On Sunday evening, The New Yorker published its report announcing that another woman has come forward with allegations about the long-ago sexual conduct of Brett Kavanaugh. Deborah Ramirez, Kavanaugh’s classmate at Yale, told Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee via a lawyer—and, then, the magazine’s Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow—that during the 1983–84 school year, at a party in a campus dorm, Kavanaugh, encouraged by other students, had undone his pants and exposed himself to her, thrusting his penis in her face. Ramirez—raised a devout Catholic, “I wasn’t going to touch a penis until I was married”—inadvertently made contact, she said, as she tried to push him away. As it all took place, she recalled, the other students laughed.
“The offices of at least four Democratic senators have received information about the allegation,” Mayer and Farrow write, “and at least two have begun investigating it. Senior Republican staffers also learned of the allegation last week and, in conversations with The New Yorker, expressed concern about its potential impact on Kavanaugh’s nomination. Soon after, Senate Republicans issued renewed calls to accelerate the timing of a committee vote.”
It is a striking line that, in a story full of striking lines, bears repeating: Senate Republicans, in response to a new claim of impropriety made about a man who is seeking a judicial appointment that will last a lifetime, expressed concern about the claim’s impact on Kavanaugh’s nomination … and issued renewed calls to accelerate the timing of a committee vote. Among those with the power to decide the direction of Kavanaugh’s nomination, the reaction to another claim of sexual violence was, according to The New Yorker, not to investigate it, but rather to plow right through it. To prioritize the haste over the truth.
The White House’s plans for Kavanaugh? ‘Plow ahead’
On Thursday, President Donald Trump, forgoing his earlier polite silence on the matter, asked the question that many asked last week in response to Ford’s allegations: Why didn’t someone, the president asked before a rally, “call the FBI 36 years ago?” On Friday morning, evidently pleased with the talking point, the president reiterated the question in a tweet: “I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says,” he wrote, “charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents.”
In response to this—and in response to a broader sense, among many in the American public, that those in power are willfully misunderstanding the way sexual abuse interacts with the tickings of clocks and the stretchings of time—a hashtag sprang up: #WhyIDidntReport. The poignant and often wrenching cascade of stories, summoned forth from the negative spaces of #MeToo, are not merely shared memories. They are also explanations of the time delay that so often characterizes discussions of sexual violence: reminders of why so many victims choose not to come forward, just after the violence or in its long aftermath. Why so many don’t report that violence to authorities. Why so many decline to talk about it all. Why there are so many people who walk the world bearing tragic truths they have determined—with so much evidence on their side—that the world is not ready to hear.