Nicole Bedera Profile picture
Sep 27, 2018 115 tweets 30 min read
I'm a sociologist who studies adolescent sexual violence. On this thread, I will be live tweeting the #Kavanaugh hearing, chiming in with sociological insights and research findings.
Full disclosure--I will probably step away for parts of it. While many conservatives have cast feminists as people who rejoice at allegations of sexual assault against powerful men, this is a painful process for us. We know survivors. We are survivors. And I will need breaks.
It does not bode well that the beginning of this hearing is starting with equating #Kavanaugh and #Ford's experiences with harassment following Dr. Ford's allegations. They are absolutely not the same.
I'm horrified by this opening statement from the Judiciary Committee. It's casting doubt on Dr. Ford before she has even had a chance to speak. It's tainting her testimony from the start. This is why we needed someone trained in sexual violence to conduct this hearing.
The only reason this is a "he said/she said" case is because the Judiciary Committee has refused to bring in all relevant witnesses and evidence. As #AnitaHIll mentioned at her talk at @UofU last night, without an investigation, the hearing was destined for "he said/she said."
And this is by no fault of Dr. Ford. She did everything she could to advocate for the importance of a full investigation.
Why are we talking about #AnitaHill? Because the some of the same people are involved in this hearing, including @OrrinHatch. And a lot of the treatment of Dr. Ford and Professor Hill are comparable, including the rush to a vote, scheduled before the hearing has occurred.
Read Dr. Ford's opening statement here:…
Contrary to popular belief, Dr. Ford is the single most credible witness who could ever come forward. #Kavanaugh has an ulterior motive to lie (i.e., to become a Supreme Court Justice). Dr. Ford doesn't. And all of this happened to her body. No one else has authority on that.
We've heard a lot of "boys will be boys" in response to Dr. Ford's allegations. Or, "It was a mistake--he couldn't have known any better." The fact that #Kavanaugh put his hand over Dr. Ford's mouth is evidence that he knew what he was doing and he knew it was wrong.
It's worth noting just how hard this is for Dr. Ford. Many sexual assault survivors never tell anyone about what happened to them, much less their entire country (and under intense scrutiny).
Dr. Ford is a woman who didn't sleep last night. This is a woman who has moved out of her house because of death threats. And this is all on top of how upsetting it already is to retell a story of sexual assault.
When Dr. Ford's statement concludes, I ask you not to listen to whatever commentary will fill the break she asked for. Sit in silence. Write down what stood out to you in her testimony. Write down what made you feel. It will offer you clarity later.
Is it sensible that Dr. Ford would use the word bystander incorrectly? Yes. I hear this all the time in my work--both research and trainings I've conducted. It's a piece of jargon that is often used differently between the public and experts.
It's absurd to me that a prosecutor would only get five minutes to lay the foundation for testimony. We needed more time than that in mock trial in college. To make the best use of the prosecutor, she needs more time.
Anxiety, phobia, and PTSD are all among the most common responses to sexual victimization.
Academic difficulties are also very common after sexual assault. (This is why Title IX is such a big deal on college campuses--sexual violence hinders women's ability to engage equitably in their education.)
In early interviews with survivors for my dissertation, many come forward early because they want to spare their assailants from future embarrassment or severe repercussion (e.g., public scandal, losing a job). That's the likely purpose of Dr. Ford's confidential message.
We talk a lot about how traumatic memory might make survivors' testimony less credible, but there is also science about how trauma can make some memories stronger and more permanent. That's what Dr. Ford is referencing when she explains how she knew her assailant was #Kavanaugh.
#Kavanaugh and Judge's shared laughter isn't surprising in an attempted gang rape. Sexual violence is often perpetrated for the sake of male bonding. Their laughter is consistent with the sociological literature on the subject.
Dr. Ford's question of whether or not the break she wants is accommodating for the Senators is so reminiscent of the way the survivors I interview will ask me if I need breaks or thank me repeatedly for my time. It always breaks my heart. They're the ones who need accommodations.
It shouldn't be surprising that no one else at the gathering has reached out to Dr. Ford. Such a relaxed, ordinary gathering wouldn't make much of an impression on anyone else there. (Especially since #Kavanaugh covered Dr. Ford's mouth to keep her from screaming.)
"A liar can create a seamless story. A trauma survivor cannot..." True. Absolutely true. #Kavanaugh
(If anyone else can finish that quote in a reply, please do. I didn't want to mess it up with an inaccuracy and couldn't type quite fast enough to catch it all.)
Is anyone else wishing they could take a class from Dr. Ford? She's meticulous, kind, and compelling. She's impressing me now--I would love to see her at her very best at work.
Quick reminder to everyone that the burden of proof for a criminal trial should be different than that for a job interview--especially a lifetime appointment to the highest court in our land. We do not need "beyond a reasonable doubt" to know we shouldn't confirm #Kavanaugh.
This line of questioning about Dr. Ford's willingness to fly for this hearing is absurd. Any phobia Dr. Ford has of flying would obviously be exaggerated when flying to do something so emotionally distressing.
The Democratic Senators testimonies are probably pretty hard on Dr. Ford. They're making a classic mistake secondary survivors make: they're putting their own agendas and emotions on the survivor and asking her to do emotional labor for them.
Secondary survivors are people who know or are connected to a survivor. They often have emotional reactions to the sexual assault as well, even though they did not endure any violence personally.
So grateful for my wonderful pets who have listened to the entire #Kavanaugh hearing with me. I love Pru’s urgent angry face and Kinsey’s exhausted ambivalence.
Hopefully the pet tweet gives you all a quick emotional break from the hearing.
Couldn't the Democrats have coordinated their remarks? The least we could do for Dr. Ford is not ask her to repeat sensitive information about her traumatic experience over and over again.
It's important that the Democrats are asking about how the sexual assault has affected Dr. Ford. After the #MeToo movement, a lot more people believe survivors than before. Now the argument is over whether or not sexual assault is harmful enough to merit discipline.
Dr. Ford's testimony about her traumatic symptoms makes it abundantly clear: yes, sexual assault hurts. And yes, we must do something about it, including holding men who cause such trauma accountable for their actions.
Anyone know of a schedule for the breaks for the #Kavanaugh hearing? Instead of listening to commentators, I'd rather close the window and take a real break without worrying that I'll miss something.
@DonaldJTrumpJr -- I'm a sociology professor. Here's the answer to the question you posed on Twitter.
In a trauma-informed hearing, Dr. Ford would never be asked to answer a question she didn't understand.
It's infuriating to hear remedies for a sexual assault survivor cast as perks of a false allegation. The GoFundMe pages are to offset the huge costs incurred by Dr. Ford by coming forward. Pro bono lawyers just make sense for survivors--they didn't ask to be part of this process.
Dr. Ford's unwillingness to name the person #Kavanaugh blamed for the sexual assault is a true testament to her unwillingness to support a false allegation.
The prosecutor is hinting that a true rapist would commit rapes with impunity. We know that's not true. A lot of rapists only rape once. (Although it sounds like #Kavanaugh isn't one of them.) And all rapists require a social context conducive to rape to perpetrate.
The fact that #Kavanaugh did not sexually assault Dr. Ford multiple times is irrelevant here.
This is the cognitive interview technique Mitchell mentioned:…
Based on the biases against sexual assault victims, the lack of a cognitive interview is a reason to believe that Dr. Ford's claims have not been given a fair shake. She deserved better than this. It does not mean that her claims have not been properly evaluated.
As we move into a break, I just want to commend Dr. Ford for doing a very, very hard thing today. There's a lot of research I could cite on the topic, but for many survivors, questioning like this is as traumatizing as the sexual assault itself. Thank you, Dr. Ford.
As we move into the next portion of testimony, I want to remind you all of something my therapist often reminds me. Thinking about and reliving trauma (as many of us are in these hearings) is physically exhausting. Think of it as working out. Grab some water, stretch, nap.
Preparing for #Kavanaugh's testimony, there's one study I want to highlight. In a study of incarcerated rapists, two-thirds denied committing an act of sexual assault. Instead, they rationalized their behavior as normative (of men).…
For some reason, this tweet didn't end up on the thread:
Rapists don't confess rapes. At best, most argue that whatever occurred was nonconsensual. (#Kavanaugh is unique in his outright denial of each allegation.) We should not expect a change of heart or confession from Kavanaugh.
But I'll add--that doesn't mean #Kavanaugh is being honest. Perpetrators accused of sexual assault have a lot at stake if they confess, so they don't. And we know that Kavanaugh in particular has a history of dishonesty in these proceedings.…
Here's the full text of #Kavanaugh's statement:…
One thing there isn't much evidence for? The common assertion that false allegations ruin lives. In fact, we have a lot of evidence that any allegation of sexual assault has little effect on the one accused. (But emerging research--including my own--will investigate further.)
The things #Kavanaugh is saying Democrats have said about him? They're harsh, but ask yourself, are they inaccurate if Kavanaugh is indeed a serial rapist?
But I'll be the first to say that anyone who has harassed #Kavanaugh's wife and daughters is just awful. This is a hard time for them. They are likely hearing these allegations for the first time. We should support them, not harass them.
Do not forget that at no point was there any compelling evidence offered that Dr. Ford's allegations were politically motivated. If anything, we got a lot of compelling evidence for the opposite.
In this opening statement, #Kavanaugh has offered no substantial evidence to contest the sexual violence narratives offered by his four accusers.
If #Kavanaugh really meant that he wanted due process for these allegations, then he should have demanded the FBI investigation that Dr. Ford requested. And, at the very least, we should have every relevant witness available for questioning today.
To put #Kavanaugh's tears into context, I ask the question: Can sexual assailants feel compassionate toward their victims? Yes. Absolutely. They're still human and their victims are usually people they know--and often people they care for.
Why might all of #Kavanaugh's background checks have failed to find real sexual assaults he committed? Because survivors don't typically speak out, especially not on the record. We know that the women accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct did not make reports the FBI could find
Again, it's extremely likely that only Dr. Ford would remember the gathering in question particularly well. It was only meaningful for her. We have all forgotten the vast majority of things we did in high school. This is not evidence.
I have never been compelled by #Kavanaugh's testimony about the calendar. This sounds like an informal, impromptu gathering--not something that would be on a calendar. Plus, he was engaging in illegal behaviors--not something you want written down.
Even more importantly, the lack of evidence that #Kavanaugh was at the gathering Dr. Ford described is not the same as hard evidence that he was somewhere else. That's the only thing that would clear #Kavanaugh's name.
I'm not compelled by #Kavanaugh's commentary about weekends either. This happened over the summer. Teenagers party on weekdays, especially over the summer.
We have a LOT of evidence that athletes (and football players in particular) party even when they have practice. I don't even think that needs to be empirically validated. Anyone who went to high school or college remembers this.
#Kavanaugh's testimony is full of contradictions. His calendar is exhaustive, but here's a list of what he wouldn't include. He couldn't drink because he was a football player, but he and his football buddies had beers together. This is not credible testimony.
#Kavanaugh's friendships with women are not the thing that the sociological literature would say is important to know about. It's the nature of his friendships with men that matter. We have evidence that demeaning comments about women was a big part of those friendships.
Anyone else listening to #Kavanaugh reminded of Brock Turner?
Fact check: Renate of the infamous "Renate alumni" reference has gone on the record to express how upsetting she found those yearbook comments. This was not a comment made as part of their cute inside joke.
This isn't scholarly. But hearing a man accused of sexual assault parade a list of every woman he knows as a defense is one of the things that makes my blood boil. It's irrelevant. It's a distraction. It's using the women who support him as objects for his own gain.
I wish that we could limit our discussion of the harm of sexual assault allegations to what actually happens to men accused. Instead, we imagine bright futures for them they might never achieve and devastation that might never happen. There's no empirical evidence to back it up.
#Kavanaugh cried more than Dr. Ford. This isn't surprising. Many researchers who study both perpetrators and victims have observed the same phenomenon.
Well done, Ms. Mitchell. Even if #Kavanaugh thought he was engaging in "horseplay," the events as described by Dr. Ford were still illegal--intent doesn't matter here. Good distinction.
Wait--elite white men who attended Georgetown Prep still engage in mass emails? I don't do that with my (public) high school peers. This whole confirmation process has been a master class in how privilege is conferred and maintained.
Wanting an immediate hearing is not the same as respecting due process. An investigation would be much closer to that.
Due process is not synonymous with men accused of sexual assault getting to immediately "defend their names." This hearing is extremely eye-opening as to what men want as we rethink how to adjudicate sexual misconduct complaints: they want to be absolved without evidence.
#Kavanaugh's interruptions of Senator Feinstein are consistent with sexist behavior. Sexist attitudes are a good predictor of violence toward women. (But obviously, there are a lot of sexist men who don't perpetrate sexual assault.)
How is that the commentary on #Kavanaugh is worse than the hearing? Be cautious offering too much sympathy to Kavanaugh based on the claim that his life will be ruined. Again, it isn't a reasonable assertion. Kavanaugh isn't even facing time in prison. This hearing is a privilege
As someone who teaches undergrads, I can attest that a sexual misconduct allegation at a Supreme Court confirmation hearing doesn't ruin a reputation forever. Lots of undergrads love Clarence Thomas and have never even heard of #AnitaHill.
When asked directly, #Kavanaugh skirts around (and yells at) the question of, "Do you want Mark Judge to be a witness?" Just think about why he is so concerned about that testimony.
I'm not impressed by assertions that #Kavanaugh volunteered or went to church. We know lots of people who have done the same and still committed horrific acts of sexual violence. Maybe you've seen a movie about it. It was called Spotlight.
It's worth noting that there are a few reasons the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are avoiding an investigation. One is that they think that #Kavanaugh has done what he is accused of. The other is that investigations are slow and could push confirmation past midterms.
Please, please stop equivocating Dr. Ford's suffering with #Kavanaugh's. They are not the same thing.
Fact check on @LindsayGrahamSC: gang rape is common in high school and college. And since we know social context matters in men's perpetration of rape, it is very likely that a gang rapist would stop the violence after graduation.
And I repeat: the fact that these allegations are old (and that none are more recent) have no bearing on their validity. It is completely consistent with what we know about adolescent sexual violence.
I have personally interviewed victims of sexual assault whose rapists attended (and were expelled from) Yale. #Kavanaugh's academic pedigree is not relevant here.
And I'll repeat again: Dr. Ford has offered corroboration for her allegations. The Senators should not pretend nothing is available for them to hear--they are just refusing to hear it.
Senator Klobuchar has the right demeanor to do research with sexual offenders.
Actually, Senator Grassley, there is precedent for an FBI investigation to seek information. As mentioned many times in this hearing, that is precisely what happened with #AnitaHill. Is it a permanent finding? No. Would it be helpful? Absolutely.
Another reminder: water, stretch, have a snack, take some deep breaths. This is a marathon. The emotional difficulty of a hearing like this mirrors intense physical exertion. Be kind to yourself.
What happened to Ms. Mitchell? Why did her questions for #Kavanaugh end early?
I don't understand what @OrrinHatch is trying to do here. Suggest that #Kavanaugh finding out about the allegations against him recently makes them less true? Or just that it's unfair? Because the former is irrelevant and the latter, well, that's what happens in the public eye.
#Kavanaugh trying to control whose testimony counts is a classic tool used by men to protect each other. Men are loyal to each other and they're secretive, especially if they have done immoral or illegal things together. There's a reason he's discounting everyone else.
While I think the recommendation for a week-long pause for an investigation is a nice gesture, it is extremely unrealistic to expect that an FBI investigation of four allegations of sexual assault would be over that quickly.
I feel compassion toward #Kavanaugh as he talks about how exhausting another week of this would be. He's right. It would be. It would be for me. But it also would be for Dr. Ford and she's still willing to go through with it because of her respect for our democracy.
And a week more of investigation and hearings is a small price to pay to get a lifetime appointment right.
@SenMikeLee, as your constituent, I wish you would have used your time for something other than partisan pandering. Don't you remember the list of primarily your constituents who demanded for an investigation? You have a democratic obligation to follow up.…
The Republicans keep saying that the FBI investigation would be flawed because there would be no conclusions. Is the better alternative really moving forward without interviewing relevant witnesses and exposing relevant evidence?
I don't think the American people are inspired by the idea that Republicans wish the entirety of the investigation into the allegations against #Kavanaugh had never been public. That's horrifying. What we all want now is the truth, not regret that we heard even a kernel of it.
#Kavanaugh, take responsibility for what you wrote about Renade in your yearbook. It's part of the hearing because of your actions. And now, even though it's unfair to her, we have to talk about it. Just apologize for what you wrote and what is happening to her now.
Good point from @MCsociology: Half of college students who have ever consumed alcohol have blacked out at some point. And with #Kavanaugh's reputation for heavy drinking, can we really believe he isn't one of them?…
Here's the thing about the Senate investigating the leads they've heard--they aren't trained in sex crimes. And we know that people who don't have training in sex crimes are really brutally awful at sexual assault investigations. This investigation is not sufficient.
Whoa--the offer to take Dr. Ford's testimony in California came with the requirement that it would be private? No wonder she (or her team) said no. She knew her testimony would never see the light of day.
Let's have a conversation about how hard it is to get a conviction in a sexual assault case. These crimes happen privately. There is very little definitive evidence. Even "rape kits" only prove sexual contact happened. The requirement of a conviction is a really high one.
On college campuses, we use a lower standard of evidence because beyond a reasonable doubt is hard. And even Betsy DeVos condones a lower burden of proof---sexual violence impacts the education of women and we have to take it seriously, even if we can't meet the criminal standard
My thought is that we should apply a similar standard of evidence as we use on college campuses for the confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice. Preponderance of the evidence--or more likely than not--isn't a bad way to think about this.
And in my professional opinion? About the evidence available? I'd say Dr. Ford's testimony was much stronger than #Kavanaugh's and that the physical evidence confirming her account is extremely compelling. So by a more likely than not standard, I'd say the sexual assault occurred
The repetition in the Republicans' statements is exhausting. I get that it will be easier for people to remember their talking points if they only have one, but it feels like a waste of our (and #Kavanaugh's time).
Today's hearing is not about anyone's allegations except Dr. Ford's--and if it is, the other women should be present. Ted Cruz is off topic and he can get away with it only because the other accusers can't share their side today.
I believe Senator Feinstein when she says that she tried to keep Dr. Ford's privacy as requested. And I think it was the right choice. If there was any chance that #Kavanaugh wouldn't be confirmed for other reasons, there was no reason to put Dr. Ford through this.
That being said, I also think that if Dr. Ford's allegations were going to sway the committee one way or another after the confirmation hearing had already begun, the public had a right to know. To put it another way, Dr. Ford and the letter came out at the right time.
Good catch by Senator Feinstein. As far as I have been able to gather, we know about Dr. Ford's allegations because of her conversations with the press, not a leaked letter. This doesn't matter for the facts of the case, but it does matter for the political nonsense going on.
And on the political debates going on today, Senator Harris' point is extremely well made: Democrats responded to Justice Gorsuch very differently than #Kavanaugh. And they should. Sexual assault allegations are serious and, if true, should be disqualifying from the Supreme Court
WHAT. #Kavanaugh didn't even listen to Dr. Ford's testimony today? I don't even know what to say about that. The arrogance, the callousness, the disrespect of not even hearing what she had to say...
#Kavanaugh's confession that he didn't listen to Dr. Ford today also calls into question the credibility of his own testimony. Has he really reckoned with the allegations? Has he searched his memory as thoroughly as he should?
Wow. I'm exhausted. Thanks to everyone who hung in there with me through about a million tweets on this hearing. For anyone interested on my summary thoughts, I will be giving an interview with BBC Radio this evening, which I will post to Twitter. But I need a break first.
And one more thing---if you were moved by what you saw today, call your Senators and let them know. It takes five minutes and they need to hear from the public right now.

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More from @NBedera

Oct 9, 2018
Taking a break from my Twitter hiatus to bring you a thread about what intersectional feminism really looks like at a protest---and what it doesn't. @uofusds, I'm talking to you.
Last night, I attended a Kavanaugh protest in Salt Lake City. And I was jazzed for it. Protesting reminds me that there are other people who care about an issue as much as I do. It's a place to get new ideas about how to fight the good fight. It just feels good.
That wasn't at all how last night's protest went.
Read 16 tweets
Oct 3, 2018
A friend and I were recently talking about impostor syndrome and we realized that we hear a lot about how common impostor syndrome is, but that it's treated like an inevitability and we rarely get tips on combatting it. So I wrote some and they're in this thread.
When you accomplish something and you get that twinge of, "What?! People are reading MY work? Why would they do that?!" update your CV with that new accomplishment. And read the whole thing when you do. Remind yourself of how qualified you really are.
And on that note, just do stuff. Enjoy that moment of finishing something and realizing that you did a pretty good job. Do more stuff so you can have more of them.
Read 14 tweets
Oct 1, 2018
As we move into the #Kavanaugh investigation, I want to have a chat about false allegations. From my experience, this is the #1 topic that is misunderstood by the general public and I want to address some of that confusion.
It's worth knowing that academics don't take "false allegations" too seriously. The reason for that is that they're really rare. False allegations of sexual assault are no more common that any other crime--and some studies have found that they're rarer.…
And as a former victim advocate, I can say that false allegations are easier to root out than most people think. Details don't match up or stories are too perfect. The allegations fall apart easily and the accusers often come clean.
Read 15 tweets
Sep 27, 2018
What are Anita Hill’s critiques of what she encountered from the Senate Judiciary Committee? No clear process, a rush to a vote, and failure to call all relevant witnesses. She sees the same problems with the #Kavanaugh hearing. Hill calls for valuing the humanity of victims.
She then called out @OrrinHatch for comparing her to the exorcist. @SenMikeLee, a room of 600 of your constituents are listening to Anita Hill and looking for better from our Utah representatives. And we’re all registered to vote.
Anita Hill asks why the feminist movements in the 60s-90s weren’t enough to end sexual harassment. Her answer? No clear government leadership and an unwillingness to confront the harsh reality that many harassers are people we respect, including our friends and family.
Read 12 tweets
Sep 26, 2018
I'm a sociologist who studies adolescent sexual violence. In this thread, I offer the basic facts everyone should know about sexual assault to make sense of the #Kavanaugh allegations. (And citations in case you want to read up yourself.)
Sexual violence is common, especially among adolescents. The best studies estimate that as many as 10.8% of young men commit an act of rape before graduating from college.…
Most of these men don't harbor a particular hatred for women, but instead use violence and harassment as a way to bond with other men and assert their masculinity.…
Read 13 tweets

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