As Sexual Assault Survivors, We Don't Believe in Group Guilt or Denying Anyone the Presumption of Innocence
Heather Higgins and Penny Nance
As leaders of two conservative women’s organizations, we focus on what will benefit women and make our country better and stronger. As such, we have a profound interest in ensuring that Supreme Court justices will be faithful to the Constitution, respect the people and the rule of law, exhibit high ethical standards, and be committed to justice and equality under the law.
As two survivors of sexual assault, we also have a profound interest in ensuring that allegations of sexual harassment and assault are taken seriously, that victims are treated with respect, and that there is a fair and open process that holds the guilty accountable.
For the aforementioned reasons, we strongly support Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
For the record:
I, Penny Nance, was physically assaulted by a serial predator while I was out running on a Virginia running path. I was saved when a woman, a complete stranger, intervened. My assailant was convicted of attempted rape, served time in prison, and became a registered sex offender.
I, Heather Higgins, was sexually assaulted once as a young child, again in the early years of high school, and then forcibly raped by a date in my early 20s.
We know from our own personal experiences that women are too often abused by men. We know they may not always immediately share their stories with authorities or with loved ones, if at all.
But knowing that sexual violence is prevalent and believing that women should be treated with respect when making a charge of an assault does not mean that we have insight into what any particular man has done to any other person. We do not believe in group guilt or that any person should be denied the presumption of innocence because of gender, sexual orientation, race, or any factor other than by the weight of evidence.
As prosecutor Rachel Mitchell detailed after hearing and reviewing Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony about the alleged attack by Kavanaugh, there is a complete lack of evidence corroborating her claim. Among the who, when, and where, she can only definitively speak to one of the three.
Mitchell believes that this case would never be prosecuted today. Beyond that legal standard, though, her allegation would never have been made public as it has been today, if it wasn't for those who wished to use this allegation as a means to achieving their political goals.
Ford went to her elected representatives with a request for anonymity, but the normal process was never followed, and she was quickly set up with a partisan lawyer. Her story was withheld rather than being confidentially investigated by the FBI, so that it could be pushed into the media at the ideal time to maximize damage to the nominee and delay his confirmation until after the midterm elections.
Yes, this has been a profoundly unfair process, not only to Kavanaugh and his family, but to Ford herself. This unfair process also includes how her lawyers have handled her case.
Accusations of sexual assault should be treated with the utmost seriousness. We've seen how women and male victims of assault can stand together, expose some of the most powerful men in our country who have abused their positions, and bring them to justice. Yet we’ve also seen, especially in this case, how the correct approach in taking charges seriously all too quickly presumes a man guilty until proven innocent — turning the entire foundation of our legal system on its head.
This is how exemplary professional careers and personal reputations are destroyed — but maybe that’s the point.
This isn't what most survivors of assault want. This isn’t how women want the men in their lives — sons, fathers, brothers, husbands, friends — to be treated.
We want fairness. We want our judicial system and our economic system free of sexism. We continue to believe that justice must remain blind to all immutable characteristics, including sex.
More than a hundred women who’ve known Kavanaugh throughout his life have attested to his personal character and integrity. They include women who dated him as far back as high school and college and women who worked with and for him.
Unless there is actual evidence uncovered that supports Ford’s claim, then any fair-minded person should believe the reputation built over decades by a man known to be charitable, compassionate, generous, kind, and respectful to women. The Senate did the right thing by voting for fairness and justice by confirming this exceedingly qualified jurist to the Supreme Court.