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You Have a Voice: The Impact of Kavanaugh's Appointment

By Laura Buchanan
On October 8, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh has been in the spotlight recently for sexual misconduct allegations. Three named accusers came forward to speak about their experience with President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. Though the events took place in the 1980s when Kavanaugh was in high school and college, the impact that it had on these women is apparent.

Despite the testimonies, Kavanaugh was admitted to the Supreme Court, a decision that has left many declaring their victory or their upset on social media. Aside from the political ramifications, what is the message that is being sent out by this confirmation, especially to those who have been victims of sexual assault?

Sexual assault is already a sensitive subject in light of the #MeToo movement that has empowered women to come forward with their stories instead of hiding them away because they are scared or ashamed. Occurrences such as the Kavanaugh hearing and appointment can undermine that message.

Though it may seem like the “bad guy” won, perhaps another way to view the situation is that whether or not a court of law finds a person guilty, by speaking up, the victim strips away some of the power their attacker holds over them.

“I do feel different,” a woman told Talia Lavin for her Huffington Post article “For Sexual Assault Survivors, There’s Power in Speaking Up. Then What?” “I feel empowered. I feel like my wingspan grew three feet. I no longer feel like I have to carry the burden of my abusers’ secrets.”

Lavin’s article reveals the perspective of the victim when speaking up about the assault. As Christine Blasey Ford has become the target of some nasty commentaries and even the subject of jokes, Lavin explains the amount of courage that it takes to talk about an event that changed your life, no matter how long ago the incident took place. She described it as “a disclosure that requires profound vulnerability, a laying-open of oneself in an awful moment.”

While many have focused on what Kavanaugh’s appointment means to our judicial system, it is important to look at the ramifications that it may have in empowering victims to speak up. Organizations such as #MeToo aim to educate the public, support the victims and hold perpetrators accountable. When the public sees the victim being mocked and ridiculed it makes the progress of the recent months feel empty.

Lavin went on to comment in her article about Trump’s reaction to the Kavanaugh hearing. “When the president mocked Ford on Tuesday ― so callously, so gleefully, with all the hallmarks of joy, with his white teeth in his little puckered mouth and the crowd roaring ― it felt like a beast was crouched on my chest, heavy, heavy.” Despite the weight of the moment, Ford rose up to recount not only her assault but asked others to come forward with their stories as well.

Though the battle may feel pointless at times, one needs to look beyond traditional punishment of the accused. Bill Cosby may be going to jail, but Kavanaugh will forever be looked upon with suspicion. We only know what the press tells us, but there are effects that happen in the individual’s personal life that we may not be made privy to. The court of law is not perfect, after all. It is comprised of human beings; however, if victims do not come forward and speak up, it may allow the idea that sexual assault is okay to perpetuate.

College campuses, no matter how big or small, often encounter sexual assault cases. Sadly, there are students that are afraid to come forward for various reasons. Though the topic may be uncomfortable, embarrassing and traumatizing, it is important to come forward in order to stop the perpetrator from victimizing someone else. “It’s never easy to reveal you’ve been assaulted,” says Lavin, but it has not stopped her from talking about it. By doing so, she has helped victims find one another, and there is some comfort in knowing that others are going through the same things, that you are not alone in what you feel and think.

Lavin holds an empowering message as to why speaking up is a good thing despite whether or not the perpetrator goes to prison or is appointed head of the Supreme Court. She says, “Having told what we never thought we’d tell, to those we never thought we’d tell it to, perhaps we can find another kind of strength: the strength to find each other in the dark, to buoy each other up, to fight through the muck toward one another. And to rise.”

Concord University offers free, confidential counseling services for those who need to talk, especially if you’re unsure of who to talk to or how to talk about your experience. Students can call the Counseling Center at 384-5290 or 384-6087 or visit the online schedule on www.concord.edu. However, those who feel they are in a crisis or need immediate help can come as a walk-in or schedule an appointment for that day.

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