Dispatches: A Historic Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing

News and notes from Pacific Standard staff and contributors.
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Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing on September 4th, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing on September 4th, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

This past Thursday's news cycle was dominated by one event: the testimony of research psychologist Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh. While the American public watched rapt, Blasey Ford spoke in front of a testy, contentious senate judiciary committee, recounting her allegations that Kavanaugh, along with Mark Judge, sexually assaulted her back in high school. Staring down some of the most powerful people in the country, Ford stated: "I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school."

She then answered questions from Democratic senators before Republicans brought in Rachel Mitchell, a special cross-examiner from Arizona, to interrogate Ford over her story—mixing scientific insights into her harrowing personal story. After Ford's testimony concluded, Kavanaugh adamantly denied the accusations against him, calling them uncorroborated and unsubstantiated. And yet, Kavanaugh and Republican senators refused to countenance the possibility of an investigation from the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the assault. Earlier this week, senior staff writer Tom Jacobs spoke to legal scholar Aya Gruber about why Kavanaugh should be pushing for an inquiry—as opposed to avoiding one.

While the political implications of this momentous day are yet to be fully realized, what should not be lost in the partisan fireworks is how this discussion reflects America's broader reckoning with victims of sexual assault—an issue Pacific Standard has covered in depth. First, the science around assault allegations is clear: We should believe women. Staff writer Francie Diep took a look at what happens when, on the very rare occasion, a false allegation is made, and how that can better guide society in how to support victims of sexual assault. In the past, we've looked at the lifelong consequences of rape, broken down how the more we discuss rape the more likely it is that victims will report crimes committed against them, and deconstructed America's rape culture.

All this work illustrates that, in the end, regardless of the politics, the Kavanaugh hearings have been yet another reminder that our country still has a long way to go to fully reckon with issues of sexism and sexual assault.

This dispatch originally appeared in The Lede, the weekly Pacific Standard email newsletter for premium members. The Lede gives premium members greater access to Pacific Standard stories, staff, and contributors in their inbox every week. While helping to support journalism in the public interest, members also receive early access to feature stories, an ad-free version of PSmag.com, and other benefits.

This past Thursday's news cycle was dominated by one event: the testimony of research psychologist Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh. While the American public watched rapt, Blasey Ford spoke in front of a testy, contentious senate judiciary committee, recounting her allegations that Kavanaugh, along with Mark Judge, sexually assaulted her back in high school. Staring down some of the most powerful people in the country, Ford stated: "I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school."

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