Survivors of sexual assault do not come forward publicly with their stories precisely because of the way other victims are treated when they do. After summoning enormous courage to reveal intimate details about the darkest day(s) in their life, victims often face a society that feigns concern but casts doubt about their motives or memories.

Victims are viewed with suspicion. What do they really remember about an incident that may have happened years ago? Why do they wait so long to disclose their ordeal? Could they have misconstrued attempted rape with something as harmless as horseplay — as was actually suggested in the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh?

Victims are judged for unfairly impugning the reputations of otherwise wonderful people who couldn’t possibly be guilty of doing anything as grievous as sexual assault. Victims are demeaned, derided and dismissed for destroying promising futures, tainting stellar institutions or, in the Kavanaugh case, stopping a fast moving confirmation train.

Lost in the lament over the peripheral priorities threatened by assault accusations is what is taken from a human being who has been physically and forcibly violated. The victim’s life is shattered. The pain is permanent. Broken souls may learn to cope, but they are forever scarred by the dehumanizing trauma endured.

To openly acknowledge the existence of such a deep, abiding wound, means confronting those responsible and hoping that justice prevails. Many survivors never go there. The emotional cost is too high.

They know their awful truth may be turned against them by those clueless to their suffering. The Steubenville rape victim was personally attacked when she confronted “two young men with promising futures, star football players, A-students” for sexually assaulting her at a high school party.

In a town that reveres its football players, the victim was assailed as a “drunk slut” and a “whore” who was “asking for it” when she was raped by two high school football players in front of a social media audience. Sympathy was expressed for the players “as their lives fell apart.” But they weren’t raped.

Time doesn’t mitigate what happened to sexual assault/abuse victims. Yet, when years of silence give way to openness about past sexual violations, victims are suspected of ulterior motives or spotty memories. The widespread sexual molestation of minors by clergy in parishes across the country happened decades ago. Does that make the abuse and cover-up by the Catholic Church any less outrageous today?

University professor Christine Blasey Ford says she was 15 when her alleged attacker, then 17-year-old Kavanaugh, shoved her on a bed, climbed on top of her, fumbled to take her clothes off, and put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. Dr. Ford said Kavanaugh’s pal, Mark Judge, was in the room egging him on.

The research psychologist was finally able to talk about her teenage ordeal in counseling with her husband only a few years ago. The terror she kept secret cut to the core. Then, 36 years after the alleged assault, Dr. Ford watched as Senate Republicans raced to fill a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land with a name she will never forget.

She confidentially told her story to her elected representatives in July. She came forward publicly and faced what she feared — feigned interest followed by doubt and dismissal. Add political posturing to the periphery. Dr. Ford’s pain was reduced to a partisan stunt.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio blamed Democrats for waiting “until the 11th hour” to drop a bombshell on his close friend and presumed Supreme Court justice. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tweeted that examining the years-old accusation “is not about finding the truth but delaying the [nominating] process till after the midterms.”

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, suggested that Dr. Ford was “mixed up” to impute guilt on a nominee who is a “very strong, decent man.” Hatch was also dismissive of Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991, calling them “too contrived” to compute.

President Trump, of all people, questioned Dr. Ford’s account about Kavanaugh because “it’s very hard for me to imagine anything happened” involving “such an outstanding man.” But here’s the thing: No woman could ever imagine risking everything dear to her and her family to speak publicly about a private hell unless the risk of remaining quiet was far greater.

The all-male Republican cadre on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the agenda-blind GOP leadership committed to confirming Kavanaugh ASAP, cannot simply sweep away sexual assault accusations because they’re inconvenient. Not now. Not ever.

Voters and victims are watching. Closely.

Johanek is a veteran print and broadcast journalist.