Economic Effects of Sexual Assault: A Case Study via Dr. Ford

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Note: This post may contain triggers for those who have been in abusive relationships or been through sexual assault.

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Wow. I never dived this deep on the economics of being a sexual assualt or domestic violence survivor before. Sad but important food for thought.

My experience watching the Ford v Kavanaugh hearing was intense. Much more intense than I expected it to be. I was not prepared for the outcome of those hearings. The vote. The pure dismissal of a clearly viable claim simply because it hadn’t come at a convenient time for the majority party.

The message to survivors that, “Even if we believe you, we kind of don’t care.”

I was so overwhelmed I had trouble staying awake most of the weekend. My brain was trying to reconcile the American values I was brought up with–which have admittedly always been patriarchal, but still had some semblance of striving towards a higher morality–versus what was unfolding before my eyes.

Today I want to take a look not at Kavanuagh’s obvious lack of fitness for the highest court in the land, but rather at the economic effects of sexual abuse that were revealed in Dr. Ford’s testimony.

I’m making this decision because his unfitness stands bare for all with eyes to see and therefore does not require my additional comments. But the financial implications for Ford may need to be highlighted for those who were not looking for them.

I’m just someone who watched this hearing. I do not know Dr. Ford or all of her life circumstances, so I’m going to do my best to be careful about the assumptions I make of her personal situation. But there were some specific issues she brought to light in her testimony that extend to many survivors. We need to talk about these more at a societal level.

This clip is from Dr. Ford’s opening testimony:

Accommodating PTSD

At 8:40 in the above video, Dr. Ford starts recounting how she told her husband about the specific details of her assault. They had been fighting because during a remodel, she wanted a second front door–another way out. The claustrophobia she experiences is a direct result of feeling trapped in that room as she was assaulted. Helpless.

During the questioning phase of the hearing, she explained this, along with the fact that she has experienced other PTSD-like symptoms throughout her life–especially in the first few months after the attack. That made it harder to focus on school like she wanted to for a time.

The economic implications here are that she had to spend more money remodeling her home to accommodate her psychological scars. Dr. Ford is obviously very accomplished in terms of her education and career, but for other women (and veterans of all genders–the most highly studied group affected by this disorder), PTSD symptoms can prevent them from keeping gainful employment. We also know it can negatively affect investment behavior.

Bothering You at Work

At 15:30, Dr. Ford relays how she was harassed at work after her identity came out. Her students, colleagues and superiors were brought into this circus.

First of all, this is why it’s important that survivors have complete say over when and in what forum their story is shared. Dr. Ford could have lost her job over this, and she should have been allowed to protect her work and reputation as she saw fit.

Secondly, Dr. Ford’s experience is a bit unique in that the workplace harassment did not come directly from her abuser. For many other women, it does. One aspect of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is stalking. Employers don’t like having stalkers hanging around the premises, so often these situations result in a forced resignation.

When you look at abusive situations that involve other tactics which don’t necessarily include stalking, 21%-60% of abuse victims lose their jobs due to complications directly resulting from their abuse.

Those and more terrible stats here.

Moving House

The second door was no longer enough to help Dr. Ford feel safe after her name was made public. She received death threats, had her personal information leaked on the internet, and her extended family had the same happen to them as she shares at 17:00.

The Fords literally have to move house because of this. Other survivors have to do this as well on the regular, but they often do not have the access to the same level of security as Dr. Ford. Sometimes it becomes necessary to make sure those who would hurt you can’t find you–whether they be the assailant themselves or hateful individuals who want to hold up the patriarchy and punish women for speaking out. It’s an expense that has monetary and emotional consequences.

Legal Costs

I have no idea how the costs of legal representation are being handled for Dr. Ford, but I’m so happy she has two lawyers by her side.

The cost of legal representation is often a stretch for victims, and a prohibitive one at that. Even if they do want to come forward.

Assault is not okay in my America.

Believe women. Listen to women. And respect women when they are brave enough to come forward.

No. You know what?

Just respect women always.

P.S. Respect =/= Rushing to get an accused sexual assailant on the Supreme Court because your party is about to lose power in the midterm elections.

 

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