These images of women around Kavanaugh evoke a familiar alibi

Updated 4:13 PM ET, Wed September 26, 2018

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Rebecca Wanzo is associate professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. She is the author of "The Suffering Will Not Be Televised" and writes about representations of sexual violence. The views expressed in this commentary are solely the author's. View more opinion articles on CNN.

(CNN)By now we are accustomed to the scene: a male politician or celebrity stands accused of sexual misconduct and his wife is a stoic, supportive presence beside him.

Rebecca Wanzo
Whether viewers read them as sincere or not, we know the answers in the Fox News interview Brett Kavanaugh did with his wife must have been heavily scripted.
Kavanaugh and his handlers undoubtedly formulated a strategy to feature his wife alongside him in their joint interview.
Brett Kavanaugh, left, looks at his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh as they answer questions during a Fox News interview.
This choice is an extension of a strategy we have seen even before the accusations against Kavanaugh emerged late in the confirmation process. Kavanaugh stands poised to be the justice who will cement an anti-abortion rights court. With images of him with his wife, daughters, law clerks, and young female basketball players, he is framed as a man who supports women and their futures. (Kavanaugh has vigorously denied the allegations.)
President Trump with Judge Kavanaugh, wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh and their daughters, Margaret and Liza, after Trump's announcement of the judge as nominee to the United States Supreme Court.
They were front and center in the hearings -- a visual counterargument to the idea that women's lives and bodies are not safe in his hands. Now that some women have accused him of assaulting them, the images are even more important. The happy, shining faces of these teenage girls are meant to inspire trust.
Images sell the idea that these girls have been safe in his hands. How could anyone imagine that this man, trusted and loved, would hurt them? And if he has not hurt them, how could he have hurt any other young woman?
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his family attend his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on September 4, 2018.
He is a man who stands accused of sexual assault -- defined by the US Department of Justice as any unwanted sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the consent of the recipient. And the pictures, originally staged for other reasons, now could be portrayed as evidence.
Ashley Kavanaugh, his daughters, clerks and the basketball players are all character references to refute the charges against him. They are not just props. The pictures are also, in a way, his alibis.