I regularly deal with women who’ve been sexually abused in other countries. Many of them do not report the assaults to law enforcement, because in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the police are unlikely to take rape and harassment seriously. These are generally patriarchal societies, where women are still considered property. There might be laws on the books, but they’re rarely applied.
But if you live in the United States, where we have a female vice president, a female speaker of the House, thousands of female judges at the state and federal level, it’s a little harder to understand why a woman who says she’s been attacked would wait years or even decades before making her accusations.
I call it CBFT, short for “Christine Blasey Ford Time.” Dr. Ford was the woman who famously accused Brett Kavanaugh of assaulting her way back in the 1980s at a high school party. She didn’t just wait years. She waited almost four decades to tell what she believed to be her truth, and a troubling number of people (not just women) found no problem with the fact that she’d waited half a lifetime to come clean.
This week, two women who had either worked with or traveled in the same circles as actor Chris Noth, the famous Mike Logan of “Law and Order” and the even more famous Mr. Big of “Sex and the City,” accused him of assaulting them on two different occasions. Like many of the women who accused Bill Cosby of similar acts, the women did not know each other and their accusations were lodged months apart. To be honest, they seem pretty credible.
But they occurred in, respectively, 2004 and 2015. The legal statute of limitations is long past. They know that, and we know that, and there is very little likelihood of any criminal charges being brought against Noth. There is no legal or ethical twist as there was in the Cosby situation. And unlike Blasey Ford and Anita Hill before her, these women are not trying to keep a man from being confirmed for a seat on the Supreme Court or some other high-profile job.
Nonetheless, what they are doing is equally dangerous, even though it doesn’t have the capacity to strip a man of his employment or worse, have him locked up as an octogenarian based on hearsay evidence and a complete manipulation of privacy protections and civil depositions.
They are launching firebombs against a person who is being asked when he stopped beating his wife. He will, like former Secretary of Labor Ray Donovan, be forced to search for that office where he can get his reputation back. He is losing, as Shakespeare wrote in the person of Cassio “the immortal part of myself, and all the rest is bestial.” In fact, by calling Chris Noth a sexual beast, his accusers have had him tried, convicted and sentenced in that quicksilver span of time known as a “trending topic” on social media.
I don’t care what happens to Noth. In fact, up until this week’s revelations, the only time I thought of him was when I watched the endlessly looping reruns of “Law and Order,” seasons 1-5 (the only ones worth watching, in my opinion.) I’m 60, he’s older, and that’s about it.
But even forgettable cads have a right not to have their reputations trashed by women who emerge from the shadows like avenging handmaids, wanting to tell their stories of woe to strangers. It’s not enough that they might have spoken to friends about their alleged ordeals the morning after. And they certainly know they can’t get any legal redress at this late stage. They don’t seem to want celebrity, because many of them hide their identities.
The only thing I can think is that they see this shining bandwagon in the distance, chugging along the social justice highway, and they want to jump on. They want to make sure men with bad attitudes are publicly shamed because for so very long, they weren’t. They want to shift the societal axis toward what they believe to be payback for women, but which I am certain they would call justice. But it’s not justice, because all they will be getting is some after-the-fact affirmation that they were wronged.
Men who rape and sexually assault women need to be held accountable. The way to do that is to actually hold them accountable when they commit the acts, not years later when they won’t be prosecuted.
We already have Eastern Standard and Daylight Savings Time. We need to get rid of Christine Blasey Ford Time.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at email@example.com.