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The FBI investigation into Kavanaugh didn't bring Dr. Ford justice. Sexual assault survivors like me aren't surprised.

The allegedly thorough report is ultimately just one more warning for anyone wondering whether to come forward.
Image: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford And Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Testify To Senate Judiciary Committee
Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in before testifying the Senate Judiciary Committee with her attorneys Debra Katz, left, and Michael Bromwich, right, in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill Sept. 27, 2018 in Washington, DC.Win McNamee / Getty Images

While testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford said she feared her story of alleged sexual assault wouldn’t impact D.C. Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s ascension to the Supreme Court. “I was… wondering whether I would just be jumping in front of a train that was headed to where it was headed anyway, and that I would just be personally annihilated," she said.

One week later, and after a three-day investigation by the FBI into the allegations levied against Kavanaugh, Ford’s fears are coming true. Following a lengthy speech Friday afternoon, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine announced she was voting in favor of Kavanaugh's confirmation.

The FBI investigation, described by Collins as “very thorough,” was ordered by the president of the United States after a last-minute push from Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. But “thorough” is hardly the word one would use to describe an inquiry that lasted less than a menstrual period, failed to interview the accused and the accuser, and ignored over 40 potential corroborating witnesses claiming they have information pertinent to Kavanaugh. Dozens of witnesses reportedly contacted FBI field officers but were told the bureau could not speak with them. One senior U.S. official told NBC News that the FBI’s investigation into Kavanaugh was “significantly limited in scope.” There is only one copy of the final report, and it will not be made available to the public.

The train that Ford described shows no sign of slowing down. But while infuriating, none of this is the least bit surprising — especially not for sexual assault survivors.

I was 25 years old when I was sexually assaulted, and while I too feared “jumping in front of a train” that could annihilate me, I did report my assault to the local police. I gave statements, endured a rape kit, stood naked in an emergency room as a forensic photographer took pictures of my bruised body and sat through a pretext phone call in an attempt to coerce my abuser into a confession. I regurgitated the horrific details of my assault over and over again, answered questions about my drinking, my past sexual history, what I was wearing and what I said to my assailant prior to the attack.

The investigation into my sexual assault lasted over a year, and for a year my rape kit sat untouched. And at the end of the year, and once my case was finally reviewed by the local district attorney, I was told there was nothing anyone could do. It was a classic case of “he said, she said.” It was an “unwinnable case.” The train would not stop.

I was 25 years old when I was sexually assaulted, and while I too feared “jumping in front of a train” that could annihilate me, I did report my assault to the local police.

My experience is not unique. We know this because of the many brave women and men who have come forward to tell their stories. But we also know this because across the country, evidence sits on shelves gathering dust. In 2015, there were at least 70,000 untested rape kits in the United States. In the state I was sexually assaulted in, close to 5,000 rape kits remain untested, according to End The Backlog, a national non-profit dedicated to unveiling untested rape kits across the country.

Meanwhile, the statutes of limitations for rape and/or sexual assault cases vary by state, ensuring many sexual assault survivors will never see justice. Minnesota’s statute of limitation, for example, is nine years from when the assault occurred and only three years after the assault was reported. There are over 3,000 untested rape kits in Minnesota, according to End The Backlog, and the state has not committed to testing any them.

Given the failures of police department all across America, what could a three-day investigation possibly do? How could it possibly facilitate justice?

This systemic failure has understandably impacted sexual assault victims’ faith in the justice system. According to a Harvard Institute of Politics poll, 79 percent of young people age 18 to 29 have "little to no trust" in their local police department to do the right thing, and 40 percent of the women polled said they were sexually assaulted and did not report their attack. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) two out of every three sexual assaults go unreported, and between 2005-2010 15 percent of victims who chose not to report said they believed the police couldn't or wouldn't do anything to help them.

Given the failures of police department all across America, what could a three-day investigation possibly do? How could it possibly facilitate justice?

America is a country where victim-blaming rhetoric continues to plague our national discourse. Just this morning, President Donald Trump accused sexual assault survivors protesting in Congress of being “professionals” paid by George Soros. Of course we do not trust those in power to intervene to on our behalf. We do not believe they will see us tied to the tracks and do anything to avoid catastrophic disaster. Phrases like “due process” and “innocent until proven guilty” sound good, but they are too easily used to suppress and silence.

Make no mistake, if I could go back I would choose not to disclose my sexual assault. Instead, and knowing what I know now, I would have swallowed my trauma and kept it buried in the pit of my stomach, if only to save myself from a pain that, in many ways, has lasted much longer than the pain of my assault.

Out of 1,000 rapes, 334 are reported to the police, according RAINN (which relies mostly on the Bureau of Justice Statistics). Out of those reported cases, only a small fraction will ever be referred to a prosecutor and fewer than ten will result in a felony conviction. Every single day, the United States fails victims of sexual assault. This time, the failure was too big to ignore, casting a shadow over cowardly Republican Senators who have shed far more tears for the accused than for his victims.

And that, of course, is no surprise either. Congress has so far refused to pass the Survivors Access to Supportive Care Act (SASCA), first introduced in 2016, that would improve hospitals’ abilities to respond to the health care needs of sexual assault survivors. It has also failed to renew the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA); a bipartisan bill meant to combat domestic and sexual violence by funding prevention programs and victims’ services.

Every facet of our government — be it a local police department or Congress — consistently abandons the survivors that come forward; our stories are left to reverberate in our minds and replay in our dreams. Ultimately, the allegedly thorough FBI investigation into Ford’s accusations is just one more painful example of the justice system’s failures — and one more warning for those deciding whether to come forward.

Speak at your own risk — maybe, if you’re lucky, you won’t get run over.