Accuracy in Media


Brett Kavanaugh may not be the worst sexual abuser of all time, but he has caused more pain for more women who have been victims of sexual assaults than anyone in recent memory – and that pain could endure as long as he is on the Court, according to a story last week on Time.

Under the headline, “The Battle Over Brett Kavanaugh Has Ended. But the Pain His Hearing Triggered Has Not,” Time’s Eliana Dockterman began:

“Since #MeToo went viral, survivors have been inundated with stories of sexual assault and harassment on a weekly – and, for some stretches, daily – basis. But nothing has evoked memories and pains of past traumas in some survivors, and particularly women, as much as the respective testimonies of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

“Senators, television personalities and people across the country heard stories from loved ones that they had never been told before.”

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network saw a 388 percent increase in traffic on its hotline the day of the hearing, and the following day was the busiest in its 24-year history, Dockterman wrote.

She then quoted Jennifer Freyd, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon who specializes in studying “institutional betrayal,” the trauma of victims of past abuse who were not believed by their employers, universities or other organizations they expected to protect them.  

“’When there’s a national disaster, there’s a period of aftermath,’” the doctor is quoted as saying. ‘I think it’s going to be like that. I think we’re talking about a big national health crisis.’”

Ford’s testimony “affected some survivors who had not relived their own rapes or assaults when reading or listening to other prominent allegations of sexual misconduct in the news,” Dockterman wrote. Ford “’could have been my teacher in school. That could have been anybody,’” she quoted one anonymous woman who said she had suffered sexual abuse as a child.

Kavanaugh’s response was “enraged” and “far more likely to bring them back to the moment when an assailant had attacked them than Ford’s testimony,” she wrote. Kavanaugh had “sat behind the same desk as Ford to respond” – and that response had come “with an indignation that stood out from the lawyer-approved statements that accused men usually issue.”

This was a sure sign Kavanaugh was guilty, Dockterman implied. “Survivor advocate Alisa Zipursky says that watching Kavanaugh cry and claim victimhood status brought up personal memories. ‘My abuser did that to keep me there,’ she says. ‘He brainwashed me into thinking that he was the victim. And I’m reminded of that emotional abuse.’”

There is no indication and no testimony, from Ford or anyone, that Kavanaugh did anything to “keep” Ford “there,” to brainwash her in any way or to abuse her emotionally in any way after the attack.

Dockterman quoted Sahar Azi, “who works in public policy in Oakland” and marveled at how little the “pain-filled reactions to the testimonies” had changed. She was reminded not of a past attack on her but of growing up in Iran.

“’I’ve lived in places where women aren’t equal,’ Dockterman quoted her as saying. “But here, we’re always allowed to fight back. It felt like this time we weren’t allowed to challenge them.’”  

The worst damage from Kavanaugh’s alleged attack – he denies it, no one corroborates it, the people Ford alleged were there all deny any such event ever took place, and Ford herself is fuzzy on key details of when, where and how the attack took place – may be yet to come, Dockterman wrote.

“It may feel to some people as if the story has concluded” with Kavanaugh on the Court, she wrote. “But that may not be the case for survivors. In fact, for those who shared their stories and fought his nomination, his ascension could worsen their symptoms of PTSD, anxiety or depression.”




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