Senate Must Investigate Charges Before Voting
September 20, 2018
Statement of Kim Gandy, President and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence
Sexual assault is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. It is a human issue, and we are badly in need of some humanity at this moment.
We have made progress in many ways – with laws, protections, support and resources for survivors. But we have a long way to go with attitudes and assumptions.
Think about the survivors who are watching this process unfold. They are thinking “How will be I treated if I come forward?” Our daughters are watching and wondering: “Is this what will happen to me if I’m assaulted and tell someone?” Would it be any wonder if they didn’t come forward?
Countless survivors, and their families, friends and advocates, are watching the Senate, to see what kind of tone they will set, and so far it’s not a good one. Senators should be leading by example. And that means treating Dr. Ford with respect, and treating her charges as what they are – allegations of wrongdoing that deserve an actual investigation, not just a “hearing.”
I want to say something about how this came to light: All of us who work with survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence were appalled that the identity of Professor Ford was disclosed without her consent, and that those who protected her confidentiality were criticized. Senator Feinstein and Congresswoman Eshoo were right to protect her privacy, and their critics are wrong.
This is not a case of “he said, she said” – Professor Ford provided a detailed account, along with therapist notes from six years ago, and passed a lie detector test. Yet she has faced death threats and has had to endure suspicion, ridicule, defamation and scorn. Her identity was revealed without her consent, her motives have been questioned and her credibility has been attacked. And now she’s being told effectively that she must be put on trial – immediately — on Monday, before there is even a cursory independent investigation that could support her report.
We have to foster an environment where survivors will feel safe, supported, heard, and understood, and where charges of sexual assault or domestic violence are fully and properly investigated, even when the timing is inconvenient.
In this very public arena, we need to get this right.
What the Senate does will send a message to victims everywhere, whether or not they intend to send a message. And what will that message be? I hope it will be a message to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence that their charges won’t just get a pro forma “hearing” and be promptly disregarded – but that they will be fully and properly investigated by those in authority.
Senators: You can’t send that message with your words – you can only send it with your actions.