Over the past week, there have been indications that Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, was a bit of a party boy — an athlete in high school and a fraternity member in college — who attended his share of drunken parties.
But as the judge fights for his reputation amid at least two accusations of sexual assault, he has rejected that depiction, instead describing himself as a model of good behavior, and even chastity, as a teenager.
He told Fox News personality Martha MacCallum:
“I went to an all-boys Catholic high school where I was focused on academics and athletics, going to church every Sunday … working on my service projects and friendship — friendship with my fellow classmates and friendship with girls from the local all-girls Catholic schools."
After MacCallum asked Kavanaugh about a separate assault allegation that has been hinted at by attorney Michael Avenatti, though not widely reported. Kavanaugh denied that allegation, explaining that he was a virgin in high school and afterward.
KAVANAUGH: I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter. And the girls from the schools I went to and I were friends —
MACCALLUM: So you’re saying that through all these years that are in question you were a virgin?
KAVANAUGH: That’s correct.
MACCALLUM: Never had sexual intercourse with anyone in high school?
MACCALLUM: And through what years in college, since we’re probing into your personal life here?
KAVANAUGH: Many years after. I’ll leave it at that. Many years after.
While Kavanauh didn’t claim hi virginity was exculpatory in the other matters, it’s not hard to imagine that someone could make a leap to the argument that a high school virgin couldn’t be capable of assault.
Kevin Cramer, a GOP congressman from North Dakota who is running for a Senate seat, tried in an interview with a local news station this week to clarify an earlier statement he made that “nothing happened” in one of the alleged incidents involving Kavanaugh. “My point was there was no type of intercourse or something like that,” he said.
That line of thinking shows how little people know about what constitutes sexual assault in general.
Christine Blasey Ford, a clinical psychology professor, shared her story about an alleged high school encounter with Kavanaugh with The Washington Post’s Emma Brown:
While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.
“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”
The Fix’s Aaron Blake broke down Ramirez’s allegations: Kavanaugh “had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away.”
Neither of the women who have gone public with their stories has accused the judge of having sexual intercourse with them.
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), one of the country’s largest anti-sexual-violence organizations, considers sexual assault to be sexual contact or behavior that takes place without the victim’s explicit consent.
The group lists multiple forms of sexual assault, including:
- Attempted rape
- Fondling or unwanted sexual touching
- Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body
- Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape
Ramirez’s allegation might not technically fit the definition of sexual assault, as The Washington Post’s Deanna Paul wrote for The Fix.
Yet by all accounts, the Ramirez narrative presents significantly more problems than Ford’s, and without minimizing the gravity of the alleged conduct, experts also agree that the high school sexual assault that Ford describes is a more criminally serious offense than what could amount to indecent exposure by a young college student.
There are variations in types of assault and misconduct and differences in the way state laws treat them. Victims of sexual assault can be affected in myriad ways throughout their lives.
Kavanaugh has repeatedly denied the allegations, and the full truth of what exactly happened between him and his alleged victims may never be known. But it is important to understand that it is very possible that someone can abstain from sexual intercourse yet still commit a sexual assault.
This post has been updated to clarify Kavanaugh’s response to MacCallum.