Re: Oct.10 “Kavanaugh, #MeToo and the court of public opinion” – Jesse Blackman

Justin Cheng’s surprisingly unthoughtful perspective on #MeToo and the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation merits a simple response. The concerns Cheng raises quietly ignore similar, often more extreme, consequences for people who come forward making allegations of sexual violence.

For instance, in addition to damage to her reputation, Christine Blasey Ford has experienced a huge volume of threats including threats of sexual violence and death threats. The abuse is so severe, multiple reports indicate, the complainant and her family have been forced to move from their home. Kavanaugh on the other hand will be moving onto the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cheng suggests that society should adopt a balance of probabilities standard for public allegations of sexual violence. In the same article he goes on to call Ford’s testimony under oath “unsubstantiated, unproven allegations.” Under these circumstances it sounds like complainants, in Cheng’s vision, would need to prove their allegations true. This is not a balance of probabilities.

Not to mention Kavanaugh did an abysmal job of demonstrating his innocence. At the very least his comportment and conspiracy theories have no place in a court of law.

If a balance of probabilities standard is used, then what is the weight of social science evidence that overwhelmingly demonstrates false allegations are astronomically uncommon? When Ford and other complainants testify under oath they should be believed.

The logical next step is for supporting evidence to corroborate their testimony. Ford did have some corroborating evidence and if the FBI had more time the result of the investigation may have been different.

Maybe Cheng, and others who share his view, should consider belief alone as insufficient to make a conclusion. Belief can influence decisions, such as appointing a Supreme Court justice, but it would not be enough for discipline or punishment to arise.


Jesse Blackman is currently a student at Robson Hall.