As a woman, I am no stranger to the fact that my body is never my own to control, that men are continually entitled, and that sexual violence is an omnipresent force upon my life and the life of every woman in America. Slowly but surely progress has been made: from silent battles to deafening calls for equality that echo throughout the Capitol, changes have come, rights have been won, and life has improved for many.
But how much progress can we have made, when I sit here in 2018, despairing as I see so many survivors of sexual violence crumble watching Brett Kavanaugh testify, as women despair for the future being left for their daughters, and as I am continually reminded myself that the effects of rape and sexual assault never leave you. More so, I am reminded that America does not care about women, that politicians, in particular Republicans, continually fall back upon the same victim blaming and trivialization tactics that they have employed for years.
When weighing in on the issue, President Trump quickly moved to dismiss Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Judge Kavanaugh of forcing himself upon her at a party many years ago. Trump tweeted, “I have no doubt that, 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.” This is a classic dismissive tactic. He has made it so that her credibility in reporting is linked with the severity of the assault, and has yet again shown his ignorance of anything woman-related. The fact is that 2 out of every 3 rapes will go unreported, and the reasons a woman may be unable to report are never-ending.
The severity of the assault does not necessarily have bearing on likelihood that the assault will be reported to official law enforcement, as many victims fear retaliation, believe they do not have enough evidence to hold the perpetrator accountable, fear the police will fail them, and many more reasons. On top of these, what is the point of reporting when only approximately 6 out of 1000 rapists will be incarcerated for their crimes?
Think about this for a second. Why would someone willingly enter the judicial process that continually fails to hold the perpetrators of sexual violence accountable, and ends with the overwhelming majority walking free. According to RAINN, out of 1,000 rapes, 310 will be reported to police. From this, 57 reports will lead to an arrest, with 11 of these being referred to prosecutors. 7 of these cases will lead to a felony conviction, and 6 of these people will be incarcerated. Though our criminal justice system is an entire other problem, in need of a complete overhaul, the fact still stands that a woman will know the abysmal fact that out of 1,000 rapes, 994 of these perpetrators will go about living their lives. Meanwhile, she is reminded each day of the assault in ways small and large.
It is also continually frustrating to watch the comments coming from the Republican Party. South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called the testimony “the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics,” also saying “What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open and hope you win in 2020.” He also turned to face Kavanaugh and said “You’ve got nothing to apologize for.” I am not shocked to hear blatant rape culture coming from the Republican Party, as it is something they specialize in so well. We have all read the comments made, such as Clayton Williams, a Texas gubernatorial candidate, saying “Rape is kinda like the weather. If it’s inevitable, relax and enjoy it.” Or Todd Akin, and his infamous comments about how “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Or Rick Santorum discussing abortion and rape, saying “Rape victims should make the best of a bad situation.” Of course, why should they change their ways when President Trump himself, a man with multiple accusations of inappropriate conduct and assault to his name, brags about his ability to sexually assault women with impunity, brushing it off as “locker room talk.”
But what about when “locker room talk” becomes more than just words? What about when the necessary process of dehumanizing women finally comes full circle and women bear the brunt of men’s entitlement to their bodies? Then if that woman decides that against all odds she wishes to pursue justice through the state, her sexual history is used as evidence against her, the amount she drank is used as justification for her assault and as an excuse for his behavior, and the clothing she wore as a possible invitation. She will sit there, most likely facing a room of men, just as Dr. Ford did during her testimony, and be questioned, forced to relive the assault over and over with little chance that anything will come of her efforts.
Every 98 seconds I sit here writing this article, another person will be sexually assaulted, forced to live with the trauma and placed in the same position Dr. Ford is right now, should they chose to report and attempt to seek justice. That person will join the countless numbers of people who are listening to Senate Republicans signal that their voices do not matter, their experiences are irrelevant, and they are better off just keeping their mouths shut.
Quite simply, society as a whole and politicians in particular are broadcasting the age old message: this country does not care about you; as a woman your body is never your own; you are no more than a sexual being; and should you come forward you will regret it, because we do not believe you, you are not heard, and you and your experiences are worth less than a Supreme Court seat.