We now know the name of the woman who says she was 15 when Brett Kavanaugh, then around 17 — and now on the brink of a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court — used his body to hold her down, groped her, tried to pull off her clothing, and clapped his hand over her mouth to prevent her screaming. Christine Blasey Ford told the Washington Post she was afraid she was going to die.
Ford has told us that in the decades that have followed, she has carried the trauma of this experience. It figured heavily in therapy she underwent with her husband in 2012, and in individual therapy the following year. She has said she went back and forth about coming forward, but hearing her story told without her consent and context, told the Post, “I feel like my civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation.” That retaliation, which she also called “annihilation,” had begun before she even spoke up: 65 women who in some way crossed paths with him in high school implicitly calling her a liar by vouching for Kavanaugh’s unimpeachable character.
After Ford came out publicly, someone Politico identified as “a lawyer close to the White House” said that “if somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried.” As far as this administration is concerned, to allow Brett Kavanaugh to face consequences for one woman’s story — no matter what documents she has or how many people she told no matter how many years ago — would simply set a bad precedent. Not only because this is about more than Brett Kavanaugh, who after all is just a cog in the machine of decades-long conservative dreams of bending the court to the movement’s will. Because it’s about all men. (And it’s feminists who are supposed to be anti-men by tarring them all as would-be rapists?)
That anonymous lawyer’s worry is not actually about all men, to be really precise; it’s about the ones who can be “brought down” because they are already on high — elite men whose careers and good reputation are assumed to be theirs by birthright. Men who Ford’s therapist described as “highly respected and high-ranking members of society in Washington.” Men for whom, even now, all is forgiven as long as they serve the causes that keep the system going, until perhaps there are too many women to publicly dismiss them all as liars (see Moonves, Les).
Consequences are for women like Ford — women who speak up even when there is nothing to be gained, and know what is coming to them no matter what their standing in the community is, but who have been unable to forget.
Consequences are for women like Monica Lewinsky, who was 22, not that much older than Ford was, when Kavanaugh worked on the legal team that cornered her in a hotel room and threatened to charge her with crimes if she didn’t cooperate. Kavanaugh himself demanded that prosecutors question Clinton in gynecological detail, details which later surfaced in the official report. It was Kavanaugh who demanded that Clinton apologize — not to Lewinsky, but to his own boss Kenneth Starr. In her memoir, Lewinsky describes her treatment at the hand of the Starr team as follows: “I had been emotionally raped,” and “I felt very violated. I really felt raped and physically ill.” She has been paying for what she did at 22 ever since, and Kavanaugh has not apologized.
Consequences are for Jane Doe, another teenage girl who, just last year, had the misfortune to have Brett Kavanaugh making decisions about what would happen to her body. Jane Doe’s youthful mistakes were to become pregnant in a country where abortion was illegal, in a home with abusive parents, and to cross the border without the right papers. If it were up to Brett Kavanaugh, who called her jumping through unending legal hoops “abortion on demand,” the consequence for Jane Doe would have been running out the clock until she gave birth against her will.
I thought about these women when I heard people say Brett Kavanaugh was only 17. All of the girls’ basketball teams and carpool moms and “liberal feminist lawyers” won’t make me forget these young women and how little mercy Brett Kavanaugh showed them, or how harshly he visited consequences upon them.
Consequences will be for all of us, not for Brett Kavanaugh. The only thing less accountable than a powerful white man against a woman’s word is one with a lifetime appointment.