The Senate hearings over the nomination of U.S. Court of Appeals judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court exposed unhealed wounds for millions of sexual assault survivors.Megan Garber, “Christine Blasey Ford Didn’t Come Forward in Vain,” Atlantic, October 6, 2018; and Eliana Dockterman, “The Battle Over Brett Kavanaugh Has Ended. But the Pain His Hearing Triggered Has Not,” Time, October 11, 2018. On live television before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor, testified that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a Maryland house party when she was 15.“Full Transcript: Christine Blasey Ford’s Opening Statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Politico, September 26, 2018.
Tensions escalated nationwide as hashtags like #WhyIDidntReport went viral, and sexual assault survivors Maria Gallagher and Ana Maria Archila confronted then-Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) in an elevator over his announcement that he would vote to support moving Kavanaugh’s nomination out of committee and bringing it to the full Senate for a vote.Haley Sweetland Edwards, “How Christine Blasey Ford’s Testimony Changed America,” Time, October 4, 2018; Abby Vesoulis, “These Women Confronted Sen. Jeff Flake Over His Support for Kavanaugh. Hours Later, He Shifted His Position,” Time, September 18, 2018; and Scott Berson and Jared Gilmour, “Who Were the Women Who Confronted Sen. Jeff Flake About Kavanaugh Vote in an Elevator?,” Miami Herald, September 28, 2018.
Flake wavered, and a compromise was reached: a week-long FBI investigation prior to the Senate vote, in which nine people were interviewed—but not Ford or Kavanaugh.German Lopez, “The FBI Investigation of Kavanaugh Was Doomed from the Start,” Vox, October 5, 2018. For the list of people interviewed, see Karen Yourish and Troy Griggs, “The F.B.I. Investigation Into Kavanaugh Has Ended. Here’s Who Was Questioned, and Who Was Not,” New York Times, October 4, 2018.
Flake, whose vote—along with those of Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)—was seen as up for grabs, ultimately voted in favor of the nomination and Kavanaugh was confirmed.Vesoulis, “These Women Confronted Sen. Jeff Flake,” 2018. Senators Manchin and Collins voted in favor of Kavanaugh’s nomination, and Senator Murkowski voted “present.” See Jennifer Victor, “Lisa Murkowski’s Unusual Vote on Kavanaugh, Explained,” Vox, October 8, 2018; and Li Zhou, “Sen. Joe Manchin Announces He’ll Vote for Brett Kavanaugh,” Vox, October 5, 2018. For a timeline of the nomination, see Sophie Tatum, “Brett Kavanaugh’s Nomination, A Timeline,” CNN, October 2018.
After Ford came forward, she and her family became targets of harassment and threats—and have had to move four times and retain private security, highlighting the repercussions victims often face for raising their voices.Tim Mak, “Kavanaugh Accuser Christine Blasey Ford Continues Receiving Threats, Lawyers Say,” NPR, November 8, 2018.
The hearing and vote were painful reminders for victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment that little has changed: Kavanaugh’s confirmation comes 27 years after Anita Hill—along with four corroborating witnesses—testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her when he was her boss at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.Nina Totenberg, “A Timeline of Clarence Thomas–Anita Hill Controversy as Kavanaugh to Face Accuser,” NPR, September 23, 2018; and Ron Elving, “A Refresher on Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas,” NPR, December 10, 2017. Thomas was eventually confirmed 52–48, the narrowest margin for a Supreme Court justice confirmation in a century—until Kavanaugh’s 50–48 confirmation.Totenberg, “A Timeline,” 2018; and United States Senate, “Supreme Court Nominations: Present–1789.”