The coverage this week of the circumstances surrounding the appointment (or not) of Judge Brian Kavanaugh as an American Supreme Court Justice has been never less than fascinating. The successful prosecution of a sexual assault said to have occurred decades ago seemed to be doomed to failure from the outset. The lack of evidence of ‘early complaint’ (of the offence having recently taken place) – considered a vital component of any such prosecution – was missing from the testament of his female accuser and almost begged for the complaint to be rejected. What reputation would have USA justice earned had he been disqualified on such flimsy ‘accusations’?
She and her Democrat friends, pushing for the truth, had already missed at least one other prime opportunity to make the circumstances known. It was never disputed that the ‘victim’ had known Kavanaugh since their High School days and the fact that he had already been appointed as a high profile judge would not have escaped her notice. Why did she at that time not disclose details of her ordeal via her friends in the Democrat Party in an attempt to block his initial appointment? His right-leaning politics would not have been a secret and he would have already been considered ‘an undesirable’ by them. Were they asleep at the wheel ? – hardly an advertisement for effective Government.
She also had the perfect opportunity to air her grievances at the outset of the # Metoo movement. Had she had no wish to support her sisters with explosive revelations guaranteed to make worldwide headlines – as we have seen? Her recent appearance reeked of brazen political opportunism and no one, surely, who had regard for the law of the land could have countenanced the effective conviction of someone of a sexual assault without a comprehensive investigation of the facts – if they were still available – presented before 12 good persons and true.
I must add that in my experience serious assaults on women can sometimes provoke unpredictable responses. It once fell to me to investigate an offence in which a slightly built young woman had over a weekend been held captive by her boyfriend (?) in a flat in Paddington. He initially stripped her, bound her hand and foot with gut from a squash racquet, taped her mouth with duck tape and beat her relentlessly with a Chelsea boot until she escaped and ran naked along the Edgware Road to the safety of her sisters flat. When I first met her 8 hours later she appeared to not have a square inch of skin that wasn’t plum-coloured from the assault.
With as much sympathy and diplomacy that I could muster – a pre-requisite – I asked her as is the practice; would she be prepared to provide a statement of the facts and prosecute the guy. Her affirmative response is unprintable here. Four weeks down the line and with strict bail conditions in place for him, she disappeared from her workplace and he had recently been seen in the vicinity. We quite quickly received an anonymous phone call to the effect that we could find her at an address in Milton Keynes. Upon our arrival we found them making love in the bathroom when I reminded her of the help she had promised. “I’m sorry Guv’nor – I just love him too much”. The case was dropped but he did something similar to her 9 months later and this time she kept her promise and he was jailed.
Another illustration of a different reaction was contained in the voiced-over experiences of a female Cambridge University student broadcast by Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on Thursday. “I was drunk but not horrendously so. I hooked up with a guy I didn’t know before that evening. He was a Cambridge student and we went back to his room and he raped me. It was violent so I was left quite injured afterward. The next day I went to A an E. I had quite severe injuries. At the time it was very difficult to process what had happened. In that situation, it’s difficult to step outside the circumstances and see what happened. The fact that I was so severely injured kind of convinced me that this wasn’t right. I was adamant from the start that I didn’t want to report it and the hospital staff were fairly frosty when I told them that. If you report it to any outside agency you’re sort of letting the situation get out of your control. I think it’s problematic to put the responsibility onto victims of sexual assault to report what happens because they’re not responsible for the offender’s actions and I think it places a real burden” (on the victim). I’m not sure what this teaches us about female reaction to rape and sexual assault but if the victim (a capable adult) doesn’t want to proceed and after a suitable time for reflection has elapsed, maybe their rejection of a judicial solution should be signed off by them and be legally binding, never to be resurrected. It would most likely help them to put the experience behind them and move on.
In this day and age what (still) underpins the doubt and uncertainty of such cases is the fact that those with a degree of power (not only politicians) must have their cake and eat it to the detriment of others, so they must never allow their accuser’s allegations to gain traction. They can do this by blackmailing their victim or take pre-emptive action such as our Parliamentary representatives have done by implementing a reporting system that ensures almost total secrecy. Faced with such a system, it cows the victim/would-be complainant into submission before they start. That such a system has been designed (by men?) and implemented in the Westminster estate only deepens the stench from the swamp. The bottom line is that effective laws designed to protect whistleblowers must be drafted and implemented without delay and the unique Parliamentary privileges for the protection of sexual predators in SW1 be removed. Let Peers and MPs – however unsavoury it might be to their sensitivities – take their chance with those who they serve.
*It’s interesting to note that films produced by Harvey Weinstein are still being shown on ITV at least: i.e. ‘Piranha’ on ITV 2 last night.