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Sexual assault survivors share stories with #WhyIDidntReport

After Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused Supreme Court nominee Judge Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school, President Trump tweeted to ask for official filings. This sparked a movement on Twitter in which women shared stories of why they did not report sexual assault using #WhyIDidntReport. The New York Times Magazine’s Emily Bazelon joins Hari Sreenivasan for more.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Last Sunday the woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault came forward publicly. Professor Christine Blasey Ford alleged in an interview with The Washington Post that Kavanaugh forced himself on her while the two were at a high school party more than three decades ago. Kavanaugh denies the claim.

    On Monday, following the public accusation White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway said Blasey Ford report should be heard.

  • KELLYANNE CONWAY:

    She should not be ignored. She should testify under oath and she could do it on Capitol Hill.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Democrats called for an FBI investigation.

    The Republicans appear to publicly doubtlessly Ford's claims. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah suggested that she was "mistaken." By Friday, more than 75 women in support of Brett Kavanaugh held a press conference.

  • SARA FAGEN, JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH SUPPORTER:

    Bret is a person of honor. Integrity. And the person of strong moral character.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Also, yesterday for the first time, President Trump referred to Blasey Ford by name to his more than 54 million Twitter followers where he questioned why she did not report the alleged assault, writing, "if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local law enforcement authorities." Within minutes thousands use Twitter to share painful stories of sexual assault under #WhyIDidntReport.

    Marianne Kimmel wrote, "because he was my father. Because I thought it was normal. Because when I did come forward at age 26 after 15 years, no one believed me."

    David Leavitt wrote, "I was four and he said he'd kill me."

    Joining us now via Skype from New Haven, Connecticut is Emily Bazelon, a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine who has reported on power and women's issues and shared her own experience with sexual assault.

    Pardon me that this might come off as a set of interview questions from a person of privilege here but I was stunned to see this. Were you surprised? You've been covering this space for a long time about how you've been writing about women, about power for so long. To see such raw emotion displayed on Twitter, sometimes, for the very first time in our lives.

  • EMILY BAZELON:

    I wasn't surprised. I think that a lot of women have stories like the one that Christine Blasey Ford has told us. Of assaults that happened to them in some cases a long time ago. At a time when to come forward to the police and make a report as President Trump suggested would it really seemed inconceivable. There was a lot of shame that women felt and still feel about sexual assault. And I think in the '80s, the time we are talking about sometimes we didn't even really have the language to describe situations in which you knew the person and then something went terribly wrong. So I think that's why you're seeing this outpouring from women, this urgent sense that there are lots of important reasons to try to figure out whether Blasey Ford's story is credible, questions about corroborating facts those are all separate but to decide to disbelieve her simply because she didn't report in the 1980s, I think to a lot of us that feels like a huge mistake.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    There's also been this line of questioning or thinking about how could someone remembers something so vividly but also not have access to other details about the particular event.

  • EMILY BAZELON:

    Right. So for me, this, Blasey Ford's version of what she remembers and what she doesn't rings very true. Times of intense emotion, you remember what happened. You certainly remember the person who hurt you in a sexual assault. So, I think, we have this very vivid memory from her of what happened but I think the surrounding details, kind of faded over time, because she was trying really hard not to think about them.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Also there was a article an OpEd written in The Washington Post this week by former first daughter of Nancy Reagan, Patty Davis. I'm sorry Nancy Reagan and Ronald Reagan, Patty Davis she says, "Your memory snaps photos of the details that will haunt you forever. That will change your life and live under your skin. It blacks out other parts of the story that really don't matter much."

  • EMILY BAZELON:

    Right. Memory is complicated. And you know I think, it's important to say that asking questions to try to determine credibility, to try to figure out the surrounding circumstances those are all legitimate things that investigators do. I think it's part of why Blasey Ford is asking for a neutral investigation here, to try to back herself up. And it's interesting to me that if Brett Kavanaugh is indeed innocent, why he wouldn't welcome such an investigation.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    It's incredible to watch so many people around you just like it was, I think, in the #MeToo movement to realize that there were so many colleagues and people you loved that have had these experiences happen to them. But to see this other chapter of #WhyIDidntReport come forward, is really heartbreaking to say the least.

  • EMILY BAZELON:

    Right. But also perhaps a good that Blasey Ford is already done by giving women a reason to come forward and to try to reconfigure the way we think about sexual assault so that women don't have to feel shame and guilt about it. That will be a real tremendous benefit going forward.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    On the one hand while we're talking about Kavanagh, regardless of what the outcome there is, as you say and as you point out, the fact that this has empowered so many women to come forward about this, what do you think the net positive is of her taking the stand and speaking her truth to that committee?

  • EMILY BAZELON:

    You know, I think if she tells her story sympathetically and credibly, then a lot of people are blaming her after really reckon with these accusations, with the kind of situation that produces them. And to really think about Brett Kavanaugh's character. We're not talking about whether to send Kavanagh to jail or punish him in any way. We're talking about whether he deserves one of the greatest honors the country has to offer — life tenure on the Supreme Court. So I think you can ask questions about whose burden of proof it is here and what we should do if there are really credible accusations. I think so, it's really important to wait, to listen to the testimony on both sides before we make up our minds.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. Emily Bazelon joining us via Skype from New Haven. Thanks so much for joining us.

  • EMILY BAZELON:

    Thanks for having me.

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