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Catholic U. dean suspended after comment that ‘degraded’ a woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault

Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh returns from a break in a hearing Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Win McNamee/Reuters) (POOL/Reuters)

Catholic University’s president suspended a dean whose comments on social media this week questioned allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh. John Garvey, the president of the university, said Friday evening in an email to the campus that the remarks “demonstrated a lack of sensitivity to the victim.”

Will Rainford, the dean, had issued a written apology Thursday evening for a remark he made on his university Twitter account that he said “unfortunately degraded” one of the women who have accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

“Rainford’s tweets of the past week are unacceptable,” Garvey wrote. “We should expect any opinion he expresses about sexual assault to be thoughtful, constructive, and reflective of the values of Catholic University, particularly in communications from the account handle @NCSSSDean. While it was appropriate for him to apologize and to delete his Twitter and Facebook accounts, this does not excuse the serious lack of judgment and insensitivity of his comments.”

Garvey said it is his desire that Rainford continue to lead the National Catholic School of Social Service, where he has been dean since 2013. “But in light of these recent actions I have suspended him as dean for the remainder of this semester. Rainford understands and accepts this decision,” Garvey wrote.

Women in Orlando shared their personal reflections on Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh's testimonies. (Video: Ray Whitehouse/The Washington Post)

Scores of graduates of the National Catholic School of Social Service signed a letter to the university’s president, provost and board of trustees objecting to Rainford’s comment and calling for his resignation.

“The many letters and phone calls we have received this week have brought up a variety of issues regarding the direction of the school of social work,” Garvey wrote. “I have decided to direct a thorough review of these concerns, led by the Office of the Provost. The scope of the review will be to ensure that we have a clear understanding of the concerns, and to identify areas where we hope to see improvement.”

Julie Swetnick, the third woman in recent weeks to accuse Kavanaugh of misconduct, said in an affidavit that Kavanaugh was present at a house party in 1982, where she alleges she was the victim of a gang rape.

Kavanaugh has denied her allegation and those of two other women who accused him of misconduct.

Who is Julie Swetnick, the third Kavanaugh accuser?

“Swetnick is 55 y/o,” Rainford posted Wednesday on his @NCSSSDean Twitter account. “Kavanaugh is 52 y/o. Since when do senior girls hang with freshmen boys? If it happened when Kavanaugh was a senior, Swetnick was an adult drinking with&by her admission, having sex with underage boys. In another universe, he would be victim & she the perp!”

Teresa Crenshaw, a social worker who graduated from the master’s degree program at the school in 2017, said she was “really alarmed that he had the audacity to say those things because as social workers, we know we work one-on-one with survivors every day. . . . I’m appalled by what he has said.”

Rainford had been active on Twitter, with posts such as: “Riddle me this. Why would the accuser of Kavanaugh take a polygraph, paid for by someone else and administered by private investigator in early August, if she wanted to remain anonymous and had no intention of reporting the alleged assault?”

This was an apparent reference to Christine Blasey Ford, the first woman to bring up an allegation against Kavanaugh. Ford initially sought to remain anonymous but publicly disclosed her identity in a Sept. 16 article in The Washington Post.

Some lawmakers called for a brief FBI investigations on Sept. 28 into the allegations made against Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh ahead of his confirmation. (Video: Blair Guild, Whitney Shefte, Jesse Mesner-Hage/The Washington Post)

This week he wrote, “I will stand for due process, democracy, and justice even and especially when it makes me unpopular or vilified. The tactics of people who cannot press their view is to resort to ad hominem attacks that vilify. It’s not new to me!”

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Sage Miska, who graduated this spring with a master’s degree in social work, said, “I think everyone is entitled to their opinion”and should be able to express those views, “but I don’t think it should be associated with the organization they lead, unless that’s the stated purpose of that organization.”

Tiffany McKelvy, who graduated in 2017 from the school and works as a therapist in New York, said, “His comments kind of fly in the face of the code of ethics” for social work, including the directive to honor the dignity and worth of every person.

Rainford has not responded to requests for comment by The Washington Post.

He deleted his Twitter and Facebook accounts, and on Thursday he apologized to the provost and sent a letter to the school of social work, seeking forgiveness.

He acknowledged he had tweeted a message that degraded Swetnick. “My tweet suggested that she was not the victim of sexual assault,” he wrote. “I offer no excuse. It was impulsive and thoughtless and I apologize.”

He sought to assure the community that his years of experience in law enforcement, social work and education have taught him that “victims who suffer assault and abuse need to be heard, respected, and provided treatment and justice.” As a Catholic who loves God, he wrote, he is doubly intent on healing abuse.

“I am aware that many of you are angry, frustrated, and hurt,” he wrote. “For this I am truly sorry.”