By Joanna Fanuko
Heightened tension and visceral emotions brought back vivid flashbacks of my personal experience with sexual assault. I am not alone in finding that the Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh hearing stirs up angels and demons inside. Regardless of party-line divisions, anyone who watched the testimonies of both Dr. Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh can find a range of emotions, from anger and frustration to hurt and sadness. What I learned from watching the hearing is a tough reality that the country is facing: when the status quo is a culture where one in six women and one in ten men experience a sexual assault within their lifetime, how can we make America’s future safer for our children?
A Brave Woman
When I watched Dr. Christine Blasey Ford I was initially and immediately struck by her bravery. Here is a woman who allegedly experienced a traumatic event in her formative teenage years, and created an honorable and successful life for herself in spite of the pain she harbored over the years. I find there is little to gain and much to lose in Dr. Ford sharing her truth openly for the good of the country. She has a family. She has a career. She attempted to keep her allegations in private. Yet, she stepped forth and shared her story because she felt her story deserved to be told.
A Troubled Man
As Judge Brett Kavanaugh spoke in his defense, I heard a sense of urgency and desperation in his tone and saw an anger in his demeanor. This is completely defensible considering the future of his career aspirations could be altered by the conclusions drawn from the public hearing. Kavanaugh’s truth was portrayed as a categorically different recollection compared to Blasey Ford’s testimony. He never blacked out or passed out from drinking too much alcohol, he alleged. He never sexually assaulted anyone in his lifetime, he claims. And he has every right to his version of the truth, specifically and notably recounted under oath. Yet, when asked of his personal preference regarding an FBI investigation into the matter brought forth by Blasey Ford and other accusers, his reaction struck me as odd: it was clear that it was not favorable to him, even if it could exonerate him of the accusations. If he was innocent, then why would he be so against an investigation?
Psychology of Trauma
Speaking as someone who has her own story, truth, and experience with sexual assault, I have learned much about the psychological effects of trauma. Specific details are remembered so vividly that they recur over and over again in the form of flashbacks that terrify the survivor. Other details, sometimes time, date, and place can be fuzzy because, during any trauma, a victim is living in fight or flight mode. Our minds- subconsciously- choose to block bits and pieces out to ‘protect’ us and help us from reliving each excruciating detail. Another misunderstood piece of the psychological trauma is Stockholm Syndrome. Stockholm Syndrome makes the survivor from an attachment to the perpetrator, which in turn, can cause outsiders to believe that this emotional attachment equates to consent.
The Hard Lessons Learned
Regardless of the outcome of the Senate Committee vote for or against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the hearing comes with some hard lessons. In the face of adversity, death threats, and reputation stakes of her own, a woman bravely sat before an all-male committee defending her truth for the civic duty of her country. The Supreme Court appointment is a lifelong commitment and it should be given to someone who can protect and serve the basic rights of all Americans set forth in the Constitution and admissible by law. Any discrepancies between law abiding and law breaking should not be a grey matter when it comes to this important government role. Our sons and daughters, present and future, will be impacted by the decision made by the Senate Committee. If our moral compass tells us we could not tolerate an act of sexual assault committed against our children, or reciprocally committed by our son or daughter, then I believe this hearing can be an opportunity to learn from the past and make our future better. Yet, to do that we, as a country, must find a way to incorporate our moral compass into the people we choose to hold government positions.