Kavanaugh Editorial Cartoon Goes Beyond the Hearing

Updated on October 3, 2018
Christina St-Jean profile image

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more daily than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, & LGBT advocacy.

A "Gut Punch" To Some

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Have You Ever Testified About Sexual Assault?

Every time I look at Bruce MacKinnon's recent editorial cartoon that was based on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's testimony about United States Supreme Court nominee Bruce Kavanaugh's alleged sexual assault of her decades ago, my stomach churns just a little.

While there have been many online who have spoken out in support of Dr. Blasey Ford, there are those who question her motives in testifying at this point, and of course, there have been the obvious questions about how a woman would have been treated had they behaved in the manner in which Kavanaugh did during the hearing. Typically, I stay away from watching these confirmation hearings for future Supreme Court justices; I tend to find them incredibly dry.

It's this editorial cartoon from Bruce MacKinnon of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, that has me and apparently others reeling.

My feelings have nothing to do with the testimony of Dr. Blasey Ford or the political bent of the cartoon itself. Rather, it's the sense of powerlessness in Lady Justice's face. It's a feeling with which I am unfortunately familiar, and I know there are countless other women who feel much the same way. Anyone who's been sexually assaulted - whether they're male or female - knows all too well just how powerless you can be when you find yourself in that situation, and the aftermath of it will resonate for years after, even with counseling and therapy.

I applaud MacKinnon's artwork in this case, and I think that while the two arms pinning Lady Justice down speaks for itself, it's the palpable tension in her face that's causing this image to go viral. Yes, it's taken a lot of bravery for Dr. Blasey Ford to testify, and I can only imagine just how sleepless she's been as she's relived this experience. However, this incident and so many others that have come to light over the months since #MeToo started has also likely ignited in sexual assault survivors a resurgence in their memories of what happened to them.

MacKinnon's editorial cartoon of Lady Justice being visibly restrained - and visibly distressed - has served to do far more than comment on the Kavanaugh hearings and the editorialist's opinion of them. It has served as something of a rallying point and commentary about how women and their ability to report are affected by the justice system as a whole.

Men are certainly also victims of sexual assault but underreport the crime significantly due to the victimization they undoubtedly feel. For whatever reason, though, men appear to be taken more seriously when it comes to reporting of sexual assault. Men are unlikely to face questions about what they were wearing at the time, or whether they were alone or with someone else, or why they were walking through a particular area.

Even for a simple tribunal - a non-criminal proceeding - women have been asked about their history of sexual activity, or what they have worn when going out with people, or even what they have routinely done while out on a date. The MacKinnon editorial cartoon is a heartwrenching reminder about what women can go through in many respects from the point of reporting a sexual assault straight through to trial.

Do women feel afraid when trying to do the right thing and report a sexual assault when it happens? No doubt; there's a history of very uncomfortable and personal questions that are asked when it comes to a sexual assault investigation. Certainly, both the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator should have to be questioned about what happened because how else is the truth going to be revealed? However, historically, women have been thrown under the microscope in sexual assault cases seemingly more so than men. The questions that women are faced with seem necessary, but far more probing than the ones men typically have to deal with.

Not that men aren't sometimes treated unfairly by the criminal justice system, but when you consider the statistics from RAINN - the ones that say for every 1000 sexual assault cases, 994 of those accused go free - the odds of a woman successfully reporting a sexual assault and that report going all the way through to a conviction is slim.

It's little wonder that this editorial cartoon has resonated so strongly with so many.

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