Hundreds of women joined comedian Amy Schumer, actress Lisa Ratajkowski, and leaders of the Women's March at the #CancelKavanaugh rally yesterday. Gladly, I was not among them. Like many of my colleagues and friends, I #StandwithBrettKavanaugh and believe he should be confirmed as the next Supreme Court Justice.
This time must feel cathartic for many women who have survived sexual abuse, rape, or molestation and suffered in silence. It was powerful that women at the rally wore hand-made shirts bearing the dates of their assaults or the age when something terrible happened to them. I am glad that they are finally able to voice their pain and begin the healing journey. However, using Judge Brett Kavanaugh as a stand-in for their perpetrator is not justice.
People are using the “Believe Survivors” mantra to turn emotions on a deeply personal issue into opposition against a qualified judge, raise money, and build political power.
Those who promote this slogan set up a false dichotomy: if you believe that survivors of sexual assault and abuse should be able to tell their stories and find justice, then you must believe the allegations by Dr. Christine Ford, you must agree that Judge Kavanaugh is lying, and you must oppose his confirmation.
This is not like choosing whether to be Team Edward or Team Jacob in “Twilight.”
As a woman, I can be sympathetic to victims of sexual abuse, but also care about the facts of each specific case. If I was a member of a jury in a sexual assault case, my sympathy for victims overall would no — and should not — outweigh the evidence or lack of corroboration and inconsistencies in the accuser’s testimony.
Our system of justice rests on the bedrock principle of the presumption of innocence. An emotional allegation if uncorroborated cannot be enough to irreparably damage a person’s reputation, disrupt his family and life, and end his freedom.
Just look at Gregory Counts and Van Dyke Perry, two black men recently exonerated after serving a combined 37 years in prison on false rape charges. DNA testing results showed that the men were not connected to the crime and the victim admitted she lied.
Or Malcolm Alexander, a Louisiana man who wrongfully served nearly 38 years for a rape that DNA evidence later proved he did not commit. The victim and witness incorrectly identified him.
Organizations like the Innocence Project fight every day for the exonerations of thousands of wrongly convicted people.
Even for those who never serve any time, an allegation alone is devastating. Look at the four Hofstra University men falsely accused of gang raping an 18-year-old student in 2009. The accuser admitted her allegation was false and authorities dropped charges, but the damage to these young men and their families was already done.
Judge Kavanaugh has not faced a legal charge in connection with Dr. Ford’s allegation. Yet, the same standards and the presumption of innocence should still apply in the court of public opinion.
After seven background investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dr. Ford’s allegation remains uncorroborated. Sex-crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell concluded based on the inconsistencies, lapses in Ford’s memory, and lack of corroboration of her story that no “reasonable prosecutor” would bring a case against Judge Kavanaugh.
I believe something happened to Dr. Ford. By whom, when, and where still remains the mystery. However, her unsubstantiated claim should not keep Judge Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court bench. The public should not convict him and forever tar him as a predator based on weak allegations alone.
As a woman, a mother, a sister, and a daughter, I believe in justice and fairness. Those values are not in competition and to treat them as if they are is disingenuous.
All victims deserve to seek justice, but justice is not one-sided. Due process and fairness should be upheld for both the accuser and the accused, for conservatives and for liberals, for women and for men.