Responding to the debate over allegations that Judge Brett Kavanaugh assaulted Dr. Christine Blasey Ford when they were both in high school, President Trump declared this to be a “very scary time for young men in America.” If this is a scary time for privileged men like now-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh, it is a terrifying time for women in South Carolina.
Recently, the Violence Policy Center released its annual report on homicides against women.
Once again, South Carolina ranked in the top 10 states of women murdered by men. In 2016, 48 females were killed by males in South Carolina. That’s 45 adult women and three girls murdered. Almost all of them were killed by someone they knew. Where is our elected officials’ anger about these lives lost?
Rather than seeking solutions to end violence against women and girls in their home state, our elected leaders are ignoring, demeaning, or dismissing the voices of survivors. Following Dr. Ford’s harrowing testimony of her experience of sexual assault, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham chose to direct his vitriol toward his political opponents and his empathy at Judge Kavanaugh, stating he “can’t imagine how awful this entire process has been for [him] and his family.” And after weeks of silence, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, while conceding that it was “not an easy decision,” declared his support for Judge Kavanaugh. President Trump went so far as to ridicule Dr. Ford during a political rally in Mississippi.
What are the women of South Carolina supposed to think when their elected leaders ignore, demean, or dismiss the stories of survivors of violence? No matter how horrifying the statistics and the stories are, they do not seem to matter to these legislators, especially when they are politically inconvenient.
We must ask ourselves why some stories are given the benefit of the doubt, and others, even with corroborating evidence, are not. As brave women like Professor Anita Hill, Dr. Ford, and scores of #MeToo and #WhyIDidntReport participants share their experiences, we must begin by believing their stories. These women have nothing to gain and risk their and their families’ personal safety in coming forward.
Why, as a society, are we so hesitant to believe them? Do the lives of women just not count for all that much?
Partisanship was used as an excuse to dismiss Kavanuagh’s accusers. But domestic violence and sexual assault are not partisan issues.
They affect women, men, and gender non-conforming people of all ages and walks of life.
When we refuse to take seriously the humanity and dignity of survivors, we make it that much harder for others to come forward and seek justice, and we fail to commit to lasting solutions to the epidemic of violence in our communities.
Women are watching how our elected officials are responding — and they do not like what they see. When our leaders prioritize their politics over our common humanity, we all lose.
Now that’s truly scary.
Ann Warner is chief executive officer of the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network in Columbia.