Rape Mythology 101

The result was predictable: Although allegations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh took his smooth-sail Supreme Court nomination into choppy waters, he made it to dry land, propelled in no small way by the gusting grandstanding of Sen. Susan Collins.

Now shaping American jurisprudence is a man who, by his own stated opinions, is inclined to rubber-stamp any question involving expanded executive power that might come before him. As I’ve lamented before in these pages, this is the overarching danger of a Justice Kavanaugh.

Given that Kavanaugh was confirmed despite this, it is not a surprise that the sexual-assault allegations of Christine Blasey Ford, Ph.D., could not keep him from the bench. Nor is it a surprise that another former classmate’s allegations could not keep our polarized and tribal Senate from voting to confirm. Not:

  • When the person who nominated Kavanaugh was elected despite being on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women.
  • When Sen. Mitch McConnell said — to a standing ovation — “in the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the United States Supreme Court. Keep the faith. … We’re going to plow right through it and do our job.”
  • When the Senate, as mentioned, willfully overlooked Kavanaugh’s reckless view that presidents should be spared the indignity of being investigated while in office and We, the Peasants, should just wait until after their presidencies end to deal with any abuses.
  • When Sen. Lindsey Graham went on a snarling rant about how unfair it is to dare question the character of someone who will, for life, issue rulings on behalf of an entire nation. Graham, by his words, all but decreed Kavanaugh entitled to a seat on the court, even asking why “ruin” his life? And by its vote, the Senate majority endorsed this sweeping sense of entitlement.
  • When Sen. Dean Heller described as “a hiccup” allegations that, in 1982, a then-teenage Kavanaugh pinned Blasey down, tore at her clothes, groped her and covered her mouth.
  • And when, in 2018, so many people react to sexual-assault allegations by spouting textbook rape myths.

Now, I don’t know what happened in 1982. I have little confidence anything can be proven about it in 2018 (particularly when an “investigation” is limited, rushed, and the results are kept from the public).

Also, due process matters, regardless what one might think of another person. Kavanaugh has emphatically denied the allegations, which, again, are not proven.

What I do know? A rape myth when I hear it.

“We’re talking about a 17-year-old boy in high school with testosterone running high. Tell me, what boy hasn’t done this in high school? Please, I would like to know.”

A woman spoke these words. On national television. Gina Sosa was not alone in that Sept. 20 CNN interview; other women also spouted rape myths to a national audience.

In Rape Mythology 101, Sosa’s tonedeaf, diminishing nonsense is properly placed under the chapter “Boys will be boys (no matter who it hurts).”

To answer her question, though: Most boys. Most boys have not, even as they ride the crest of ye olde testosterone wave, pinned down a girl, tried to rip off her clothing, and pressed a hand over her mouth, as was alleged here. Because, even though they’re just teenagers, they know right from wrong and actually are able to control themselves.

No doubt, some remain confused about what’s wrong with the “boys will be boys” line.

Fine. Consider, then, “the boys,” since you will not consider the girls: Believing a male just can’t help himself requires a categorically low opinion of males. And it is as sexist as labeling all females as hysterical, as liars, or as promiscuous.

Sosa went on to say Kavanaugh should be on the court, even if the allegations were proven. “We all make mistakes at 17. I believe in a second chance.”

And here we come to one of the more tiresome rape myths: “It was a (youthful) mistake.”

Sexual assault is not a “mistake.” It is a crime.

In the same Sept. 20 interview, another woman suggested: “Perhaps maybe at that moment she liked him and maybe he didn’t pay attention to her afterward … and she got bitter.”

This chapter of Rape Mythology 101 could be very long — but also so very short, because such remarks speak for themselves.

The myths just kept coming. A third woman interviewed said: “there was maybe a touch,” but no intercourse — so why was Blasey still “stuck on that”?

Let us turn now to the Rape Mythology 101 chapter “Nothing happened, and if it did, it doesn’t matter because it only affected a female who should just get over it.”

Again turning to the allegations: Being forced into a bedroom and pinned down onto a bed is not “nothing.” Being pawed is not “just a touch.” Having the male who’s pinning you tear at your clothing is not nothing. Having his hand over your mouth to keep you quiet is not nothing.

Again, Kavanaugh has only been accused of this conduct, not convicted. But the allegations are of a crime, not “nothing.” Plus, it actually is possible to disbelieve an accuser without diminishing her expression of trauma, or mocking her.

Speaking of which …

Donald Trump used his position of power, not merely to support his nominee, which might be understandable, but to pillory Blasey.

First, he suggested that if anything had really happened, she would have reported it at the time — comments that betray his complete lack of understanding of the legal system and trauma.

The same week Trump sounded his barbaric yawp via Twitter, The Washington Post reported the story of a girl who in 2006 immediately reported a sexual assault to police, who in turn found evidence, including DNA. The result: She was branded a liar and ostracized. A Texas grand jury did not indict. And that’s just one case.

Trump went on to openly mock Blasey as a liar, possibly even a little bit crazy, during an Oct. 2 rally. He used his position to exact revenge on a woman who dared question “his” man and his judgment.

He mimicked her testimony to the Senate, presenting Blasey as utterly addled concerning how much she had to drink, how she got to the home, where it was and when. In so doing, he mischaracterized her testimony (Blasey actually provided answers to those questions.)

Yes, that guy, the one who slept with a porn star, cheated on all three of his wives, and who has told more than 5,000 documented lies in about two years in office — he is taking jabs at Blasey’s credibility.

Only a few senators offered any criticism. I don’t care on which side of the political fence senators may stand. I don’t care what they think of Kavanaugh. The entire body — not just the Democrats and three Republicans — should have condemned Trump’s remarks.

The White House simpered Trump was “just stating the facts.”

And his supporters ate it up. They cheered. They laughed.

This single detail is more despicable than any other. We by now expect Donald Trump to spew bile. We expect him to be cruel. But up until that moment, I, at least, expected better of my fellow citizens.

Trump then flipped the script to suggest false accusations are a greater danger than sexual violence.

I do not excuse willfully false allegations, or minimize their harmfulness. But there are already legal remedies for these, and, of reported rapes, only between 2 and 10 percent are deemed false (as opposed to “unfounded,” which means lack of proof, or that the evidence supports something other than rape).

The furor over Kavanaugh does not prove what happened in 1982. What it does prove, though, is disturbing enough.

Women endorse rape myths. Men endorse rape myths. The Senate endorses and amplifies rape myths through a highly public forum, in lieu of taking the time to fully vet the accusations.

Rape Mythology 101 is a boundless tome. It is past time to close the book.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is an award-winning journalist in Montrose, Colo.

From Katharhynn Heidelberg.