The Brett Kavanaugh Confirmation Should Be A Call to Action for Law Students

Today I am thrilled to host an open letter from the Board of BC Law’s If/When/How Chapter on the Kavanaugh confirmation, our continued support for sexual assault survivors, and what comes next in this fight.

As the board of BC Law’s If/When/How chapter, we think it is important to say publicly, and unequivocally, that we believe Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramierez, and Julie Swetnik. We believe Brett Kavanaugh lacks the moral character and the temperament to be not only a Supreme Court Justice, but a judge. We are sickened by his appointment to the Supreme Court, and strongly condemn it.

Brett Kavanaugh represents the worst of everything the legal profession has to offer; he is a living manifestation of white privilege, male privilege, class privilege, and rape culture. He also represents an opportunity for lawyers and law students to do better; to improve our profession so that the next generation of law students, lawyers, and clients – anyone who interacts with our justice system – enjoys a fairer legal process that recognizes the many modes of marginalization in our society and outright rejects sexual violence of any kind as acceptable behavior. Kavanaugh’s rise to prominence and the current climate surrounding the allegations against him illustrate the desperate need for lawyers to recognize their crucial role as advocates for sexual assault survivors. Lawyers are the advocates on the frontlines of justice — taking and trying survivors’ cases, working with them to ensure they’re protected, be it through securing restraining orders or helping to file charges against assailants.

We live in a world where rape survivors rarely see their perpetrators brought to justice — though it’s important to note that within the reproductive justice and sexual assault survivors advocacy community, there are nuanced and varied ideas about what that looks like. We all agree, however, that something needs to change. Survivors need to be heard, and what’s more, sexual assault needs to be regarded with the seriousness it deserves.

Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of the way the allegations against Kavanaugh have unfolded is not that the response has been to disbelieve Dr. Ford. It’s that some have impliedly gone so far as to argue that even if this did happen to her, it is not a big deal, and it certainly should not be disqualifying. We need to support that a survivor’s testimony is evidence, and stop perpetuating harmful and false narratives about who is and isn’t a perfect victim; invoking the sex lives and understandably imperfect memories of trauma survivors to impeach their credibility instead of rightly examining a society so deeply saturated with rape culture that we believe more deeply in the baseless idea of false allegations, which are incredibly rare, than we do in the survivor’s explanation of the events.

As future lawyers and judges, we are uniquely poised to make a difference in this world for survivors of all types, especially those of sexual assault. Not only is it our job, but if the Kavanaugh hearings and his subsequent confirmation have made anything clear, it is that it is our duty. Survivors should be able to turn to our justice system, to lawyers, with the assurance that they will find help and support; not with the fear that they will be re-victimized or disbelieved. This change doesn’t have to happen solely through representing clients; it can happen when we use the phenomenal power and privilege this profession instills in us to speak up against sexual violence. As law students, we are taught from day one that our actions have consequences and that our moral character matters. As Boston College Law students, we are instructed to consider the service a Jesuit education requires of us: not only to the greater good, but more importantly to the underrepresented. This is not about politics; this is about following that mission. This is more important than politics; this is about supporting survivors. We condemn Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment first and foremost because we support survivors. We believe Deborah Ramierez. We believe Julie Swetnik. We believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

Signed,

Elizabeth Cole, Emily Smith, Elisabeth Chee, Laoise Mangan, Caroline Reilly

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