In the summer of 1982 D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh was17 years of age and Christine Blasey Ford was 15 years of age. She attended the private all-girls Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland while Kavanaugh attended private all-boys Georgetown Preparatory School.
In a letter dated July 30, 2018 sent to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ms. Ford stated that Kavanaugh “physically and sexually assaulted” her with the assistance of another 16 or 17-year-old teenager. This assault, according to Ms. Ford, occurred in the bedroom of a private residence in suburban Maryland. Both assailants were reportedly inebriated at the time.
Ford, who is now a psychology professor in Palo Alto, California, recently told the Washington Post that the assault was so intense she feared Kavanaugh would “inadvertently” kill her.
This serious allegation has placed Judge Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, which was already the subject of intense partisan warfare, under a spreading cloud of doubt and suspicion.
Conservatives, Republicans Doubt Delayed Outcry
The hypocrisy of the Party that claims to be tough on crime and the defender of victims across the country is again on full display. Congressional Republicans have railed against this allegation of a 36-year-old sexual offense, saying that a “delayed outcry” in a sexual assault case should not be a basis for undermining a Supreme Court nomination. Just as he did in the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas affair, Sen. Orin Hatch (UT-R) has once again chosen to call the sexual assault complainant a liar.
Sen. Hatch and a host of other Republican lawmakers have cast doubt on Professor Ford’s credibility because of her delayed disclosure (what is commonly known in Texas as “delayed outcry”) of the sexual assault. This phenomenon is more common among teenage sexual assault victims than it is among adolescent and prepubescent victims. As the Office for Victims of Crime points out:
“ … Older youth are less likely to disclose sexual victimization than younger youth because they have the cognitive abilities to anticipate and avoid unsupportive consequences.”
Prosecutors Have Long Vouched for “Delay Outcry”
Writing in The Texas Prosecutor (Nov.-Dec. 2017), Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Hohl had this to say about “delayed outcry”:
“A delayed outcry does not mean that a child is lying. Most of the time it simply means the child was not ready to tell anyone about sexual abuse until that day. Research indicates that a large percentage of children do not outcry right away about sexual abuse. Several studies into disclosure of victims of sexual abuse suggest that ‘just over one-third of adults who suffered [child sexual abuse] appear to reveal the abuse to anyone during childhood. Furthermore, among children who do disclose during childhood, delay of disclosure is common.”
Based on the allegations made public so for, at age 15 in 1982, Professor Ford was a “child” under Maryland law, and any sexual offense against a child by an adult was a first degree felony subject to a penalty up to a life sentence without the benefit of parole. At 17 years of age in 1982, Judge Kavanaugh was an adult under Maryland law because he attempted a rape in either the first or second degree.
Under Maryland law, a rape victim’s accusation does not need corroboration.
Professor Ford has presented to the public and the Senate Judiciary Committee what many prosecutors would consider ample evidence of corroboration. She told her husband and her therapist about the assault long before Donald Trump became president and nominated Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
Since there is no statute of limitations under Maryland law for a felony sexual offense, Judge Kavanaugh could conceivably be indicted for the alleged sexual offense he committed in 1982 against Professor Ford.
The Senate Judiciary Committee’s inquiry into Professor Ford’s sexual assault allegation against Judge Kavanaugh is, therefore, a quasi-official criminal investigation.
History of Sex Assaults at Elite, Private Schools
More than 200 women who attended school with Professor Ford have publicly endorsed Professor Ford’s allegation. They say the behavior exhibited by Judge Kavanaugh and his accused teenage partner in crime was common in 1982, so much so that many of them were victims of the same kind of sexual assaults.
Teen sexual assault was common in 1982 and, according to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, it remains so today. The NCTSN point to studies that have found:
- One in four teen girls was verbally or physically pressured into having sex during the past year.
- One in ten high school girls—and one in 20 high school boys—reported being forced into sex.
- More than one-third of acquaintance rape victims are between the ages of 14 and 17.
- About 9 percent of high school students are physically hurt—on purpose—by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- Almost 20 percent of college women reported experiencing sexual assault on campus.
Unequal Treatment for Rich, Elite
These figures are disturbing. They should make every parent of a teenage child want to take seriously the charges Professor Ford has leveled against Judge Brett Kavanaugh. If the rich, powerful, and privileged are not held accountable for their criminal sexual misconduct, how can we allow poor, disadvantaged men to remain in prison for crimes equivalent to Judge Kavanaugh’s conduct. There are literally tens of thousands of poor inmates in the nation’s state and federal prison systems serving lengthy, even life sentences for sexual misconduct similar to that leveled against Judge Kavanaugh.
Brett Kavanaugh has lived a life of privilege. He has alleged history of impetuous behavior—gambling, lying under oath, and judicial reasoning that fits the political moment—and if the Senate Judiciary Committee finds by a preponderance of the evidence that he engaged in the behavior alleged by Professor Ford, he is most assuredly not morally fit to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Thorough Investigation and Opportunity to be Heard is Necessary
As criminal defense lawyers, with considerable experience in defending false allegations of sexual assault, we recognize that false allegations are made in rates higher than prosecutors often suggest. We also know that rates of false allegations are higher when circumstances exist that “up the ante,” such as disputes involving child custody, money or employment and, of course, high stakes politics. Often, the only way to get to the bottom of these allegations and save a life and recover a good name is through an aggressive investigation and zealous representation by a lawyer experienced in these types of cases.
It is because we believe wholeheartedly in the presumption of innocence and requiring the Government to overcome burden by proof beyond a reasonable doubt, that we now argue that law enforcement and the Senate Judiciary Committee must conduct an open, honest and thorough investigation into this matter. The very reputation of the highest court of our land, and justice for a victim of a potential sexual assault, rest on a responsible and thoughtful investigation and resolution of this most troubling allegation.