WE ARE watching a drama unfolding in the United States where President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court is being threatened.
The nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, is threatened by accusations of alleged abhorrent teenage behaviour more than 30 years ago, which is coming back to bite him.
The behaviour which may not have been so uncommon then, is — and was — still criminal behaviour.
The waters get muddier as another allegation has surfaced and the distance in years doesn't mitigate the fact that sexual assault is a crime, yet nobody is charged with any offences currently.
The nature of sexual assaults is that they usually happen in hidden locations with no independent witnesses. Often alcohol and or other drugs are present and affect the parties at the time. This makes it very difficult to prove a crime occurred or to defend an allegation.
The president has weighed in on the side of the judge, saying he is certain that if such an attack had occurred way back in the early 1980s, a complaint would have been made.
This rides roughshod over all we know about the reporting of sexual attacks, which is that very few ever get reported — and there are a reasons why that is the case.
These reasons include fear of retaliation; fear of not being believed; feeling foolish at being in the situation, no matter how irrational that feeling may be; the knowledge that society has several misconceptions about these events, and that it can frequently boil down to a popularity contest between the parties.
The biggest and saddest deterrent for a victim against making a complaint of a sex crime, though, is the brutality of the process of reporting — from making the statement through to a medical examination, probably including an internal examination, and then the court process of adducing the evidence required to secure a conviction.
Current statistics are that about one in 10 report a rape to the police. About three in 10 of those reported get prosecuted and less than three in 10 prosecutions result in a conviction.
It is no wonder then that sexual attacks are often suppressed by the victim and it may be years before they speak.
It is also true that although a decision may be made not to report, the incident frequently haunts the victim throughout their lives and there are hot points, maybe years apart, that flash to the surface.
The face of the offender appears on television, or he is glimpsed in the street, long after the event when it was thought everything was under control. That sighting brings it all back and the victim realises that the issue is not dead. She thought she was strong but feels weak and vulnerable. It felt better calling herself a survivor, but now questions how strong she really is.
In the case of Judge Kavanaugh, it may well be that the accolades around his promotion to the bench of the Supreme Court as a pillar of the conservative right were too much for the alleged victim.
Standing, as he is, on a platform of winding back previous liberal decisions of the court members placed there by Democrat presidents, maybe she thought it was too hypocritical, given his previous behaviour, and she felt in a better place to make the disclosure of sexual assault.
All this happening when the icon of the American family man, Bill Cosby, has been convicted and imprisoned for historic sexual assaults, underlining that many abuse victims take years to disclose, but that doesn't detract from the truth of the allegation beyond a reasonable doubt.
There will be many men wondering how they would defend an allegation of sexual assault years after the event.
And there are many women wondering if they have the courage, will and determination — and would have the moral support — to finally make an allegation of a rape they suffered many years ago. I am on the side of the women on this one.
Chester Borrows served as Whanganui MP for 12 years and as a minister in the National Government.