President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, has been accused of sexual assault by three individuals, Dr Christine Ford, Julie Swetnick and Deborah Ramirez. Out of all three who claim that in their youth Kavanaugh forced himself upon them, Dr Ford has been the most prominent speaker.
In the United States, the President nominates an individual to become one of the nine supreme court justices. This nomination then needs to be approved by a Senate committee (consisting of selected Republican and Democrat senators) before a full Senate vote is called to confirm the nominee.
Dr Ford’s accusation was brought forward after the nomination, and the committee heard her testimony last week. In an interview with the Washington Post, she said that when they were both teenagers, Kavanaugh led her into a bedroom, prevented her from screaming, and groped her before she finally managed to escape. Testimonies from Swetnick and Ramirez voice similar stories. Swetnick says that she was drugged and raped by Kavanaugh while Ramirez said that Kavanaugh thrust his genitalia in her face.
Kavanaugh denied these accusations and his nomination was allowed to progress into a full Senate vote. However, this was on the condition that an FBI investigation into his behaviour is held. As such, Trump has ordered a one-week limited investigation into the accusations.
Why is this significant?
The Supreme Court and its members have the final say on US law, including on issues such as abortion and challenges to government policy. Additionally, Supreme Court justices are appointed to the position until they retire or die. Thus, if appointed, Kavanaugh would hold a lot of power. His appointment is also expected to sway the Supreme Court to be more conservative.
However, Kavanaugh’s potential appointment represents a bigger issue of sexual assault victims not being believed when they come forward. Protestors have gathered in support of Dr Ford and in strong disapproval of Kavanaugh. Whether the Senate confirms Kavanaugh will send a signal to US society on, how much weight is accorded to a sexual assault victim’s testimony, and how much society tolerates powerful individuals who have been accused of sexual misconduct.