This has been quite a week for those of us who work with sex offenders and their victims. Bill Cosby; "Americas' Dad", was sent to prison for systematically using his power and privilege to victimize dozens of women over decades. Brett Kavanaugh, is being evaluated for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, and is accused of sexual misconduct. There are people screaming (looking at you Lindsay!) on both sides of this issue; many of them are hysterical, and others are righteous.
I spent 15 hours of Thursday travelling and participating in work-related activities, so I was unable to watch or listen to the testimony of Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh in real time. I finally got home around 9 pm and began watching the testimonies; Dr. Ford first, then Judge Kavanaugh. While I did see/hear some of the opinions, I consciously watched each with the eyes of a Therapist.
Dr. Ford is a professor in psychology at Palo Alto University and a research psychologist at Stanford University of Medicine. I must admit I was impressed when she calmly used her area of expertise to describe how memory works. This was especially important in light of all the rhetorical questions asking, "what were you doing in the summer of 1982?" Many of us who were alive then, may have vague recollections of what may have happened that summer. For example, I recall where I lived and that was the summer between Grade 7 and 8 and I turned 13 years old. Those are all facts that can be extrapolated logically and verified by my sister. The part that is important to note, is that trauma cements moments in our memory with vivid details. That is why we all remember where we were on 09/11/2001, or 01/28/1986, or 11/23/1963 or countless other important dates that may be cemented in your memory because they were traumatic for you alone. For me, the date that stands out from that summer is 08/02/1982. Not because I kept a calendar from 36 years ago (that would be weird, don't you think?), but because I experienced a trauma that day. I wrecked my bike, broke my arm badly and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. So I remember many details about that day that others I knew or you may not. Unless you're a hoarder who has a 1982 calendar and can tell me you met your bestie for lunch that day; chances are you have no real memory of that specific day because it wasn't important to you. Something critics of Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, are saying in defense of their actions. The day just wasn't as important to you as it was to Dr. Ford.
Listening to Dr. Ford's testimony as a therapist, I believe her. She conveyed her recollections of that event in a way a normal person would. I would be skeptical if she walked us through that event in vivid detail as if we were there. She didn't; she talked about recollections of where the bed sat, where the door to the bathroom was located, and the event itself. She remembered sounds, feelings... the recollection that jumped out at me, she remembered laughter.
Judge Kavanaugh, on the other hand became angry, His countenance was contorted, his voice harsh and accusatory. He shifted blame for the event. He resorted to "whataboutism", a lazy debate method. He normalized the behavior of 18-year old boys who drank beers, 'everyone was doing it'. He spoke the way a white male who has lived a life of privilege would when met with criticism. On a side note, he did not EARN his position, it was gained as a reward for partisan activism. He made his name as a clerk for Ken Starr, then became a lawyer for the Bush campaign during the Florida recount and was given a position in the Bush White House. He was awarded for his work with a top-tier seat on the Federal bench in 2003. His life has been one of privilege through connections. So you can understand how frustrating it would be to actually be held to account for deplorable behavior. People in power hate that!
It is that unquestioned privilege along with something Dr. Ford said that convinced me he was guilty.
It was the laughter.
When someone is committing sexual assault; they are nervous, they are scared they will be discovered. They want to get it over as soon as possible and if they have an audience, that person is nervous too and usually serving as a sentry. In this case, the scene described by Dr. Ford is one of ease. Kavanaugh had been in this situation before and so had his buddy. They were laughing. They knew what they were doing and enjoying it. I am certain there are other women, silenced by Kavanaugh's power and privilege. If not for Dr. Ford's one-piece swimsuit, she would have been raped that night. Most likely by both Kavanaugh and his buddy.