The dam breaks on Kavanaugh [UPDATED]

[UPDATE: There are reports that a fourth woman has come forward with fresh allegations against Kavanaugh.]

As with most cases of accusations of sexual abuse by powerful men, once one accuser comes forward, others feel emboldened to tell their stories too. This is because sexual abusers rarely stop after one experience. If they get away with one act of abuse, they feel they can do so again. This pattern is being repeated with US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Late last night there was a major news story about another woman Deborah Ramirez who has accused Kavanaugh of really gross behavior at a party while they were first year undergraduates at Yale University.

The story appeared in The New Yorker and was written by Ronan Farrow, who has broken many major stories about sexual abuse by powerful people, and Jane Mayer, a long-time investigative reporter for the magazine and one of the best in the business. Ramirez did not come forward on her own. The reporters heard about her story and contacted her who then told them what happened. Their story is well worth reading in full. Here is the gist of the charges.

After six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections to say that she remembers Kavanaugh had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away. Ramirez is now calling for the F.B.I. to investigate Kavanaugh’s role in the incident. “I would think an F.B.I. investigation would be warranted,” she said.

Farrow gave an interview where he discussed how they came by the story and what they uncovered. He says that Ramirez remembered in vivid detail what happened.

Here’s Mayer on Ramirez’s high reputation for truthfulness, which has been further attested to by over 900 Yale alumnae.

To add to the deluge, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti says that he is representing another woman who also claims to having been assaulted by Kavanaugh.

One of the great benefits of the #MeToo movement and the charges brought against Kavanaugh is that it has shed light not only on the kinds of abuse that powerless women and men face now, but also on what they experienced in decades past, as people have felt emboldened to break their long silence and describe their own experiences and why they kept quiet for so long. Thousands of people, mostly women, have come forward under the hashtag #whyididntreport to explain why they kept silent.

Others have written articles describing in greater detail than what Twitter allows. One such person is Deborah Copaken who describes the culture she grew up in in the same neighborhood as Kavanaugh at the same time. It is an extraordinary account that I would also strongly recommend reading.

On Friday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted that he has “no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents.”

Let me tell you what life was like as a girl in Montgomery County, Maryland, in the early 1980s. I am a year older than Christine Blasey Ford and a year younger than Brett Kavanaugh. I grew up in Potomac, Maryland, a few miles from both Holton Arms, Ford’s school, and Georgetown Prep, which Kavanaugh attended, but I went to my local public high school, Churchill. Never mind that any girl who was in high school in Potomac during that era knew, through the whisper network, not to go to a Georgetown Prep party alone. That was a given. What was also a given is that “date rape,” as a term, was in its infancy. Most of us thought getting our bodies groped at a high-school party—or anywhere—was the unfortunate price we paid for having them, not something we would ever go to the police to report.

Even in junior high school, this was true. I have a vivid memory of my friend Marcia having her skirt ripped off her body in the middle of a bar mitzvah dance floor. It had snaps down the middle. I actually heard one boy say, as she was weeping in a corner, trying to refasten her skirt, “I mean, duh. If you’re going to wear snaps on your skirt, what do you think will happen?” I made a mental note: Never wear snaps to a dance party.

The fact that Ford did not call the police or tell her loving parents after she escaped this young man’s scary clutches has no bearing on the truth of her story. Plus, let’s keep in mind: She was 15 years old. She couldn’t even drive herself home. That’s one of the images that haunts me—young Chrissy Blasey walking out of that house and facing the rest of her post-traumatic life, on foot.

Note that Copaken says that the boys of Georgetown Prep were notorious in the entire community for being abusers of women. Given that the school is run by the Catholic church that supposedly emphasizes the teaching of ‘values’, chalk this up as another indictment of that institution.

She then describes the date rape she experienced in college and the stark choices that confronted her when she informed the University Health Services that implied that the silence was the best option at that time, and how it was only much later that she was able to deal with the trauma. After the Christine Blasey Ford story came out, she wrote to her rapist and describes what ensued. It is a gripping account.

Another such person is Ronald Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis. She, like Copaken and Ford, has a vivid memory of the assault itself but only a hazy memory of some of the other details and explains that this is very common.

It’s important to understand how memory works in a traumatic event. Ford has been criticized for the things she doesn’t remember, like the address where she says the assault happened, or the time of year, or whose house it was. But her memory of the attack itself is vivid and detailed. … That’s what happens: Your memory snaps photos of the details that will haunt you forever, that will change your life and live under your skin. It blacks out other parts of the story that really don’t matter much.

Davis then issues a challenge to the Republican senators on the judiciary committee.

Ford wants the FBI to investigate so that some of the details she doesn’t remember can be established. It’s a brave request. Perhaps the aging men who are poised to interrogate her, unless they hide behind surrogates, should pause for a moment and think about the courage it takes for a woman to say: Here is my memory. It has haunted me for decades. It changed my life. You need to know about it now because of what is at stake for this country.

Requesting an investigation into the incident isn’t a big ask. Unless they just want her to go away. Which is, by the way, one reason that women are scared to speak up.

Apparently Republican senators had earlier got wind of the Farrow-Mayer investigation which was why they tried to rush through the hearings on Monday without an FBI investigation, hoping to shut the door before the news broke.

The offices of at least four Democratic senators have received information about the allegation, and at least two have begun investigating it. Senior Republican staffers also learned of the allegation last week and, in conversations with The New Yorker, expressed concern about its potential impact on Kavanaugh’s nomination. Soon after, Senate Republicans issued renewed calls to accelerate the timing of a committee vote.

That strategy of rushing things has failed. The senate Republicans are cowards and have few good options now if the rescheduled hearings go forward on Thursday, despite Democratic senator Diane Feinstein’s call for them to be cancelled until all these charges are throroughly investigated.. They have the choice of eleven aging men skeptically questioning a woman about her memories of being sexually assaulted. Or we will have the spectacle of men who normally love to hear themselves talk when the TV cameras are on them cravenly hiding behind a female staffer as she is delegated the task of speaking for them.

There are some minor weird things about this case that struck me. Kavanaugh’s defense team has issued a list of 65 women who said they knew him in high school and were willing to vouch for his character. This is an incredible number given that he went to an all-boys school. I did not go to high school in the US but did go to an all boys school like Kavanaugh. I would be hard pressed to name even five non-family girls who knew me well at that age. How could he know 65?

Another defense is the production of a detailed calendar that Kavanaugh supposedly kept while in high school that does not have an entry for a party of the sort that Christine Blasey Ford describes. Again, what 17-year boy not only keeps a detailed calendar but holds on to it for 35 years? And assuming the calendar is genuine, would we expect him to have an entry that says that he tried to rape a 15-year old?

It is interesting that no one now seems to bother denying that Kavanaugh was a heavy binge drinker and moved in a circle of heavy drinkers and that he was aggressive and boisterous when drunk. But his earlier categorical denials that he was anything other than a model for good behavior prevents him from using that in his defense by now trotting out the ‘I was drunk and did not know what I was doing a lot of the time but if I harmed anyone I apologize’ escape hatch.

He and Donald Trump and the Republicans have no recourse but to double down and attack the women, however bad that looks.


  1. says

    “Why are they choosing now to come forward?” is the most ridiculous question I hear Republicans asking. Because you’re about to rubber stamp this man to the Supreme Court!

  2. ionopachys says

    deepak, I think this post at No More Mister Nice Blog is the best answer:

    McConnell is in a tough spot here, but I think he has to stay the course and hope Kavanaugh squeaks by, because if he doesn’t, the Republican base will go into the midterms knowing that, at a crucial moment, libs were not owned. Lib-owning is the most important goal of the Republican base; the failure to own libs is the worst possible failure.
    [emphasis in original]

  3. says

    For the first time in weeks I am actually hopeful.

    Four may be enough, but a few hundred-thousand on the capital steps chanting “vote them out!” couldn’t hurt.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    Kavanaugh’s defense team has issued a list of 65 women who said they knew him in high school …

    Apparently Grassley produced that list in half an hour after the story broke: Repubs are so efficient they found them in less than 30 seconds each!

    It seems they also efficiently started digging for dirt on Dr. Blasey Ford before her name went out -- almost as if someone central to Team Kavanaugh knew who got assaulted at that party young Brett (says he) didn’t go to…

  5. John Morales says

    Pierce R. Butler,

    – almost as if someone central to Team Kavanaugh knew who got assaulted at that party young Brett (says he) didn’t go to…

    That is hardly exhaustive. It is no less plausible that “someone central to Team Kavanaugh” was apprised that the accusations had been made and might be published. 😉

  6. says

    Pierce R. Butler (#6):

    Apparently Grassley produced that list in half an hour after the story broke: Repubs are so efficient they found them in less than 30 seconds each!

    When I read what you said, I was going to snarkingly say someone just typed out girl’s names from Kavanagh’s high school yearbooks, but only the ones he didn’t write comments next to their pictures. I was going to infer he used his yearbook as a “trophy case”, akin to what serial killers do.

    Then this news item appeared: Brett Kavanaugh: ‘Horrible, hurtful taunts’ towards schoolgirl in high school yearbook revealed.

    He and other male students did use the school’s yearbook as a trophy case. Disgusting.

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