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Damaging a Man’s Good Name Versus Damaging a Woman’s Life

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Gender Letter helps you keep up with the world, and the women shaping it. Tell me what you think at dearmaya@nytimes.com.

Two doors. When Christine Blasey Ford and her husband remodeled their California home, she insisted on installing a second door — a second egress from which she could escape, if necessary.

It was a chilling detail amid her heart-wrenching testimony on Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the world, in which she detailed a sexual assault she says she experienced three decades ago as a teenager at the hands of Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court.

In the four years after the alleged assault, Dr. Blasey said she struggled academically and was unable to forge friendships. In the more than 30 years since, she said she’s been plagued by PTSD-like symptoms like anxiety, claustrophobia and panic.

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Amid all the political rancor of the week, I couldn’t help but think about a narrative that’s been repeating since the rise of #MeToo nearly a year ago: that these accusations tear down the reputations of prominent, well-respected men — that they ruin their legacy. “My family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed,” Judge Kavanaugh said on Thursday.

What seems an afterthought is that for millions of women, and men, who have endured this sort of violence, the toll is life-altering, even life-derailing, from the moment it happens. It’s trauma that doesn’t have a term limit.

This dynamic was illustrated more than once this week, first with the sentencing — of three to 10 years in prison — of Bill Cosby, whose victim, Andrea Constand, released a harrowing impact statement.

“When the sexual assault happened, I was a young woman brimming with confidence and looking forward to a future bright with possibilities,” she said. “Now, almost 15 years later, I’m a middle-aged woman who’s been stuck in a holding pattern for most of her adult life, unable to heal fully or to move forward.”

“Bill Cosby took my beautiful, healthy young spirit and crushed it,” she said.

Then in an Op-Ed this week titled “I Was Raped at 16 and I Kept Silent,” the TV host and model Padma Lakshmi said she understood why women waited years to disclose sexual assault — because she did just that, even though she had suffered immeasurably.

“Some say a man shouldn’t pay a price for an act he committed as a teenager. But the woman pays the price for the rest of her life, and so do the people who love her,” she wrote.

On Friday, the committee advanced Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate, but not without a hitch. Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona said he would not support final confirmation until the F.B.I. investigates the accusations, a request Senate Republicans bowed to, delaying the vote by up to a week.

The F.B.I.’s findings, if any, may well help senators determine whom they believe, and whether Judge Kavanaugh will get the rare opportunity — for the rest of his lifetime — to restore his reputation from the highest court in the United States.

_________

• She said, he said. Christine Blasey Ford said she was “100 percent” certain that Mr. Kavanaugh was her attacker. He said he was “100 percent” certain that he was not. What will senators say? [The New York Times]

The tight rope of testifying while female: Dr. Blasey’s testimony was a stark reminder of the gender dynamics, and mental gymnastics, required of women who speak up (or speak at all). [The New York Times]

Worth the risk? Republicans know that Judge Kavanaugh may be their last, best opportunity to cement a conservative majority on the Supreme Court for a generation. [The New York Times]

• Calls to postpone. The American Bar Association and Yale Law School called for postponing a vote on Judge Kavanaugh until after an F.B.I. investigation. [The New York Times]

• In other news: Specialist Jessica Sarandrea is buried in Arlington National Cemetery’s Section 60, the final resting place of those lost to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here’s her story, and the story of those she left behind. [The New York Times]

Follow Maya Salam on Twitter @Maya_Salam or write to her at dearmaya@nytimes.com.





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