Guilty Until Proven Innocent

by Isabella Jordan

The Kavanaugh confirmation has pushed sexual assault issues front and center. Before, confirming a supreme court judge wasn’t even discussed. Most of the time the president would pick someone and then Congress would almost unanimously vote them in. Nevertheless, there has been extreme controversy surrounding supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. He was accused by Dr. Blasey Ford of sexual assault thirty-six years ago at a high-school party. She gave an emotional testimony recounting the event. Watching it you had to feel for her. It seemed really hard to understand how so many people didn’t believe her. Then Kavanaugh gave his testimony and it was equally hard to ignore.

As a female, I watched her testimony and I felt for her, too many of us can relate so personally to her story. We all have been through something similar or at least know someone who has. And we also know that these situations often go unreported for one reason or another. So, when everyone asked “Well why didn’t she report it when it happened?” or “It was thirty-six years ago, why would she still care?,” we know why. She didn’t report it because she was scared. She isn’t over it because she will never be over it. Some details she will forget, some will become fuzzy with time, but she will always remember others. They will be seared into her brain forever; and at random times, even thirty-six years later, she will remember the sick feeling in her stomach and the unrelenting fear that she experienced that night. She didn’t have a reason to report it until she saw the man that did this to her, all those years ago, on the TV as he was being nominated to be a judge in the highest court in the United States. Wouldn’t you feel obligated to say something?

I understand why she didn’t report it until now. What I don’t understand is why Dianne Feinstein sat on Ford’s accusation for six weeks after Ford sent a letter to her representative. The most logical explanation, and the reason that many republican senators have accuse her of, is that she wanted to sit on the information until the vote was close enough to torpedo his confirmation, although Feinstein denies this. Many accuse her of weaponizing Ford to take down Kavanaugh. If this is true, then it is incredibly disrespectful to her and other sexual assault victims to use her story as a political weapon.

After the accusations had been made, more than a week passed before the Ford and Kavanaugh’s public hearings were held. During this time two other women came out and accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. These accusations seemed to be taken less seriously than Ford’s. An FBI investigation was demanded by many liberals and conservatives seemed moderately supportive. It took place so that the senators could vote with confidence on whether or not to confirm him.

The investigation backed up Kavanaugh and discredited Ford’s allegations.

It’s hard to say she was lying after watching her testimony, which seemed so sincere. Many people are saying that they didn’t do a thorough enough investigation, but it has not been made public. So it doesn’t make sense how people who have not seen the entirety of the investigation can have an opinion on it. And the fact remains that his confirmation has been three weeks longer than the average of the last three nominees.

Trump made a speech on the whole situation and he criticized not only Ford but the entire #MeToo movement. He mimicked Ford’s testimony which he previously called very compelling but now he made her seem unreliable. He kept talking about how men should be scared in this current environment where a woman could just accuse him of sexually assaulting her and then his life was ruined. He seemed to believe that in situations where a woman accused a man of this, the man is the one we should feel sorry for. And though he was incredibly disrespectful to victims of sexual assault, there is some truth in what he was saying.

President Trump kept bringing up the phrase “guilty until proven innocent.”It is easy to write off his argument as a way to defend men and simultaneously silence women. But it really is where we are right now. The #MeToo movement started as a way for women to talk about what they have been through and get support and sympathy from women who have been through something similar. Then Weinstein was accused, and the allegations were true. This turned the #MeToo movement into more than just a hashtag on Twitter. It became something that some people seemed to use as a weapon. So many women came forward without any proof and accused people in power of sexual assault, and what they said was automatically considered truth. This is dangerous because it perpetuates an idea that you can take someone down by a flimsy accusation. And I’m not saying that everyone who accuses someone of sexual assault is a liar with an ulterior motive. However, others could use the #MeToo movement in this way.

So many people are saying “we shouldn’t have anyone accused of sexual assault on the supreme court”. And it seems like they have pegged Kavanaugh as a rapist based purely on Ford’s testimony. To these people the only way to get justice is to have Kavanaugh thrown in jail. This isn’t right because our entire justice system is built on the idea of due process, so to ignore it because it furthers your social movement isn’t fair to anyone.

This is where the whole idea of guilty until proven innocent becomes important. How can we say “everyone gets their day in court” when a man accused of something, without proof, is automatically a rapist in the public’s eyes? How would you feel if someone accused you of murder and they didn’t have any proof to back there story up, but everyone believed them? This is what happened to Kavanaugh. But because what he is being accused of is sexual assault, people believe Ford because they want to. They want to believe that people wouldn’t lie about something like that. The fact is that if someone can weaponize a sexual assault accusation to take someone down, they will. We have to find the balance between taking sexual assault seriously and not taking every accusation as truth without any proof.


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