A Full Investigation Is Needed Into the Sexual Assault Allegations Against Brett Kavanaugh

Over the weekend, details of serious charges of sexual assault alleged to have been committed by Judge Brett Kavanaugh became public, as did the name of the woman raising these allegations. In a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein and in an interview with The Washington Post, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford described an incident in high school when she says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party. 

Judge Kavanaugh has denied the allegations. “I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone,” he said in a statement on Monday.

These allegations, like all allegations of sexual misconduct, deserve to be taken seriously.  

Initially, Dr. Ford did not want her story to become public. She was afraid that doing so would “upend her life.” This is the reality women face within a culture that too often vilifies people who come forward. Already, she has reportedly received threatening emails and is the subject of vicious online trolls, cruel tweets, and mocking Instagram posts, including one by Donald Trump Jr. But according to her lawyer, Debra Katz, “She’s willing to do whatever it takes to get her story forth.”

It is critical that a confirmation vote be delayed until a thorough and transparent investigation can be conducted, including a hearing at which both Ford and Kavanaugh have an opportunity to testify under oath. The Senate cannot move forward with this lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land without considering the results of a fair, non-partisan, and complete process. If Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, he could sit on the Supreme Court for the next 40 years. This confirmation process is the only process he will ever go through. Now is the time for the allegations to be investigated and testimony to be heard.

This moment is eerily reminiscent of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings in October 1991, in which Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill testified that Thomas had sexually harassed her when they worked together at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She, too, was reluctant to come forward with the allegations and only did so after her name was leaked to the media. As we know all too well, her life was indeed upended. During the hearings, the all-white, all-male Judiciary Committee members tore her to shreds. Sen. Arlen Specter accused her of perjury. Sen. John Danforth called her mental health into question, suggesting she might have “erotomania,” a delusion that someone more powerful is in love with her. Sen. Alan Simpson remarked, “I’ve got statements from Tulsa saying: Watch out for this woman.” 

Although at times distressing to watch, the Thomas hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee played a pivotal role in awakening the public to the prevalence of sexual harassment, even at the highest echelons of power. That Hill’s allegations ultimately did not stop Thomas’s appointment to the court was a bitter pill to swallow, then and now. Yet, that outcome does not negate the value of her testimony. 

We are at a similar crossroads now as the Senate Judiciary Committee considers how to proceed in light of Dr. Ford’s allegations. We should understand more now, 27 years later, about the ways sexual assault and harassment cause lifelong harm — personally and professionally. We also are one year into the #MeToo movement, an explosion of anger and truth-telling about the ways sexual misconduct continues to shape women’s lives.

Dr. Ford may have been forced into the limelight against her will, just as Anita Hill was, but the treatment she receives should be different. She must be questioned fairly, not belittled or dismissed. As Ronald Klain, counsel to the Judiciary Committee during the Thomas hearings, has suggested, it may make sense to have trained lawyers lead the questioning, rather than leaving it to the politicians. But a fair process in which both sides are fully heard is in everyone’s interest — including, most importantly, the country’s, given the stakes.

It’s up to the Senate Judiciary Committee to get it right this time around.

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Anonymous

Most catholics lie when confronted with sexual predation. Ask what Jesus would do, and then do the opposite.

R Joseph

Can you @ACLU go to court and sue the Senate committee to wait for an investigation of Professor's claim of sexual assault.

CindyB

President Trumps tweet Friday is his norm but as a MAN I am numbed that women everywhere no matter their political views have not been 'rocked' by his disgusting and ignorant statement 'IF IT WAS THAT BAD' it would have been...... OMG who is any man to put a level of severity on any physical attack on a woman! Even alleged, who is HE to suggest there is a "TOO BAD" - that is disgusting especially for the President = does he not realize we make up half the population. Now is not the time for silence.

Anonymous

While I agree with you wholeheartedly, I can't help but manage some sardonic Republican remark that they want to "own you," and that's done by demeaning a class of people Of course the actual aim by McConnell is to "own liberals," which would include minorities, LGBT, democrats, and the like.

So, like in previous times for slaves and women, Conservatives would be happier if you returned to your chattel status.

Anonymous

Stances like this detract from the ACLU's overall credibility as defender of EVERYONE'S rights.

Burden of proof should be placed upon the accuser, not the accused, be it in a criminal trial, civil proceeding, or private arbitration. This right is sacred, regardless of whether the judge at issue has opinions at odds with the ACLU's.

Anonymous

Rights in the ACLU's eyes are only viewed through the glasses of partisan leanings. Justice is blind and innocent until proven guilty
are two pillars of our rights as Americans. The ACLU should be fighting for those rights . Definite rights based on "social justice" will only bring us back into the witch hunt days.

Anonymous

Hello, anyone here ever went to law school? What's the relationship between allegations, evidence, proof and guilt? Is the terribleness of an allegation equivalent to a high truth value?

ACLU reaches a new low. Shame, shame.

Anonymous

The Southern Poverty Law Center would be proud. I suppose you are also proud. Rumor has it: Pride comes before a fall.

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