Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Widely Misunderstood

It's not only George Stephanopoulos who believes this widely-held myth. Superficially, it makes sense, but it is very, very wrong.

Deborah Ramirez, who attended Yale University with Brett Kavanaugh during the 1983-84 academic year, has claimed that Kavanaugh thrust an exposed penis at her during a party of heavy drinking at Yale University.during the 1983-84 academic year.

Kavanaugh's roommate in that fall semester, James Roche, was not at the party but often talked to Kavanaugh when the latter returned at night after being out with friends.  He argues "it is from this experience that I concluded that although Brett was normally reserved, he was a notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time, and that he became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk." He concludes "I cannot imagine (Ramirez) making this up."

Except in the case of federal judges and (perhaps) other high-ranking federal officials, this is what is commonly referred to as an "angry drunk." On ABC's Good Morning America (video below) Monday, Ronan Farrow, one of the two investigative journalists who broke the Ramirez story, stated

And I think the fact that she took several days to consider and really carefully consider that she had an evidentiary basis for this and that other people were backing her account who had heard a the time and been told, speaks well of her level of caution. This is not the behavior of someone who is fabricating.

A legitimately skeptical Stephanopoulos, reflecting a common misunderstanding, responded

Let me press you on that because that sentence really did jump out at me when I read the article. You say at first she wasn't sure this was Kavanaugh when you first came to her last week and then you
 write "after six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting her attorney, she did become confident that it was him. You know a lot of people would say...

Explaining a plain truth about cases of sexual assault and attempted sexual assault (and other offenses), Ronan stated

And because I would say that it's extremely typical of those stories when you're dealing with trauma, alcohol, many years in between. I think that the more cautious witnesses I've dealt with in cases like this very frequently say "I want to take time to decide, I want to talk to other people involved, I want to search myself, I want to make sure that I affirmatively stand by these claims" in the face of what she knew would be a crucible of partisan push back, which is what she's receiving now.

As Farrow noted, this is especially common in cases involving trauma. It is even more so in matters involving sexual misbehavior because in most societies, ours included, women are virtually trained to believe they're at least partially at fault.

I want to search myself. In real time, a victim often believes that he or she should not speak up, maybe make a fuss, because it might greatly inconvenience himself or cause unneeded harm to the perpetrator. The victim may not want to cause distress to the guilty party because the incident might not have been very serious, or he may just want to get on with his life.

People, men and women, lie. They lie especially when the incident occurs because they're bitter, have an ax to grind, or want to gain advantage by making an accusation. By contrast, if the victim speaks out months or years later, emotions usually have faded and there rarely is an advantage to the individual who is aggrieved, nor to the offender.

When women such as Dr. Ford and Ms. Ramirez reveal months afterward that they have been victimized by incidents of a sexual nature, they are performing a service little noticed or understood by the public, including most journalists, Stephanopoulos in this incident.  "When you're dealing with trauma," Farrow understands, but it's typical even in cases where trauma is not experienced.

As more women speak out, the voices of those who take time, talk to other people involved, and search themselves will not be summarily dismissed. Theirs may be the voice of conscience or of perspective, or of the wisdom that "hindsight is 20/20."

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