Sexual Assault Accusations Demand Attention

Reading coverage on the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is like staring at a car accident. We can’t seem to look away.

Our eyes are transfixed by the spectacle. We glance elsewhere only to turn our focus back shortly after.

We survey the damage and consider the people impacted. We wonder what the buildup looked like and ruminate about the aftermath. We ask how it happened in the first place—who is culpable, whether or not they will be held accountable.

For many Americans, Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is slated for Thursday, will induce similar feelings. People will stare at television screens and refresh news feeds, all in an effort to understand the situation in a fuller capacity.

The editorial board of The Fordham Ram is deeply unsettled by the moment our nation finds itself in. We are disheartened and frankly infuriated by the redundancy of history, especially as it relates to minimizing the severity of sexual assault accusations.

We are saddened and dissatisfied that we continue to see it occur, whether disparaging conversations take place on college campuses or in the highest court of law. For this reason, we call upon our fellow members of the Fordham community to refuse to accept the cyclical nature of personal violation. In doing so, we must hold ourselves, as well as those around us, accountable for past, present and future behavior.

While we have yet to hear the testimonies from both parties, we believe the alleged assault sends a clear message: the consequences of our actions can be large and lasting. Something that happened in 1982 can still send shockwaves in 2018. Inebriation or immaturity is never an excuse.

We may have once accepted the expression, “that was then, and this is now,” but it is becoming increasingly apparent that choiceful ignorance cannot continue.
It is our duty not only as Americans but decent human beings to seek the full story instead of jumping to conclusions. All too often we react rashly when we should instead listen patiently.

To say you believe Ford is not to unequivocally assume she is right; it is to declare that she should be taken seriously and offer your support in the truth seeking process. It is to affirm that, regardless of the eventual outcome, she—as well as victims who come forward—deserve to be heard as opposed to being dismissed.

Bearing this in mind, it is also important to acknowledge that not all victims will come forward in a manner that makes sense to the public. Some of the most pervasive critiques of Ford’s decision to share her story now are that it seems calculated or three decades too late.

However, we must remember that Ford initially released the story in a confidential letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein and only identified herself publicly after details began to leak. And, as our previous editorial board said in response to the #MeToo reckoning, a victim does not have a responsibility to come forward.

When (and if) someone chooses to share their story, they have the right to do so on their own terms. A person reporting what happened to their own body owes nothing to anyone else, let alone do so in a “correct” time frame.

Perhaps this failure—to understand sexual assault and the variety of responses to one—is why so many people choose skepticism instead of compassion. However, the bottom line remains: not everyone is ready to share their personal trauma. For some, they never will be. For others, it takes a significant amount of time.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s attempt to hold the hearing in a hasty fashion is something that we, as student journalists, find reprehensible to Ford, as well as the fact-finding process as a whole.

If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh will maintain that position for the rest of his life. He will vote on decisions that will impact Americans for generations to come. This is not something that should be taken lightly, especially given the accusations against him.

We believe Kavanaugh deserves due process. We also believe that the hearings must be conducted in a thorough and even-keeled manner. The stakes are too high to accept anything less than satisfactory. The whole country is watching.

We implore you to not only pay attention to this moment but take proactive steps to support survivors of sexual assault. Participate in the Fordham chapter of It’s On Us. Educate yourself on Title IX procedures. Learn about the resources available on campus. Understand that statistics don’t tell the whole story.

The mishandling of sexual violence is largely sustained by people who choose to reduce or even ignore accusations altogether. Kavanaugh’s confirmation proceedings are continuing nearly unbothered because of a power structure built in part upon the marginalization of sexual assault victims.

By getting involved in this movement, educating yourself and standing in solidarity with survivors, you can help break this pervasive cycle, ensuring that a sexual assault allegation, no matter how old, can no longer be brushed aside by political spin doctors.