Briefly, On “She Should Have Reported It!”
Donald Trump decided this morning that he had remained silent about Brett Kavanaugh long enough. In an attempt to restore faith in Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Trump decided to do the thing that everybody everywhere knew that he was going to do: he attacked Kavanaugh’s accuser. In his criticisms of Christine Blasey Ford, Trump made the following point, which is a popular one among those who insist that sexual abuse is not nearly as bad as it sounds:
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
What Trump is doing above – and this is hardly any surprise coming from a man who brags about groping numerous women – is suggesting that because neither Ford nor her parents filed a police report in the incident’s aftermath, then it becomes reasonable to disbelieve her story. The women who have alleged Trump’s own misbehavior similarly filed nothing, so Trump’s stated standard here is perhaps not entirely surprising.
Insisting that abused parties should have done something differently – no matter what it was that they actually did – is one of the most slippery ways that those excusing abuse go about doing so. Surely, they insist, if only the abused party had done something other than what they actually did, the matter would have been handled, but, alas, they did not, and because they did not, subsequent accounting for it is both unfair and unnecessary.
For all kinds of reasons, this defense is as absolutely disgusting as it sounds, but perhaps the most pernicious explanation for its awfulness is the reality of how the justice system tends to handle reported sexual abuse. The word that comes immediately to mind when describing that law enforcement is badly, although horribly, awfully, and pathetically also work perfectly well. Here is a thread full of examples, including several examples that defy belief.
Here, for example, is a district attorney cutting a plea deal with a man who kidnapped, assaulted, and masturbated on a woman; the man avoided both jail time and the sex offender registry as a result. Here, for example, is a Texas doctor avoiding jail time despite having raped a sedated patient in a hospital that he worked at. Here, for example, is Elizabeth Bruenig’s harrowing account of what happened to a girl from her hometown who had reported an assault to the police. Here, for example, is how some police departments treat having evidence of assaults. Here, for example, is how one of the first known accusers of Larry Nassar was treated when she tried to report her assault to the police.* Here, for example, is the story of Brock Turner being given a slap on the wrist for assaulting a woman.
“You’re just cherry-picking those examples!” is one of the things insisted upon by who believe deeply in the justice system’s capable handling of abuse claims. Surely then there is a mountain of available evidence showing the competent enforcement of applicable laws, the kind that would instill in any casual observer the sort of confidence necessary to believe deeply into the justice system’s ability to handle abuse claims. While we await the delivery of that evidence though, there is plenty of evidence of victims refusing, again and again and again, to place their faith in that same justice system. Perhaps they refuse because they know doing will only rarely result in something bordering on justice.
Or perhaps they refuse because they know what is coming next: the cultural evisceration of their own lives in an attempt to explain away what happened on the off-chance that enduring such treatment will lead to the aforementioned justice. It seems reasonable enough to believe that many individuals would conclude that volunteering for such treatment is not worth it, especially when considering what has already happened.
*Stick around for how the current police officer treats her accusation, claiming that police never would have done such a thing, despite it being well-known and easily-observable that police routinely do precisely that sort of thing.