Victims of trauma sometimes remember events

Bailey Kirkeby, News Editor

Examining Blasey-Ford’s accusation for inconsistencies does not make me “pro-rape” or “anti-woman”

As an ardent fan of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” and firm advocate for women’s rights, I am inclined to believe women who claim to have been sexually assaulted. However, every once in a while, there is a “Law and Order” episode in which the accuser is, in fact, lying — the same goes for real life.

Unlike a sizable portion of the United States, I do not think we should assume that Christine Blasey Ford is telling the truth about being sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh. Obviously, sexual assault is a gruesome reality that a number of innocent men and women have to deal with every day. However, taking a moment to analyze claims of sexual assault against a controversial Supreme Court Justice nominee — claims that arose a mere 11 days after the accussee’s nomination — does not invalidate the millions that have to endure this troubling reality, and it does not make me pro-rapist or anti-woman.

When we assume the validity of sexual assault claims, specifically Christine Blasey Ford’s claims against Brett Kavanaugh, we fail to look for the possible inconsistencies in one’s story and potentially harm the reputation of an innocent individual; as we get caught up in hoisting Ford as a poster child for the fight against sexual assault, we fail to look for the truth.

However, I am not claiming that Ford is lying — but I am not claiming she is telling the truth. As stated by psychological trauma expert Jim Hopper in the Scientific American article “How Reliable Are the Memories of Sexual Assault Victims?” incomplete or foggy memories of sexual assault are understandable.

“[J]ust because we… believe some aspect of an event would or should be a central detail, that does not mean it was a central detail for the survivor’s brain at the time,” Hopper said. “[A]t that point, they were focused on the perpetrator’s cold eyes or traffic sounds on the street below. That tells us nothing about the reliability of the details they do recall, and nothing about their credibility.”

Similarly, as exhibited in the #WhyIDidntReport hashtag movement on Twitter, there are a plethora of reasons survivors of sexual assault do not speak out about their experiences, such as the disheartening victim blaming that often occurs when victims do come forward and, unfortunately, self-blame.

Although scientific research shows that reports of rape are often murky, the lack of details Ford recalls is not the issue; rather, her memory of what occurred changes depending on what is most convenient for her narrative. According to her therapist’s notes, Ford claimed she was assaulted in the mid-1980s while she was in her late teens. However, after evidence was presented showing that Kavanaugh was attending Yale by that time, Ford altered her attack to the summer of 1982 when she was 15.

This is just one of the many alterations Ford has made to her story. Conflicting accounts of the number of individuals at the party, differing descriptions of the party house’s floor plan, and wavering reports of the location of the party are all important adjustments that must be considered when taking a stance on this matter — especially since Ford modified her story only when evidence disputing her claims against Kavanaugh arose.

Despite the disparities in Ford’s story, I am unable to definitively conclude whether I think she is lying or not. As I have fanatically researched this case and unearthed new information, my opinion has shifted innumerable times. I want to believe Ford. Disclosing details of such a personal, abhorrent experience in the face of millions that are ready to send her and her family death threats is a gallant decision that I admire. But in true moderate fashion, I will not take a stance on this matter until there is a sufficient amount of evidence to convince me one way or the other.

We should believe victims. But we should not be so simple-minded that we do not examine the claims of such a heinous crime before making a conclusive decision about its validity.