A Hearing Is Not an Investigation—and Feminists Want Both for Christine Blasey Ford

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who bravely came forward publicly late last week with a sexual assault allegation against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, was scheduled to testify Monday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and tell her story. In recent statements, however, she has demanded that the an investigation into her claims takes place before she addresses the body—and feminist activists across the country are coming together to fight alongside her for the same.

A protestor holds up a sign for the National Organization for Women outside of the Supreme Court. (Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

In a statement delivered by her lawyers, Blasey Ford told the New York Times that an FBI investigation into her allegations should be “the first step” in the process, and she is insisting it come before she appears “on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident.” Lisa J. Banks, one of her attorneys, said on CNN that Blasey Ford is “not prepared to talk with them at a hearing on Monday” because “no legitimate investigation is going to happen between now and Monday.”

After Blasey Ford came forward, hundreds of feminist organizations came together to demand an investigation. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR), a nationwide coalition of over 200 organizations, have called for a halt on any vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination and a full investigation with the support of over 70 additional groups.

“Dr. Ford did not want to make her accusations public, but after her letter was reported on, she courageously decided to tell her story,” LCCHR said in a statement. “Like all survivors of sexual assault, she must be treated with respect and her privacy honored. The Senate cannot move forward with this lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land without the results of a fair, non-partisan and thorough process.”

The Leadership Conference’s statement was released in coalition with organizations like Alliance for Justice, the American Association of University Women, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, Equal Rights Advocates, Feminist Majority, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, the NAACP and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Council of Jewish Women, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Women’s Law Center, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, ReproAction, United State of Women and YWCA USA.

“All survivors deserve to be heard, believed and respected,” Eleanor Smeal, Feminist Majority (FM) president, declared in her own statement Monday. “The Senate majority has rushed through Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings with breakneck speed. If they fail to extend even this basic courtesy to Christine Blasey Ford, they are further weakening the transparency of our democracy and dismissing the experiences of survivors of sexual violence.”

FM has launched an email campaign for members who want to contact their Senators in support of Ford and to demand an investigation and a delay on any votes to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Senate floor. (You can also call your Senator at (202) 224-3121.)

“Anything short of a full investigation is a blatant attempt to conceal information and create a scenario through which Dr. Blasey Ford can be demonized and defamed,” Smeal said in an additional statement released on Twitter yesterday. “Dr. Blasey Ford is not on trial. She is a private citizen with pertinent information on the character and history of the nominee.”

In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Blasey Ford’s lawyers detailed the harassment she has suffered since speaking publicly about her allegation that when she was in high school, Kavanaugh attempted to rape her at a house party with the help of a friend.

“While Dr. Ford’s life was being turned upside down,” the lawyers wrote to the Senators, “you and your staff scheduled a public hearing for her to testify at the same table as Judge Kavanaugh in front of two dozen U.S. Senators on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident.”

After the Washington Post published an exclusive piece quoting and naming Blasey Ford, she was forced to leave her home with her family due to threats and cyber-attacks.

In an op-ed by Anita Hill published Monday in The New York Times, the groundbreaking attorney and professor laid out four ground rules for the Senate Judiciary Committee in advance of Blasey Ford’s testimony. In the piece, Hill looks back on the ways in which the same body effectively failed her in 1991, when she came forward and testified publicly about the sexual harassment she faced working for now-Justice and then-nominee Clarence Thomas. In her piece, Hill recommended a neutral investigation, urged the body not to rush the hearings and warned against “pitting the public interest in confronting sexual harassment against the need for a fair confirmation hearing.”

The President, members of Congress and right-wing organizations are not heeding Hill’s advice. Instead, they are now dismissing Blasey Ford’s demand for an investigation and painting her allegations as politically-motivated attacks, and Kavanaugh is suggesting it is a case of “mistaken identity.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch this week said Blasey Ford was “mixed up,” and insisted that Kavanaugh “is an honest man.” Hatch, who was also a senator during Hill’s testimony, suggested in 1991 that her story was “too contrived,” and “so slick it doesn’t compute,” and went so far as to claim she had borrowed themes and scenarios from The Exorcist in order to destroy Thomas’ nomination.

“Christine Blasey Ford asked for confidentiality,” Smeal said in her statement. “Instead, she was forced into the most unwanted of spotlights and asked to share with the world one of the most traumatic experiences of her life. The Feminist Majority, and millions of women across the country, applaud and are inspired by Professor Ford’s courage. We will not forget how our elected officials choose to respond.”

Carmen Rios is the Digital Editor at Ms. and Contributing Editor and Co-Founder of Argot Magazine; her work has also appeared at BuzzFeed, Bitch, Mic, MEL, Everyday Feminism and Autostraddle, where she was previously Community Director and Feminism Editor. Like everyone else in LA, she once had a podcast; unlike everyone else, she stays pretty zen in traffic. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.

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