“Believe women” is a core tenet of the #MeToo movement, a social justice cause that empowers women professing sexual harassment. It is our “enlightened” society’s response to a pervasive culture of sexual abuse and misconduct. Originally focused on affirming the testimonies of celebrities and media personalities, #MeToo now demands that implicit belief be extended to any woman claiming to be the victim of sexual harassment or abuse. According to Monica Hesse at The Washington Post, “Believe women” means “believe them when they tell stories of assault and harassment.” The famous adage “trust but verify” is now said to be simply the manifestation of unconscious bias rooted in privilege because, as the senior editor of Bustle writes, “It is a privilege to not experience those kind of challenges.”
Today, we are told that all women must be believed on principle. According to an article titled “Why ‘Believe Women’ Means Believing Women Without Exception, “Let’s be clear: If you choose to believe women, you choose to believe every woman. Even when it’s uncomfortable. (Especially when it’s uncomfortable.) You cannot pick and choose which feminist values to align yourself with. If your knee-jerk reaction is ‘I can’t imagine it, so it can’t be true,’ then you are allowing your privilege to get the better of you.” However, this implicit faith in the infallible testimony of allegedly victimized women inherently undermines two of our nation’s most valued tenets: the presumption of innocence and due process.
Ironically, the clash between these legally protected rights and this new feminist imperative have reached a climax in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings regarding the Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Hours before the Senate’s scheduled vote to nominate Kavanaugh, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) released a statement saying that she had referred to the FBI allegations of misconduct by Kavanaugh 36 years ago when he was in high school. Despite being denied access to the letter; discrepancies in the testimony; the lack of corroborating evidence; the absence of the most serious details, including the time and location; and the denial under oath of the event by every alleged witness, senators quickly rallied around Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the alleged victim.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told ABC’s The View, “I believe Professor Ford. I think she’s credible, and I think when the investigation is finished, and when she testifies and Judge Kavanaugh testifies, I think a majority of senators will find her credible.” Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) told CBS This Morning, that because Ford’s testimony takes an extraordinary amount of courage, “I believe her.” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, “I believe her. Her – her story is credible. … This is a woman who has endured trauma. … I believe her. She is credible.” She also declared during a press conference, “I believe Dr. Blasey Ford because she’s telling the truth.” Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) tweeted, “During every step of this process, I’ve found every single piece of information from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford eminently credible, sincere and believable.” In a statement, she even referred to Ford as a “sexual assault survivor.” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Ford is a “crime victim.” Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said in a press conference, “Let me just say at the outset, I believe Dr. Ford. I believe the survivor here. There’s every reason to believe her.” Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) told CNN’s New Day, “Well, I can tell you it really does have the ring of truth to it.” And Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) epitomized the #MeToo movement’s imperative when she said in a press conference, “Not only do women like Dr. Ford, who bravely comes forward, need to be heard, but they need to be believed. They need to be believed.” She emphatically added, “I just want to say to the men in this country: Just shut up and step up. Do the right thing for a change.”
There is a stark difference between blind justice and blind belief. Blind belief before hearing testimony is simply bias. These Senators have denied Judge Brett Kavanaugh the presumption of innocence even before reading Ford’s letter, and even before hearing Ford or Kavanaugh’s testimony. But they are not alone. Activists heckled Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and his wife out of a restaurant chanting, “We believe survivors.” Pundits and news contributors have advocated for Ford, such as Symone Sanders who told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “I want to be clear that for me there is no debate. I believe Professor Ford.” Senators have received a letter signed by more than 1,000 alumnae of Ford’s high school saying they believe her. A letter with over 700 signatures written by three teenage girls affirms their belief in Ford’s testimony and speaks of imagining themselves in her circumstances. And many celebrities teamed up to create a viral video letter addressed to Ford saying, “Millions of us have your back. You and your testimony are credible. We believe you.”
Nevermind that Judge Brett Kavanaugh has an impeccable testimony as a good and decent human-being who values women and the law. Nevermind that, as Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell told Congress, “Hundreds of men and women who have known Brett Kavanaugh across his life have written or spoken out that he is a man of strong character and tremendous integrity,” including 75 female colleagues, classmates, and friends of Kavanaugh from every phase of his life who held a press conference testifying to his character and behavior over the years. Nevermind that Kavanaugh has denied the accusation under oath before Congress. Nevermind that Kavanaugh has successfully passed six FBI background checks and a Senate confirmation process to the Federal Court. Nevermind that Kavanaugh is considered to be one of the most respected Federal judges in the nation. And nevermind that USA Today reported, “On paper, Brett Michael Kavanaugh may be the most qualified Supreme Court nominee in generations.” Apparently these are not sufficient to earn Judge Brett Kavanaugh his right to a presumption of innocence and due process. Instead, we must “believe women” without exception.
And now two more accusers have stepped forward. Deborah Ramirez, who of her own admission, has significant gaps in her memory due to excessive drinking, such that she cannot recall with certainty what Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s role in the alleged incident may have been. The New York Times refused to publish the story, reporting that “The Times had interviewed several dozen people over the past week in an attempt to corroborate her story, and could find no one with firsthand knowledge. Ms. Ramirez herself contacted former Yale classmates asking if they recalled the incident and told some of them that she could not be certain Mr. Kavanaugh was the one who exposed himself.” Nevertheless, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was quick to tweet, “Enough is enough. One credible sexual assault claim should have been too many to get a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court and make decisions that will affect millions of women’s lives for generations. Two is an embarrassment. It’s time for a new nominee.” Likewise, more than 2,200 women and nearly 200 men who attended Yale, where the alleged incident occurred, have signed a letter in support of Ramirez.
And today, after days of teasing by her lawyer, Michael Avanetti—best known for his representation of porn-star Stormy Daniels—Julie Swetnick released a sworn statement testifying that she observed Kavanaugh “consistently engage in excessive drinking” at high school parties and “engage in abusive and physically aggressive behavior toward girls” in a sexual manner. Most surprisingly, she testified to witnessing efforts by Kavanaugh to “cause girls to become inebriated and disoriented so they could then be ‘gang raped’ in a side room or bedroom by a ‘train’ of numerous boys.” However, like the other accusations, this statement contains salacious details but lacks nearly all the details critical for corroboration.
At this point, we have no way of knowing with certainty whom to believe. We may want to believe that someone with Kavanaugh’s laurels is not capable of sexually assaulting someone or of supplying women to be gang raped by his high school buddies, but it doesn’t change the reality that it is possible. And we may want to believe that every woman is infallible in her testimony, but it doesn’t change the reality that some women misremember details, and others outright lie. Belief changes nothing; what matters is the truth … but it is all-too-easy to confuse the two.
Eager to believe a particular narrative, we all struggle with the often-subconscious temptation to substitute the truth with idealistic belief. Many of us believe that our country will not be held accountable for its rebellion to God’s commands. We want to believe that God is too loving and merciful to ever pull the trigger on executing judgment. Instead, we choose to believe that He’ll grant us unending opportunities to change—despite the fact that we show no inclination toward change. And this belief blinds us to what should be self-evident: A righteous and just God cannot forever ignore sinful behavior.
It is foolish to blindly believe something simply because we want it to be true or because of popular opinion. As Christians, we must guard against succumbing to this tendency. It is a destructive default—whether in politics or in our personal lives. The Bible is clear: God holds nations accountable for their actions (Jer. 18:7–10). But Jeremiah 18 also teaches that God is willing to relent of His judgment if a nation will do what is right. It is not too late for our nation. We may yet stave off judgment. It is not too late to mitigate the difficulty that is likely coming to our nation, to delay it, or possibly to avert national judgment altogether, but it requires that we replace our idealistic beliefs with objective truth. The choice is ours. Perhaps we as a nation could begin practicing this by granting the president’s Supreme Court Justice nominee his right to a presumption of innocence and to due process before rendering a judgment.
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3. Hesse, Monica. “Do We Really ‘Believe Women’? How the Kavanaugh Accusation Will Put a Slogan to the Test.” The Washington Post, September 17, 2018. Accessed September 24, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/do-we-really-believe-women-how-the-kavanaugh-accusation-will-put-a-slogan-to-the-test/2018/09/16/c8a7405e-b9f2-11e8-a8aa-860695e7f3fc_story.html?utm_term=.c1dd1dcb6f92.
4. Hollander, Jenny. “Why ‘Believe Women’ Means Believing Women Without Exception.”
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