By Holly Williams

Elm Staff Writer

When Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was revealed as the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of attempted rape in high school, our Congress had an opportunity. They could amend for their mistakes in their hostile treatment of Anita Hill in 1991 when she accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. They could listen to Ford’s credible account and handle it with respect, especially in the #MeToo era.

Unfortunately, the responses to Dr. Ford show that if there was any reflection in our government on how to treat victims of sexual assault, it has been silenced by partisan politics.

Both Kavanaugh and Ford are set to testify before the Senate separately next week, without an FBI investigation or subpoenaing other witnesses. A majorly male Senate judiciary committee will question Ford — not a very different makeup from the all-male committee that questioned Hill. Some of its members have not changed since 1991.

She will testify in front of a Congress who all have the option to settle sexual harassment suits against them quietly with money from the U.S. Treasury (a bill proposed to amend this has not passed the Senate).

She will be interrogated by those who think she’s a liar.

Ford has everything to lose — her life has already been threatened and disrupted. Kavanaugh has everything to gain — a position as a Supreme Court Justice. In spite of these differences of circumstances, the burden of distrust and proof has been placed solely on Ford by a Republican Congress.

The committee chair, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, released a letter signed by 65 women who attended high school with Kavanaugh and attested to his moral character.

Just as some believe that not assaulting 65 women makes it less likely he could have assaulted one, Kavanaugh seems to believe that assaulting one woman 36 years ago is somehow more forgivable than assaulting one recently.

Kavanaugh replied to the allegations this week, saying “I am willing to talk to the … Committee in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago.”

Why even mention the timeline of an allegation he professes to be false? Kavanaugh seems to be sending two different messages in this statement — he didn’t do it, but just in case he did, you better remember it was a very, very long time ago.

Grassley said that he’d “hate to have someone ask me what I did 35 years ago.”

Other defenders have cited Kavanaugh’s age at the time of the incident. The dialogue to defend him is no more than a thinly-veiled “boys will be boys” excuse.

Do we still pretend that sexual assault is intrinsic to male adolescence? Our elected officials seem to. Perhaps time and youth can forgive some sins, but can it, and should it, forgive an action that has tormented its victim for decades? Regardless, there should be no call for forgiveness when there has been no regret and no atonement.

If Kavanaugh was a student here, he would be under a much different set of circumstances. As a school that has adopted Title IX, we have a system in place to interview victims and handle hearings on sexual assault. The Title IX process is not without its flaws, but it indicates that there is some measure of accountability.

Clearly Title IX better than no system at all, as is the case on Capital Hill. And, unlike Congress, we conduct investigations and call witnesses rather than rush the process just so a nominee is confirmed before midterms. We should not expect any less from our highest institutions.

The Elm

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