Local experts weigh in on upcoming Kavanaugh testimony

PHOENIX - Supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has been in the hot seat after two women have accused him of sexual assault and indecency, both cases from decades ago.

This is also the first time both women are speaking out about the incidents.

The first alleged victim, Christine Blasey Ford, is expected to testify on Thursday, Most of her testimony is based on what she says she remembers from a party stemming back more than thirty years ago.

While many skeptics are questioning why she didn't file a report or speak up about this sooner, advocates for sexual assault victims say it's not uncommon.

Almost 80 percent of sexual assaults go unreported, and on college campuses, that number is even higher.

Angela Rose, a sexual assault survivor and founder of the group PAVE or Promoting Awareness and Victim Empowerment said 9 out of 10 college students do not report a sexual assault.

In most cases they were either ashamed, or felt that they would not be believed.

Rose has experienced that feeling.

"When I was 17-years-old, I was kidnapped from a shopping mall, and when I went down to report what happened to me, the detective didn't believe me. He accused me of lying. I felt so re-victimized, and now I hear that from so many survivors," said Rose.

The national scrutiny the two Kavanaugh accusers are facing has been bringing back old wounds for many sexual assault survivors, she added.

"It does take a lot to talk about a silent crime and something that is so personal. This type of sexual violence is unlike any other crime. Unfortunately, it is having a negative impact on a lot of survivors that are very triggered by this media. They are seeing so many people using very victim-blaming language and saying things that are very re-traumatizing for survivors," said Rose.

Defense attorneys who had worked a lot of sexual assault cases agree memories alone might be tough to make the accusations stick.

Even though in this case the accuser is not trying to prove a case in a court of law where evidence would be key to the prosecution, she is facing a partial and partisan group of lawmakers.

"Miss Ford in her particular case is going to have some struggles there. She is making an accusation, she is making a claim, but it doesn't seem there is any evidence to support what she is saying," said Christine Whalin, a managing partner with DM Cantor, a Phoenix law firm.

"Given the amount of time that has gone by there is no examination that has been done, there were no eyewitnesses at the time, the individuals who have been interviewed, and I believe that has allegedly already happened, everybody they've completed interviews with indicated they had no recollection that a party even happened. I think that her supporting evidence just seems to be falling flat at this point," said Whalin.

The case now centers on the testimony Blasey Ford provides, and if it is compelling enough to impact our elected officials.

While difficult and traumatizing, advocates for sexual assault encourage all victims to report and document as much as they can about crimes right after they happen, even if they don't want to publicly speak about them or tell anyone.  

Rose stressed the evidence could help you down the road when you were ready to talk about it.  

Evidence was crucial to bring justice to the perpetrator in any sexual assault case.

"If they want to be taken as seriously as it should be they need to disclose it right away because as time goes on memories fade, the evidence isn't collected, witnesses disappear, and when they're ready they may not feel like they're going to get the justice they deserve," added Whalin.

Despite the outcome of the hearings, and whether Kavanaugh gets the nod or not, legal experts said this scandal would be something that hovers over him like a dark cloud for years to come.

"It is a lifetime stigma, and it doesn't go away and unfortunately at the end of this if Kavanaugh gets confirmed one good thing that will come out of it is we will have a judge who knows what it is like to be accused," said Whalin.

Blasey Ford is expected to provide her testimony on Thursday.

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