Opinion |

Blaming the Victim, Admiring the Aggressor

In the wake of Ford's testimony, society is being forced to confront the vile way it treats women who come forward with accusations of sexual assault

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The storm sparked by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had attacked her sexually exposes one of the dark, ugly sides of society’s handling of sexual assaults. The hatred for complainants is like venom permeating most of society, even today.

It begins of course with chauvinists and woman-haters with no shame or conscience, like Donald Trump and his supporters, who, with remarkable precision, display a tendency to hate anyone who isn’t them and make every effort to subdue those who complain of sexual assault. It continues with good, harmless men who try to figure out the politics involved and attribute ulterior motives to the complainants. As if a political agenda, or a wad of cash, is enough of a reward for someone who is violently diminished from a person with qualities, functions and skills to a “complainant”; someone who for the rest of her life will have to deal with the stigma of being, in the best case, the girl who was thrown onto the bed or, in the worst case, as a liar, slut or witch.

The hatred for complainants ends, sadly, with women, the painful link in the chain. Blaming the victim and admiring the aggressor is women’s miserable shelter from an intolerable state of victimhood, and they turn this shelter into an ideology that seems to blunt the torture involved in life without dignity and real choice.

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The hatred for complainants is reflected in turning the victim into the guilty party or putting the complainant and aggressor in symmetrical positions (his word, her word), when in every case, including Kavanaugh and Ford’s, the victim has no personal motive to lie. Why should a woman cast herself into such a degrading and embarrassing situation in public, while the aggressor has such a motive and then some – his image as a respectable man in the corridors of power threatens to cave in on top of him, while his dark sadistic side is about to be revealed to his loved ones and admirers.

The hatred is reflected in picking on details that have nothing to do with the incident itself. (Why did she say she was afraid of flying, when she isn’t afraid of flying? Why did she say she didn’t prepare a friend for a polygraph test when she did?) This is intended not only to undermine the complainant’s credibility, but to dismiss the event itself, to reduce its ghastliness, turn it into a fib, or at the very least into an exaggeration.

The hatred comes to deny and conceal the crimes of oppression and violence toward women, crimes that lie heavy on the conscience of good men and women who have abandoned the weak women and failed to help them. The perpetrators never showed any interest in justice. But not so the moral collaborators, those who predicted such crimes and knew about them, sometimes even from their mothers, wives or daughters, but remained dumb from embarrassment or fear.

Hating the complainants not only cleanses the guilty conscience, it’s another symptom of the dread over women’s growing strength and the fear that expropriating men’s unlimited power over women – a power displayed from the dawn of human history in every possible walk of life – will give women real equality.

Equality begins with women demanding to be treated as human beings, with self-respect and feelings, that is, to have control over their bodies so that they don’t have to trade them for protection, a livelihood and popularity. It continues with women no longer afraid of being opinionated instead of merely graceful and submissive, even if some man doesn’t like it. Finally, who knows, it might come to a radical scenario, in which a woman dares to demand the same pay as a man, or to sit at the head of the board of directors’ table.

As in the abolition of slavery and other historic struggles, the feminist struggle is bloody, difficult and painful. It produces a backlash embodied by people like Trump and his henchmen. But even these harsh spectacles are testimony that the train has already left the station.