No Harm No Foul?

If Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, at age 15, after having been assaulted and overcoming a wave of dread and even drunkenness, had contacted the police, and if she was met by a sympathetic policeman, in the early 1980’s the following might have happened. The officer might have written a report and transferred the case to a detective. A kindly detective would have asked teenage Christine a series of questions and with an attempt at a supportive smile would have said “There’s no real harm done here. You’re okay. Stay away from those guys and don’t drink at parties.” If he was really understanding and had daughters of his own the detective might have visited her alleged abuser and spoken with him. Perhaps with a tone of admonition.

End of story.

But it is not the end of the story because Dr. Ford, like so many other women, never reported when and how they were assaulted. And, Judge Kavanaugh was never confronted and told to “grow up.”

If only he said “I occasionally acted as a wild teen. I grew up. I don’t remember a lot from those days. If I did hurt anyone I sincerely apologize” it might have gone differently. His bad behavior would not have been excused but he could have been understood as a reckless teen who matured. Instead he displayed an aggressive attitude that aligns with a radical disregard for what should be compassionate norms. In fact, this matches with what has been reported regarding his wild drinking and partying when he was younger. He is strong, angry and determined to be right. While behavior can change personality does not change all that much over the course of the lifespan. What we saw at his hearings is what we will likely have to live with.

As a result of the hearings, partisans and radicals have created an even greater breach between not simply Republicans and Democrats in the United States but also between men and women, young and old and misogynists and women seeking to be treated respectfully and with equality and equanimity. Mitch McConnell, on a Fox news interview, called the appointment of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, one of his “proudest moments”. This statement opened the door for Trump to call the Kavanaugh allegations a “hoax.” The conspiracy theorists are joyfully toasting their win and the benefit of blame that this success gives them. Instead of adopting a tone of unification they seek broader division.

The Friday night party where Dr. Ford was assaulted, whatever it was, is no longer a case of no harm no foul. If anything has changed since the 1980’s is that disingenuousness in compassion toward victims of assault may now become the standard. Dr. Ford was doubly harmed as are all women by a system that overlooks aggression, assault and abuse and demeans those who come forward to report what happened to them. And, what the Kavanaugh confirmation assures is that there is a tin ear for all who do not agree with a hard-right conservative, populist agenda. This radicalization is known by the psychological term confirmation bias. Beliefs held affect the processing of new information. Thus, a sham one-week investigation is given as proof and a president can call a validated account of abuse a hoax.

The appointment of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court may now set the tone for how seriously reports of abuse are received for decades to come. Protesting will only exacerbate victimhood bias because that is how the politics are played. Voting is the only positive option for change. But voting radically will only move society toward even more partisanship.

Radicalization seems to be the new worldwide norm. If we are forced to choose between fascism or socialism we will be left with no choice at all.

About the Author
Dr Michael Salamon, a fellow of the American Psychological Association and a 2018 APA Presidential Citation Awardee. He is the founder and director of ADC Psychological Services in New York and the author of numerous articles, several psychological tests and books including "The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures" (Urim Publications) and "Every Pot Has a Cover" (University Press of America). His newest book is called "Abuse in the Jewish Community: Religious and Communal Factors that Undermine the Apprehension of Offenders and the Treatment of Victims."
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