The head of the North Carolina Republican Party calls one of Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers “a criminal” who “should go to prison.” And we wonder why women are hesitant to report sexual assault?
Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the North Carolina GOP, said of Julie Swetnick’s claims: “These things not only did not happen, they are impossible. So she needs to be prosecuted…”
How many women decide to remain in hiding when they hear comments like that? Republicans, from President Trump on down, have questioned why Kavanaugh’s accusers stayed quiet about the Supreme Court nominee for so long. But with his tweets about Swetnick on Sunday, Woodhouse himself becomes the living embodiment of why a woman might keep her secret hell to herself.
Karen Parker has seen it over and over. As the CEO of Safe Alliance in Charlotte, she and her organization help women who have suffered domestic abuse and sexual violence. Often they have remained silent for years. When a high-profile case hits the public eye, victims seeking counseling call Safe Alliance and tell of their decades-old trauma.
So Woodhouse’s comments are damaging, Parker said.
“It’s just one more thing in the victim’s head: ‘OK, someone else is not going to believe me,’” Parker told the editorial board Monday. “When you hear it over and over, you do start to think, ‘what’s the use in telling anybody? I might be setting myself up not to be believed, I might set myself up for them to attack me in some way.’ You either deal with all those things or just stay quiet.”
This is not just about Woodhouse. North Carolina political observers are used to his polarizing bluster. This is about the environment Woodhouse contributes to, an environment that discourages victims of sexual assault from telling their stories, even in 2018. They see what happens to others who do.
Woodhouse followed up his tweets by telling the News & Observer “we stand with sex assault victims 100 percent.” He argues that his targeting is limited to Swetnick, whose allegations he regards as outlandish and who has been involved in many legal disputes over the years.
Swetnick may or may not be telling the truth. But instead of labeling her a “criminal,” Republicans and Democrats alike should want a full investigation of her claims and those of at least two other women before elevating Kavanaugh to one of the nation’s most powerful positions.
Parker says victimized women have at least three fears in reporting the crime: that they won’t be believed; that they’ll face some kind of retribution; and that they’ll have to relive the trauma. Women have slowly won a more supportive environment over the years, and have gotten a boost from the #MeToo movement. The last thing victims of sexual violence need are people like Woodhouse driving them back into the shadows.