There are thousands of Brett Kavanaughs. There are thousands more Dr. Christine Blasey Fords. Some are at Loyola. Some Kavanaughs are unaware their behavior ever went too far.
Ford came forward with sexual assault allegations against U.S. Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh in July before he was named the nominee, and the accusations became public Sept. 14 in a New Yorker article, though Ford’s name wasn’t used.
After Ford’s allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh became public, she was dubbed a liar, threatened with violence and death and forced to relive one of her most traumatizing experiences in the public eye during a hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday.
With all eyes on her, Ford detailed Kavanaugh forcing himself on her, trying to remove her clothing, covering her mouth to keep her from screaming and laughing as if he genuinely enjoyed what he was doing.
Kavanaugh also took the stand. With all eyes on him, he denied the allegations vehemently. He said he doesn’t remember the gathering Ford described, and denied ever drinking enough to black out. He said he doesn’t remember doing anything wrong.
He might be right, and that’s part of our problem.
In the U.S., it’s commonplace for boys and men to push themselves on girls and women, to the point where many men accused of sexual misconduct truly don’t believe they have done anything wrong. These men haven’t been taught the meaning of consent, and they haven’t been clued into the emotional trauma that comes with unwanted sexual advances.
A study conducted by the Center for American Progress, an independent nonpartisan policy institute, found that only 24 states require sex education in public schools, and of those 24, eight states and the District of Columbia require lessons on consent or sexual assault.
Illinois isn’t one of them.
This is a system which not only makes it possible for perpetrators to exist without many consequences, but allows them to rise to power despite credible allegations, causing girls and women across the country to be plagued by the question, “What if that was my abuser?”
During his testimony, Kavanaugh became angry. This isn’t surprising or unjustified. For someone who doesn’t think he did anything wrong, he has been through hell. But the hell Ford has been through is effectively worse, and the differences in their testimonies were astounding.
Ford politely complied with the proceedings and answered questions to the best of her abilities.
Kavanaugh avoided questions, asked U.S. Senators about their own drinking habits and interrupted questioners.
The way each behaved in front of the Judiciary Committee, along with Kavanaugh’s weak evidence, is why we believe Ford.
More than that, we understand that there are countless women like her whose worst fear would be to see their assailant given even more power. This is a systematic occurrence, which is evident in many cases in U.S. politics.
It’s important to keep in mind that many things Kavanaugh was accused of — not only covering Ford’s mouth to prevent her from screaming — were inexcusable, whether the perpetrator sees them as wrong or not. Any unwanted advance and persistence falls under the umbrella of sexual harassment or assault, something all of us should remember.
As the Kavanaugh case progresses, we call on men to reevaluate past behavior and ask themselves if they’ve ever participated in actions that may have been considered too far or caused women to feel uncomfortable or threatened.
Bill Clinton, who was accused of rape by Juanita Broaddrick in 1999, was allowed to remain the President of the United States. Clarence Thomas was accused of sexual harassment by Anita Hill before being confirmed as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice in 1991. President Donald Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct multiple times and has even been recorded saying sickening things about his nonconsensual interactions with women. He was still elected President of the United States.
These men aren’t just allowed to prosper on a national scale. Loyola has been a symptom of this as well — Loyola’s annual crime report indicates eight cases of rape took place in residence halls in 2017.
Loyola men’s golfer Ben Holm pled guilty to a 2013 rape in 2016, shortly after he left Loyola for unspecified reasons. It’s unclear if Loyola knew about the case before Holm began classes in the fall of 2013 or during his time at Loyola.
A system that allows these men to stay in power is a system that invalidates women who have been through any type of sexual harassment or assault — from college-aged women being groped in a bar or at a party to professional women given hush money after being raped.
To change a culture which gives little to no resistance to sexual abusers will take more than understanding there is a problem. There must be a tipping point to change the culture and undo the damage that has been done. That tipping point might be blocking Brett Kavanaugh to be on the highest court in the country.
The Kavanaugh case has drawn eyes to the ever-important issue of sexual assault and harassment. It’s important to remember that not every case will reach the national stage, but that isn’t to say they don’t matter. On a college campus such as Loyola’s, sexual misconduct happens — whether the perpetrators understand their wrongdoing or not.