A woman says she was sexually assaulted in high school by a hard-drinking kid who has grown up to become a Supreme Court nominee. Her story gets out. A second accuser comes forward. Then a third.
His nomination is imperiled.
What happens next?
Time for another round of Let’s Blame the Women!
But this time, there’s a twist.
With the #MeToo movement making mincemeat out of so many misbehaving men’s careers, you can’t directly slam a credible accuser such as Christine Blasey Ford anymore.
You can’t just come out and say she’s a liar.
Instead, you must discredit her in every other possible way:
She must be mistaken about who attacked her.
Her story cannot be corroborated.
She is an unwitting pawn of power-hungry Democrats.
It’s all Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s fault and she is the one who must be investigated.
And — wait for it! — the nominee is the real victim here.
For many of us, the Kavanaugh confirmation spectacle has confirmed that the experiences of women, even now, even after the falls of so many high-profile men of seemingly impeccable credentials, are to be trivialized or politicized.
That is, when they are not being ignored.
In the New York Times last week, the author Kate Manne, an assistant professor of philosophy at Cornell, described this believe-men-at-all-costs phenomenon as “himpathy.” She defined it as “the inappropriate and disproportionate sympathy powerful men often enjoy in cases of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, homicide and other misogynistic behavior.”
At its most extreme, she wrote, it is “a pathological moral tendency to feel sorry exclusively for the alleged male perpetrator — it was too long ago; he was just a boy; it was a case of mistaken identity — while relentlessly casting suspicion upon the female accusers.”
When I have to explain over and over again why victims of sexual abuse or harassment don’t come forward, I feel like hitting my head against a wall. Why do we even have to have this conversation anymore?
Let’s just stipulate, please, that women are often afraid to come forward because they won’t be believed or the powerful man who assaulted them might damage their career, or they are ashamed or embarrassed or consumed by guilt.
And can we also stipulate that just because a man has gone through six background checks does not mean he didn't drunkenly assault one or two or three women in his youth?
Sometimes these transgressions come to light only when the stakes are as high as they ever get — like, say, when a man is nominated to a lifetime position on the Supreme Court and will have dominion over the fates of millions of Americans.
Don’t you think that might be the very moment a victim weighs her privacy against her civic duty and concludes her civic duty tips the scale toward disclosure?
In 1997, University of Oregon psychologist Jennifer Freyd coined the acronym DARVO to describe how some perpetrators of sexual violence respond to being called out for their transgressions. DARVO stands for "Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender."
As Freyd explains it in an online primer, “The perpetrator or offender may Deny the behavior, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender such that the perpetrator assumes the victim role and turns the true victim — or the whistleblower — into an alleged offender.”
I wouldn’t say that Trump, Graham and Kavanaugh have gone full DARVO on us yet, but there’s a concerted effort to make the accused into a victim.
Brett Kavanaugh is no victim.
If the confirmation process has been hard on him, too bad.
And if it’s been hard on his family — as Trump says repeatedly — it’s because he dragged them into it. He brought his wife to an interview on Fox News, then interrupted her when she tried to answer a question. In Senate testimony, he divulged the private prayers of his daughter for all the world to hear.
If the confirmation process has been hard on him, imagine what the process has been like for the women who have come forward to say he drunkenly assaulted them. They have nothing to gain. Absolutely nothing.
With an infinitesimal number of exceptions, men who are accused of sexual harassment and assault are not victims. And yet we have seen an outpouring of anxiety from men that they will be unfairly accused.
Donald Trump Jr. told the Daily Mail over the weekend that he’s far more worried about his sons than his daughters after the “he said/she said” accusations against Kavanaugh.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham — he of the Academy Award-worthy tantrum last week — darkly warned last week that Democrats would be sorry if they manage to kill Kavanaugh’s nomination with these last-minute revelations.
“Let me tell my Democratic friends,” Graham said, “if this becomes the new norm, you better watch out for your nominees.”
Likewise, Trump said. “It’ll be a horrible, horrible thing for future political people, judges, anything you want, it’ll be a horrible thing. It cannot be allowed to happen.”
This assumes that every potential judge or appointee can credibly be accused of sexual misconduct.