Regarding Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court, sexual assault, and false accusations

Like many of you, I have been watching the coverage of the Brett Kavanaugh nomination-turned-fiasco. I have read the particular accusations against him and the many, varied responses to them. I read this coverage with a slight partisan perspective as someone who believes in Constitutional originalism and as someone who has concerns about a society that permits the killing of its young, and yet…I’m troubled.

I am concerned by the very serious accusations against Kavanaugh, and I am distressed by the responses to them.

I believe that there is more at stake in this moment than the nomination of an individual to the Supreme Court, no matter how important that is. How we handle sexual assault allegations, how we speak about women, what we expect of young men, and how we handle investigations into accusations of years-ago crimes that by their nature delay reporting of them—all of these questions are in play. We would do well to slow down, listen closely, and think deeply.

Toward that end, I commend this article: Between Brock Turner and Brett Kavanaugh, When do Girls Matter? Two warnings before you click on it, though. To all my readers who have been sexually assaulted or abused, this article may  trigger renewed trauma in you. Please click carefully, if at all.

To everyone else: I find the author’s logic to be very sound…and deeply painful. This is not an easy read. It is worth our contemplation, nonetheless.

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I have noticed that some of my friends with sons have a different reaction to the Kavanaugh allegations than I do, as a mom of daughters. Several times in the last week, I have heard the issue of false accusations raised. This may seem easy for me to say, but I think our societal fear of false accusations may be a red herring.

Yes, if your son were to be falsely accused of a sexual crime, it would be devastating and life-altering. I get that. The incidence of false accusations, though, is quite small.  Regarding that question, I found this article well-researched and helpfully detailed: What Kind of Person Makes False Rape Accusations.

Please do not allow the bogey-man of false accusations to stand in the way of you supporting investigation of sexual crimes and caring for victims. In my personal friend circle, I see a prevalence of sexual assault that matches or even exceeds the reported percentages. The numbers are real and shockingly high. In contrast, I do not believe a single one of my friends has ever been falsely accused of sexual assault.

The numbers of false accusations do not remotely compare to the number of actual sexual assaults. We must not put off grappling with something that happens often by an overblown fear of something that does not.

 

©Laura Goetsch and Thinking about Such Things, 2018.

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Evangelicals, we have a major blind spot

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I have become convinced that white, American evangelical Christians have a major blind spot. I say this as a member of this community, reflecting on my own people.

Very often, we evangelicals do not see power. We are blind to power dynamics in the world and blind to them in the Scriptures. We cannot assess whether power is being used ethically and justly because we do not notice it is being used at all.

Here’s one way to test the teaching you’ve received and the lenses you’ve been given: were you taught that David’s sin with Bathsheba was primarily sexual? Or were you taught that his sin was the way he abused his power?

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On MSU and leadership

The President of Michigan State University, Lou Anna Simon, resigned from her position yesterday. She was pressured to do so by those who have watched Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse victims give statements on what they suffered at MSU and other gymnastic facilities. The leadership of USA Gymnastics is under similar pressure, as it should be.

Simon submitted a six paragraph letter of resignation to the MSU Board of Trustees. After stating that “[t]he survivors’ accounts are horrific….tragic, heartbreaking, and personally gut-wrenching,” she goes on to say,

As Nassar’s legal journey to prison was drawing to a close, more and more negative attention was focused on Michigan State University, and on me.  I am pleased that statements have been made by Mr. Fitzgerald and Board members about my integrity and the fact that there is no cover-up….As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable.  As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger.  I understand, and that is why I have limited my personal statements.   Throughout my career, I have worked very hard to put Team MSU first.  Throughout my career, I have consistently and persistently spoken and worked on behalf of Team MSU.  I have tried to make it not about me.

You know what this ain’t?

LEADERSHIP.

Continue reading “On MSU and leadership”

The insufficiency of “consent”

IMG_2291I had just turned 22 when the Monica Lewinsky story broke. I remember a phone conversation with my dad at that time in which we disagreed on the relative guilt of the parties—he argued, if I remember correctly, that the preponderance belonged to President Clinton. I argued that Lewinsky and Clinton shared near equal culpability. After a bit, my dad concluded the conversation by saying, “Laura, I think you may be too young to understand.”

He was right.

I was too young, too inexperienced in the world. Here’s what I did not understand: power.

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Death comes in springtime

As spring has erupted in color and light, we have watched my mother-in-law reach the winter of her earthly life. She suffered several strokes in March, and her decline has been steep and steady. Death is drawing very close now.

Rick has gone back and forth to Wisconsin, first to comfort his mother and recently to assist his father. On Easter Sunday, we all left our brimming-with-life church service to travel the six hours to say good-bye. We arrived on a gorgeous spring evening, the Wisconsin fields golden in the warm light. During the few days we were there, our children pressed in, bravely sitting with and talking to their much changed Geegee. Through tears, I did my best to model courage in the midst of tender good-byes.

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On reacting and writing slowly

Have you noticed that I’m always behind? I never offer “hot takes” on my blog, only stone cold ones. Sometimes I wait two weeks to discuss an event, sometimes a year.

Lagging behind is not what the experts recommend for bloggers and opinion writers. You’re supposed to respond to events within 24 hours, offering incisive analysis on call.

I have deliberately chosen not to do this. It takes me longer than 24 hours to understand an event—what happened and why. And then I need to mull it over—reading wise commentators, feeling my feelings, praying, and discussing it with people whose perspective I trust.  This is how I discern both truth and wisdom.  Neither one comes quickly. 

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It may not be obvious from this blog, but I am actually an impulsive person. I have strong and immediate reactions that I enjoy acting on. I am comfortable letting my gut lead me.

I have chosen, however, to never hit “publish” impulsively. When I put my thoughts online, I want them to be well-considered. I need to be confident I have thought an issue through from multiple angles, that I have treated the players graciously, that I can stand behind both my opinion and my tone.

And when I have failed in either regard, I welcome feedback from readers. Such failures are far less frequent if I take time to listen, think, and write slowly, however. I save myself a lot of trouble when I am “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)

We all know the dangers of a quick tongue. How much greater the dangers of a quick keyboard?

 

©Laura Goetsch and Thinking about Such Things, 2017.

 

Making sense of the news in the Trump era

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The view from where I sit

Ten days in, it is clear that one of the main tasks of responsible citizens during the Trump administration is to distinguish facts from fiction, hysteria from reasoned analysis. This, of course, is always the task of a responsible citizen, but it becomes paramount with an administration happy to baldy lie about the most trivial issues and a media driven to hysteria by every move the administration makes.

As much as I wish Donald Trump were not President and as much as I doubt his competence, I am unwilling to assume that every single action he takes is abhorrent and wrong-headed. I have neither the emotional stamina to live in outrage for four years nor the confidence that continual panic serves the common good. Instead, I must sort through the facts, do my best to discern the truth, and then pick my battles. Which actions and appointees are tolerable, and which ones threaten our democracy?

Continue reading “Making sense of the news in the Trump era”