Gail Ukockis – Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Thu, 11 Oct 2018 17:32:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 With Toady Kavanaugh’s Appointment, Trump is Turning the US into Putin’s Russia Wed, 10 Oct 2018 05:18:13 +0000 In the aftermath of Brett Kavanaugh being sworn in as the new Supreme Court justice, the controversies rage on. One troubling aspect of Kavanaugh is his support of extensive presidential powers. According to CNN, he had written in 2013 that “it’s a ‘traditional exercise’ of presidential power to ignore laws the White House views as unconstitutional” regarding George W. Bush’s presidential statements.

The U.S., then, is facing the real possibility of a Supreme Court failing to fulfill its duty to check the president’s power. If the subservient Republicans remain a majority in Congress after midterms, the “checks and balances” system may become obsolete. Instead, the president may consolidate power as did his role model Vladimir Putin in Russia.

What is Putin’s Russia really like? In the circa 2011* report “What 10 Years of Putin Have Brought,” Vladimir Milov and Boris Nemtsov track nine aspects of this authoritarian regime that have eerie parallels to the current U.S. situation. First, “Corruption is Eating Russia Up.” Many of Putin’s friends have become billionaires in the past decade. Like Trump’s friends, these Russian oligarchs are building their fortunes on the backs of the citizenry. By merging government functions with business profits, civil servants are also making a fortune. One Russian police official in charge of fighting organized crime, for example, was arrested in 2011 after reaping in $40 million and living in a 50-room mansion. Although Trump’s cronies have not made such an outrageous profit, at least seven out of his 24 Cabinet officials have allegedly abused their offices for profit.

Both Putin and Trump have also boldly used nepotism to ensure loyalty. Putin has appointed his daughter and his friends’ relatives to high positions that are beyond their skill levels. Although President Kennedy had appointed his brother to be the Attorney General, at least his brother had a law degree and the proper qualifications. Trump’s appointments of “the First Daughter” and others have jeopardized the proper functions of government because of their incompetence.

In an earlier report, Nemtsov writes that “Corruption has ceased being a problem in Russia; it has become a system.” In 2011, around a quarter of Russia’s economy was related to corruption to the tune of $300 billion. Russia now ranks as 156 on the Transparency International index that reports on corruption (the U.S. ranks 16, but that may change during Trump’s presidency). Fortunately, the U.S. has not reached this crisis point of corruption. The Democrats’ lawsuit based on the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, for example, is moving through the court system. The lawsuit claims that Trump has been profiting from foreign governments when the dignitaries stay at the D.C. Trump Hotel.

Besides corruption, another parallel between the two countries is the health status of the citizens. Milov and Nemtsov write that “The Country is Dying Out” in their analysis of the grim mortality rates. In Russia, alcoholism and drug abuse are to blame for its “supermortality” problem; in the U.S., the opioid epidemic is partly responsible for the shorter life span reported by the CDC. Another comparison is between the public health systems, systems which are underfunded and overstretched. In the U.S., the Republicans’ goal to undermine the Affordable Care Act would only aggravate the problem.

Infrastructure, especially the roads, is another neglected area for the Putin and Trump governments. In Russia, the roads are in such bad shape that they are holding back economic development. Corruption adds to the costs of building and maintaining infrastructure. In the U.S., Trump has recently promised $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending. Critics, though, are doubtful if anything significant could be accomplished. In the meantime, TRIP (a transportation research group) asserts 44% of America’s major roads are in such disrepair that it “costs U.S. motorists $130 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs – $599 per motorist.”

Lastly, the Russian experience is one of “screaming inequality.” Social divisions have become gaping chasms under Putin’s system of monopolies, which often makes it impossible for small businesses to succeed. In the U.S., the economic disparities have also become obvious as the wage gap, student loans, and other factors have diminished the American Dream.

The good news is that it is not inevitable that the U.S. should become a reflection of Putin’s Russia. In his recent book The Common Good, Robert Reich writes that “Truth itself is a common good.” The first step to fighting injustice, then, is to claim the truth: Putin’s Russia is a harsh place for anybody who is not an oligarch, and the U.S. must do everything it can to avoid that fate.


The Milov/Nemtsov report can be retrieved from

Nemtsov White Paper retrieved from

TRIP factsheet retrieved from

*An earlier version of this essay incorrectly dated this report to 2018. Informed Comment regrets the error.

Featured Photo courtesy the Kremlin and WikiMedia Commons

At Least Heidi Heitkamp refused to Vote for Kavanaugh: Why I’m not Surprised Sat, 06 Oct 2018 05:58:55 +0000 (Informed Comment) – On October 4, Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) announced that she was going to vote “no” on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Unlike her colleague Jeff Flake who is quitting the Senate, Heitkamp is taking a grave political risk. North Dakota, which had had a 40-point lead for Trump in 2016, is a solidly red state and may vote out this Democrat. She may lose her seat partly because of her stance on Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual assault.

When I heard the news about her vote, I was not at all surprised. Her record on standing up for women who have experienced gender violence is outstanding. My research on Native American women had uncovered her work on Savanna’s Act, a bill proposed a year ago but has not even been granted a committee hearing.

Savanna’s Act is named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a woman who was murdered in 2017. She was eight months pregnant. When the mother of another victim first reported her daughter to be missing, the police told her that she was probably out partying. “‘We were watching her baby. She was breastfeeding him and always contacted us every 4–5 hours.’” Neither the federal or tribal officials were helpful, so she “soon saw that she and her family were on their own.”

Heitkamp writes that “Native women are murdered at ten times the national average, and 84 percent of Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime. In 2016, North Dakota had 125 reported cases of missing Native women . . . but numbers are likely much higher as cases are often under reported and data isn’t officially collected.” Caroline LaPorte, a Native Affairs advocate, notes that the lack of data about this violence is part of the problem. “The result is that Native women die without names and their tribal nations grieve without answers.”

In response to the appallingly inadequate response from law enforcement regarding Native women, then, Heitkamp has sponsored Savanna’s Act. Requiring the federal government to work with the tribal governments, this bill would also set up protocols for handling homicide cases. If passed, this bill would help parents fight for justice for their daughters.

Native women must also confront a rape epidemic because they are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as other women. Traditionally, the White colonizers had regarded these women as part of the land grab. Another historical dimension to the sexual violence against the women is forced prostitution. A century before the term “human trafficking” was coined, the Dakota tribes had to either sell their daughters for food or watch them starve to death. The women were so desperate for food that they “collected what little corn they could at the fort, often sifting through horse manure in order to find enough grain to make soup.” Today, Native girls are still being sold for prostitution.

The Bakken oilfields have provided an economic boom for North Dakota, but it has also increased the risk for children to be forced into prostitution. Besides the oil boom, another driving force for the trafficking of Native girls is the rise of heroin use. Heitkamp’s advocacy on behalf of these trafficking victims included a hearing in 2013 to publicize the issue. She has also co-sponsored the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act in 2018, which cracks down on websites that advertise for traffickers.

If this senator loses her seat, it is doubtful that her successor or anybody else would continue her work on behalf of Native women and other victims of gender violence. It is also unlikely that Savanna’s Act will ever be passed, probably because so few people care about this issue. Moreover, the majority of perpetrators who assault and murder Native women (who are mostly non-Native) may never face the justice they deserve. I understand Heitkamp’s decision to risk her Senate seat on behalf of the women who have spoken out against Kavanaugh. And I certainly applaud her courage. If she leaves the Senate, though, those facing gender violence—especially Native women—would lose a valuable ally.


Quote from mother: Guha, A. (2017). Will Congress Do Something About Missing, Murdered Native Women? Rewire. Retrieved from

Heitkamp quote: Heitkamp introduces Savanna’s Act to help address crisis of missing and murdered Native women. Press release on Senate website.

LaPorte quote: Pember, M.A. (2017). ‘We All Know Someone’: Tribal Community, Advocates Seek to Honor Missing and Murdered Native American Women. Rewire. Retrieved from

Dakota tribe quote: Pember, M.A. (2017B). Can this South Dakota shelter heal the centuries-long trauma of Native women? The Guardian. Retrieved from

Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

Red-State Democrat Heidi Heitkamp: I’m Voting ‘No’ On Brett Kavanaugh | Katy Tur | MSNBC

Trump says it’s a Scary Time for Young Men; Imagine the Boys detained in his Immigrant Camps Wed, 03 Oct 2018 05:11:56 +0000 As the Brett Cavanaugh controversy rages on, overlooked is a news item about the tent city set up for the migrant children in Tornillo, Texas. According to the New York Times, in the past few weeks around 1,600 children were rounded up from detention centers and foster homes to be moved into this new version of a concentration camp. The relocations usually occurred at midnight without warning. Could this tent city develop into a new concentration camp?

Reviewing the history of concentration camps can be instructive for us as we consider the detainment of migrants on the U.S.-Mexican border. “Concentration camps” are not necessarily death camps but relocation centers for civilians. Although many people may assume that the Nazis had conceived the concept of concentration camps, it first emerged from U.S. aggression in both Cuba and the Philippines. Butcher Weyler, the commander in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, felt the need to separate the guerrillas from the villagers. He set up “reconcentration” camps in 1896 that left 100,000 dead.

During the Philippine-American War, the U.S also set up camps in 1899 to house almost 300,000 civilians. U.S. soldiers would shoot on sight any Filipino outside the camps. In the “zone of death,” the soldiers burned down houses in a scorched-earth policy. One reporter described the prisoners as “a miserable-looking lot of little brown rats … utterly spiritless.” The civilian death toll from the camps or the entire war is impossible to determine.

The most notorious example of a pre-World War II concentration camp, the British imprisonment of the Boers in South Africa, began in 1900. Like the U.S. military, the British were frustrated by the civilians helping the guerrillas. The British decided to house the “undesirables” (mostly women and children) in tent camps to motivate the Boer men to surrender. A British social worker, Emily Hobhouse, visited these camps and wrote a damning report: “Numbers crowded into small tents: some sick, some dying, occasionally a dead one among them; scanty rations dealt out raw…” In response to her criticism, the daughter of a British general wrote about “the hysterical whining going on in England” while “we feed and pamper people who had not even the grace to say thank you for the care bestowed on them.” Almost a quarter of the camp’s inhabitants died from 1900-1902. In the end, almost 28,000 Boers died in these camps—most of them children.

One key difference between these three examples of camps and the current crisis is that we are not at war with Mexico or any other home countries of the migrants. Although using concentration camps during wartime was morally reprehensible, at least there was a logical reason for them. The U.S. government, though, is not reacting to any immediate threat. Even if some of these migrants were drug criminals or rapists (a label promoted by Trump), law enforcement could contain this threat. The new concentration camps are simply not necessary for protecting the U.S.-Mexican border.

Another aspect of these camps is the demonization of the imprisoned populations. During wartime, it is common to consider the enemy population as subhuman—especially if they are persons of color such as the Cubans and Filipinos. Racism, then, can influence our attitudes toward those living behind chain link fences. On the White House website is this article: “What You Need To Know About The Violent Animals Of MS-13.” Yes, the MS-13 gang can be extremely violent but the idea of a government website calling them “animals” is disturbing. For too many people, the characterization of all Latinos as gang members justifies the current immigration policy.

The last point is that I used the word “migrant” deliberately because it encompasses three categories: immigrants, asylees, and refugees. How many of these imprisoned children (and the adults in other facilities) are seeking asylum under international law? People call these migrants “illegal immigrants” as automatically as the British calling the Boers “the undesirables.” However, many of these migrants were not necessarily moving up north for better opportunities but escaping from drug or state violence. These migrants were fleeing for their lives as urgently as did the evacuees fleeing Florence or other hurricanes. No matter the motivation for their migration, these folks deserve our respect as fellow humans. The ideology of considering them as “undesirables” is antithetical to common decency.

Despite the grim shadows of Butcher Weyler and others who darken the pages of U.S. history books, we can overcome the past. We can find a compassionate alternative to the current policy of mass detentions. We can—and must–do better.


Butcher Weyler on

Quote about prisoners

South African history on

MS-13 article is on this website


Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

The Young Turks: “New Immigration Stats Will SHOCK You”

Why Powerful Men can Roar, but Rape Victims are Discounted as “too” Emotional or “Calm” Mon, 01 Oct 2018 04:01:50 +0000 Like many others, I was struck by the restraint and professionalism of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as she told her wrenching story last week. Her composure reflected the calmness of Dr. Anita Hill, another alleged victim of a Supreme Court nominee. The contrast between Ford’s conciliatory manner and Brett Kavanaugh’s aggressive demeanor also struck me because she would have lost her credibility if she had shown anger like he did.

Seeing the livid faces of Kavanaugh and his defender Senator Lindsay Graham, I had to wonder about their visceral anger toward Ford that seemed to go beyond their accusations of political motive. Both men are highly religious. Perhaps the Judeo-Christian tradition of denouncing women who were allegedly raped, from Potiphar’s wife making a false accusation to the stoning of victims (Deuteronomy 22), had an unconscious influence on their attitudes.

Besides religious attitudes, other factors may affect the negative attitudes toward alleged rape victims. Considering the social reactions in other countries may increase our understanding of this issue. First, the ancient concept of women as property continues in some cultures—thus, rape victims are “damaged goods.” The mass rapes during the Bosnian conflict, for example, resulted in many husbands of the victims rejecting their wives as being tainted. In Pakistan and other patriarchal countries, some villages stone the rape victims for being prostitutes.

One Tanzanian study of rape victims reinforces the “damaged goods” theme, including the report that these women were often told that they would never enjoy sex again or have a baby. Such well-meaning but misguided advice must be devastating to hear. Another finding from this study is that the higher status of the victim, the more positive social reactions she received. Not surprisingly, commercial sex workers have the least credibility when reporting a rape.

The second aspect of these social reactions is that “good” rape victims must show the right emotions to be taken seriously. In one Swedish study, the researchers describe a 14-year-old girl who did not act traumatized after being raped. She even went to school the next day as if nothing had happened. Her community turned against her because of EVE (emotional victim effect).

Of course, EVE has gender dimensions. Male victims are expected to show anger but women are only allowed to show gentler emotions such as fear and sadness. Angry women are simply not credible. At the beginning of her testimony, Ford had stated “I am terrified” but did not show any anger or even impatience during the questioning. On an unconscious level, then, she could have been trying to appear as a “good” rape victim.

British researchers who studied three mock juries confirm the importance of the emotional victim effect regarding rape victims. The jurors did not believe the victims if they did not show any distress on the stand because calmness meant a lack of sincerity. However, some jurors also considered a woman crying during her testimony to be faking it.

Related to the “good” rape victim concept is the third point about social attitudes, that only bad girls get raped. This conviction is associated with the belief in a just world, which was analyzed in a Turkish study of men’s attitudes toward rape victims. The more that these men believed that bad things only happen to bad people (i.e., that the world is just), the less likely they were to believe a victim.

In this context, Ford has shown remarkable courage after being called “mixed up” and other negative social reactions. Centuries-old religious beliefs regarding rape may be influencing the attitudes of those who do not respect her. Moreover, the ancient motif of “damaged goods” motif appears once again whenever a female is slut-shamed for attending a party where she was attacked. A “good” victim also must show some emotions to be taken seriously, but certainly not any anger. Somehow, Ford had navigated this maze of social reactions. By acting as strong as Ford, we can create a better society that promotes justice instead of denying the victims’ stories.


Muganyizi, P. S., Hogan, N., Emmelin, M., Lindmark, G., Massawe, S., Nystrom, L., & Axemo, P. (2009). Social reactions to rape: Experiences and perceptions of women rape survivors and their potential support providers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Violence and Victims, 24(5), 607-26.

Wrede, O., PhD.(c), & Ask, K., PhD. (2015). More than a feeling: Public expectations about emotional responses to criminal victimization. Violence and Victims, 30(5), 902-915.

Ellison, L., & Munro, V. (2009). Reacting to rape: Exploring Mock Jurors’ Assessments of Complainant Credibility. The British Journal of Criminology, 49(2), 202-219.

Sakalli-Ugurlu, N., Yalçin, Z. S., & Glick, P. (2007). Ambivalent sexism, belief in a just world, and empathy as predictors of Turkish students’ attitudes toward rape victims. Sex Roles, 57(11-12), 889-895.


Bonus Video:

CNN: “Blasey Ford: Kavanaugh was having fun at my expense”

But He Doesn’t *Look* Like a Rapist Wed, 26 Sep 2018 04:07:58 +0000 (Informed Comment) –

The uproar over Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged attack of a 15-year-old has resulted in many irrational reactions, which even included a bizarre conspiracy theory created (and later retracted) by a respected lawyer. When considering the picture of Kavanaugh, I had to wonder if the allegation would have stirred up as many heated denials if he had been ugly; he doesn’t look like a rapist.

After all, one rape myth is that only ugly men are rapists because they cannot get sex any other way. One recent Incel (“involuntary celibate”) post showed the mugshots of four rapists with this comment: “Dear Normies, If you don’t want ugly men to rape females, then stop excluding them from something which literally everyone else experiences. Instead of going on another one night stand with Chad from Tinder, have sex with a lonely virgin instead.” This explanation of rape disregards the solid research proving that rape is not about sexual desire but instead about power and intimidation.

Even some academics have supported the thesis that rape results from the female rejection of males. Thornhill and Palmer’s controversial A Natural History of Rape, for example, posits the evolutionary argument that unattractive men rape women for the primary purpose of insemination. Ignoring the fact that many rape victims are not attractive young women, the writers also fail to acknowledge that many rapists are good looking.

The boyish face of the convicted rapist Brock Turner, for instance, contradicts the evolutionary argument of rape. Why would such a handsome young man commit such a heinous crime when he could so easily find a consenting sex partner? It can be disorienting to picture this man attacking a helpless victim because we have an unconscious tendency to equate good looks with good character. This is related to the “halo effect” that makes us think that attractive persons are smarter, wittier, and nicer than their plainer counterparts. “What is beautiful is good” is the underlying premise of the halo effect.

Appearance discrimination can influence our view of any alleged (and convicted) perpetrators. Although researchers have focused on racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, little is known about how a defendant’s looks could influence a jury or judge. One finding notes that baby-faced defendants are perceived as more innocent than others. Also, prejudice against tattoos as symbols of lawlessness is still common despite the widespread popularity of body art.

Because of appearance discrimination, “facial profiling” can be a factor in how we perceive threats. If I were walking down a sidewalk and passed a man in a business suit who looked like Kavanaugh, I would probably not perceive him as a threat. Unfortunately, socialization has distorted my threat perceptions because men in business suits can be just as likely to be criminals as casually dressed males. This distortion may be one reason why some people are so resistant to the idea of a noble-looking judge being suspected as a rapist; violent predators are supposed to look like they hang out in seedy bars and hustle money. It could be frightening to realize that our previous categorization of males could be so wrong.

Intellectually, we may accept the fact that an attacker can be an attractive man because we know that sexual assault is a crime of violence and not desire. This fact, though, is hard to reconcile with our unconscious wish that such a cruel act be only a freakish incident and not a common occurrence—admitting the ordinary nature of cruelty could disturb our threat perceptions. If a respectable-looking person can be a threat, how can we sort out the good guys from the bad guys? We must recognize that physical appearance does not make it more or less likely that a sexual assault allegation is true. Appearance discrimination can distort our thinking, but not if we understand its impact.


Incel quote found on:

Thornhill, R. & Palmer, C.T. (2000). A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion. Boston, MA: MIT Press.

Johnson, B. D., & King, R. D. (2017). Facial Profiling: Race, Physical Appearance, And Punishment. Criminology, 55(3), 520-547.


Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

Democracy Now! “Report: Senate Aides Knew of Second Kavanaugh Sexual Assault Claim & Tried to Rush His Confirmation”

Keeping Nasty Women out of Textbooks Mon, 24 Sep 2018 04:16:35 +0000 Satire.

(Informed Comment) – In the midst of the current political turmoil, I was both relieved and delighted to read that a Texas education committee had voted to keep Nasty Women such as Hillary Clinton out of the mandatory social studies curriculum. The idea of impressionable children hearing about her pantsuits made me shudder with horror. Not only did she wear practical clothing, but she actually stood on a stage—in public view!–debating a male opponent who was obviously her superior in every sense. Worse yet, she had the nerve to win the popular vote in 2016 because she was such an attention-seeking diva.

The wise Texans also decided to delete Helen Keller from the curriculum, perhaps because she was another Nasty Woman. It was bad enough that she had advocated for disability rights in the era of hiding “cripples” in a back room. She also spoke out for the women’s right to vote—outrageous! Even worse, she was a socialist. In 1911 she wrote, “The few own the many because they possess the means of livelihood of all … The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labor.” Exposing young students to ideas such as Keller’s would be akin to child abuse.

Since the news reports only mentioned the social studies curriculum, I became concerned about the possibility of other curricula being infiltrated by Nasty Women. For example, I do not know whether the science curriculum includes any mention of fossils because that might lead to the students thinking about evolution. If the textbooks do mention fossils, hopefully they will delete any mention of the fossil hunter Mary Anning because she had revolutionized scientific thought. During the nineteenth century, her meticulous research caused great advances in geology and paleontology, those demonic sciences that dispute the creationist theory. Fortunately, during her lifetime no woman could attend meetings at the Geologic Society of London or enter the doors of the Royal Society. She never received full credit for her work because Victorian society had enough common sense. Imagine that unnatural creature spending days alone on the beach, hunting for fossils. Such behavior made her look like a loose woman, so no child should hear about her discoveries.

Speaking of discoveries, hopefully no schoolchild will ever hear about Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovering pulsars 50 years ago. Only a Nasty Woman could think up the idea of setting up huge radio telescopes in a field to capture sounds from the universe that nobody could explain. “I switched on the high speed recorder and it came blip…. blip…. blip…. blip…. blip…. Clearly the same family, the same sort of stuff and that was great, that was really sweet. It finally scotched the little green men hypothesis” because aliens could not be producing these sounds from the opposite sides of the universe. Since she was “only” a research assistant, her adviser and another male scientist were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1974 instead of her. It was right and proper that a female be cast aside for having made a scientific breakthrough as if she were an attention-seeking diva.

Keeping schoolchildren away from Nasty Women in mathematics might be a greater challenge since the movie and book Hidden Figures features three of the brilliant minds behind the NASA space program in the 1960s. It is nothing but wrong to confuse young minds with the idea that African American women could be so smart.

Moreover, computer science textbooks must never mention Ada Lovelace because only men could have conceived the idea of computers. To credit this “Enchantress of Numbers” with writing the first computer program in 1843 would disturb too many young minds. Instead, hide the fact that she had created an algorithm because women in those days only had enough brains to do needlework.

All sarcasm aside, the Texas controversy exemplifies how women’s accomplishments can vanish from textbooks and other venues. Donna Bahorich, the chair of the Texas State Board of Education, defends the committee’s action as nonpartisan because Barry Goldwater was also excluded from the mandatory curriculum. Even if the committee had acted in good faith, though, the action perpetuates the problem of remarkable women remaining invisible to both children and adults.

The good news is that the luminescence of Hillary Clinton and other Nasty Women is impossible to extinguish. For example, Burnell has recently received a Special Breakthrough Prize and worldwide recognition. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Notorious RBG, has become a pop idol for being a legal pioneer. Despite the setback of the Texas action, then, Nasty Women will receive their fair due.


Helen Keller: Rebel Lives, by Helen Keller & John Davis, Ocean Press, 2003

Burnell quote cited in


Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

TX Voted To Remove Hillary Clinton And Helen Keller Out Of Textbooks | Velshi & Ruhle | MSNBC

Rape: The Credibility of the Accusers Tue, 18 Sep 2018 04:51:33 +0000 (Informed Comment) – When a psychology professor stepped forward to share her story of an alleged assault by the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, more than one commentator noted the academic credentials of Doctor Blasey. As a professor myself, I can appreciate the privilege of being taken more seriously than the average person.

When another woman spoke out about an alleged sexual assault by Roy Moore in 2017, though, the situation was different. Like Blasey, she had been a teenager in the 1980s when the alleged attack occurred. However, she was a “3x divorced, 3x bankrupt, Payday Loan lowlife (who was accusing) a public servant with an impeccable personal and professional record” according to one online comment of an article on a conservative website.
This contrast between these two women shows that credibility is a precious social commodity that we can take for granted if we are believed because of our race, social class, and other privileges.

During the surge of sexual misconduct allegations in 2017, the people denying the alleged victims’ credibility often stressed the motivations of money and attention. Now during the Kavanaugh controversy, critics are accusing Blasey of yet another motivation—political intrigue.

Certainly, the likelihood of determining what actually had happened to these women three decades ago is slim indeed. Even for more recent allegations, though, the prevalence of rape myth acceptance can impede an investigation and trial. Rape myths include: most rape accusations are false, the victim was partly (or entirely) to blame, and males cannot be raped. The alleged victim of Kobe Bryant, for example, lacked credibility because she was only a hotel employee and he was a celebrity. Unfortunately, one research study claims that people who were educated about rape myths still held on their beliefs.

As our society progresses with the #MeToo movement, how can we destroy the rape myth that most accusers are liars? First, we must recognize the underlying misogyny of the rape myth that undermines the credibility of the accuser. The males who are also victims of sexual assault are the collateral damage of the widespread violence against women. For decades, feminists have been claiming that sexual harassment and other misconduct were prevalent in this society—only to be dismissed as man haters or even worse, somebody without a sense of humor. A recent tweet of Donald Trump, Jr. compared Blasey’s allegation of a brutal attack to a child’s love note, which demonstrates that some people still consider sexual assault to be nothing but a joke.

The second action that we should take is to reconsider the alleged victims’ culpability. Situations do not cause rape; only rapists cause rape. I have never been raped. This is not a boast, since I am no smarter or more moral or more sensible than any rape victim. I am simply lucky that the men I have encountered were not rapists. In the Blasey allegation, the teenaged girl did nothing wrong. It is completely normal for a girl that age to go to a party. Millions of females go to parties and do not get raped because they did not encounter a rapist.

Lastly, we should recognize that most rapists are not slobbering monsters who hide behind dark bushes. Instead, they are often good-looking and personable men who get along well with most women. The letter from the 65 female supporters of Kavanaugh, then, is completely meaningless. He could have been kind to 65 million females and still be a perpetrator. The reaction of “he’s a good man—- he could not do that!” is understandable but not helpful in determining the truth about allegations.

Life would be simpler if men who mistreat women had signs on their foreheads about their true nature. Instead, we have to acknowledge that men like Senator Robert Packwood could be both a feminist advocate and a man who had harassed many women. He was no monster. His interactions with most women were probably positive and uplifting for them. However, many persons are complex creatures who can compartmentalize their behaviors and even hide a darker side.

It will be hard work, then, to strengthen the credibility of the accusers to ensure a fair hearing. We can begin by fighting misogyny, refusing to blame those who were attacked, and realizing that rapists do not appear as monsters. Any alleged victim deserves our respect instead of being called an opportunist or other calumnies. Any alleged victim deserves a decent amount of credibility.

Klement, K. R., Sagarin, B. J., & Skowronski, J. J. (2018). Accusers lie and other myths: Rape myth acceptance predicts judgments made about accusers and accused perpetrators in a rape case. Sex Roles, , 1-18.


Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

Democracy Now! As Blasey Ford Alleges Kavanaugh Assaulted Her, Will Senate Repeat Mistakes Made with Anita Hill?

What Have We Done? Moral Injury and the Family Separation Policy Tue, 26 Jun 2018 04:07:37 +0000 Columbus, OH (Informed Comment) – The term “moral injury” usually applies to war veterans who had participated in or witnessed an action that violated their core beliefs of right and wrong. However, this concept could also help us to consider the impact of the family separation policy that took place for several weeks and involved at least 2,300 children and their parents in the United States.

What Have We Done, the main title of David Wood’s book about the moral injuries of soldiers, captures the compelling reason for why we need to discuss moral injury as related to the family separation policy. Through the centuries, veterans returning from war sometimes exhibited signs of distress that extended beyond the standard PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) diagnosis. Their souls were wounded because they had violated their moral consciences in a deep, irreparable way that was difficult to express.

Recently, the U.S.’s “zero-tolerance” policy against undocumented migrants had entailed the separation of babies and children from their parents—perhaps forever. Observing the now-famous picture of a distraught toddler who may never see her mother again, I had to wonder about the impact of these actions on the Border Patrol and the others who were enforcing the policy. How did they justify their actions in the face of so many crying children and screaming parents? Did they feel like soldiers in a war zone where they have to obey orders without question?

Of course, comparing the experiences of war veterans to the current situation at the U.S.-Mexican border has one major drawback: the veterans were usually at a higher risk of getting killed or injured than their Border Patrol counterparts. This difference, though, demonstrates a key insight into the minds of the policymakers who have decided on imprisoning thousands of persons, many of them possibly asylum seekers who deserve protection under international law. The defenders of the “zero-tolerance” policy may feel that they are as threatened by the immigration of brown-skinned persons as if the U.S. was facing another 9/11. Considering that almost half of Republican voters support the policy, many might even believe that the Border Patrol is saving the U.S. from an existential threat.

For those of us who are troubled by these brutally enforced family separations, it is hard to comprehend the mind of somebody who could seize a breastfeeding baby from his mother. Will any of these officers suffer from moral injury later? Since this condition can lead to depression, it is hoped that they will not fall into suicidal despair in the future. Ideally, though, they will find the courage to act according to their consciences no matter what the orders dictate. In past wars, some men chose the “Conscientious Objector” status to avoid committing acts of violence. Could this type of status be available to the officers who do not agree with the policy of treating every migrant as a criminal?

The moral injury that these officers may eventually experience is but one dimension of this humanitarian crisis. As the Moral Injury Project at Syracuse University states, “The effects of moral injury go beyond the individual, impinging on the family system and the larger community.” Indeed, the primary burden of responsibility for the family separation falls upon President Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and their cohort. It is doubtful that any of these policy defenders will realize that they are endangering their own psychological stability by treating the migrants as animals.

Other policymakers, though, have tried to save themselves from moral injury. When congresspersons stormed the detention centers and other locales to see what was going on, they were not merely trying to score political points; they were probably attempting to elude the shame of not doing enough to stop this policy. Besides the sin of commission (doing something wrong) is the sin of omission (doing nothing to stop the wrong).

Although Trump has ended the family separation aspect of the “zero-tolerance” policy, the crisis over immigration has not ended. During this ongoing turmoil, everyone who opposes any malevolent government actions—such as imprisoning possible asylum seekers–must consider how the sin of omission could cause them eventual moral injury. It was encouraging to see so many Americans not only react with horror at the news stories about families being torn apart, but also advocate through rallies and other activism.

What have we done? Let us hope that the U.S. can reunite the traumatized families instead of keeping them apart. By working toward comprehensive immigration reform that does not mention a wall, we can avoid further moral injury. Instead of asking ourselves “what have we done?” we could then state, “we fought for human decency.”

Featured Photo: AFP/File / GUILLERMO ARIAS. Migrants line up at El Chaparral port of entry in Tijuana, Mexico.