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The Importance of the Kavanaugh Hearing

Why Conversation about Sexual Assault Matters

Max Elias, Scarlet Staff

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The impending confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh has become a nebulous back-and-forth, further complicated from the rush job it already is (not to put too fine a point on it, but Mitch McConnell is a hypocrite who doesn’t seem to remember how he handled Merrick Garland) by recent sexual assault allegations from Christine Blasey Ford. They have been a subject of debate for days now.  

Ms. Blasey-Ford’s account is that when she was in highschool (15, to be exact), she was at a house party and Brett Kavanaugh, who was drunk at the time, attempted to grope and undress her. Kavanaugh attended an all-male Catholic school, but students from such schools would often come to parties that Blasey’s classmates threw. They had crossed paths several times before the assault.  

As with every incidence of assault allegations—from Bill Cosby to Brock Turner—there are those casting aspersions on the veracity of Blasey’s claims, and on her motivations in bringing these charges. For example, the differences in how the New York Times and Fox News are reporting on this are staggering.  

The language Fox uses, for example calling the timing of all of this ‘just days’ before the confirmation hearing while reporting these events, hints at an air of skepticism; the bias is even more apparent in the ‘things to know about Ford’ section. One of the notable facts about her, according to Fox, is that she is a registered Democrat, a fact that has no bearing on her ability to be a target of sexual assault or not. The coverage stops there.

The New York Times, by contrast, is going far more in-depth—in the past few days there have been at least three articles on the issue, all from slightly different angles. They explore Blasey’s high school days, professional career, and support from various old connections. For example, 23 members of her class signed a letter to Congress defending her, and alumnae dating back to 1948 have signed another.  

Kavanaugh has his defenders too: the other individual involved, Mark Judge, who was alleged to have been present during the assault, has said he does not remember it, and just as many classmates have taken his side as Blasey’s. And just last Friday, President Trump tweeted his disregard for Blasey’s accusations.

That the President being among Blasey’s detractors is ample proof that the Brett Kavanaugh hearing must happen. Blasey had pushed for an F.BI investigation before the hearing or she would not testify, followed later by a softer position that she would still prefer this, but would be open to testifying without it. Several Senators have expressed reluctance about Kavanaugh in light of these accusations—for example Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona—but have also acknowledged that if Blasey were absent there would be little choice but to confirm Kavanaugh.

It is understandable that Blasey would want to exhaust other avenues of investigation before testifying in person; she experienced trauma and the confrontation of that trauma is difficult to say the least. Such emotions are why over 60% of rapes go unreported.  

On the other side of this, in over 90% of rapes that do get reported, the perpetrator walks free. That means that whenever there is an opportunity to take an assaulter to task, let alone get national coverage while doing so, the argument exists that there is a social responsibility to confront the wrongdoer. In this specific case, Blasey’s request for an F.B.I investigation is a little unrealistic—not because Kavanaugh doesn’t warrant it, but because these things are often too time-consuming to affect change; Robert Mueller can attest to that.  

In recent memory there have been many accused of some form of assault; Bill Cosby, Brock Turner, Kevin Spacey, Aziz Ansari, but far fewer who experienced repercussions. Close to zero, in fact. There is always some reason to disbelieve the accuser; she wants money, she’s too sensitive, why is she only coming forward now, and the list goes on.  

In Blasey’s case most people including Mr. Trump use the ‘why only now’ defense to invalidate her claims.  They claim the accusations came with only days’ notice, which firstly doesn’t make them any less serious. But even if it did, the accusations date back further than detractors are saying. Blasey has been talking with her therapist about the events as far back as 2012 and has already submitted to an F.B.I. polygraph, the results of which show that she is not lying.  

This hearing is important because the culture around sexual assault in the US, especially when celebrity of any kind is involved, is alarmingly casual. Opinion is divided enough about Kavanaugh even within the G.O.P. that Blasey’s testimony could change an otherwise foregone conclusion, and thus be an important step towards shifting the norm towards holding perpetrators of sexual violence and harassment accountable.  

Edit—after the writing of this article, Blasey confirmed that she would be willing to testify within the week, making it no longer doubtful that she will testify.

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The Importance of the Kavanaugh Hearing