Kavanaugh Coverage Perpetuates Stigmas

Editor’s Note: This article contains discussion of sexual misconduct and sexual assault.

“Let’s make consent a conversation.”

Oberlin students have heard this phrase a million times before, and, hopefully, take it seriously. According to a survey by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 11.2 percent of students on a college campus will experience rape or sexual assault, and chances are, you know someone who is a survivor. Oberlin students are held to high standards of respect and care so that everyone on campus can feel safe. You would think we could expect the same standards for members of the Supreme Court.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford wrote a letter on July 30, 2018 to Senator Dianne Feinstein accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers. According to Ford’s account, a drunk Kavanaugh physically forced her down on a bed, attempted to pull her clothes off, groped her, and covered her mouth when she screamed.

If that weren’t bad enough, more accusations came out later from a woman named Deborah Ramirez, and lawyer Michael Avenatti has stated that he is representing a third accuser, Julie Swetnick. Ramirez alleges that at a Yale University party, Kavanaugh exposed himself to her, directly in front of her face, and forced her to touch him. Swetnick recalls attending parties where women were impaired and gang-raped, and while she does not directly accuse Kavanaugh of raping her, she remembers him taking part in the assaults.

Throughout all of this, Republicans have dismissed the accusations against Kavanaugh. President Donald Trump recently tweeted, “The Democrats are playing a high level CON GAME in their vicious effort to destroy a fine person.” Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas claimed that Democrats “are engaged in a campaign of delay and character assassination against Judge Kavanaugh.” Reasons for defending Kavanaugh could include a hesitation to “ruin Kavanaugh’s career,” an eagerness to gain more power for the political right through his confirmation, or because of the way indivduals misrepresent women.

While accusations against the likes of Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey feel like they were made ages ago, the #MeToo movement is still new, and people are still navigating standards of respect they previously dismissed.

If the movement has taught us anything, though, it’s that we must believe accusers. No one makes a sexual assault allegation for their own benefit. While some have accused Dr. Ford of seeking recognition through her accusation, in reality she has moved out of her home following death threats and harassment. Kavanaugh, however, is still supported by his party, despite three separate allegations against him.

Furthermore, many people are accusing Democrats of simply using Dr. Ford to prevent Kavanaugh from being approved before the midterm elections. These people ignore the fact that Ford initially sent her letter to Senator Feinstein anonymously and had no intention of coming forward unless it became absolutely necessary.

The ramifications of Ford’s bravery aren’t unusual; many sexual assault cases are not reported because of threats made against survivors, or fear that they won’t be believed. It is up to us living in the #MeToo era to give survivors our trust, faith, and support. This will give them strength, and will encourage others to come forward with their stories if they can. If consent is going to be a conversation, someone has to start it.

I want to live in a world where laws aren’t made by men who endeavor to silence women, metaphorically and literally. If you agree with me, please don’t forget to call your senators, here and at home, and urge them to vote against confirming Brett Kavanaugh.