I was once mistreated by U.S Congressman Kevin Cramer at a violence against women coalition meeting in 2013.
I was explaining the importance of the tribal provisions of the recently reauthorized Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to protecting Native women. As a survivor, I have spent my career fighting for a Native woman’s right to freedom from physical and sexual violence.
In response to my words expressing the importance of these provisions, Representative Cramer reacted with anger, accused tribal institutions of being dysfunctional and stated that he wanted to “ring the necks” of the Spirit Lake Tribal Council and “slam them against the wall." Three of the Tribal Council members were women. He openly opposed the provisions of VAWA that protect Native women. I’d seen this kind of aggression, blatant privilege, ignorance, and bullying behavior many times before and since, but not often in our government officials.
Last week, I saw a very similar display as I watched Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that examined sexual assault allegations against him. 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 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 Brett 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 Senator Heitkamp and Senator Hoeven vote against his confirmation.
Melissa Merrick-Brady is the former Director of Spirit Lake Victim Assistance in Fort Totten, which is located on the Spirit Lake Nation. She has worked in the field of Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault for over four years. As a survivor, Melissa knows the importance of compassionate and comprehensive victim services. Her personal healing journey has brought her to the advocacy movement where she speaks for those that cannot speak for themselves. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Management from the University of North Dakota.