Allow Them To Be Heard

The sexual allegations brought by Ms. Ford against Judge Cavanaugh have clearly divided the country in a hearing that seemed to descend more into the level of a trial, instead of a tactful hearing sensitive to its topic.  The situation was reminiscent of the Anita Hill hearings back in 1991, and referred to in the New York Times. Anita Hill was subjected by an insensitive all white male senate to repeat lewd, and lascivious remarks made by Mr. Thomas, and supporting witnesses – other women that Mr. Thomas had sexually harassed – were not allowed to be heard.

Alan and I were sitting at the dinner table tonight discussing our reactions in the wake of the hearings on sexual misconduct in regard to the latest Supreme Court nominee, Mr. Cavanaugh. Ms. Ford had delivered believable testimony and so had Mr. Cavanaugh, yet neither agreed. The hearing left the United States of America even more divided. Alan noted that women who have suffered the abuses of sexual misconduct seem to want Congress and the Senate to punish Mr. Cavanaugh for what they had themselves suffered. Our conversation turned to the evils of sexual abuse throughout our nation, and Alan said this incident could provide an impetus to put in place a social program for women who have suffered sexual abuses to get help throughout the embarrassment and emotional trauma of coming forward to speak to what has happened to them.

Alan also noted that for every four females who have experienced sexual abuse and harassment, there are three males. (Alan’s statistics come from what he remembers from his work as a psychologist). I remarked that sexual abuse is also emotional abuse, especially in regard to children whose psychological development is arrested from the trauma. The action is an invasive and injurious assault to one’s being. The real problem, I think, stems from those men and women who feel they have a license to gratify their sexual urges, no matter whom it hurts. The abusers can be anyone: fathers or mothers, uncles, brothers, babysitters, priests of the church, or even a trusted teacher. But there is another problem, and that is concluding that an individual must be a sexual predator just because they have been accused of being one, and I think that this is something we must guard against in our own perception of a situation.

In an interview with Susan Collins on CNN, Ms. Collins said that she had supported Judge Cavanaugh because there was no real supporting evidence for Ms. Ford’s accusations. Ms. Ford’s witnesses could not substantiate what she said, even though it was evident she believed what she said. Ms. Collins has supported good work for women in the past; during the interview the reporter seemed to be trying to corner Ms. Collins into admitting that she did not believe Ms. Ford. Ms. Collins staunchly said that she believed that Ms. Ford believed what she said, but reiterated that we must be careful not to assign blame unless there is evidence to conclusively prove a wrongdoing.

This situation has pointed out several areas that demand greater equality in the American way of thinking. It seems obvious to me that the “good old boy” network remains in place. Nothing really came of the Cavanaugh – Ford “hearing” except a greater division among Americans. Despite the allegations the man was confirmed for the position. But by far the biggest arena that demands rectification is the arena of sexual misconduct, which sadly in the long run destroys more than is seen.

The problem with sexual assault is how hidden it remains. Coming forward to speak out has broken families and ruined reputations. It can be frightening to speak out, especially for children whose assailant is a family member. Sometimes these children are told that if they tell, harm will come to Mommy or Daddy. I do not have answers for these wrongs, but it seems obvious that some kind of compassionate and supportive program could be implemented, and that it may be beneficial to teach in the schools methods for avoiding sexual predation.

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