I have said that the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh are suspicious, dubious, and unsubstantiated. In response, many people have asked me how I would feel if it were my daughter claiming she’d been sexually assaulted. This is a very common kind of “argument” these days. Whatever the topic — immigration, health care, rape accusations, etc. — we are told that we should imagine ourselves or our children personally affected by the matter.
This, of course, is the exact wrong way of approaching an issue. We should strive to be objective and rational, and that is only possible because we are not personally connected to, or affected by, the issue. Yes, obviously if my daughter came to me and said that a boy had just tried to rape her, I would hop in the car, drive to the alleged perpetrator’s house, drag him outside by the neck and beat him senseless. I would react like a furious, irrational, vengeful, protective father. I would have precisely the mindset that we, as detached observers, should not have.
It’s important to note one thing, though: Christine Ford is not a 15-year-old girl telling her dad about this moments after it occurred. She’s a woman in her 50’s reporting the incident to Democratic lawmakers 35 years later. So, framing this hypothetical more accurately, if my daughter told me that she planned to publicly accuse a prominent figure of a sexual assault that supposedly happened three and a half decades prior, and that she’d never before mentioned to me or anyone, and that she has no evidence to prove and no witnesses to corroborate, and she can’t remember the exact date or even the exact year or even the exact location of the crime, I’m not sure I’d advise her to go forward with her plan. Maybe I would because of my understandable bias in her favor, but if I could be objective — that is, if I could see the situation from the perspective of someone who is not involved, which is the only way to be objective — I would probably warn her strongly against this course of action.
But if we are playing the “What if it was your child” game, why don’t we consider it from the other angle? Why are we only ever encouraged to put ourselves in the woman’s shoes or the woman’s father’s shoes? Why don’t we try to empathize with the other party concerned?
What if your son was on the cusp of some huge achievement and a woman came forward with no evidence and no witnesses and accused him of attempting to assault her years ago? What if your son’s life and career were being ripped to shreds because someone said he did something some time in the 1980s somewhere in Maryland? What if your son was subjected to unsubstantiated, uncorroborated, unproven, yet disprovable, allegations?
What would you do then? Would you assume he’s a rapist? Would you automatically take the accuser’s side? Would you throw him to the wolves?
Or would you demand that he be treated as innocent until proven guilty?