When Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) on Thursday asked Dr. Christine Blasey Ford — the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when the two were teenagers — what her strongest memory of the alleged incident was, Ford had no hesitation answering the question, citing her background in psychology to help her explain what she recalled most during her testimony on Capitol Hill.
“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two, and they’re having fun at my expense,” Ford said, describing her recollection of how Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge had behaved during the event that took place in the early 1980s, according to reporting from the Associated Press.
That statement should stick out as one of many that viewers of her testimony this week should remember. During her ordeal, the two boys who were allegedly tormenting Ford — sexually and emotionally — were said to be enjoying the experience of objectifying and humiliating her.
Wherever you stand on the issue of Kavanaugh’s confirmation — whether you believe Dr. Ford’s testimony or not — a serious problem persists in our nation that has not been yet been resolved in the years since this alleged assault took place. Boys, and men, continue to treat girls and women in derogatory and abusive ways. Women continue to be victims of sexual assault, and far too often, they stay silent about these abuses — opting to say nothing rather than risk further humiliation and degradation in the public eye.
In many ways, this is what #MeToo is all about. According to the movement’s official website, the goal of the project is to help victims heal, to remove the stigma of speaking out, and ultimately to “[disrupt] all systems that allow sexual violence to flourish.”
It is an admirable goal, but one that should not be left solely to women to accomplish. Men, too, must step up, becoming role models who can teach their sons — where applicable — that such disrespect and inhumane treatment of women is not only wrong, but intolerable for society to accept any longer.
Men who have marginalized, victimized, or otherwise abused and mistreated women, deserve to be called out for such. These men should be held accountable for their actions, and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent that the law allows if it’s appropriate to do so. But men — and specifically fathers — who have been silent, complacent, or ignorant of the issues facing women in this country cannot, if they wish to be seen as positive role models and decent individuals, remain quiet on the matter either. Such apathy is contributing to the widespread problem.
The best thing that men can and should do to support this movement is to serve as a good example, and to teach the next generation how to do better, through both their actions and their words. Young boys must be taught differently, must hear from the men in their lives that it is never acceptable to denigrate women in such ways that have been seen as tolerable (or even allowable) in years past.
Fathers should sit with their sons and tell them that these types of behaviors and actions are not right, and that the old adage of “boys will be boys” is both unacceptable and wrong. Conversely, fathers should also sit with their daughters, to tell them that if they are the victims of abuses or assaults, they will be there to listen — and to believe them, too.
It is a sad statement of where our society stands today that woman continue to live in fear of being assaulted, abused, raped, or otherwise mistreated in their day-to-day lives. This epidemic must be tackled head-on, by outstanding women as well as men, so that hopefully no other girl or woman will have to endure the “indelible laughter” that Dr. Ford described as still haunting her to this day.