How is someone like Christine Ford supposed to prove her case?

(Without making this about Ford specifically - rather, about victims in general):

It is essentially impossible for a plaintiff to provide evidence for many sex crimes (a perpetrator would obviously take measures to ensure that there wouldn’t be eyewitnesses around to see the crime - DNA evidence is long far past detection or usefulness - there almost certainly wouldn’t be surveillance cameras - etc. etc.) So how is someone like Ford supposed to provide evidence of a crime for which there is no evidence to be given?

A standard of “Just believe the victim” would open an enormous loophole for false accusations, but what practical alternative is there?

(Edit: thread specifically about sex crimes from many years ago. If someone was raped three hours ago, there would of course be forensic evidence in a way that a rape from three decades ago wouldn’t.)

She can’t forensically, as you said. The would have to be very credible eye witnesses or a recording of some kind.

But this is true for all sorts of things, isn’t it? I mean, imagine you manage a restaurant. A trusted female employee comes to you with a complaint about a new employee. She reports:

A) He spat in soup of an annoying customer
B) He stole $20 from the communal tip jar
C) He comped his buddies a free meal
D) He groped her in the walk in freezer.

None of those are provable, but no one would have a problem with taking the word of a trusted employee on A-C, at least in terms of grounds for termination. Get to D, however, and suddenly it’s all about how she has no evidence and could be trying to ruin her good name. As a society, we have a weird sort of special pleading around sexuality. We give sexual misbehavior a pass when comparable non-sexual transgressions would get someone shunned: somehow, the way a guy is with women gets compartmentalized and zeroed out. We are reluctant to take action against someone when their misbehavior is against women: it’s like it’s not quite real, it shouldn’t count. So if we are trying to decide if someone is a thief, a cheat, a back-stabber, whatever, the standard of evidence is pretty low. But for sexual offences, the standard is much higher.

…even though almost all the reasons why someone might lie about a sexual assault are also reasons why they might lie about anything else as well.

The historical sex crimes cases which have stuck, i.e those where a conviction occurred and survived appellate review, have generally tended to be those with quite a lot of contemporary evidence. Often a complaint was filed, statements taken and evidence collected, but the matter did not proceed. Or at least so,e contemporary evidence survived.

Short of Mike Judge having decided to throw in with her, there was never going to be a case. The only real hope would have been that the FBI would have exposed the various lies that Kavanaugh told in his testimony. But they were not given that option as part of their investigation nor would that, traditionally, be the sort of thing that they would investigate on its own either.

The Democrats failed, strategically, by trying to get the FBI to investigate. They should have focused on Kavanaugh’s dishonesty.

I think this analogy is flawed.
If I’m a small business owner and A, B or C are reported then the degree to which I trust the accuser and accused is a key factor. If the accused has worked with me for 10 years and always been responsible and honest, and the accuser just started work last week then no, I’m not going to immediately fire Miss Responsible. I would investigate further but if it came down to she-said-she-said then it would just be a note in her record for now.
Flip the roles and Miss Newbie is gone.

And it’s similar with D, except that D is more serious and so I would maybe call the police, and they would use their methods which are as follows (and in answer to the OP):

Gather as much evidence as possible of all kinds, not just physical evidence. Many times further corroborating evidence is found, or one party’s story starts to unravel.

Uh, what exactly is the evidence for this? You say that “as a society” we treat sexual behavior in a particular way, and other types of bad behavior by employees in different ways. What evidence backs that up? I am willing to look at real scientific research on the matter, if there is any.

To the OP, as far as the courts are concerned, no one is supposed to be convicted in a criminal case unless proven guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. If this approach were rigidly followed, it would obviously lead to some cases where a criminal gets away with their crimes. (In the USA, we instead now have a system that railroads most accused criminals without even having a trial.)

You say “a perpetrator would obviously take measures to ensure that there wouldn’t be eyewitnesses around to see the crime - DNA evidence is long far past detection or usefulness - there almost certainly wouldn’t be surveillance cameras - etc. etc”. Well the same could be true for all kinds of crime. If criminals were smart, they would arrange their crimes so as to avoid leaving evidence or corroborating witnesses. The basic fact is that almost all criminals are morons, which is why most serious crimes are solved.

This system would work with exceptions, one being the case where Miss Responsible feels threatened by a new employee who’s performing a lot better and is a hot candidate for promotion, and so Miss Responsible makes up stuff to get Miss Newbie fired and thus protect her position.

I don’t think I would make any special pleading about D vs. A-C.

I have a trusted employee, who has worked for me for twenty years. All of his fellow employees speak very highly of him, about his honesty, integrity, and intelligence. So I want to promote him.

Some anonymous stranger says she doesn’t want to give her name, and he did X thirty five years ago, or maybe thirty six, and she doesn’t remember exactly where he did it and that Joe helped him, and Sally and Bill were there. He says he didn’t, Joe says he didn’t, Bill says he doesn’t remember him doing X, and Sally says she doesn’t recall ever being in the same room with him. I wouldn’t treat it any differently if X were groping her in the freezer vs. spitting in the soup.

It’s going to be difficult to establish that anything happened thirty five years after the fact.


This is why there are statutes of limitations, older crimes are harder to prove but just as easy to use as a slanderous unfounded accusation. Had the crime been reported at the time there could have been a fair investigation. Too late for that now, of course, but people are innocent until proven guilty.

Most especially when:

  • Much of the recollection of the accuser (location; date & time) is too vague to be checkable
  • Checking what is checkable (people alleged to be present) entirely fails to support the accusation
  • The accuser bypasses the normal investigative process

“The reason I called you in today is— well, as I’m sure you know, you’re being considered for promotion. But there’ve been some recent allegations made about you, and your past behavior, that are frankly disturbing. I need to ask you a few questions, just to clear this matter up.”

“This is a NATIONAL DISGRACE!” *<slurp><gulp> *“Okay, shoot.”

“At any time, while working as a waiter in the 1980s, did you spit in the soup of a customer who had annoyed you?”

“Did YOU?”

“Uh, okay… moving on. Is it true that you once stole $20 from the communal tip jar?”

“No. Never.”

“What about this entry in your yearbook that says ‘Tip Jar Heist Crew Member’?”

“Drinking game.”

“Light-fingered Waitron?”

<sniff> “Drinking game.”

Garçon Voleur?”

Jeu à boire.”

“How about ‘Seriously, hide your tips because this guy will totally steal them’?”

“DRINKING GAME! This is a complete circus! You’re the ringmaster! This office is the big top! I’m swinging on a trapeze! Look, an elephant! CLOWNS!” <honk honk>

“Well, I think that about wraps it up…”

“I’m ANGRY WITH RAGE!! This is my angry face! RAWWWWWWWWRRRRR!!! This whole thing is a hit job. I’m being unfairly targeted by Hillary Clinton, Slender Man and the Canadian Illuminati!”

“…and on behalf of Shodan Enterprises, let me be the first to say: congratulations! I’m confident that you’ll make a fantastic VP.”

“Are we done yet? Dude, I am like, so fucking hung over right now. I think I’m gonna boot…”

“Trash can’s right behind… ah, well. Nevermind.”

The alternative is to change the basis of our system of justice.

Sexual assaults are always difficult to prosecute. In many cases there is no physical evidence. There are no witnesses other than the victim. The standard of proof is the same, beyond a reasonable doubt. Add on decades of time and conflicting memories and its nearly impossible to prosecute.

But I have done it. In one case it started with a victim coming forward with something that happened years before. We got permission to get a consensual intercept. That’s where we record a conversation with the permission of one of the parties and an OK from the court. We got him on tape apologizing for what he did. Then other victims started to fall like dominos. It built into an ironclad case and he pleaded guilty. None of which could have been possible if instead of coming to us to do an investigation it was released to the press first for political gain.

Often a victim confides in a friend or family member or counselor hours or days after the fact. Their testimonies are admissible evidence.

Such testimonies prove that the victim did not make up the accusation recently.

If Ford, for instance, produced several witnesses who can independently testify that yes, as a teen she did tell them about the incident with Kavanaugh, whne he was just a fellow student, then the accusation that Ford made all this up recently just as a political hit job on an aspiring SCOTUS, becomes much harder.

She could:

  • Speak up while evidence is available
  • Speak up before memory becomes so vague as to be worthless
  • Avoid bringing forth her accusation decades after the fact, but at a carefully chosen time when an ulterior motive is plausible to everyone

Sure. But my point was simply the analogy doesn’t work: we do not just blanket believe all accusations other than sexual assault.

I think Kavanaugh is likely guilty but I’m still going to point out faulty logic.

I’m rather confused by OP. The burden of proof is very high (or high) in a criminal (or civil, resp.) case but this was neither. The Senate was called upon to form a decision about a job applicant. And not whether he should be dismissed as a judge — though that would certainly be my verdict — but whether he should be promoted to the highest court in the land.

There is plenty of evidence that Dr. Ford had reported the attempted rape earlier and named Kavanaugh. But she did not go public until the SCOTUS nomination. This is not the behavior of anyone but a truth-teller.

At the link above find other accusers, including Deborah Ramirez whose 35 years-ago accusation had contemporaneous corroboration.

I appreciate the effort, but the statement above lacks a few details to be analogous.

"The reason I called you here today has very little to do with the accusations. I’m just stalling and grandstanding as long as possible.

You have undergone hours and hours of testimony. We have interviewed your colleagues, your co-workers, those who worked for you, people who have known you all your life. Without any exception, they testify to a person of character and integrity, who has conducted both his work and his personal life with exemplary character.

But there are a bunch of people who don’t like you, because of your adherence to the principle that the Constitution is the defining document of the US system rather than the editorial page of the New York Times. One of those who doesn’t like you is a confessed sexual assaulter who thinks he’s a Roman gladiator. Another is a person whose idea of respecting the process is to wait until it is over and then make unfounded accusations, and who respects the wish for privacy by leaking names to the press. Another is the lawyer for a porno star who has found some nutcase who claims she attended parties over a period of years featuring gang rape, but isn’t quite sure if you were in the same zip code.

None of the accuser’s allegations can be substantiated. Everyone she says was there declines to corroborate, and she isn’t even sure where ‘there’ is.

But, you got drunk in college, and you appear to have made fart jokes in your yearbook. So none of that counts.

I yield the rest of my time, my orange wig, my rubber nose, and big floppy shoes back to the [del]teeny little car[/del] to the chair."