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Women and men showed support for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford on Capitol Hill as she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September regarding her allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school. (Image: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Kavanaugh's Confirmation Traumatized American Women, Study Shows—And May Have Made Them Less Safe

The Supreme Court Justice's confirmation hearings left Americans fearful for women's rights and safety and left many men less likely to believe a woman's allegations of assault

Julia Conley

More than six months after Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by the U.S. Senate, a new study shows how women and men were affected by revelations that the judge had been accused of sexual assault.

The non-partisan research firm PerryUndem surveyed about 1,300 people from across the country, finding that more Americans believe Kavanaugh's accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, than did directly after the hearings—and that most believe Kavanaugh lied under oath about the alleged assault.

One in four women told the company that watching the hearings in September had caused them to re-experience past trauma. The number was larger for Latin American women, at one in three.

And 36 percent of women said they related personally to Blasey Ford's testimony, in which she described Kavanaugh forcefully holding her down on a bed at a party.

Like the 2018 midterm elections—in which Democrats took control of the U.S. House—the study debunks the prediction put forward by Republicans, including President Donald Trump, after Kavanaugh's confirmation that voters would turn against Democrats.

"Ultimately, PerryUndem concludes that the Kavanaugh hearings may actually have helped Democrats more than Republicans, noting that 'feeling unfavorably toward Justice Kavanaugh motivated people to vote for the Democratic candidate for U.S. House of Representatives—above and beyond typical factors, such as party affiliation,'" wrote Irin Carmon at The Cut.

While conservative commentators like NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch predicted the hearings would make American parents concerned about false assault accusations against their sons, the study showed that most Americans came away with new concerns for women and girls' safety.

Forty-seven percent said they were now more worried for girls and women, while only 36 percent said the hearings made them concerned for boys and men.

With 57 percent believing that Kavanaugh had lied under oath during his confirmation hearing in September—during which he was openly aggressive toward senators, contrasting with Blasey Ford's emotional but measured testimony—the judge's confirmation left many concerned that Kavanaugh would not maintain impartiality regarding Supreme Court cases concerning women's rights or sexual assault.

Around 40 percent of respondents said they worried the hearings would make sexual assault dismissed even more by the public and law enforcement than it already is—making women less likely to come forward, people less likely to believe survivors, and men more likely to think they can get away with assaulting a woman.

As Carmon wrote, Republican men's responses to PerryUndem's survey may support that.

"There was a Kavanaugh effect à la Trump's fulminating—it just mainly existed among Republican men," Carmon wrote. "PerryUndem's data suggests that the Kavanaugh hearing made Republican men more sexist and less likely to believe women who say they were assaulted. In a 2017 survey the group conducted focusing on #MeToo, 80 percent of Republican men said they were now more likely to believe women making accusations. After Kavanaugh, that number has sunk by 21 points."


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