Introductory Note: Many who see this article may remember seeing me tabling about this very topic on White Plaza. In fact, the release of this article has been greatly delayed because, after our posters were vandalized and I had both paint and juice dumped on me, I was busy trying to avoid the press and contact both the university and the police for assistance. After much serious thought, I have decided to publish this article anyway. I believe that many inside the “Stanford bubble” have no way of knowing why the country was so deeply and genuinely divided on this issue, and that my opinions are valid regardless of pushback. I hope that this article clarifies what I was trying to convey at the tabling event.
The close of the Kavanaugh confirmation process whipped our campus and our nation into a frenzy for weeks. Though everyone witnessed the same testimonies, both the Right and Left walked away believing divergent, incompatible narratives, which, sadly, were often based on partisan disposition.
As a student at Stanford, where Dr. Blasey Ford studied and taught, as a graduate of Holton-Arms, the high school she attended at the time of the alleged assault, and, rarer still, as a vocal female conservative on campus, I too have been thinking with about this episode and what it means for women, for men, and for our society as a whole.
The purpose of this article is two-fold. I will first present why, based on the evidence that has come to light in the last several weeks, I believe Justice Kavanaugh is likely not guilty of the reprehensible actions of which he was accused. Even if I do not convince you personally, I think it is important to understand why this case can be (and in fact has been) reasonably made. Next, I will analyze what I see as one of the most important and most underappreciated societal impacts of this highly publicized public trial—the increased fear and mistrust amongst not only political parties, but also between men and women nationwide. Thus, though the Left claims stopping Kavanaugh’s confirmation would have been a crucial victory, I believe these events were at best symbolic, and at worst counterproductive in solving the very real and sadly pervasive problem of sexual assault.
Why do I—despite my many affinities with Dr. Blasey-Ford —believe Justice Kavanaugh is likely innocent, in light of Ford’s incredibly emotionally compelling testimony? My initial reaction was that, given the allegations, either party had an equal probability of being correct. However, the emergence of three new documents, released at a whirlwind pace leading up to his vote, eventually lead me to a different conclusion. The first document comes from Rachel Mitchell, the public prosecutor who questioned Dr. Blasey Ford during the Senate hearings, and has specialized in sexual assault cases since long before the highly polarizing #MeToo movement. Following the hearing, Mitchell released a memo opening with the words “Here is my bottom line: a ‘he said, she said’ case is incredibly difficult to prove. But this case is even weaker than that.” Mitchell then provides a long list not only of inconsistencies in Dr. Blasey Ford’s story but also instances in which she changed her account of events. The real clincher, though, is that no one Dr. Blasey Ford named as a witness, including her lifelong friend (and fellow Holton alumna), Leland Keyser, remembers the party in question; in fact, Mrs. Keyser did not even know who Justice Kavanaugh was.
The second document comes from Blasey Ford’s ex-boyfriend of six years, who accused her of perjury in a recently-released letter. According to him, she had no fear of flying or claustrophobia while they were dating (contrary to her courtroom claims), and, more worrying still, he claimed to have witnessed her coaching friends on taking polygraph tests, even though she swore under oath that she had never done so. Furthermore, Dr. Blasey Ford never mentioned the alleged assault to him in the years they dated and lived together. Finally, she refused to release the notes from the therapy session in which she claims to have mentioned the assault, and even refused to include the NAME of her therapist from the session.
The third document is a recent investigation of Dr. Blasey-Ford’s building permits and records, which uncovered that the second door on her home which she claimed at the hearing was a response to claustrophobia caused by PTSD was in fact constructed for renting purposes. None of her prior residences had had a second door.
Taken together, these inconsistencies not only make me and many others skeptical of Dr. Blasey Ford’s claims, but may even make her vulnerable to charges of perjury, a federal crime.The Left has also waged accusations of perjury against Justice Kavanaugh, mainly having to do with exact meanings of certain things in his high school yearbook. Though I freely admit that I know nothing about drinking games from the 80s, these charges are not nearly so severe as falsifying PTSD symptoms, which is incredibly insulting to those who genuinely suffer from the condition. The FBI report, unlike the mainstream media, may have explored these inconsistencies and Senators were undoubtedly aware of them, making it far less surprising that Kavanaugh was confirmed despite these allegations.
Thus, despite moving testimonies from both parties, observers have strong grounds to reasonably conclude that the charges against Kavanaugh rest on shaky factual and legal ground. This is incredibly important because regardless of whether these findings convince you, it should be easy for the fair minded to see how many—regardless of political persuasion—have been frightened by the accusations against Kavanaugh. Even those who believe Dr. Blasey-Ford must find it understandable that a young man following this story might be afraid for his future, as so many I personally know are. Kavanaugh enjoyed decades with a spotless record only to see his wife and children threatened with violence and his spotless reputation go up in flames on the basis of allegations backed by no evidence or supporting witnesses.
I am truly frightened that I have had to try and convince male friends that they can still lead normal lives in the public eye and enjoy friendships with women. Unfortunately, this public trial has convinced some men that they must tiptoe around women; men have received the message that they should be suspicious of the intentions and good-will of females as a whole. I would even go so far as to say that this is a step backwards for women’s rights: if men have reason to distrust women, or feel they are at odds with them, they cannot view women as equally deserving of trust and respect.
Please do not misunderstand: we must never dismiss victims of assault. The human body is sacred, and those who take from a woman what is hers and hers alone are monsters. That said, murder too is a heinous crime, yet we still expect those accusing someone of murder to present reasonable evidence, rather than succumbing to hysteria during every high-profile case.
The devolution of this proceeding into a partisan witch-hunt has risked our ability to deal with what should be—and, in fact, is—a very nonpartisan issue. Speaking as a college sophomore, to me it seems quite clear that a toxic hook-up and party culture are a big part of the problem. The religious Right has believed for years that a culture which pushes people to have sex freely and frequently, in conjunction with drugs and alcohol, would lead inevitably to sticky moral situations for members of both genders. I completely agree with my fellow high school alumnae’s claim that, “Dr. [Blasey] Ford's experience is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton.” Though I laud Holton for attempting to implement curriculum changes to mitigate sexual assault risks, to me it seems clear that a discussion about the problems inherent to our party culture would have been much more productive than one loudly denigrating a man based off of supporting an unprovable 36-year-old allegation. Relieved as I was to see my alma mater deal with this issue, the fact that changing this culture has received almost no national coverage is incredibly sad and counterproductive.
Yes, we need to look at the bigger picture. But the bigger picture is much more complex than “what if so-and-so is or isn’t on the Supreme Court” (which has eight other members and in theory does not create legislation) and fears that some women will be too intimidated to speak about their assaults. The outpouring of support which Blasey-Ford has received, even after her suit was unsuccessful, seem to indicate this is an unlikely outcome. This spat has convinced many women that they cannot be safe around men, and many men that they cannot be safe from ruinous false accusations if they get too close to women. At the end of the day, men need women, and women need men; we are societally interdependent, and in most cases live with each other in the very same households. This has always been the case and is unlikely to change. A mutual mistrust is therefore likely to manifest itself in the most fundamental of human bonds: in familial and romantic relationships. Though Kavanaugh’s deeply political trial does signal a dysfunctional political process, I believe it poses a threat to the American social fabric, which, though much more difficult to predict or understand, is just as dangerous.