Shattering the Senate’s Silence: Feminists are Calling on Congressional Leaders to Investigate Sexual Assault Allegations Against Brett Kavanaugh

In a sworn declaration released today by her attorney, a third woman has come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

In the last two weeks, feminists have taken to the streets to demand Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh be held accountable and investigated in the wake of mounting sexual assault allegations against him. (Lorie Shaull / Creative Commons)

Julie Swetnick, who met Kavanaugh and his close friend at the time, Mark Judge, in 1980 or 1981, and attended multiple parties where they were present in the Washington, D.C. area, where all three of them went to high school, alleges in her statement that Judge and Kavanaugh both engaged in “highly inappropriate conduct,” including what she describes as “being overly aggressive with girls,” “not taking ‘no’ for an answer” and “the fondling and grabbing of gitls without their consent,” and she mentions Kavanaugh specifically as “pressing girls against him without their consent, ‘grinding’ against girls and attempting to remove or shift girls’ clothing to expose private body parts.”

Swetnick also opened up about the role Judge and Kavanaugh played in creating and fostering a culture of violence and exploitation at these parties which ultimately resulted in her own victimization:

During the years 1981-82, I became aware of efforts by Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh and others to ‘spike’ the ‘punch’ at house parties I attended with drugs and/or grain alcohol so as to cause girls to lose their inhibitions and their ability to say ‘no.’ This caused me to make an effort to purposely avoid the ‘punch’ at these parties. I witnessed efforts by Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh and others to ‘target’ particular girls so they could be taken advantage of; it was usually a girl that was especially vulnerable because she was alone at the party or shy.

I also witnessed efforts by Mark Judhe, Brett Kavanaugh and others to cause girls to become inebriated and disoriented so they could then be ‘gang raped’ in a side room or bedroom by a ‘train’ of numerous boys. I have a firm recollection of seeing boys lined up outside rooms at many of these parties waiting for their ‘turn’ with a girl inside the room. They boys included Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh.

In approximately 1982, I became the victim of one of these ‘gang’ or ‘train’ rapes where Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh were present…I was incapacitated without my consent and unable to fight off the boys raping me. I believe I was drugged using Quaaludes or something similar placed in what I was drinking.

Swetnick’s allegations comes on the heels of statements by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her in high school when she was 15 and he was 17, with the assistance of Judge; and Deborah Ramirez, who alleged that he exposed himself to her without her consent while they were both undergraduates at Yale.

Blasey Ford and Ramirez came forward by telling their stories to the Washington Post and The New Yorker; both outlets vetted their claims. Although no media outlets have been able to fully fact-check the information offered by Swetnick, she declares in her statement that she knows of other witnesses prepared to come forward with supporting information. BuzzFeed Breaking News Deputy Director David Mack, however, pointed out today on Twitter that in a calendar Kavanaugh released to support his own alibi against the Blasey Ford allegations, he has marked off an event Swetnick references called “Beach Week” in large handwriting.

In a statement released by the White House, Kavanaugh said that the allegations were “ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone.” Hours later, President Trump held a press conference in which he called the mounting allegations against Kavanaugh as a “con job” and disparaged Swetnick, Ramirez and Blasey Ford. Asked by a reporter if he was concerned about the impact language like “con job” might have on survivors across the country, Trump doubled down. “I’ve used much worse language in my life than ‘con job,'” he declared. “That’s like, probably the nicest language I’ve ever used.”

Eight women who have accused the president of sexual harassment or assault released a statement today in support of Kavanaugh’s accusers and called for “a full, independent investigation” of his “conduct in high school, college and beyond.” Lisa Boyne, Rachel Crooks, Samantha Holvey, Jessica Leeds, Melinda McGillivray, Natasha Stoynoff, Temple Taggart and Karena Virginia described Trump’s attacks on Blasey Ford and Ramirez as “beyond the pale.” At his press conference, Trump declared that such allegations against him were “false accusations” and “phony stories.”

Hours after the president’s remarks, a fourth woman came forward to allege that Kavanaugh of misconduct. The woman, who remains anonymous, said that in 1998, Kavanaugh shoved her against a wall “very aggressively and sexually” after drinking in the presence of four witnesses, including her daughter. Unlike Blasey Ford, Ramirez and Swetnick, her allegation doesn’t date back to Kavanaugh’s high school or college years; in 1998, he was 33 and working on Capitol Hill.

Despite the mounting allegations against Kavanaugh, Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee that must vote to advance the Judge’s nomination to the full chamber in order for him to be confirmed, has scheduled a vote on the matter for Friday morning—less than a full 24 hours after Blasey Ford completes her own testimony before the body tomorrow morning.

In a statement, Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, called the move “outrageously offensive.” FM, like other feminist groups across the country, is calling for a delay on any vote on Kavanaugh and a non-partisan, trauma-informed investigation into all of the allegations against him. “Clearly, Chairman Grassley is operating with political motivations and has already decided that he does not care what these survivors of sexual violence have to say,” Smeal said. “By shutting them down he is hurting not only these courageous women, but countless survivors nationwide.”

In a letter released today, the Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee urged Grassley to cancel the vote. “The Senate is not a court of law,” wrote the eight lawmakers, including the Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein. “Our job is not to determine whether Brett Kavanaugh is guilty of a crime. Our job is to determine whether he has the character and qualifications to be promoted to the most prestigious and powerful court in the country. It would be an unprecedented abuse of power and abdication of our constitutional responsibilities to move forward with this nomination given the concerns about Brett Kavanaugh’s character and actions.”

Grassley is not alone in his attempts to undermine the survivors coming forward with information and allegations concerning Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week declared that the chamber, under his leadership, would “plow right through” Ford’s testimony and move forward with a vote regardless of her allegations; Sen. Orrin Hatch has said that Blasey Ford was “messed up.”

“Chairman Grassley, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and other members of the Senate majority are displaying the text book definition of rape culture, where violence against women is so normalized that it does not warrant investigation or consideration,” Smeal declared. “There are no words strong enough to condemn the actions of the Senate majority leadership and the Senate majority in the Judiciary Committee. This entire process is a sham and a disgrace, and will hurt survivors in the future. Women and girls deserve better.”

About

Carmen Rios is the Managing Digital Editor at Ms. and has spent over a decade raising hell in feminist media. Her work has been published by outlets like the Atlantic's CityLab, BuzzFeed, ElixHER, Feministing, Girlboss, Mic, MEL and Everyday Feminism; and she also spent six years writing and editing for Autostraddle, was a founding blogger and activist with the SPARK Movement and was the inaugural managing editor of THE LINE Campaign blog. Carmen is additionally a co-founder of Webby-nominated Argot Magazine.