We have a saying in this country that is (supposed to be) upheld in every courtroom: innocent until proven guilty.
The presumption of innocence is one of the founding principles of the American justice system. It is one of the key differences between the American judiciary and the European justice system. It is touted in every grade-school American history book across the country.
As Americans, we understand that every person is granted access to due process, legal representation, and a fair trial when it comes to criminal proceedings.
Why, then, is it so difficult to understand the same principle when it applies to female survivors of sexual assault?
There are some scary statistics out there: according to Forbes, one in four girls and one in six boys have been sexually abused before they turn 18, and one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point during their lives. Think of the number of women you know.
Now think of that statistic again.
These past two years have seen the dawn of the #MeToo movement: women coming forward to share their traumatic experiences with sexual harassment and assault in all walks of life--and taking down predatory men in positions of power while doing so: Harvey Weinstein, Larry Nassar, Bill Cosby...the list goes on.
An objectively good thing, right?
You would think.
There are people--primarily men--who become unreasonably angry not only with the delayed reporting of crime, but with women for saying anything in the first place.
"They're too sensitive." "If it really bothered them, why did they wait so long to do anything about it?" "Boys will be boys!"
"Like if you can't handle some of the basic stuff that's become a problem in the workforce today, you should maybe go teach kindergarten." (Almost a direct quote from Donald Trump Jr., son of our dear president).
"He's only been accused, he's not definitely guilty."
The running theme of these objections?
That these women are being somehow dishonest or misleading.
Despite glaringly obvious evidence of violence against women and the likelihood of retaliation by powerful men in response to charges, citizens all across American can't seem to wrap their heads around the idea that true victims of assault might be traumatized enough to stay quiet about these incidents.
This past Thursday, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford--in an impressive display of poise and bravery--gave testimony that Supreme Court nominee and judge Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school party. This comes after being denied the request of an FBI investigation, I might add.
Dr. Ford maintains that her intentions in doing so were nothing more than her willingness to tell the truth, and in doing so revealing the true character of a man with the potential to assume one of America's most influential judicial positions.
In a display embarrassingly similar to the twitter and facebook rants of angry, white teenage boys in response to #MeToo posts, Republican senators--specifically Sen. Grassley--spent much of their designated air time questioning why Ford took so long to come forward, why she doesn't remember certain specifics from that night, etc., etc., etc.--after opening remarks summarizing the same vague defenses.
Is it really all that difficult to believe that a woman--a successful, intelligent woman--would willingly put her family and private home life at risk for the sake of truth and the greater good?
I for one don't think Kavanaugh's the only one who should get the benefit of the doubt.
Putting my own interpretation of the hearing aside, I have one simple question for American citizens: are you going to assume Dr. Ford's wrong before listening to a word she has to say?
I would like to think that as a true American, you would think twice.