Today’s confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh has the whole nation reckoning with an alleged sexual assault involving high school students more than 30 years ago. The non-profit Equal Rights Advocates (ERA) has called forthe Senate to halt the hearing to make time for a thorough investigation of Professor Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations and others that have surfaced since hers were made public. Youth Radio reached out to ERA Staff Attorney Maha Ibrahim for her thoughts to these events and how they relate to the way schools handle allegations of student sexual misconduct today.
Youth Radio: What do you think of how the Senate is handling the proceedings regarding Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh?
Maha Ibrahim:The current leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee has obviously learned nothing since the hearings to confirm Clarence Thomas 27 years ago. It is clear they should suspend this confirmation process or withdraw Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination completely.
Taking sexual violence seriously requires investigating credible allegations such as these — the very notion of rushing through confirming someone for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in a sprint to avoid investigating these very troubling reports is a startling and chilling indication of what Senate leadership thinks about women, girls, and sexual assault in America in general.
If that investigation is circumvented here it devalues the promise of justice for all survivors, especially young women and girls.
YR: What is the Senate doing right, and what are they doing wrong?
MI:It is appalling Senate Republican leadership knew about the allegations early last week and called for the vote to be pushed up, in an effort to get “their guy” on the court…This process should be fair, thorough and non-partisan. For ALL parties involved.
The Senate Judiciary Committee should appoint experts, whose focus on thorough, trauma-informed investigation SUPERSEDES arbitrary deadlines. The investigation should include meaningful interviews and testimony from experts in sexual assault and trauma, and allow sufficient time for the committee to prepare. But they’ve done none of these things. And that’s a disservice to the American people who are affected by the decisions handed down from the Supreme Court.
And the public statements made by some of these elected leaders — downplaying sexual assault, doubting women, indicating this behavior is common and o.k. — can only be classified as immature, reckless, and dangerous.
What happens if, after these sexual assault allegations have surfaced, Kavanaugh is appointed to the Supreme Court?What signal would that send to school-aged victims and perpetrators of high school sexual assault?
MI:A shocking 23% of female students, 24% of transgender or gender nonconforming students, and 6% of male students will experience sexual assault by the time they graduate college. Many of these young people will not come forward for fear of shame, not being believed, or being revictimized.
It’s important to think about how the harassers and rapists in our school environments become adults who could have a lot of power in different professions.
If we don’t want unsafe offices, workplaces, or people who have serious sexual misconduct in their backgrounds making decisions that affect women and girls in the future, we have to take these allegations seriously today.
When an investigation is circumvented the way it has been here–when a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court is at stake–it devalues the promise of justice for all survivors, especially young women and girls.
A lifetime appointment means that girls today will be senior citizens before newly confirmed Supreme Court seats are again vacated for a new appointment — we have to really think about that. This is the entire span of a girl’s childhood, adolescence, young womanhood, adulthood — the very majority of her school, earning, and family building (if she so chooses) years. What does it mean for all of America if that seat is filled by a person accused of sexual assault yet never properly investigated?
And what would it mean to them if Kavanaugh is turned away from the Supreme Court?
MI:Well, it would mean that we won a battle but the short list of nominees for the Supreme Court is just as problematic.
We are likely to fight a similar fight again. Fighting on the grounds of the values and decisions of a judge and his political past is a judicial fight to be expected. But that Senate Leadership is forcing us to fight tooth-and-nail just to get a fair investigation by experts into very serious allegations of sexual misconduct by a prospective Supreme Court Justice — this is simply unconscionable.