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New Canaan woman’s Kavanaugh connection brings unwanted attention

September 29, 2018

NEW CANAAN — An hour before the Senate Judiciary Committee took a vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, Renate Schroeder Dolphin walked to her mailbox under a gray sky.

The 53-year-old with brown hair and frameless glasses looked warily at a reporter wanting to talk to her. She acknowledged it had been a tough week, then gave the name of her attorney and retreated inside her large New Canaan home.

In the past few days, Dolphin’s name has gone from local news mentions — she serves on New Canaan’s Health and Human Services Commission — to the kind of national headlines no woman wants.

On Kavanaugh’s 1983 yearbook page, the future Supreme Court nominee, who faces multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, described himself as a “Renate Alumnius.”

Kavanaugh was one of 13 graduating seniors at Georgetown Preparatory School who referred to “Renate” in some way on their personal yearbook pages in 1983, the New York Times found. One photo of nine football players, including Kavanaugh, was captioned “Renate Alumni.”

“I don’t know what ‘Renate Alumnus’ actually means,” said Dolphin in a statement Monday. “I can’t begin to comprehend what goes through the minds of 17-year-old boys who write such things, but the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue.”

It’s also all too common. In today’s popular culture it’s called “slut shaming,” but the practice existed long before it ever had a name.

“Slut shaming is more than simply name calling,” said Beth Hamilton, associate director of the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence. “I think it’s incredibly normalized and has little to do with actual promiscuity. More generally it is linked to misogyny and is a way to police girls and women’s behaviors — how they present themselves or maybe their broader sexuality. In some ways, it is also a way for men to affirm their masculinity.”

Kate Hamilton Moser, vice president of the Connecticut Chapter of the National Organization of Women, said she remembers boys using similar language when she attended high school in California and Missouri.

“I remember hearing all of those same things when I was in high school,” she said of the 1990s. “The slut shaming, the misogynist languages and attitudes were constant regardless of the type of school it was, the location of the school, the socioeconomic background that it was. It was the same.”

During Thursday’s Judiciary Committee Hearing, Kavanaugh praised Dolphin and blamed the media for ascribing sexual meaning to the yearbook mentions of her.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation will assess allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford while both were in high school before a full Senate vote. Blasey Ford testified about her experience Thursday, as did Kavanaugh who denies any wrongdoing. Two other women have also publicly accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.

Dolphin had signed a letter along with 64 other women who knew Kavanaugh in high school telling the Senate Judiciary Committee that Kavanaugh “behaved honorably and treated women with respect.” That was before the yearbook mentions came to light.

A member of New Canaan’s Health and Human Services Commission since at least 2012, Dolphin is an active member of the community.

“I really respect her and her intelligence,” said Alicia Meyer, a fellow Commission member.

emunson@hearstmediact.com; Twitter: @emiliemunson

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