As a survivor, I have spent my career fighting for a Native woman's right to freedom from physical and sexual violence. Much of my work has been supported by the tribal provisions of the 2013 Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act which gave tribal nations an unprecedented ability to protect their female citizens. In my work I've seen a number of reactions from government officials in North Dakota to the important work of protecting Native women, the worst kind of behavior coming from male politicians who don't acknowledge the outsized rates of violence and murder against Native women and who don't believe that the tribal provisions of VAWA are fair to the non-Native men who enter tribal nations and assault Native women.
As I watched Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing addressing sexual assault allegations against him last week, I was once again reminded of the treatment I've often received dealing with male political figures: blatant privilege, ignorance and bullying. His aggressive and disrespectful manner of addressing the democratic members of the committee (several of whom are female), his fiery anger, and his defensive, unhinged and accusatory words were all too familiar to me.
He is someone who thinks that he is above condemnation and above reproach. He is also someone who demonstrates a lack of sympathy and a lack of thoughtfulness. That is not someone who should hold any office of importance in this country, especially not an office as important as justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. I oppose Kavanaugh's confirmation for three reasons, each of which, on their own, are significant enough to convince me to oppose him. First, he is a direct threat to the upholding of the tribal provisions of VAWA, which allow tribes an unprecedented ability to protect Native women. Second, he is a threat to tribal sovereignty and Native American rights. His record makes clear that if a federal program that serves tribes or Native Americans were to be challenged before the Supreme Court he would take a "strict scrutiny" approach to the issue and fail to support our rights. Third, I find the recent and credible sexual assault allegations against him to be highly disturbing and I trust the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
I believe our U.S. senators should as well, just as they should have believed Anita Hill during Clarence Thomas's confirmation process. Sexual abusers do not have any place at the highest levels of our governance, especially not for a lifetime appointment. I am overwhelmed by the gravity of the confirmation process around Kavanaugh and it pains me to think that our country's leadership might allow such a figure to ascend to the highest judicial office in this land, allowing him to opine on whether I should be protected from violence, whether Native people deserve protections, and whether tribes possess sovereignty. I ask, in the strongest terms I can, that Sens. Heitkamp Heitkamp and John Hoeven vote against his confirmation.
Merrick-Brady is the former director of Spirit Lake Victim Assistance in Fort Totten. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from the University of North Dakota.