Millions of Americans watched as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford gave testimony in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing regarding the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Dr. Ford provided testimony of the attempted sexual assault allegedly attempted by a high school student — Brett Kavanaugh — in suburban Maryland 35 years ago.
While most take sides on the belief of her allegations based on presented evidence (or lack thereof), I’m certain a consensus is that Dr. Ford experienced a sexual horror perpetrated by someone at some time that changed her life forever — initiated if not by Kavanaugh, by someone else.
Sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, Domestic abuse, intimidation or any other oppressive sexual act even just attempted against anyone — child or adult — almost always totally or in part destroys a person’s life. And these abusive occurrences have been and still are sewn deep into the cloth that constitutes the fabric of our country.
It absolutely is one of the greatest tragedies in U.S. history. Women and children are the principal targets of sexual and abusive predators and have been for centuries. Many in our nation together created — and have perpetuated a climate — at best unfriendly, at worst antagonistic — towards those who wish to come forward with the stories of their abuses and attacks.
It is inhumane for such things to be experienced by the most vulnerable among us. But it is incomprehensible that Americans have allowed that climate of secrecy — the secrecy that has allowed and maintained continued existence — is one of the greatest scourges of this generation. IT MUST BE STOPPED!
Let’s begin by looking at a segment from a post first published here November 20, 2017:
“How Can Sexual and Domestic abuse be Stopped?
It MUST be stopped. No doubt there is no easy answer, but we must find one. Here are my thoughts:
This “environment” that has actually fostered these acts and their proliferation in numbers throughout all of America was created by Americans. And the acceptance of it as simply a part of life in the USA has become almost universal. In doing so, thousands if not millions of young men and women have been at least direly and permanently impacted by their abuses, and some scarred irreparably for life. Just as is the case with our children and even adults in our lives, recognizing there IS a real problem does not fix the problem. But seeing the problem as a problem is necessary to allow change. But it’s just a start.
For any changes to be created and implemented, the mental and emotional state of the Nation that even allows sexual and domestic abuse must be obliterated. That is a tall order. At least an entire generation riddled with this unacceptable behavior must make a 180-degree change. Personally, I think that is unlikely. So what’s an alternative?
We did not get here quickly. It has taken generations of compromise, benign acceptance — both in a vacuum of ignoring these practices — to get us to this moment in history. We cannot get it right overnight. And there will be a price to pay.
Fortunately, in this electronic, hi-tech world of satellite and internet instantaneous information worldwide distribution, we now have a tool that can make time fly. With the right leadership and developed plan combined with a mass American will to rid our world of sexual and domestic abuses of every kind, we can certainly see it happen during the next decade.”
Who can make it go away? It will take a partnership: a really large and encompassing number of people who are committed to find and achieve a solution. But any successful solution MUST be built on a foundation that is sound, far-reaching, and unavoidable by perpetrators. That foundation must be fundamentally based on law: Congress must act!
Here are the elements that must be included in any laws implemented by Congress and the President:
- Law Enforcement Infrastructure. Laws are never effective when enforcement resources necessary for the success of their implementation are not made available. Those resources cost. But just like anything else in our lives, “You get what you pay for.” This administration must be totally committed financially to whatever processes and applicable laws are created. That will include federal law enforcement operations which cooperate with state and local law enforcement agencies. Human resources must be comprised of thoroughly vetted and qualified people to fill each identified and created position. Budgets must include the cost of outside necessary expert inclusion from the Mental Health community. This should NOT be another federal bureaucracy, but needs to be autonomous in its investigatory processes, but must be supervised by the Department of Justice. Members of the entity for this operation must be accountable in every way — and not just for funding — to the U.S. Congress.
- Operational Laws. Laws for authorization and operation in this system must be carefully crafted in conjunction with Congressional identified experts who deal with sexual and domestic abuse all the time. Laws must be significant with severe penalties for those who violate them. Laws need to create a process whereby those who are violated by perpetrators have instant access to legal recourse with total confidentiality while investigations are performed, perpetrators are indicted by grand juries, and during trials to their conclusions.
- Legal Representation. Built into these federal laws should be the creation of an environment in which victims have a freedom to report abuse directly to law enforcement without intrusion by attorneys who “shop” for sexual and domestic abuse clients. Fear of litigation and the significant costs of litigation in these cases need to be minimized as much as possible. Lawyers who troll for abuse clients need to be dissuaded from “shopping for dollars.” Punitive damages should be disallowed in abuse litigation. Damages need to be for actual damages only. Why? Americans will be much better served by including an environment of fairness so that all parties understand it’s not about making anyone rich, but about giving every wronged person recourse against those who attack them. It’s not just about making attorneys a lot of money.
- Protection. There MUST be a method to stop the political tsunami of politization that is driving much of the current “enlightenment” in sexual and domestic abuse. Example: in the current Kavanaugh investigation, there is NO presumption of innocence for the accused and DEMANDS for all to take the word of accusers at face value. Those who make these demands demonize all who ask for and expect the American fundamental of “innocent until proven guilty” to be applied. There is no doubt the trauma of actual abuse most often keeps victims from stepping forward for fear of disbelief, rejection, shame, and retribution for doing so. Those elements of reporting abuse must be removed!
- A two-way Street. As horrible to victims abuse always is, so it is for the accused in the cases in which their innocence until proven guilty is absent. Regardless of the outcome of the 7th Kavanaugh FBI investigation, his personal and professional life if not ruined, will never be the same. If he committed any of these travesties, he SHOULD lose the vestiges of jurisprudence that he maintains now. But if he is NOT proven guilty, how can he ever recover his integrity, professional and self-esteem, and the trust of many that he has garnered through years of working with him in professional and personal capacities? The answer to that is simple: it almost always is lost forever. No person who is innocent deserves that. For the “Protection” details listed above and the consideration of innocence as the default until guilt is proven, there MUST be an environment that maintains that innocence until guilt is confirmed. How do we do that? Such a process must be devised, implemented and maintained to protect ALL the innocents while assuring the guilty will be identified and prosecuted.
- Prosecution. Sadly today in the criminal justice system, far too many who are guilty of of even serious crimes are not prosecuted orand sentenced appropriately. Why? There are far too many criminals who when convicted escape full sentences because of crowded jails and prisons. I could detail personal examples I have witnessed throughout my life in which too harsh sentences are handed down to some while in others, perpetrators either walk free after sentencing, sometimes sentenced to only to “timed served” while others have the book thrown at them for political or personal reasons. Punishment MUST be severe. Sentences MUST be served.
The linchpins in this process are Congress and Congressional action. The answer to the question “Why has the government not done anything to stop this?” has never been given. And, quite honestly, at this point asking and answering that question is worthless. CONGRESS NEEDS TO ACT!
The House and Senate together need to craft, pass, and send those bills to the White House for presidential signature that will do just that. These laws, besides addressing the assault perpetrators and stopping their criminal actions, need to protect those wrongly accused. Within the laws that are written, responsibility for truth underpinned by facts in evidence must be included.
“That will discourage victims from coming forward,” many will say. Think about this: if when this process is created and implemented, it is publicized in every way possible to the American public, and the built-in protections against abuse by accusers AND perpetrators are well understood by all, the process will ultimately prevent abuse.
- Confidentiality must be a legal requirement in the system to protect the innocent;
- Use of the process and those who are caught up in it must be off-limits to the political system. Use in any way of any part of this process in campaigning must carry significant criminal penalties. Politicians who abuse this system must be punished for doing so.
- Statutes must clearly detail rights and obligations of accused and accusers and must limit the all-too aggressive methods used by attorneys to attract clients. Penalties must be clearly detailed;
- Stiff penalties for those who are found to be untruthful (as defined by law) in these cases must be included;
- Members of the Media must NOT be allowed in any way to have access to any information about any details of these cases (including the very existence of cases) before and during an investigation and when prosecutions are occurring. There MUST be serious PERSONAL criminal sentences for every media member, entity, or even non-media “leaker” for breach of confidentiality. Those innocent must at all costs be protected, and every precaution must be taken.
Unfortunately, in whatever the final process looks like, there will be casualties. Not every victim will receive immediate results of coming forward — at least in the beginning. How so?
We are caught in a catch-22. We have no way of knowing how many and who have already been victimized by sexual and domestic wrongdoing at the hands of others. While the process of ridding the nation of all the elements of this, some of these people will necessarily become sacrificial lambs. IF as we do in criminal law, we adopt for these cases “innocent until proven guilty,” those that have already been abused — without hard proof of the abuses — will likely not see a good conclusion for some of their stories. And some of their abusers without proof of their wrongdoing will walk free. I see no other way to quickly change a socially embedded process that for so long has been a scourge to our nation. It’s a process, it will be hard, and it will take time. It must be soon, it must be thorough, it must be fair, but it MUST be done.