Since the #MeToo campaign, women all over the world have either taken to social media platforms or the court to reveal their stories in hopes of justice. Though no narrative can be deemed insignificant in lieu of another, some cases have had a more prominent and lingering impact as opposed to others. In a sense these cases become the cornerstone of a global movement against sexual harassment.
Last year, in Pakistan, a sexual harassment case made the headlines when Meesha Shafi accused Ali Zafar of harassment. Their predicament has been discussed in and out of court but in vain. From domestic life to the entertainment industry to politics, it has been the start of the movement in 2006 that the all-encompassing impact and the deep embedding of the cause have surfaced.
You might have seen a lot of ruckus around the Brett Kavanaugh case
Considering recent events, Brett Kavanaugh, a Yale graduate, a husband, a father of two, an American attorney, a jurist, and a nominee to be an associate justice in the Supreme Court was caught under fire. After being nominated by Donald Trump for the esteemed position, his character and past life were put into question by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. The 51-year-old professor of psychology and research psychologist at Stanford came forward with a disturbing and chilling narrative of Kavanaugh sexually assaulting her at age 15.
Dr. Ford talks about a party she attended as a high school student and being forced into a bedroom by Kavanaugh and his friend. Her testimony appears as a painful recollection that has impacted her in her personal and marital life to an extent that has damaged her personality indefinitely.
On the other hand, Kavanaugh is seen in tears as he speaks of his daughter and the influence and long-term impact Dr. Ford’s statement has had on his life. However, during his interrogation with Mr. Whitehouse, Kavanaugh is seen answering every question in a vague manner. When asked if he had enough to drink to lose consciousness, Kavanaugh failed to give a straight answer and changed the subject and asked the judge what she likes to drink instead.
2 Professors and 2 Judges – Déjà vu
This issue reeks of a similar concern that came up in 1991 when Yale School graduate and attorney, Anita Hill accused Judge Clarence Thomas of inappropriate conduct. Hill was faced with an all-male panel to whom she had to justify her allegations. The approach taken to her testimony was largely sexist and her accusations were constantly deemed “not inappropriate” or “not so bad.” She was also questioned why the matter was being brought forward especially considering that is was not “Rape” and just harassment.
More so, both Dr. Ford and Hill have been constantly pestered why their testimony was so delayed and why they didn’t come forward “sooner.”
Both the professors claimed to have been driven by their civic duty and to ensure the safety of others while creating space for other women to come forward and even run for office. The two women have been made to face an all-male panel of judges. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina even encouraged Kavanaugh that he has “nothing to apologize for.”
Kavanaugh has encouraged the FBI to investigate the matter deeply and come up with a tangible response to the accusations being made.
Kavanaugh’s statement seemed both staged and dramatic for impact. He is seen fighting back tears when talking about his father and his daughter. Danielle Campoamor, a writer, and editor based in New-York wrote:
Ford “was calm in a way every sexual assault victim is asked to be, lest they be written off as ‘unhinged’ and ’emotional’ and, as a result, no longer credible,” Campoamor said. “Kavanaugh, by contrast, was unapologetically angry. … He embodied the anger so many sexual assault victims fear; the anger that keeps so many of us from coming forward.”
Several things have been left up in the air as the FBI claims responsibility of the case and investigates it further. However, the court noticed several inappropriate references to Kavanaugh’s character even when his yearbook was investigated in detail. On Friday, the 28th, 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats were required to put in their votes for or against Kavanaugh. The Democrats claimed that the way Republicans wish to handle sexual assault victims is to “ignore” them. To voice their disarray with the way the entire episode was handled, several Democrats, led by Kamala Harris, walked out of the Court.
President Donald Trump also dismissed the allegations against Kavanaugh, calling them a con job.
However, since Ford’s testimony, Julie Swetnick has become the third woman following Ford and Deborah Ramirez to testify against Kavanaugh as a sexual predator.
Why Does It need to be Talked About?
Matters like these spark debate on a global scale. On one hand, women have commended Dr. Ford’s bravery of putting her safety into question under the realization of her civic duty, others have called her story flawed as well. One can presume that it is individuals who have either never experienced inappropriate behavior at the hands of the opposite sex or lack all empathy. They have put forward questions like why Dr. Ford never came forward with her story sooner. Similarly, Anita Hill was questioned why she didn’t resign working for Clarence Thomas when he made continuously making her uncomfortable.
Though several, without critical thought and empathy, will claim above questions as “valid”, it is often mind-boggling why men aren’t ever interrogated with the same approach. Where Dr. Ford was repeatedly asked how she got to the party, Kavanaugh was not. Anita Hill was questioned why her job superseded her discomfort, Judge Thomas was not. If such a serious claim to harassment is made the least authorities and the public can do is not belittle the reported victims.
Similarly, Meesha Shafi has been questioned for voluntarily visiting Ali Zafar’s house post his approaches to make her uncomfortable. The woman recently raped by the domestic help in Islamabad was also scrutinized by the public as to why she was in the same vicinity as a ‘na-mehram’
All the above insinuate a single notion; the woman is in control of her circumstances, therefore, events leading up to rape or sexual assault are always enabled by them.
Women also have hard life choices to make that require them to continue working despite their circumstances. It is these choices towards survival that shun their testimonies and force them to stay quiet for years.
If our desire as a global voice is to enable women undergoing such traumatic incidents to come forward as soon as they happen then we need to change our response as well. The victims need to stop being blamed for “enabling” their predators through their clothes or demeanor. Though there are stark differences between the #metoo movement of the West and the East, the treatment of victims tends to be the same. They are blamed and held more accountable as opposed to the perpetrator. If any victim ever finds the courage to come forward, they are questioned for their motives and the delay in the reporting is always questioned further silencing all those who experience the same fate.
Senator Kamala Harris, while speaking to Dr. Ford, set a precedence to how assault survivors must be treated.
Sexual assault is not a joke. Any individual coming forward with their narrative is not looking for sympathy or empathy. They do not require a pat on their back and this is certainly not the most ideal way of getting “public disclosure.” Sexual assault victims come forward for justice and to create the space for other victims struggling alone. As a community both local and global, it is our civic duty, to for the very least, acknowledge their narrative and encourage them.