Despite nationwide turmoil over the allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, the Republican party judge was confirmed early last month with a 50-48 vote. What this decision reveals about the American attitudes toward women and their stories of sexual assault, today:
A nation-wide scandal
The confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee, appeared to be a set victory, however, after allegations of sexual assault from Kavanaugh’s school mate, Christine Blasey Ford, immersed this summer, doubts, fears, and confusion encapsulated the country.
The Palo Alto University professor reported being sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh in high school, over 30 years ago. Her allegations were proceeded by two other women: Deborah Ramierez reported that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party when they both attended Yale, and Julie Swetnick, who although did not report first-hand harassment from the Judge, said Kavanaugh was seen attending parties in which women were sexually violated and even raped, during their high school years.
On Thursday, September 27th, a hearing was held for Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh before the Senate. Blasey Ford’s testimony was detailed and moving, however eagerly denied by Kavanaugh who argued no memory of the event. When questioned of his drinking experience, as a youth, the judge replied with vagueness and snark responses.
Provoking more doubt than certainty among senators of both parties, Trump ordered a week-long FBI investigation “limited in scope” to take place immediately following the hearing.
Senators were allowed individual access to a singular copy of the investigation’s results, earlier this week, however, according to both parties no new information was revealed. According to Democrat Sentor Dianne Feinstein, the FBI report was “the product of an incomplete investigation”.
The following Friday, a vote was held confirming Kavanaugh as the newest Supreme Court Justice, but with a 50-48 split, it was a decision met with wide division among party lines. While Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer called the decison “a low moment for the senate, for the court, for the country”, Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell stated Kavanaugh’s confirmation would “turn the page toward a brighter tomorrow”.
After weeks of nationwide protests and an final decision not supported by half of the United States’ the question of where the country’s attitudes toward women and sexual assault, present day, linger.
Here are 4 key themes we can take away:
1. The #MeToo era has made a visible impact
When Anita Hill testified that Supreme Court nominee, Clarence Thomas, sexually harassed her in the workplace at the University of Oklahoma, in 1991, unlike in the case Blasey Ford, Hill was met with searing disposition from the Senate. This hearing is “now viewed as a low moment for the Senate”, according to the New York Times.
Although Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony was ultimately not enough to stop the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh, Blasey Ford’s accusations were taken with great seriousness compared to those of the past, as seen with Hill. The majority of the Democratic party sided with Blasey Ford, thanking her during the hearing for her bravery to come forward. Her testimony was powerful enough to stir doubt among certain Republican senators, such as Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
In conclusion of the hearing, Republican Senator Jeff Flake stated that he would not move forward with Kavanaugh’s confirmation until a week-long FBI investigation took place. With more doubt than certainty in the air, President Trump issued an investigation to immediately take place following the hearing. Despite the alleged corruption found within the limited scope of the FBI’s investigation, the mere fact that this investigation was issued speaks volumes to the impact that #MeToo has made on the country. Although improvement is to be made, the Senate proved through the Blasey Ford Kavanaugh hearing that as a collective, American men and women are truly beginning to respect sexual assault survivors and believe in their stories.
2. Our voices have power
On September 28th, Maria Gallagher and Ana Maria Archila, confronted Senator Jeff Flake, holding open the doors of an elevator he was taking to the Senate Judiciary Committee, urging him to holt Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
In their powerful altercation with Senator Flake, the two women shared stories of their own experience as a sexual assault survivor. “What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit in the Supreme Court” said Archila, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy. “You have children in your family,” Archila said. “Think about them.”
“Look at me when I’m talking to you,” Maria Gallagher cried to the quite and unresponsive Senator, his head bowed to the floor. “Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me.”
Once confident in his decision to confirm the Judge, Senator Flake proposed that an FBI investigation take place prior to Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote, just moments after encountering Archila and Gallagher. Without the testimonies of these two women, it is likely that an FBI investigation would have never been issued.
Your voice as a woman has power and can truly impact those around you.
The bravery of Christine Blasey Ford has also led millions of women around the country to come forward about their own experiences as a victim of sexual assault. In my home city of Dallas, the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center received a sharp influx of calls after the September 27th hearing. According to the Dallas Morning News, a majority of callers have identified as “women in their 50s and 60s who were sexually assaulted as teenagers and never told anyone about it.”
Whether you’re one voice in a sea of protesters or the founder of a progressive political organization, like Archila, your voice as a woman has power and can truly impact those around you. Blasey Ford’s allegations may have not been enough momentum to stop the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh, but her testimony has and will continue to impact American men and women and the attitudes toward sexual assault for years to come.
3. Truth isn’t black and white but red and blue
What began as a pursuit for justice, the Blasey Ford Kavanaugh scandal quickly turned into a vicious brawl between Republican and Democrat parties. For Republican Senators, Kavanaugh’s confirmation meant vast progression, as the new Justice intends to support and enforce Republican ideals The loss of this confirmation would result in a defeat for the entire party. Despite a convincing testimony from Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh along with many a majority of Republican senators, including the President, claimed these allegations were malicious obstacles plotted by Democrats in an effort to win back the senate.
Moments after the hearing, President Trump tweeted his support of Kavanaugh’s “powerful, honest, and riveting” testimony, commenting that “Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist”.
Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him. His testimony was powerful, honest, and riveting. Democrats’ search and destroy strategy is disgraceful and this process has been a total sham and effort to delay, obstruct, and resist. The Senate must vote!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2018
A fervent supporter of Kavanaugh, Senator Lindsey Graham attacked Democrat Senators at the hearing saying, “What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open and hope you win in 2020,” Refraining comments on Blasey Ford’s testimony, Graham continued to support Kavanaugh, telling the judge, “You’ve got nothing to apologize for”,
These harsh and elaborate accusations between parties put many Senators in a tough spot, particularly red state democrats, as their decision on Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation would be perceived to prove more than whether they believed Blasey Ford but the whereabouts of their political loyalties. Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota is one of many red state Democrats who has put her re-election on the line by voting “no” for the confirmation of Kavanaugh. A historically red voting state, many North Dakotans claimed they would not be voting for Heitkamp unless she supported the Judge’s confirmation.
Originally, stating that she would vote in support of the President’s nominee, after witnessing Kavanaugh’s behavior at the hearing, Heitkamp announced her new decision to vote against the confirmation, saying the hearing “called into question Judge Kavanaugh’s current temperament, honesty, and impartiality.”
a white house mandated Investigation
With Republican Senator Jeff Flake stating that he would not vote for Kavanaugh before a full back ground check was completed, the President issued a week-long FBI investigation “limited in scope” to take place. How exactly this investigation was “limited” is unknown, however, according to Democrat senators, including Dianne Feinstien (CA) who called the report “the product of an incomplete investigation”. the investigation’s findings gave little to no new information into Kavanaugh’s past,
On capitol hill, truth and justice are no longer black and white but red and blue.
Unlike a criminal FBI investigation that allows zero government interference, a White House mandated background check results in a client and contractor relationship among the White House ad FBI, according to TIME. Under these circumstances, investigators hold no legal authority over witnesses and cannot force individuals to come forward with information. Democrat senators were particularly unhappy with the FBI’s selection of witnesses, as two of the 10 witnesses interviewed, Kavanaugh’s room mate Mark Judge and Ford’s friend Leland Keyser, had already reported not recalling the incident. According to a report from NBC, “More than 20 individuals who know either Kavanaugh or Ramirez, who has accused the nominee of exposing himself to her while the two attended Yale University, have not heard from the FBI despite attempts to contact investigators…”
Although the conclusion of corrupt government interference is mere speculation, the immense impact political bias played in the hearing, investigation, and confirmation of Kavanaugh is without question. Ultimately, the Blasey Ford Kavanaugh scandal surpassed a pursuit for justice, becoming a quest for power among Republican and Democrat parties. On capitol hill, truth and justice are no longer black and white but red and blue.
4. progress to be made
Blasey Ford’s testimony will go down in history as one of the first times a sexual assault victim was taken with genuine seriousness and respect by the Senate, Unfortunately, allegations of sexual misconduct were not of enough value to stop the judge’s confirmation. With a 50-48 vote split almost entirely along party lines, Kavanaugh’s confirmation was far from a landslide, but those 2 votes will ensure Kavanaugh the highest position in our nation’s court for the rest of his life.
What really happened between Kavanaugh and Blasey Ford is something the world may never know: the U.S. Senate, the FBI, and possibly Kavanaugh himself. “I drank beer with my friends,” said Kavanaugh. “Sometimes I had too many beers. Sometimes others did.” Yale roommate, James Roche, later came forward saying he believed the accusations against Kavanaugh as “he was a notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time, and that he became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk“.
During the hearing, Kavanaugh was questioned about how his drinking might have skewed his recollection of past events.. “I don’t know. Have you?” the Judge responded to Senator Klobuchar of Minnesota (D), after she asked if Kavanaugh had ever drank to the point of blacking out. The Judge later apologized to Klobuchar for his remark.
For Blasey Ford, it was a moment she remembers with “100 percent” certainty and is unable to forget. “What is the strongest memory you have?” asked Senator Patrick Leahy (D) Vermont at the hearing. “Something you cannot forget?” “The laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two“, said Blasey Ford, as she described Kavanaugh and Mark Judd as “two friends having a really good time together“, implying that while the violation she experienced was scarring, it held little importance nor impact on the two boys. As the age old saying goes, “boys will be boys”.
“Two friends having a really good time together…”
- Christine Blasey Ford
womanhood in 2018
Nearing the end of 2018, we’re a year out from the beginning of #MeToo. Hollywood icons such as Bill Cosby. and Harvey Weinstein are finally facing the consequences from years of silently assaulting women. Months following the election of President Trump, the 2017 Women’s March was recorded as “the largest single-day demonstration in recorded U.S. history”, according to the Washington Post. Slowly but surely, American women appear to be gaining the confidence to come forward with their stories of sexual assault, however, justice for the majority of victims remains a rarity as “63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police“.
Where we stand, present day
- More than 80 women have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. Present day, he remains a free man.
- Two weeks ago, a Flordia man was arrested for grabbing a woman by her genitals on a Southwest flight. The 49-year-old defended his actions saying, “the president of the United States says it’s OK to grab women by their private parts“, referencing to a comment made by Trump in 2005.
- Now, the nation’s newest Supreme Court Justice may or may not be a perpetrator of sexual violence. For many, this possibility is reason enough that Kavanaugh should not hold one of the most esteemed positions at the pinnacle of American law and justice in the Supreme Court.
Supporter or not, however, Kavanaugh has been confirmed into the Supreme Court and will hold this position for the rest of his life. As advocates for women’s rights, feminists, such as myself, can only learn from this experience, recognizing the strides and setbacks America has made, when it comes to sexual assault.
A young woman living in America, present day, I remain truly grateful for the privileges I have been granted that the women before me weren’t. I can go to school where I please, pursue a career I love, and do all these things while one day building a family. Still, however, sexual assault remains a fear for myself and the majority of women, daily. I advocate for change, not for myself, but for the women who will go after me; that my future daughter won’t have to wrestle with the fear of someone violating her body. That the importance of consensual sex will be taught in my children’s schools, making sexual violence less taboo and giving young girls the resources to report it.
As women, the rights we fight for and support today will be responsible for the quality of life for women to come. By coming forward, Christine Blasey Ford taught America that it is our civil duty to hold those in power accountable. She also reminded us that sexual assault has never-ending consequences, even after 30 years. Only through the bravery and boldness exhibited by Blasey Ford may we change the way our nation views gender and sexual violence. How will you help create a better life for women in America? It’s your turn now.
I advocate for change, not for myself, but for the women who will go after me…