September 18, 2018
The Honorable Chuck Grassley The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
Chairman Ranking Member
Senate Judiciary Committee Senate Judiciary Committee
135 Hart Senate Office Building 331 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510 Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Feinstein:
The member organizations of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF) represent millions of survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, the professionals who serve these survivors, the faith organizations that support them, the schools that educate them, and the businesses and communities that care about them throughout the United States and territories. The NTF has worked for twenty years to ensure that federal, tribal, state, and local governments and communities address the pervasive and insidious crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. We are dedicated to keeping survivors safe and free from continuing trauma, while holding perpetrators accountable.
We write to express our opposition to the reported new process for assessing Judge Kavanaugh’s fitness to serve as a Supreme Court Justice given recent reports of his sexual assault against a fellow high school student. We understand the Judiciary Committee’s keen interest in speaking to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who shared her story with a Member of Congress earlier this summer. However, we respectfully request that you consult with her as to the best time and manner for her to speak with you.
Importantly, with regard to your process, Dr. Ford is not on trial. She is a survivor of sexual assault who may or may not choose to share her story publicly. Your process is not a trial. It is an effort to gather information about the fitness of a man poised to receive a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. As advocates for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, we must strongly request you treat her in a victim-centered, trauma-informed manner.
We ask that you slow down the nomination process and allow a comprehensive, bipartisan investigation of the allegations out of the public eye. Dr. Ford was courageous in sharing her story. We are outraged to learn that some are suggesting she be cross-examined at an upcoming hearing by Judge Kavanaugh’s attorney; speak on the phone or be interviewed by staff about the incident; and/or be immediately called to testify before the committee. This suggests a rushed, adversarial process designed to intimidate or discredit her. Not only is this problematic for your process, it would also be deeply traumatizing for any survivor. A thorough investigation, wherein she is listened to objectively and any other relevant witnesses are spoken to, must be completed before any hearing is scheduled.
We strongly encourage you to consult with experts on the issues of sexual violence and trauma before deciding how to proceed with a future public hearing and to include expert witnesses on these issues at any public hearing.
Finally, we urge you to adhere to some basic tenets of a trauma-informed approach. For example:
· Providing Dr. Ford as much input as possible into the time, date, and format of questioning.
· Ensuring a safe and comfortable environment (emotionally and physically) for any questioning or hearing.
· Allowing Dr. Ford to have support people with her and take breaks as needed.
· Repudiating any personal attacks on Dr. Ford.
· Providing clear information to Dr. Ford about the process and encouraging and allowing her to ask questions and ask for clarification as needed ahead of time and throughout the process.
· Refraining from inaccurate, stereotypical assumptions and negative judgments that have been refuted by research such as a suggestions that delayed reports of sexual assault are not credible; attacking credibility based on gaps in memory; and suggesting emotional presentation reflects on credibility.
Thank you for considering our requests. We stand ready to assist you in ensuring the process is fair. Please contact Terri Poore at terri@endsexualviolence with any questions.
The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence