Political expedience is no reason to ignore rape

This piece originally was published as an opinion column in the Enid News & Eagle on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018.

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Our national attention once again is captivated by the all-too-predictable pattern of hypocrisy and chicanery that surfaces when a woman makes an accusation against a powerful man in America.

First, let’s settle one point: The allegation brought by Christine Blasey Ford against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — that he attempted to rape her at a party in 1982 — is serious.

“Raging hormones,” “boys will be boys” and any other such reasoning of the male infallibility cult are not excuses for rape. Sexual assault is a serious offense that continues to victimize long after the perpetrator has moved on to other conquests.

Second, let’s dispel with the myth that women like Dr. Ford bring these allegations years later simply because they want the unique pleasure of being excoriated by powerful white men, unscrupulous propaganda mills and partisan hacks who would gladly overlook rape and assault for the good of the party.

According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), a Washington D.C.-based anti-sexual assault advocacy group, only 31 percent of rape cases ever are reported to police. Of reported rapes, only 3.5 percent are prosecuted, and less than 2 percent end in prison time for the rapist.

And when these women do come forward, they most often are shamed and blamed for their own rape. It should be no surprise, then, if some victims wait to speak publicly until they see their rapist being elevated to our nation’s highest offices.

The serious nature of this allegation makes the political gamesmanship in its handling — on both sides — that much more egregious.

I must be clear: I am not leveling this at Dr. Ford. My criticism is leveled squarely at the party leadership on both sides: at Democrats for manipulating the timing and stagecraft of Ford’s allegation; at Republicans for minimizing the importance of rape and attempting to suppress any meaningful investigation.

Dr. Ford revealed the offense to her therapist as far back as 2012, to a friend late last year and to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in late July. Feinstein didn’t provide the report to the FBI until Sept. 12, astutely timing its release for maximum political impact — but with a much-diminished chance to yield truth or justice.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has since set an arbitrary and unnecessary Monday deadline for Ford to testify, averting proper investigation and precluding the public testimony of any other relevant witnesses.

Feinstein’s gamesmanship can only be explained by a desire to weaponize Ford’s accusation for political gain, possibly at the expense of the truth. Grassley’s disingenuous refusal to pursue the truth can only be explained by fear of that truth, and the conviction that attempted rape is no reason to forego political expedience.

Perhaps the only person who could force a full and proper investigation of this allegation is President Trump, who has the sole power to order the FBI into action. Not surprisingly, the man who bragged about grabbing women by the genitals, paid off a porn star and who has faced sexual misconduct allegations by no fewer than 19 women, is reluctant to order an investigation of his own nominee.

It is likely Brett Kava­naugh will go to a vote in the Senate without this matter being properly vetted. That shouldn’t be surprising, as it’s not new, and not limited to either party.

When Anita Hill brought sexual harassment allegations against now-Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991, it was predictable that Republicans would shamelessly attack her character. Less predictable was the shameless political maneuvering of Joe Biden, who then chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee. Former congresswoman Pat Schroeder (D-Colo.) reported last year Biden told her he had to expedite the hearings because of a promise he’d made Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.) in the Senate gym.

Biden has since told the Washington Post he believed Hill was telling the truth about the sexual harassment.

Apparently, a promised political favor in the Senate gym outweighed that truth.

And, we must not forget Juanita Broaddrick — even if the #MeToo movement refuses to acknowledge her existence.

When Broaddrick came forward in 1999 with the allegation that Bill Clinton raped her in 1978, she had an arguably stronger case than Ford. Yet, Dianne Feinstein — yes, the same Dianne Feinstein — and other Senate Democrats were not interested in her allegation.

Protecting Clinton from conviction on impeachment charges was more important than ascertaining the truth of her allegation.

Political manipulation of sexual assault and rape allegations is not new. And it’s not unique to either party. But, none of that is an excuse to once again turn a blind eye to rape.

No one deserves to be a victim of rape. No one deserves to be falsely accused of rape. Rape should neither be weaponized nor ignored for political gain.

The only way to proceed properly, for the sake of the alleged victim, the accused and our republic, is to take the time to fully investigate Dr. Ford’s allegation. We have the time to do this correctly.

The only question is: Do we, as a republic, have the integrity to place truth and justice above political expedience?

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