When nearly 600 graduates of Holton-Arms School wrote a letter last week, they meant to rally support for Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford. What they actually did was push a dangerous precedent that diminishes all women.
The graduation dates of the women who signed the letter ranged from 1962–2018, which means that many of them were not present when Blasey Ford attended from 1980–1984. And yet, not knowing Blasey Ford, they were ready to sign a letter affirming their shared belief that her story is true.
“We believe Dr. Blasey Ford and are grateful that she came forward to tell her story,” the letter reads, adding that the party scene Blasey Ford described “is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves.”
Kate Gold, a 2005 graduate who signed the letter, made it clear that knowing Blasey Ford was not even relevant to whether or not she should be believed. “A connection we all have is that in hearing her story, each and every one of us, resonated immediately,” Gold told Vox in an email. “As far as Dr. Ford’s specific allegations, it is inconsequential/irrelevant to us whether anyone has heard them before and in no way affects our belief that she is telling the truth.”
By signing a letter that tied the credibility of the accuser to feelings of solidarity and the possibility of a shared experience, these women pushed a dangerous narrative: that the standard for credibility is no longer rooted in trustworthiness or a reputation for telling the truth, but in whether or not one can empathize with the story being told.
Democratic strategist Symone Sanders took a similar tack on Sunday, telling CNN host Jake Tapper that for her, “there is no debate.” As Sanders explained, “I’m convinced, Jake, because — I tweeted about this the other day —when I was in college, I was intoxicated, and a man who[m] I had previously rebuffed his advances multiple times took advantage of the fact that I could not consent one night.”
What seems to be absent is women who know Blasey Ford — or knew her in high school — coming forward to talk about her character and integrity. They are coming to her defense because, as Hillary Clinton said during her presidential campaign, “Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed and supported.”
They’re not stopping to ask whether or not her story is credible — as long as her “experience” is.
As a woman raising four girls — ages 5 to 14 — this concerns me greatly. I am raising them to be kind and considerate, to tell the truth and to be the kind of people whom others can trust. This letter is telling them that the truth will always be secondary to the feelings of the people involved.
If Blasey Ford is to be believed, it should be because she has earned a reputation for truthfulness and she presents a credible story — not because the emotional reactions her words inspire are relatable. The women rallying behind her now appear to be making their judgment of her based on the latter.
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