On Saturday, October 6th, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Throughout the day at school, friends of mine, mostly girls, and I were following the committee meeting as C-SPAN is free and live streams online.
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school when Kavanaugh had been attending Georgetown Prep, a Catholic boys school, and Ford attended all-girls prep school, Holton-Arms. Initially, Ford sent a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) about these allegations, but Feinstein chose not to make them public and withheld them from the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Intercept eventually came forward with the news of the letter on September 12th and on September 16, Ford came out to the public through an article in the Washington Post. According to Ford, “Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.” Finally, after lengthy deliberation, Dr. Christine Ford testified to her account in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Moreover, Ford is seemingly not the only woman to have been traumatized by Kavanaugh. Another woman, Debbie Ramirez, a Kavanaugh’s classmate at Yale and a volunteer coordinator at Boulder County Health and Human Services, came forward in The New Yorker saying “Kavanaugh had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away.” A third woman, Julie Swetnick, in as signed affidavit released by her attorney Michael Avenatti on Twitter, said “I also witnessed efforts by Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh, and others to cause girls to become inebriated and disoriented so they could then be ‘gang raped’ in a side room or bedroom by a ‘train’ of numerous boys… In approximately 1982, I became the victim of ones of these ‘gang’ or ‘train’ rapes where Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh were present.”
While Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia was the only Democrat to support Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation, this controversy is not a partisan one, and the question at hand is not whether or not we believe Dr. Ford. Rape culture constitutes the constant question of belief; however, Kavanaugh is not on trial; he does not need due process. Instead, what is required is to support a fellow human being, Ford, who has been traumatized, not just by Kavanaugh but by the constant attack she has received for standing up and telling her story. Fox News representatives have ridiculed her, called her “a skank who should keep her legs closed,” and people at rallies screamed that we should “lock her up.” Dr. Ford was subjected to so much hate that she was forced to leave her home and her family for her safety.
Our society’s reaction and sympathy/empathy towards Kavanaugh appalls me. Sitting in a class where I’m the only girl, my classmates have discussed Ford’s credibility or if these allegations even matter so late after the fact. Maybe it’s because the situation Ford describes sounds so possible in my life, but I sat astounded. I’ve heard other stories similar from other girls. Our society has developed what Kate Manne calls “himpathy.” We give Kavanaugh the benefit of the doubt; we are concerned with his future and we are concerned with his reputation. This leaves out the narrative of survivors and the effect the assault has had on their life. Rather, sexual assault of women can become a bonding point for men. The women assaulted prove some sort of masculinity complex and power derivative. These women are objects to the men who assault them and to our society who refuses to support them. Many wonder why the majority of women don’t come out about being sexually assaulted. This is why. Because when one does she is subjected to this abuse from a public that won’t believe the survivor. Because, while her life will never be the same, the perpetrator goes on to become one of the most powerful men in America.
Our society needs to step up and fight for what is right. I stand with Dr. Ford, and so should you.