In an article for National Review, radio personality and YouTube “university” namesake Dennis Prager is quick to ruin his credibility as someone with a “moral compass” by opening with this line:
It is almost impossible to overstate the damage done to America’s moral compass by taking the charges leveled against Judge Brett Kavanaugh seriously.
Yes, it’s absolutely damaging to America’s moral compass to take rape accusations seriously… I suppose given how we live in a country founded on slavery and genocide, Prager’s idea of American morality is pretty consistent, but that’s clearly not what he was thinking.
Those who claim that the charges against Judge Kavanaugh by Christine Blasey Ford are important and worth investigating and that they ultimately, if believed, invalidate his candidacy for the U.S. Supreme Court are stating that:
a) What a middle-age adult did in high school is all we need to need to know to evaluate an individual’s character — even when his entire adult life has been impeccable.
b) No matter how good and moral a life one has led for ten, 20, 30, 40, or even 50 years, it is nullified by a sin committed as teenager.
Prager isn’t an evangelical — in fact, he’s Jewish — but his beliefs and values strongly align him with the Christian Right, and this article is being widely shared in evangelical circles. It’s actually surprising that evangelicals, in particular, have been drawn to this line of reasoning, given that they believe all of mankind is defined by the actions of two people who supposedly lived thousands of years ago, a belief they call “Original Sin.”
Why, then, is it outrageous to point out a grievous crime someone may have committed in his youth, especially if there’s no indication he ever sincerely repented of it? There may be a statute of limitations on rape, but there is no statute of limitations on justice. A potential Supreme Court justice of all people should be demanding a thorough investigation, if for no other reason than to exonerate him.
Nearly every woman past puberty has experienced a man trying to grope her. (This is, needless to say, wrong.) My mother was groped by a physician. She told my father about it. My father told the physician that if he were to do it again, he would break his hands. And it remained a family folk tale. If you had told my mother she was a “survivor,” she would have wondered what you were talking about. The term was reserved for people who survived Nazi concentration camps and Japanese prisoner-of-war camps and for cancer survivors, not women groped by a man.
When Prager says “Nearly every woman,” he has no idea just how close he is to the truth — rape culture is, to put it mildly, a big deal. Anecdotes are everywhere. Exact numbers are hard to come by since it’s not exactly a topic people want to discuss with strangers, but the CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found in 2010 that “Nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped in their lifetime.” Prager’s diatribe here only solidifies the reasons why, for many women, it’s easier to stay silent than report: because they won’t be believed. Because they will be called “weak” for insisting that their bodies are their own and are not to be touched or groped without consent. (How dare they!)
If Prager’s mother doesn’t have any long-term trauma from being groped, well, good for her. But her experience doesn’t speak for everyone. If anything, that little anecdote shows the progress we’ve made — not a lot, but still some — toward taking assault allegations more seriously.
It’s also worth pointing out that while Prager’s mother didn’t go public about what her physician did, that might change if he were nominated to a top governmental post where he could dictate medical policy for the nation. Someone who’s taking advantage of his patients doesn’t deserve a privilege like that. And if Kavanaugh did what Dr. Ford claims, he doesn’t deserve to be the deciding vote when it comes to law involving women’s bodies.
In sum, I am not interested in whether Mrs. Ford, an anti-Trump activist, is telling the truth. Because even if true, what happened to her was clearly wrong, but it tells us nothing about Brett Kavanaugh since the age of 17. But for the record, I don’t believe her story. Aside from too many missing details — most women remember virtually everything about the circumstances of a sexual assault no matter how long ago — few men do what she charges Kavanaugh with having done only one time. And no other woman has ever charged him with any sexual misconduct.
“Anti-Trump activist”? She gave less than $100 to “Democratic committees and campaigns” over the course of the past four years.
And Prager just glosses over his alleged assault with a dismissive tone that suggests high school boys should be allowed to get away with any crime they want as long as they behave well afterwards. The question isn’t whether Kavanaugh should be put in prison. It’s whether he deserves a spot on the Supreme Court. Someone who treats women the way Ford claims does not, regardless of when it happened.
Maybe Prager can enlighten us all by telling us the age at which an attempted rape should no longer be held against someone with an otherwise clean record.
Not remembering every single detail is to be expected when the assault took place decades ago. The brain will sometimes shut down as a means to protect itself, which can cause survivors (yes, I am using the term “survivor”) to forget some details. That doesn’t make them liars.
With men like Prager around to discredit them, it’s not surprising that women often don’t go public with similar claims, but hundreds of women from Kavanaugh’s high school have voiced their support of his accuser, which is no small thing.
There’s a common denominator when it comes to politicians who have been accused of assault: They all support policies that hurt women, in some form or another. We don’t need another person like that on the Supreme Court. At the very least, Republicans should be eagerly supporting an investigation into the matter so that Kavanaugh’s nomination can go through without an asterisk next to his name.
Perhaps Prager should take a cue from Creationist Ken Ham and ask himself, “Were you there?” He wasn’t. So for all his misogynistic posturing, he can’t say with absolute certainty that Dr. Ford is lying. And neither can we. All the more reason for an investigation to take place.