Brett Kavanaugh, Sexual Assault & The Rise of the MeToo Movement

Brett Kavanaugh, who is notoriously known for his conservative values, including his anti-abortion stance, was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump. As part of the Senate hearings, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Christine Blasely Ford, now a professor of psychology in California, who says Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers in the 1980s.

After more than 8 hours of emotional testimony was heard from US Supreme Court nominee and his accuser, the US Senate committee voted to approve Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court meaning it will go to a full vote in the Senate, as discussions continue over a possible FBI inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct.

The outcome, unfortunately, was not surprising. Sexual assault outcomes for women have often been destructive, with many men walking free with little or no punishment. Brock Turner, the swimmer at Stanford University who didn’t face prison time for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman back in 2016, being the perfect high profile example. 2017 and 2018 saw the rise of the #MeToo Movement and has been a wakening for women all across the world to stand up and take action against sexual assault. Kavanaugh’s anger that dominated his answers and responses throughout the testimony and the ultimate outcome reaffirmed why the #MeToo Movement was created and why it’s so vital in today’s society, now more than ever.

Angrily denying he had ever assaulted her or anyone else, and accusing Democrats of politicising the process and harming his family and good name, Kavanaugh outlined the fundamental issue surrounding sexual assault – the mere focus being on himself and not on the actual assault. Avidly avoiding questions given to him regarding his drinking habits and notably mentioning that he did not listen to Ford’s testimony, is a perfect metaphor for this whole proceeding – he was too busy preparing his own remarks and thus, brushing over the severity of the accusations he was being faced with. Simply having a female friend does not exclude you from the possibility of having sexually assaulted a woman and making a joke of the situation, does not exclude you either.

For too long sexual assault has been brushed over, giving power and dominance to the male perpetrator, putting the woman in the wrong. Nowhere was this more evidenced than through Christine Ford’s allegation. The biggest backlash she faced was the delay in her reporting the sexual assault. Why didn’t she just report it back in the 1980s? Why now? Isn’t a bit coincidental that she’s speaking out now ahead of his nomination? It must be so odd, considering victims of sexual assault are met with such kindness when they do report. So many people are willing to listen without asking irrelevant questions like “what were you wearing?” and so on.

The only people who ask why they waited are the people who don’t want to hear the answer to that question. There is plenty of literature available on why victims of sexual assault don’t come forward. These people don’t care. Asking why they waited is their way of saying that they don’t care. This is one of the biggest issues that the Kavanaugh case has brought forward; no one really believes that the woman is lying – if they vote him in, it is because they believe her and don’t care. It’s now clear that we should stop saying the word believe. It’s not about that anymore – it is about whether or not they care.

Kavanaugh highlights that a lot of society think it’s ok for young men to make mistakes, that have long-standing social and psychological repercussions for women, without punishment or accountability. Young boys and girls will be looking at this case and thinking ‘well the President and many other high politicians don’t care and think this behaviour is fine so why should I care’. Even before Ford’s testimony, Republicans insisted on a Friday vote. “Unfazed and determined. We will confirm Judge Kavanaugh. #ConfirmKavanaugh,” tweeted chief counsel of nominations Mike Davis. Rape culture is so embedded in today’s society that we genuinely believe it’s ok to condone and not confront aggressive sexual behaviour. Add the tweets from the President of the United States, supposedly the most powerful influencer in the country, attacking Ford and well, sexual assault is just another wrongdoing of women.

A teenage boy knows better than to force himself onto an unwilling female. But it’s simply not enough anymore to just say that as a male. If you are a grown man that knows better, it is not ok to stay silent on such issues and perpetuate rape culture. Remaining silent makes you part of the problem, it adds to the ‘I don’t care, it doesn’t affect me’ scenario.

If Kavanaugh is elected to the Supreme Court, it could tilt the balance in favour of conservatives for years to come. If the Senate doesn’t care enough to stop a Supreme Court nominee from having power, despite sexual assault allegations, who’s to say they will care about the ordinary citizen. The Supreme Court plays a vital role in US political life – appointed for life, it’s nine members have the final say on US law. This includes highly contentious issues, such as abortion, and challenges to government policy. Women’s rights will take a backseat. The ‘boys will be boys’ stereotype will be legitimised once again and an unsettling turn of events could occur in the wake of the rise of the #MeToo Movement.

Ultimately, the Kavanaugh case has transformed the #MeToo Movement to a new dimension. Now more than ever, women are unified to challenge the current consensus and to do everything in their power to prevent their future from being undermined. It’s simply not enough to say you’re against sexual assault, action IS needed. In the wake of the Kavanaugh case, the #MeToo Movement sends a message that elected leaders will eventually allow women to give weight to their testimony, rather than suppressing it. It starts with the general public. Men and women alike need to stand up and protest. When Anita Hill’s testimony was ignored in 1991, more women than ever were emboldened to run for office – and win. History is likely to repeat itself during the 2018 midterm elections. Change does not come as swiftly as we’d like, but it comes.

Words By Hannah Strong

 

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