Of Trauma and Power: Celebrity Sexual Misconduct Tribunals
Critical Analysis of Law 6:1 (2019)
18 Pages Posted: 23 May 2019
Date Written: November 26, 2018
In fall 2018, shortly after his nomination to the United States Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault. That same year, Professor Avital Ronell was the subject of a Title IX investigation at New York University (NYU), where she served as chair of the Department of German. Both were harshly scrutinized in the court of public opinion. Within several months of each other, these two individuals, at the peak of their prolific careers, were investigated for sexual misconduct by non-judicial tribunals that would determine their fate. Both scandals appeared in the midst of the #MeToo era, during which two assumptions about sexual misconduct have crystalized. First, it is often presumed that sexual misconduct causes trauma in the abused. Second, power imbalances in the workplace are understood as the context for sexual misconduct. This essay examines how these two trajectories interacted in the Kavanaugh and Ronell tribunals.
Keywords: Judge Brett Kavanaugh; Sexual Harassment, #MeToo, Avital Ronell, Title IX, Trauma, Abuse of Power
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