An allegation of sexual assault is serious business and if what Christine Blasey Ford says is true, Brett Kavanaugh’s behavior was inexcusable. In her account, he forced her into a room, turned the music up to hide her screams, put his hand over her mouth, tried to remove her clothes as she struggled to get away, and treated her so roughly she thought he might accidentally kill her. This would be a crime that would merit jail time.
A few people have said something like, “Well, even if Kavanaugh did it, he was 17. Why should that derail him now after a lifetime of good work?” While that is not an outrageous point to at least consider, I would also note that now, as an adult up for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh declares that not only did he not do this, but that he wasn’t even at whatever party Ford is describing.
That being the case, if it can be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Kavanaugh was at that small party with Christine Blasey Ford, then that should (and would) be enough to end his chances of being on the Supreme Court, regardless of what may have happened between the two in private. That means Christine Blasey Ford actually has an easier case to prove than most women in her situation.
Unfortunately, even that easier case seems like an extremely heavy lift because there are a multitude of problems with the claims that Ford has made.
First of all, the incident allegedly occurred 36 years ago. While there is no statute of limitations on sexual assault allegations in Maryland and the police there have said they will investigate if Ford makes a complaint, the amount of time that has passed presents a number of obvious difficulties.
Imagine that the incident had happened a week ago. Then the police could check her for bruises, dust the room for fingerprints to prove they were both there, interview the other people at the party, and get Kavanaugh’s side of things while still fresh in his head.
When you are talking about an incident that allegedly occurred 36 years ago, it’s a whole different ballgame and none of those things are possible. This is doubly so because at this late date, Ford claims she doesn’t know the most basic things about the event. She doesn’t know a date, a time, or a location. She doesn’t know who threw the party, who invited her, who drove her (she was 15), or who took her home. She has claimed there were only four other people at the party she attended. That seems especially problematic because the people she has named as being there are Brett Kavanaugh (he categorically denies this), his friend Mark Judge (who she claims was in the room; he categorically denies this), their mutual friend Patrick Smyth (he categorically denies this), and her friend Leland Ingham Keyser (she categorically denies this and says she has never even met Kavanaugh).
Memory is a very tricky thing and we often misremember details, add things in that didn’t happen, and forget certain things even when we get the gist of the memory correct. Memories can even be accidentally added in after the fact. If you want to know about an almost unimaginably horrible story along those lines, read about the McMartin Preschool abuse trial. Well-meaning but ignorant psychologists had small kids claiming that everything from molestation to animals being chopped up to baby sacrifice had occurred without anyone realizing it. None of it was true.
You may be wondering how this is relevant to this case. Well, first off you have to question whether the basic details of what happened are correct. Ford could be unknowingly dramatically exaggerating the whole event. Given that she doesn’t know or has gotten so many other details wrong about the night of the alleged incident, it doesn’t seem wise to take her account of what happened in that room as gospel either.
Additionally, Ford says the first time she revealed the incident to anyone was to a therapist in 2012, 30 years after the fact. At the time, Brett Kavanaugh was a potential Supreme Court pick for Mitt Romney and his name was in the news. Could Ford have seen Kavanaugh’s name and determined he was her attacker 30 years earlier? We can’t know that, but it’s not implausible. It’s also worth noting that according to her therapist’s notes, Ford said 4 MEN were in the room. She now says that there was a mistake and 2 men were in the room. That’s another indication that Ford’s memory of the incident is cloudy — or alternately, she could be lying.
Of course, we could name some very famous cases where women have lied about rape like the Duke lacrosse case, the Tawana Brawley incident, and the UVA Rolling Stone hoax. This is particularly significant in this case because Ford has some powerful incentives to lie that most victims of sexual assault do not have. She’s a diehard partisan who contributed to Bernie Sanders through ActBlue and signed a letter protesting Trump’s border policies. For someone like that, being able to stop Trump from appointing a Supreme Court justice, perhaps permanently if Democrats take over the Senate, would be an incredible accomplishment. Additionally, because of her accusation, Ford’s name is in the news and she is being (and is likely to continue to be) treated like a heroine on the Left. She’s been publicly lauded by celebrities like Julianne Moore, Eva Longoria, Marisa Tomei, and Amy Schumer. On top of all that, two GoFundMe campaigns have raised almost $350,000 for Ford. There are more than a few people who would happily kill someone for $350,000, so we can be sure that there are plenty of people that would lie about a sexual assault for that kind of money. All of that gives Ford an extremely powerful motive to lie which cannot be overlooked.
The dishonest and sleazy way the allegation has been handled by her legal team is also a red flag. Ford waited until AFTER Kavanaugh’s hearing to go public with her accusation. Then, despite the fact that the original anonymous letter was sent in July and she lawyered up in August, she kept complaining that she didn’t have time to prepare to be questioned when Republicans took her up on her demand to be heard. She demanded an FBI investigation even though she knew (and the FBI has since affirmed) that no federal crime was committed and they were not federal employees when this happened like Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill were. Additionally, in a Kafkaesque twist, Ford demanded that Brett Kavanaugh be forced to testify BEFORE he even knew what case she was going to make against him. In what was obviously an attempt to create better optics for political reasons, she demanded that she be questioned by senators instead of outside counsel. She refused to be interviewed in her home state, then claimed that because she didn’t fly (because of Brett Kavanaugh naturally) she’d have to drive cross country to D.C. for a hearing. This is even though she admits having gone to Hawaii for an internship. How did she get to Hawaii? Canoe? Let’s call the behavior of Ford and her team what it is: rabidly partisan, sleazy, dishonest and centered around delay.
In the end, none of the rest of us know what happened in that room 36 years ago or even IF anything happened at all. If what Christine Blasey Ford says happened to her 36 years ago really did occur, that is terrible and every decent person should condemn it. However, “innocent until proven guilty” is as American as apple pie and the evidence Ford has thus far presented is so slipshod that it’s little more than her faulty memory against Kavanaugh. We hear a lot about the dangers of publicly questioning the claims of a woman saying she was sexually assaulted, but it’s just as dangerous to treat nearly evidence-free accusations like this one as credible. It puts men in danger of false prosecution and creates more skepticism and cynicism about all sexual assault allegations. Both men and women would be much better off if we simply evaluated every allegation like this on its own merits in our legal system instead of turning them into partisan public circuses.