What I Want to Hear from You, Brett Kavanaugh


I’ve heard denial and a lot of deflection. I’ve heard anger and sadness. And I’ve heard disrespect. I know you needed to show that you are tough and a strong man. You needed to show who is in charge through your dominance and anger and righteous indignation. You’re a conservative with Trump as your President, after all.

What I haven’t heard from you, Judge Kavanaugh, is anything that I need to hear as a woman to trust you with decisions for my good and our nation. I am quite progressive and do not support the conservative values you espouse. They are in direct contrast to my values of empathy, taking care of each other, and human rights. That being said, I’ve worked to listen and understand you as a man and as a potential Supreme Court Justice.

I know this is a political process, providing plenty of political fodder. Did the Democrats game the system by waiting until the final hour to reveal the sexual assault accusation? It sure seems that way. But did Dr. Blasey Ford emerge from obscurity as a political pawn for the Democrats? Can you imagine someone choosing to lie in such a public way about such a personal topic, full-well knowing her professional and personal life will be forever negatively changed? Threats of violence, character attacks, personal humiliation. I can’t imagine how any positive impact on her life would make it worthwhile. Of course she didn’t come forward earlier—we’re only now starting to listen to women rather than blaming them. Yet we still have a President who publicly mocked her.

It’s quite possible that you don’t remember what Dr. Blasey Ford remembers so clearly. Why would you remember that particular night? You like beer, as you repeatedly told us. As indicated through friends and your own yearbook post, you drank a lot. It was probably just another drunken night with your friends goofing off. But you probably do know that you were *that* guy. The kind of guy that they speak of. That’s why you’re completely downplaying your heavy drinking and partying, facts that have been corroborated by many.

You chose to call it a false charge. Do some women make false claims against men? Yes. I understand that as a man of influence, the power that you think women have to bring you and your friends down through false accusations must feel huge and scary and unfair. Your fear and loss of power makes you feel like a victim. I do think the 5% or so of false accusation cases should be taken very seriously and treated as crimes. But that shouldn’t prevent us from taking the 95% very seriously as well. Ignoring a fire alarm because of the rare false alarm would be foolish.  

Should you not get a job because of something that you did at age 17? No. We all make mistakes, some bigger than others. But you’re in contention for one of the most esteemed roles in our country, which no one is entitled to. I wonder how that kind of teenage and young adult behavior reflects on the type of person you are today? And my central question, why do you now deny it?

This is what I want to hear from you, Brett. Even if you won’t admit fault or remember the night in question, this is what I want to hear. I’m framing this with a mix of the conservative values that I believe you hold, with what American women desperately need to hear from you. It seems you will be confirmed, and therefore will be making decisions that affect our bodies and those of younger generations of women. In the world I want to live in, even a conservative Supreme Court Justice would care about the physical safety and psychological well-being of his people, and to have the strength and courage to say something like what is in these two paragraphs:

I was a good kid with great parents growing up. But I also did some problematic things when I was a teenager and young man. I’m ashamed of some of the things that I did. I’ve reflected on that behavior and acknowledge the harm that I’ve done and the negative impact I’ve had on young women, including making some women feel unsafe. I am very sorry for this. I want to make sure that boys and young men today are learning values of respect and care that I didn’t always show to others, and that our society protects those values.  

While I am uncomfortable with Dr. Blasey Ford’s allegation, I have empathy for the terror she felt being pushed into a bedroom by two men who were much bigger and stronger than she was. Being held down with the seeming intent to rape. And the powerlessness she must have felt to have a hand held over her mouth, silencing her. This sounds terrifying and I understand that many girls and women in our country experience such traumas. I am committed to creating a safer world for my daughters and all of our daughters. I made mistakes as a teen, as for those, I apologize. It is unimaginable to me now.

There are three factors in this proposed response that are most important to me as a woman and as an American:

1)    You are telling us the truth about your youth, even when it’s ugly. This takes courage and shows humility. To me, this shows that you are a man of honor and willing to tell the truth even when it feels against your own self-interest. You prioritize truth and honesty to the American public over yourself.

2)    You are acknowledging that you made poor choices and owning the harm that you did to others. This would indicate that you have reflected on your past and have changed. You are apologizing. You’re able to empathize with the difficult experiences of others, even if you’ve never experienced it yourself. This shows that you are not still that teenage boy who made foolish choices, but a thoughtful and aware grown man.

3)    You are validating the experiences of so many women in our country, who have felt physically scared or sexually abused by a male. You are letting women know that their voices do matter, men do care, and that women deserve respect and safety.

This is what I need to know, Brett:

Will you acknowledge the pain of women?

Will you acknowledge that we have a sexual assault and coercion problem in our country?

Will you apologize for being a part of that when you were younger, and point to how you’ve listened and grown and over the years learned what it really means to respect and listen to women?

Will you say that you care about making a society that wants to protect your daughters, instead of using them for sexual amusement, and then blaming them?

I don’t want to send you into exile. I want the opportunity for women to heal because they’re being heard and believed and valued. I also want men to heal because they learn new values and skills in empathy, and own their actions and unintended pains. And then I want our society to heal because we’re acknowledging the shame, fear, and stigma around sexual abuse and coercion, and how this is detrimental to the health of half our population.

Brett, who you are today and how much you empathize with women, survivors of sexual assault, and those who have less power and status than you, shows us the kind of man that you are. And I don’t see any of this reflected in your response. Your true character is showing through Judge Kavanaugh, and it’s not a pretty picture.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, Sociologist & Sexuality Speaker