The Kavanaugh Hearing Explained

Two months ago, former DC Circuit Court of Appeals judge Brett Kavanaugh was voted in to replace Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the position was of little surprise: a Yale-educated, seasoned judge, he as a candidate was not an issue of major controversy.

But everything changed on Sept. 14, when it was first reported that an anonymous woman had told the Senate Democrats of being sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh in high school. Shortly thereafter, the woman identified herself as Christine Blasey Ford, and her allegation ensued in a number of other women alleging experiences of being sexually harassed or assaulted by the nominee as well.With a few weeks until the vote left, Ford’s allegation shifted the focus on Kavanaugh from his right-leaning political standpoint to his alleged record as a sexual assaulter. The question was now whether or not to believe Ford, and thus whether Kavanaugh deserved one of the highest positions in the US Judicial Branch.

Both Ford and Kavanaugh delivered their testimonies and were questioned at court on Sept. 27 in a trial that perhaps solidified opinions for much of the public. For some of those who were still in the middle ground, Kavanaugh’s testimony made clearer the chances that Ford was telling the truth and that Kavanaugh was not a good fit for the Supreme Court. The accused and surprisingly angry Supreme Court Justice nominee delivered a rather emotionally charged testimony at court, raising his voice and crying. When questioned about whether he had ever passed out from drinking, Kavanaugh surprised many by jokingly asking the senator, “have you?”

In her testimony, Ford recounted her memory of Kavanaugh sexually assaulting her at a house party when they were in high school. When pressed for not remembering the full details of the account, Ford also demonstrated her Ph. D. in psychology by explaining, with neurological vocabulary, how the brain encodes memories. Ford was widely praised by many liberals and supporters for being extremely calm, collected, and assertive despite the fact that she was choosing to relive the details of her sexual assault for the whole world to observe and judge. Not only that, but it was recognized that Ford’s decision to reveal her identity and risk the potentially life-threatening backlash as well as the trauma (in her testimony, she revealed the “constant harassment and death threats” she received since her allegation) that would follow.

According to Time, however, whether her accusation was true or not was effectively deemed less important for many after the trial. Her compelling testimony and the fact that she had nothing to gain from accusing Kavanaugh seemed to already confirm her words. But the refusal of an FBI investigation, as well as Trump and his conservative supporters’ continuous backing of Kavanaugh, implied a dismal possibility: that the Republicans and Trump perhaps believed Ford, but they would vote him in regardless.

Ford’s impact, however, extends beyond the boundaries of politics and the Supreme Court. Though her allegations, perhaps expectedly, did not block Kavanaugh’s way into the Supreme Court, they did empower thousands of women to come forward and talk about their own experiences, with #whyididntreport exploding on social media. Kavanaugh’s ability to be voted in, despite the almost undeniable credibility of Ford, also reveals the system of privilege for educated, rich white men that is still well and alive today. Ford’s allegations may have never been officially confirmed, but her decision to speak up nevertheless is consequential for the future of women in America.

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