As Donald Trump is forced to announce that the FBI will (have just a week to) investigate sexual assault allegations against his chosen candidate for Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh, 90 organisations representing human rights and women have written warning that survivors of abuse should not be subjected to public attacks.
The 90 bodies from Amnesty International USA and Equality Now to the College of Law and YWCA USA placed a full page ad in The Washington Post expressing concern about increasingly vicious attacks on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford since she came forward and revealed her sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.
“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,” the President had tweeted.
The 90 organisations that placed an ad in The Washington Post represent a wide cross section, including the worlds of law, Christianity, Judaism, human rights, disabilities, refugees and trafficking victims.
Their letter warns: “as organizations working for women’s and girls’ rights in the US and globally, we know how difficult it is for victims of sexual assault to come forward given that they are often shamed and blamed by society and sometimes by the legal system itself. This is well exemplified by the thousands of people using the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport.
“Collectively, we are deeply concerned about the attacks on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford after her story of sexual assault was shared. It takes great courage for any survivor to come forward, especially in public circumstances.
“There can never be equality in a culture that normalizes or trivializes sexual assault and sexual harassment.”
Many people also took to social media and with the hashtag #WhyIdidntreport detailed painfully the myriad reasons why people do not report sexual assault and harassment to the authorities at the time.
Sections of the right wing media responded in partisan and misogynist fashion to Dr Blasey Ford’s testimony that Kavanaugh attacked her at a party when they were in high school, trying to remove her clothes and putting his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream.
Despite the tense partisan circumstances in which Republicans were trying to force through the appointment of a Supreme Court judge that represented Evangelicals as President Trump had promised, Deborah Ramirez also came forward and told The New Yorker that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her while they were classmates at Yale University.
And Julie Swetnick has made a sworn declaration that Kavanaugh engaged in inappropriate behavior at parties in the early 1980s and was involved in spiking drinks with drugs or alcohol so that women could be gang raped.
Equality Now assembled the 90 organisations who wrote expressing their concern that survivors of sexual assault would be discouraged for coming forward if their allegations are trivialized in the media.
“There are numerous reasons why someone doesn’t report a sexual assault, including fear of not being believed, of retaliation, or mistrust of authority. Victims frequently face blame and interrogation for what they were wearing, what they were drinking, or how they did or didn’t behave,” said the organisation.
“All too often, when a victim does find the strength to confide in someone they are told not to pursue things any further.
“And then there is the knowledge that justice is rarely served as the vast majority of perpetrators do not go to prison.
“Dr Blasey Ford is sharing the experience of a 15-year-old adolescent girl that was subjected to a sexual assault. We must think about what message we are sending to girls and boys across the country about whether or not they too would be heard or believed.
“This is not a partisan issue. We all have a responsibility not to silence survivors, to guarantee that laws and legal systems are based on equality, and that victims have access to justice.”
Shelby Quast, Equality Now’s Americas Director, added: “We all have to work together to ensure those who have experience sexual assault and harassment are supported, protected and given access to fair legal process. Never should they be subjected to further attack, irrespective of whether or not the perpetrator is a public figure or in a position of power.”
Republicans had opposed an FBI investigation into their choice of Supreme Court Judge in perhaps the most politicized appointment ever. But after they succumbed to pressure, so did the President calling for an FBI investigation into allegations against their choice for the post that would give Republican chosen judges a majority in the Supreme Court.
This is the full letter that appeared in The Washington Post in defence of survivors of sexual assault coming forward, with all the signatories below, and below that a selection of just some of the hundreds of tweets explaining #WhyIdidntreport :
As organizations working for women’s and girls’ rights in the US and globally, we know how difficult it is for victims of sexual assault to come forward given that they are often shamed and blamed by society and sometimes by the legal system itself. This is well exemplified by the thousands of people using the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport.
Collectively, we are deeply concerned about the attacks on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford after her story of sexual assault was shared. It takes great courage for any survivor to come forward, especially in public circumstances.
There can never be equality in a culture that normalizes or trivializes sexual assault and sexual harassment. By giving survivors the space to be heard we can change the status quo.
We remain committed to achieving equality in laws, policies and legal processes and to supporting survivors of sexual assault and harassment.
Now more than ever we must all work together to build a more equal world in which women and girls can be safe, fearless and free.
Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Inc.
Alliance for Girls
American Association of University Women
American Constitution Society – Howard University School of Law Chapter
Amnesty International USA
Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project
Black Women’s Blueprint
California Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law, American University Washington College of Law
Center for Reproductive Rights
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women
Commission on Gender Equity, New York City, Office of the Mayor
Equality for HER
Feminist Majority Foundation
FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture
Futures Without Violence
Girls for Gender Equity
Global Justice Center
Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women
HEART Women & Girls
Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School
Human Rights Watch
Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence
Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Innovations Human Trafficking Collaborative
International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination
International Service for Human Rights
International Women’s Initiative
Know Your IX
Law For Black Lives
Living In Freedom Together Inc.
Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition
Mobilization for Justice, Inc.
Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable
Mississippi Women’s Economic Security Initiative
Ms. Foundation for Women
Mujeres Unidas y Activas
National Alliance to End Sexual Violence
National Domestic Workers Alliance
National Organization for Women
National Organization for Women – New York
National Women’s Law Center
New York Women’s Foundation
Oregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Service
Physicians for Human Rights
Sadie Nash Leadership Project
Sanctuary for Families
Santa Clara Law – International Human Rights Clinic
Sisterhood Is Global Institute
Survivors for Solutions
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Tewa Women United
The Feminist Press
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center
The NYC Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence
The Voices and Faces Project
Turning Point for Women and Families
University of Miami School of Law, Human Rights Clinic
Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
Vital Voices Global Partnership
West Pinellas National Organization for Women
Women & Justice Project
Women Enabled International
Women for Women International
Women of Color Network, Inc.
Women’s City Club of New York
Women’s March Global
Women’s Media Center
Women’s Refugee Commission
World Without Exploitation
Because I felt ashamed of what happened and didn’t want to publicly ruin someone’s life, even though they privately ruined mine #WhyIDidntReport
Because i was 15 and he was 18. Because he was someone i trusted. Because i didn’t want to believe it had happened.
Because i was afraid.
Because people at my school made rape jokes.
Because i didn’t know where to go.
Because i was only a kid.
I was told by my school counselor that he was a ‘nice boy who maybe made a mistake’ & that I’d ruin his future if I told the police.
I was at a Christian College and drinking on campus celebrating my 21st birthday in a boys apartment after curfew. I thought if I reported him, I would lose my volleyball scholarship and be told “that is what you get for breaking rules”
#WhyIDidntReport For fear of hurting other people I love. After almost 50 years, I told one person yesterday. Through swollen eyes and exhaustion, today doing everything I can to change representatives.
When I called the police the first question was “Have you been drinking?” Followed by “What were you wearing?” I hung up. #WhyIDidntReport
I did. And i was treated like a time waster at best, liar at worst
#WhyIDidntReport I did. And when my mother found out that I went to the police, she told me that I had ruined a man’s life for no reason.
Guess what? I DID REPORT, as a student. To @Yale. Not rape, but a sex crime – definitely a misdemeanor/carried a prison term. I was discouraged from taking it to police. I was told it would ruin this guy’s life. He’s a banker now. And that’s why we go: #WhyIDidntReport
I was 16.
I lied about where I was that night.
I was drinking underage.
I had had sex before.
A defense attorney would try to make me look like a lying promiscuous teen w/ no regard for the law or my parents.
#WhyIDidntReport I was his children’s nanny. I had no where else to live. I was afraid I wouldn’t be believed. He was rich, I was poor. I was scared.
because I didn’t want to admit to myself what actually happened, because I didn’t want my friends and family to look at me differently, because I didn’t want to be another statistic or asked degrading questions by the police
I didn’t feel like my pain mattered. Didn’t feel good enough about myself to think it was important.
Because I’m still afraid
Because I didn’t want to ruin his reputation. Because I didn’t want to cause any drama.
Because that’s how guys are.
because he begged me not to
because “he could lose his job”
he was a coworker and I didn’t want him to get fired because of me.
Because he was my boyfriend.
Because I was drunk.
Because he was a friend.
Because I invited him over.
Because he was in my room.
Because I fell asleep and left myself vulnerable.
Because who would I tell that would see it as assault?
I was told I was to emotionally weak to be out on the stand in court.
because i was scared to be let down by the justice system.
I’m still too scared to post it on Twitter. You think my 15yo self could go to the police?