Viewpoint: Hearing goes off the rails

Last week, I watched the proceedings of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Whether you are for or against the issue, I am sure that many victims of sexual assault are re-experiencing their own traumas vicariously. Peace and blessings to you in this terrible and highly publicized event.

As a fellow survivor and behaviorist, I have to weigh in — keeping all political partisanship aside. I am deeply concerned with many issues the Senate and media are creating, and how these will affect all the rape survivors in this country. I am also concerned about the investigative and congressional inquiry process, and the ramifications of Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh being at the center of this highly publicized battle.

I want you to ask yourselves, “At what point in our culture did weaponizing sexual assault allegations through the media and Congress become politically correct?” When did we, as a country, forego expert investigations and confidential inquiries and rely solely on emotional and unsubstantiated public testimonies in the media to create a “guilty until proven innocent” paradigm? Sadly, neither party had the constitutional protections of a legal proceeding. We know that rape is a terrible and horrific crime of power that can be initiated by both males and females. This situation, as it has played out on television, does not help survivors to come forth with sexual allegations. It hurts their credibility if they are put in the public eye and become confused or cannot clearly vocalize their narrative. It also makes every person in this country susceptible to a lynch mob mentality if an allegation is made against them. How can either of these paradigms help our country evolve toward enlightened humanism?

As survivors, we are very passionate and want to believe. Many of us were not believed when we reported. We need to remember that the difference between us and this situation is that we provided evidentiary standards such as rape kits, police reports, military reports and substantiated reports of secondary markers to the Veterans Administration to prove our claims. We also developed behavioral disorders or profound disabilities and became dysfunctional in our personal lives. We fought — sometimes for decades — to be heard. We were stigmatized for reporting. We lost our jobs, our homes, sometimes our families, and yes, for some of us, even our lives.

Our situations are not the same as what was portrayed on television. The same Senate that voted against the Ruth Moore Act of 2015 and ensuring codified protections for survivors of military sexual assault is now using a much lower standard of evidence in this hearing than what we lobbied for — and had to provide — to prove our assaults and get medical and mental health services from the VA. What we are seeing, instead, is a carefully designed emotional argument to play on our heart strings, anger us and use our traumas and anger to further divide this country.

I feel so incredibly sorry for Dr. Ford, Judge Kavanaugh and both of their families in this melee. Despite each having credible components to their statements, this Senate hearing did not bring forth the truth for either of them. It was not designed to. Senators used their time allotments to bash the country’s leadership and “soapbox” their issues before bashing a woman’s and a man’s integrities on national television. This is not what a congressional inquiry should be. I also feel so very sorry for my fellow survivors of military sexual assault and their families, as various special interest groups jumped on their bandwagons to promote their missions with free publicity and further polarize a vulnerable population.

I do not doubt that Dr. Ford suffered some sort of trauma in the past. I also do not doubt Judge Kavanaugh’s veracity in his defense. Both accounts were credible. However, the details are indeterminate because an expert sexual assault investigator was not used before the hearing to develop a truthful baseline. Instead, we see a woman’s confidentiality and security being breached in typical sensationalized fashion and her story being vilified because she could not remember facts under duress. We also see a man being attacked in a gender-typical way because he exhibited strong emotion. Who among us has never exhibited strong emotions when we felt attacked and persecuted, or forgotten facts when pressed for details in a hostile environment?

This congressional hearing was not fair to either party. I pray that this dear lady can find peace because, like it or not, she became a lightning rod for the nation, much as I was in 2012. People will seek to associate with her and use/abuse her presence for their personal gain. I also pray for this man and his family, all of whom who will have to live with the ramifications of unhealthy or angry people threatening them for many months or years to come. Both parties will never have peace or privacy again. Both people deserve so much better from our country and humanity.

As I bring this letter to a close, my caution to each of my veteran sisters and brothers is to remember that we are better than giving in to raw emotion. This is not our battle. Please exercise self-care and do something good for yourselves. Turn the news off, take a walk, go hiking, eat a forbidden dessert or indulge in a favorite coffee. Practice mindfulness, because nothing good can come of you reliving your traumas. If you need to, call your battle buddies, providers and therapists. Do not face these feelings alone. In this, you are never alone.

Ruth Moore of Milbridge is a military sexual assault survivor who worked for the passage of the Ruth Moore Act, which aims to reduce the standard of proof for victims of military sexual assault so that they can obtain benefits. She used much of her own settlement money to found Internity, a nonprofit organization, to help veterans get access to benefits, services and health care.

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