By now, we’re all familiar with the accusations against Yale alumnus Brett Kavanaugh ’87 LAW ’90. Whether you sat in at Yale Law School or joined the silent gathering on Old Campus, you’d know that Yale students are speaking out in numbers against the controversial Supreme Court nominee and overwhelmingly in support of his accusers, who now number four.
I was surprised to find that outside of campus, this outcry seems to come almost exclusively from the left. Why do Republicans, who brand themselves the party of objectivity, propriety, patriotism — and certainly family values — not view the possibility that a violent criminal could be appointed to one of the nation’s highest offices as an issue of concern? The party most vocally invested in the moral purity of our nation’s institutions that was rightly willing to call attention to the youthful indiscretions of Beto O’Rourke should lead the investigation rather than avoid it. Why does the right view sexual assault allegations differently than any other kind of misconduct?
I think the answer has to do with the distorted way in which we view both conservative ideology and sexual misconduct. The shameful actions of the Trump administration as well as certain individuals in the Republican Party have warped our perceptions of what was once a respectable political ideology. As such, the vestiges of misogyny have created bizarre misperceptions in the way we think about sexual assault.
The first is the fallacy of objectivity — the idea that liberals are sympathetic to #MeToo accusers because they’ll fall for any sob story. But let’s look at this objectively. According to the FBI, false reports of sexual assault occur at the same rate as other, more common crimes — somewhere between 2 and 8 percent, putting the likelihood that Kavanaugh was falsely accused, four separate times, at less than 0.001 percent. On top of all that, the vast majority of false reports come from those with a history of fraud or from teenagers, a pattern neither Christine Blasey Ford nor Deborah Ramirez ’87 fits. And while it’s fair to consider that those statistics reflect criminal allegations, not public ones, it’s also necessary to consider that only 18 to 35 percent of sexual assaults are reported to police at all. Sexual assault is not nebulous. It is just like any other crime. As such, law-and-order conservatives should be at the forefront of the fight to purge it from public office.
Most troubling is the misperception that the #MeToo allegations are, first and foremost, about the victim’s experience. If Ford was so upset by the evening’s events, the implication goes, she would have come forward earlier, so Kavanaugh’s alleged actions are therefore excused. The crucial distortion in the #MeToo narrative is that we continue to pretend that the experience of the victim, rather than the decision of the perpetrator, determines the severity of the misconduct. We assume that victims come forward for revenge; however, the focus of an allegation against a person in power should always be about preventing the morally corrupt from wielding that power. Ensuring that is good for everyone.
When someone comes forward with the knowledge that a civil leader has committed violence, sexual or otherwise, we are right to scrutinize the claim. But first, we should all be thankful for that knowledge — for the opportunity to protect the integrity of that office. In that moment, we should not view the victim as merely a victim. Instead, we should view them as a patriot acting on their civic responsibility to inform the public.
Kavanaugh’s defenders are correct in arguing that the standard is innocent until proven guilty. But in this case, the question isn’t a mere declaration of innocence or guilt. It’s whether Kavanaugh can prove that he’s a man of such outstanding moral character as to be worthy of lifetime power over the legislature, the Constitution and the lives and deaths of Americans. The core of conservatism is respect for the nation and its founding principles — and, if you respect those institutions, you’ll recognize that the answer to Kavanaugh’s nomination should be no.
Cat Orman is a first year in Hopper College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .