***TW: rape, sexual assault, PTSD ***
Despite living in D.C., I am still finding it difficult to get a letter to my former senator. To be completely candid, that is in part due to the fact the submission form on his website limits my character count. My objection to Senator John Boozman’s support of Brett Kavanaugh far exceeds the limitation of the website. I have opted to overnight mail a physical letter in hopes it might be read in a timely manner. I recall from my interning days that physical mail was slightly more manageable than email, at least in terms of volume. I am also opting to post my letter online. I hope other’s can use it as inspiration to contact their own representatives before the Senate vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to use my contact form to reach out!
October 1, 2018
The Honorable John Boozman
141 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Re: Senate confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh
Dear Senator Boozman:
My name is Brittany Webb. I was born and raised in Jonesboro, Arkansas. I attended Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas on a full academic scholarship. Until recently, I worked in Little Rock, Arkansas to build experience in the legal community before applying to law school. Arkansas has been my home for more than two decades.
I became familiar with politics, both within our state and within our nation, at an early age. In high school, I represented Arkansas at the American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation in Washington D.C. during the summer of 2010. It was during that program that I met Senator Mark Pryor and your predecessor, Senator Blanche Lincoln. I became enamored with their work and efforts to best represent Arkansas on a national forum. Those meetings fueled me to pursue a bachelor’s degree in politics. As a result of my chosen field, I decided to apply to intern for Senator Pryor in the late-summer of 2013. I was accepted and flew to D.C. in June of that year.
I loved my internship, particularly the interactions I had with fellow Arkansans and the opportunities D.C. offered me. During that internship, I had the honor of meeting you for the first time. I was well-acquainted with your platform and voting practices; I knew that we did not agree across several issues, but that you were a conscientious voter who truly believed in doing good by your constituents. I saw that demonstrated firsthand when you passionately discussed your committee work and when you invited us to sit in on the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee meetings. Perhaps the most striking moment, however, was when you and Senator Pryor came out to watch a group of unathletic interns play baseball on the National Lawn. Two senators, one on each side of the political aisle, cheered us on as we scrambled around. You shook my hand after we lost (rather spectacularly) and told me we put up a good fight.
Two weeks later, mere days before I was to go back home to Jonesboro, I was raped. You see, all the other interns were over 21 and had planned a night out at a small bar nearby. I was only twenty years old; so, as they walked to the bar, I veered off to go to Dupont Circle to a late-night bookstore. It was a trip I had made many nights over my internship. I did not expect this weeknight to be any different, but because I walked in the direction of the bar before deviating, I took a path I was unfamiliar with. When my attacker first grabbed my arm, I hoped he was just someone with no conception of boundaries asking for money or directions. Then he slammed me to the ground and clamped his hand over my mouth. I momentarily blacked out. I came to and froze for a few minutes, while crying and trying to breathe around his hand. He shifted his weight at one point and his hold on me lessened. I finally had enough space to fight back and wriggle away. I ran. I am not even sure of the direction. I just ran until I knew I was not being followed. I finally found my way back to my dorm.
I was not sure what to do. I did not know my attacker. I did not call the police. I thought about reporting, but I was not sure of the exact location where I was attacked. I was so close to being able to go home. I was scared. I hurt so badly. I just wanted to sleep.
I went through the motions of my last week of the internship. I left my wallet insert with my Senate ID, Metrocard, and cash behind when I ran away. I told our coordinator I was mugged and was given a new badge. Everyone in the office was so worried about just my wallet being taken. I could not stand the idea of the suffocating concern I would receive if they knew what all I lost that night: my dignity, my sense of safety, and myself.
After I returned to college that fall, I thought I had buried my trauma deep enough I could pretend it did not happen. About a month in, there was an assault on campus. The attacker was not caught. Hendrix sent out a safety alert to the students, and something inside me broke. I began to have dissociative seizures. My body was shutting down. I went on medical leave and bounced in and out of hospitals for months. At night, I would have waking hallucinations of my attack. During this time, my family was still unaware of my rape. They just saw me withering away, with no way to stop it. I woke up from one seizure in the hallway of my grandparent’s house. My grandpa was lying next to me on the floor, stroking my hair and crying while my aunt tried to stabilize my breathing. My grandma was calling for an ambulance while my mother held my legs in place. The emergency room physician who saw me this visit suggested a mental trauma might be affecting my physical health. I went to UAMS for a psychologist consult and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. I began therapy and slowly began to heal.
A year following my assault, I finally felt comfortable enough to share my experience with my amazingly patient and supportive family. Over the past few years, I have gradually shared my experience publicly. I now write about my assault and use it to help other survivors. My writings are cathartic and a way to reclaim my life and agency after it was stripped away. Because of these essays, I was invited to attend the White House’s first United State of Women summit in June 2016. There I talked to other survivors, some who reported their attack and several who did not. These meetings helped me recognize that everyone’s trauma is different, and we should be allowed to recover in whatever way is best for us.
I share all of this because I want to reach out to you regarding the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. In the past, your office has been wonderful in getting back to me for a wide array of concerns. I saw your comment this past Friday in which you stated you find Judge Kavanaugh to be qualified to fill Judge Kennedy’s vacancy and you will vote to confirm. I felt my heart drop to my stomach in initial disappointment, but then I tried to think about the statement from your perspective. Judge Kavanaugh’s professional qualifications seem adequate on paper. But try as I might, I could not force myself wholly into your perspective. The FBI investigation has not even turned over preliminary findings, but you have already pledged support to Judge Kavanaugh despite the multiple allegations of sexual assault.
I implore you to reconsider this unfettered support. I do this not from a partisan perspective, but from the place of a rape survivor. I do not want to ask you to put yourself in my shoes. The terror I feel daily, five years after my assault, is the same terror Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified to experiencing. It is blinding, paralyzing, choking, and all-consuming. I would not wish that feeling on anyone, but I would ask you to empathize with it. Dr. Ford waited to come forward with her experience. Please do not fault her for doing so. Faulting her for doing so is equivalent to faulting all of us for not reporting.
Judge Kavanaugh and some members of Congress have expressed their beliefs that these allegations are partisan. I disagree. Our experiences are not political, but personal, painful, and real, regardless of if we report to the police or not. Judge Kavanaugh is not the only potential candidate for the Supreme Court. If you have any doubts or concerns about these allegations, I ask you to not confirm. If you do not have any concerns, I ask you to take a moment of introspection to ask yourself why you aren’t concerned about such detailed allegations. I have faith you will proceed with care, but sometimes care can be expanded with other challenging perspectives.
I moved to Washington D.C. a few months ago to attend law school at American University. Sometimes, I walk along the streets with a heavy heart. It is hard being back here, in a city that I love but gave me the deepest pain I have ever felt. Reliving my experience this past week, alongside Dr. Ford and thousands of other survivors, has been gut-wrenchingly difficult. But five years ago, you shook my hand and congratulated me on a good fight. I could not let this confirmation proceed without offering up another.
I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to submit this letter. If you or your office have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at 870-***-**** or ****@gmail.com. Thank you for your continued service on behalf of Arkansas.
Thank you everyone for the concern and love this week. Please continue to be a network of support for those around you and remember advocacy must be intersectional and inclusive. Much love, Brit.