Facebook, after people asked what I think or if I’m following the case, is where I still stand:
If Kavanaugh did what he is accused of – or anything close to it, I think he should own up and apologize to Dr. Ford. If Dr. Ford made up the accusations for political gain/agenda, she should apologize to Kavanaugh and the rest of the world, especially victims of abuse. If the allegations are true and she is using them for political gain, she should apologize to every victim who will not be heard because of this. Because this case will, without question, impact the credibility of the voices of victims, no matter what the outcome.
The problem is, none of us can prove what actually went down, or didn’t – as the case may be, and none of us can prove the heart intent of Dr. Ford.
For those who have asked what I think, that’s what I think.
I see no need to pretend we know as fact the parts that cannot be proven as fact. I see both sides – the conservatives and liberals – making claims that make, while logical, are not grounded in anything provable… at least not yet. I was not there, and you were not there (unless you are one of the few who were), and we are not God. Therefore we do not know with 100% certainty what actually happened.
I shudder to see an innocent man (or woman) accused of sexual assault. And I cringe at a victim not being believed. Both things are wrong. I pray that truth will be revealed. I pray that the corruption behind what is playing out – including any money trails, and political manipulations – will be exposed. I pray that Dr. Ford finds healing; there is no doubt she suffered trauma. And I pray that Judge Kavanaugh, if innocent as he appears, is exonerated from all allegations and goes on to serve well.
My personal position is with truth. That’s all.
~ T ~