2018-10-10 / Editorial

BELIEVING WOMEN

Michael N. Searles

It hard for some to believe that women are trustworthy. The idea that women were unreliable extends into the distant past. The Old Wives Tales epithet references supposed truth which is actually superstition or something untrue worthy of ridicule. These tales were considered folklore or unverified claims with exaggerated inaccurate details. Old wives' tales were often invoked to discourage certain behavior. In the King James Bible, 1 Timothy 4:7 reads, “But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.” Restrictions on women remains worldwide with remnants of those prohibitions still existing today. European and American women in the nineteenth century lived in an age of gender inequality. At the beginning of the century, women enjoyed few legal, social, or political rights. Those restrictions included not being able to vote, sue or be sued, testify in court, and limited control over personal property after marriage. Women were rarely granted legal custody of their children in cases of divorce and were barred from institutions of higher learning. They were expected to remain subservient to their fathers and husbands and their occupational choices were extremely limited. Middle and upper class women generally remained home, caring for their children and running the household. Lower class women often worked outside the home, but usually as poorly-paid domestic servants or laborers in factories and mills.

In some parts of India, road safety rules do not apply to women. In Yemen, a woman is considered only a half a witness, and can only leave the house with her husband’s permission. In Saudi Arabia, women have only recently been given the right to vote in municipal elections; however, female candidates have had to speak behind a partition while campaigning or be represented by a man. Bringing women into the 21 century continues to be a hard fought battle. It is within this context that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee was received. The Republican Senators initially decided it was too politically dangerous to question Dr. Ford directly, so they subcontracted the job to Prosecutor Rachel Mitchell of Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in Phoenix, Arizona. When it appeared that the prosecutor’s questions to Judge Kavanagh were not advancing his case, Senator Lindsey Graham began firing invectives to focus on how unfair the hearing had become. Initially, President Trump said that Dr. Ford’s testimony was compelling, but a few days later he derided her testimony as vague and unbelievable. Prosecutor Rachel Mitchell and several Republicans argued that the uncorroborated testimony of Dr. Ford would not stand up in a criminal court case. This argument does not recognize legal precedent. “A trial judge shall allow a witness to testify to facts and circumstances corroborative of his testimony and, in this regard, evidence may be admissible within this rule to show a reason for a witness to remember a transaction. A witness’s good character, reputation for truth, and veracity and proof of his/her prior consistent statements are methods of corroboration.” Almost everyone admits that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford met the above standard, yet it has been argued that she must be mistaken or confused. There have been numerous child victims who accused Catholic priest of sexual assault. In the Owensboro Kentucky Catholic Diocese, two victims recently came forward with claims of sexual abuse against two different priests dating back to 1944-1947 and 1962. They have been recognized as credible witnesses with the Diocese offering counseling and encouraging other victims to come forward. Maybe 74 year old charges are more credible coming from men rather than women. Child victims have made multiple charges and without those charges, the testimony of one child victim could have likely been dismissed. It’s all a matter of who is to be believed.

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