Don't Blame Dianne Feinstein

By Susan Estrich

October 4, 2018 5 min read

Kellyanne Conway made number what? I have since lost count. But everywhere you look, on television, in the papers, in celebrity gossip sheets and on media websites, familiar faces — and less familiar ones at the market and in protests — have emerged as survivors of sexual assault.

If you're surprised, you shouldn't be.

Every reputable study I have seen in the last three decades has found that if you ask women whether they have ever been forced to have sex without their consent, 1 in 4 over the age of 18 will say yes.

The best the critics can do is point to studies where it is closer to 1 in 5, or even 1 in 6. If 1 in 5 or 6 of our kids were going to be hit with a devastating virus with lifelong aftereffects, would we find a way to prevent it? Or would it depend on whether it was actually 1 in 4 or 1 in 6? As long as it's the cousins? Doesn't work that way.

One in 4. Maybe more.

That's right. The studies are based on women who are willing to tell an anonymous questioner, usually on the phone, what my mother told me not to tell anyone. Seeing women across America stand as proud survivors was a picture I wish she could see, although the voice in my head that sounds like her hastens to point out that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was subsequently denounced by a president almost as angry at her as his nominee, which is exactly why you don't tell anyone.

And no, in those same studies, they don't say they've been raped. "Rape Not Rape to Its Victims" read one headline about an early study, which is a pretty accurate description of how the law is enforced most of the time. Sure, part of the reason women don't report rapes is because of the stigma, embarrassment, lack of family support, and all the questions you ask yourself about what you did wrong that night and in life. But it's also because the women who are victimized understand, far better than the experts writing about it, that rape is not rape because the system doesn't punish it as rape, and they would — overwhelmingly — be right.

Consider this: How many people do you know in the world who could withstand the withering scrutiny Dr. Ford has faced? Judge Kavanaugh was about to be on the United States Supreme Court without anyone having asked a single question about what was clearly a pretty ugly chapter of his life, and now that more than half of America thinks he's lying, he is only getting a three-day investigation. Dr. Ford has the White House and the Senate majority looking for any way to destroy her. Today's story being peddled by the White House — about an ex-boyfriend questioning her knowledge of polygraphs, as if that were what this is all about — brought back memories of the ex-boyfriend of Anita Hill who had his 10 minutes of fame disparaging her before the Senate Judicial Committee. The president can't resist because no one else is doing it to his satisfaction. His son Donald Trump Jr. is afraid for his children. I'm afraid for the Supreme Court and the country.

The Republicans are lying in wait for Sen. Dianne Feinstein because she failed to call a fire drill back in July, when she received the anonymous complaint. I have not talked to her, but I think there is an obvious explanation. Why call Sen. Chuck Grassley, the committee chair, if he won't care? Why call in the posse if the most credible witness that central casting could find is still not enough to convince the committee to drop a nominee whose angry and distorted face at that Senate hearing will be his lifelong caricature?

Why fault Feinstein when the complaint, even with Dr. Ford's name and testimony attached to it, still does not matter to her counterparts across the aisle or the man who nominated him? She was right. And they, of all people, should be hard-pressed to claim otherwise.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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