By, Caitlin S. ’21
On September 14, sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, Supreme Court nominee, publicly surfaced in a story by The New Yorker. Two days later, The Washington Post published an interview with the accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor in California. Senator Dianne Feinstein had received a letter with Ford’s allegations on July 30, but she did not release the letter, per Ford’s request. After the accusation was made public with Ford’s consent, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley postponed Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote, which was originally scheduled for September 21. This delay was due to Arizona Senator Jeff Flake’s request that the FBI take one week to investigate the allegations.
On September 23, before the hearing, a second woman came forward with sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh. Deborah Ramirez, who attended Yale with Kavanaugh, accuses him of sexually assaulting her at a dorm party during the 1983-84 academic year. On September 26, a third woman, Julie Swetnick, came forward, saying that she witnessed Kavanaugh drinking excessively and being involved in “gang rape” of teenage girls. Kavanaugh denies all of these accusations.
On September 27, Ford spoke before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify about her alleged sexual assault. She affirmed that she was “one hundred percent” certain that it was Kavanaugh who assaulted her, and she notably remembered “the uproarious laughter between [Kavanaugh and his high school friend, Mark Judge], and their having fun at [her] expense.” Ford admitted that “for a very long time, [she] was too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone the details.” At age 15, she convinced herself that “because Brett did not rape [her], [she] should just move on and just pretend that it didn’t happen.” Although many Americans believe that Ford lied and intended to ruin Kavanaugh’s chances of being on the Supreme Court, she declared, “I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me.” Ford received praise from many of the senators for her bravery in reporting this traumatizing event.
Following Ford’s emotional testimony, Kavanaugh appeared before the committee to state his case. He firmly denied Ford’s allegations, declaring, “my family and my name have been totally and permanently destroyed by vicious and false additional accusations.” Kavanaugh defended himself by referring to his detailed calendars from high school, as well as with a letter of support from 65 women that he “treated…with dignity and respect.” He speculated that Ford’s allegations were part of “a calculated and orchestrated political hit” and “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.” Kavanaugh concluded his opening remarks, saying, “My family and I intend no ill will toward Dr. Ford or her family, but I swear today under oath before the Senate and the nation, before my family and God, I am innocent of this charge.”
Kavanaugh’s supporters “believed the judge as he repeatedly choked up and vigorously defended himself.” Connie Cook Sanders, a San Diego resident who considers herself a moderate Republican, “felt like it [was] a witch hunt.” She explained, “It’s political…it doesn’t make sense to bring it up now.” Many Americans viewed Kavanaugh’s demeanor during the hearing as a valid reaction to the false accusations against him.
After Dr. Ford testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the National Sexual Assault Hotline saw a 147% increase in calls. RAINN, a large anti-sexual violence organization that provides the hotline, often sees an increase in survivors asking for help when sexual violence is in the news. One Winsor junior explained, “Whether one believes Ford or not, Kavanaugh’s behavior foreshadows an inability to be objective in cases regarding women’s rights and sexual safety laws.” Ms. M., a Winsor health teacher, wants Winsor students and all women to “understand that they really do have a voice and that their voice matters.” On October 4, both Lower and Upper School Winsor students gathered to discuss the controversial issues surrounding the allegations and hearing. If nothing else, the Kavanaugh-Ford hearing sparked countless conversations across the country about sexual assault, gender equality, and the political divide.
On Saturday October 6, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed and sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice with a Senate vote of 50-48, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska being the sole Republican to oppose Kavanaugh.