In the past 16 months, we’ve all had to come to terms with the ugly truth about violence, consent, and power. When are victims and survivors allowed to speak, and when are we allowed to believe them? When do actions have consequences, and who ultimately pays such consequences?
I’m mad as hell, and I’m wondering when we won’t take it any more.
From #TimesUp to “Ugh, not now”, another look at Kavanaugh’s confirmation (and the victims who were sidelined)
The confirmation process for Brett Kavanaugh’s ascent to the U.S. Supreme Court was nearing its conclusion as the #MeToo movement was wrapping up its first year in operation. This was the time, this was the moment, this was the chance for Congress to prove they learned lessons from their handling of sexual misconduct allegations against now Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991.
That didn’t happen. Rather, the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate allowed a few more days for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford to testify at a hearing, and for the FBI to reopen their background check on Kavanaugh, before resuming their rush to confirm him. Republican leaders declared victory in cementing a right-wing majority on the court while some Democratic insiders fretted over how vulnerable Senators’ Kavanaugh votes would affect their prospects for reelection.
Often lost in the political gamesmanship were the actual victims and survivors, survivors like Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez. As Republicans celebrated their SCOTUS victory and Democrats ultimately celebrated their midterm election victories, the whole Kavanaugh affair was quickly relegated to the footnotes of future U.S. history books.
I asked before, and I must ask again: When will we finally declare #TimesUp on abuse?
Statement of Dr. Vanessa Tyson, who has accused Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault in 2004:
“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault.” pic.twitter.com/UI9Gz11DWj
— Sarah McCammon 🎧📻 (@sarahmccammon) February 6, 2019
In the last week, Americans have been reminded of last fall’s Kavanaugh situation thanks to a trio of scandals embroiling Virginia’s three top constitutional officers. More specifically, the emergence of an sexual assault allegation against Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax (D) has renewed the nationwide conversation over #MeToo thanks to Governor Ralph Northam’s (D) own racially controversial past actions. Not only are the same law firms involved in last year’s fight getting involved in this one, but a man in power is once again being confronted by a woman who seems to have nothing to gain and everything to lose by going public and speaking her truth.
Late yesterday, Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Virginia) was the first prominent Virginia Democrat to offer support for Dr. Vanessa Tyson. But until Wexton stepped up, Virginia and national party leaders stepped back and shut up. Will we once again see a situation where party loyalty and petty politics trump real morals and sound values (pun intended?)?
I believe Dr. Vanessa Tyson.
— Rep. Jennifer Wexton (@RepWexton) February 6, 2019
Before we point and sneer over what’s going down in Virginia, let’s remember what’s been going down right here in Nevada. Ruben Kihuen has faced multiple allegations of sexual harassment, and Dave Marlon is facing a serious allegation of domestic violence, yet both men are running for Las Vegas City Council while their accusers are the ones whose reputations are under attack. Nevada gaming regulators and Wynn Resorts ignored multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Steve Wynn for over a decade until the Wall Street Journal published the findings of its investigation in January 2018, and executives at the Las Vegas Review-Journal kept readers in the dark regarding its own harassment and discrimination problems until a former R-J reporter exposed the truth in January 2019. And as 2020 presidential caucus season begins, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) continues to face blowback from Democrats near and far for demanding accountability following revelation of sexual harassment and assault allegations against then Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota).
Just last month, I was asking this question as the “Dirty John” TV series was wrapping up: Why do we still see so many victims feeling the consequences of the crimes perpetrated against them while perpetrators find ways to escape discipline? Even in cases where the accused wrongdoers lose some kind of power after victims come forward (such as Kihuen and Franken), they continue to bask in the glow of the public eye while the victims are shamed and shunned. With Virginia’s latest political scandals now taking center stage, and with various Nevada #MeToo scandals continuing to unfold, I’m still mad as hell and I’m still wondering when we finally won’t take it any more.