The debate over the allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh continues to rage. As you might expect, opinions on the matter fall along party lines; those on the left believe Christine Ford’s accusations and those on the right do not view her claims as credible. However, the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport shows conservatives why certain arguments are not useful.
Situations similar to the argument about Ford and Kavanaugh can be difficult to judge, especially when there is no compelling evidence. As a matter of fact, it is the lack of evidence and details that make it hard to believe Ford’s story. Unless she provides more facts that support her claim when she testifies, it is unlikely that anyone will be able to make the case that she is telling the truth.
While conservatives are right to point out the flaws in her allegations, many — including President Trump — have taken to using an argument that is not only ineffective, but it gives the left ammo to use against those who insist that Kavanaugh is innocent.
On Friday, President Trump tweeted:
I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018
I’ll be blunt — this tweet was a horrible idea.
What Is #WhyIDidntReport?
After President Trump posted this tweet, people took to Twitter to tell their own stories of sexual assault using the hashtag “WhyIDidntReport.” In these tweets, they explain why they did not report their abuse. According to The Hill, the hashtag reached over 38,000 tweets by Friday afternoon. Here are some examples:
I did report my sexual abuse, at age 8, to a doctor, and was told “we don’t talk about those things” instead of being helped. It took me 35 years before I sought help because of that. #WhyIDidntReport — steve barber (@UncleBarber) September 22, 2018
Because nobody believed a teenager
Because I was just ‘confused’
Because nobody saw what happened in the dressing room.
Because I was ‘over exaggerating’
Because ‘Boys will be boys’
Because I was receiving ‘mixed signals’
Because I was terrified.
— wayward hailey • minncon 🌸 41 (@WaywardHailey) September 22, 2018
#WhyIDidntReport I was 7, he was my father. I didn’t understand what was happening. 5 years of counseling when i was in my 20’s, I still have nightmares. I am 58. — Jeanie Renae (@Renae329) September 22, 2018
I was 12. He was a boy from the neighborhood. I tried to report it. No one would listen. I didn’t bother the next time it happened when I was in high school. The message was clear, I didn’t count. The suffering in silence must stop. #WhyIDidntReport
— Susan McLean (@SusanRest) September 22, 2018
#whyididntreport it happened at a party when I was 16. I immediately told my “friends”. The next day at school I was called a whore in the hallways, I was threatened and then beat up. Had to drop out of school for my own safety. Did not want to suffer anymore. — amanda (@jujubieebss) September 22, 2018
Trump’s argument is similar to that of many others — both on the left and the right — when sexual abuse is discovered years later. Just look at the case of Harvey Weinstein. We all think “Why didn’t they come forward before?” But in a debate such as this, these arguments are not persuasive, and they give the left a political weapon to use against conservatives.
Let’s be honest. Most people know that many victims of sexual assault do not discuss their abuse right when it happens. In many cases, it can take years to get to the place where they can start talking about it. Some confide in friends, others in therapists.
Sexual assault does tremendous damage to one’s psyche — especially when it happens to children. They feel that they won’t be believed. They think the abuse was their fault. They are afraid of retaliation from the offender. Victims tend to think that their coming forward will not make a difference. As you can see from this small sample of tweets, sometimes victims are right when they say that discussing their abuses would backfire on them.
There Are Better Arguments
It is important to point out that there are far better reasons to doubt Ford’s story. The details she provides are shaky — and she claims to have forgotten any facts that could prove — or disprove her allegations. She has not explained where the alleged assault occurred. She has not pinpointed the year it was supposed to have happened. Not only that, her current claims contradict what she told her therapist in 2012.
The therapist Ford saw in 2012 wrote down that she said four boys were in the room where the alleged assault took place. But now, she claims that only Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, were in the room. Ford chalks the discrepancy up to a mistake on the part of the therapist. Furthermore, she never used Kavanaugh’s name in her therapy sessions.
Then, there are the games Ford and her lawyers have played when it comes to testifying before the Senate. Most victims who come forward want to be heard — but until today, Ford has attempted to push her testimony back multiple times. First, she demanded an FBI investigation into her claims even though the bureau has already passed on looking into the matter. Moreover, she has not given enough details on which the FBI could launch an investigation.
When that tactic didn’t work, she laid out a series of demands that would have to be fulfilled before she agreed to meet with Congress. Kavanaugh would have to testify first, which means he would be defending himself without knowing what allegations were going to be made about him. Ford also demanded that she not be required to answer questions posed by Kavanaugh’s attorney. Lastly, she asked not to be present in the same room as the judge.
None of these demands were likely to be met — and her lawyers knew it. Her actions give the impression that she was trying to stall the proceedings. Indeed, the Democrats have been trying to postpone the confirmation until after the midterm elections, hoping that if they take the Senate, they can block Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court. This could have been one of the reasons why she wanted the FBI to go through an investigation before she testified.
The left’s use of #WhyIDidntReport was a brilliant way to respond to Trump’s argument for three reasons: It plays on the emotions of those who are sympathetic to sexual assault victims, and it provides proof that a significant number of these individuals also did not report their abuse. Last, and most importantly, it is effective because it makes conservatives look cynical, callous, and politically-motivated. Of course, this is hypocritical given the fact that they don’t wish to address the allegations against Keith Ellison, but the point still stands.
Will this hashtag convince the majority of the American public that Kavanaugh is guilty? Probably not. But it is still important that conservatives make sure that we are not giving the left ammunition that they can use against us. Let’s stick to effective arguments and leave the faulty ones behind.