Content Warning: Sexual assault reference
For the past few weeks there has been uproar all across America concerning the new candidate for the Supreme Court – Brett Kavanaugh. In the most watched trial since the O.J. Simpson case, the enquiry into sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh drew in numbers that surpassed 20 million. But, despite the mass of opposition towards him, on 6 October the senate confirmed Trump’s nominee with a vote of 50-48, one of the closest votes in the history of the court.
It all started with the retirement of Supreme Court judge Anthony Kennedy, a liberal conservative and the so-called swing vote. This left one free space in the otherwise equally balanced conservative v liberal court which rests at 4-4. A space President Donald Trump was eager to fill.
Kennedy, despite his allegiance with conservative foundations, often voted in favour of untraditional laws that now define what we see as modern America, including the legalisation of gay marriage in 2015 and laws upholding abortion rights in 2017.
Defining his voting strategy on whether a law change does or does not allow for dignity, he has been instrumental in upholding justice in the United States since his election to office in February of 1988. To give an indication of the gravity of the impact his retirement may have upon America, shortly after the announcement of his retirement, Supreme Court Analyst Jeffrey Toobin announced that ‘abortion will be illegal in 20 states in 18 months’.
Experts believe that Trump’s (successful) nominee Brett Kavanaugh, will join the majority in reversing the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision to legalise abortion throughout the United States.
However, before Mr Kavanaugh’s nomination could go to vote by the senate, a number of women came forward alleging serious sexual assault claims against him. The first, and the subject of the trial for which Mr Kavanaugh faced, is psychology professor Doctor Christine Blasey Ford. Ford’s claim is that he, witnessed by his friend Mark Judge, attempted to rape her at a high school party.
Doctor Blasey Ford states that she has come forward ‘not because I want to, but because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school’. It is a testimony that has shocked the world and that if true, shows that Mr Kavanaugh is wholly unfit to fill the position of Supreme Court judge.
Yet Doctor Blasey Ford, disturbingly, is not alone in her claims. Two other women have also contacted the senate with allegations of sexual misconduct.
The first, Julie Swetnick, who also hails from Kavanaugh’s high school days, claims that he was part of a group of private school boys who used to spike girls’ drinks causing them to pass out and then would line up outside their bedroom door in order to have their ‘turn’. The final claim comes from his fellow Yale college mate Deborah Ramirez who claims he forced his penis in her face at a house party and then made her caress it before ridiculing her with his friends.
These claims resulted in urgent calls from Democrats for an FBI investigation. However, this was constrained by President Trump who has enforced that it be ‘limited in scope and last no longer than a week’. Kavanaugh has also deflected the questioning of senator Diane Feinstein who asked why he would not want an FBI investigation to clear his name, veering off on a seemingly irrelevant tangent.
The White House, who has control over the breadth of the investigation, only allowed the interview of four witnesses, one of which was also an alleged perpetrator and two others that were not in the same room at the time of the incident. Who did not know, according to Doctor Blasey Ford, that it even came to pass. Yet following this, outrage from Democrats provoked Trump to allow interview of anybody ‘within reason’.
Yet while several classmates continued to come forward to provide evidence against Kavanaugh, complaints remained that the FBI refused to hear them.
These testimonies include the allegation from Kathleen Charlton that she possesses evidence to show that Kavanaugh was contacting former Yale classmates, before the release of the first Deborah Ramirez article in The New Yorker, imploring them to deny the allegations.
This evidence suggests the truthfulness of Blasey Ford’s allegation given that Mr Kavanaugh had the foresight to anticipate it in advance of its release.
Recently President Trump mocked Doctor Blasey Ford at a rally in Minnesota, mimicking her to a laughing crowd “How did you get home? I don’t remember. How’d you get there? I don’t remember. Where is the place? I don’t remember. How many years ago was it? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know”.
A probable explanation for why Doctor Blasey Ford does not recall all the finer details surrounding her attack, is that the brain’s hippocampus is impeded by fear, according to various studies including those of neuroscientists and forensic psychologists such as doctors James Hopper and David Lisak. As the hippocampus is the part of the brain that registers short term and stores long term memories, its initial function is inhibited during trauma due to the body’s ‘fight, flight, freeze’ response. Consequently, Doctor Blasey Ford may have never registered some of the details of her attack that the Republican senate is now basing its questioning upon. Yet this does not necessarily indicate that she is being untruthful.
The limited investigation that has come from this trial means that the verdict, upsetting and disheartening as it is, was only too predictable. America now waits, to see what changes Kavanaugh will make to the shape of its society, be they good, or as many fear, detrimental.
Image: Mobilus in Mobili via Flickr