Politicizing sexual assault disrespectful to survivors

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Saturday, Oct. 6, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court following a heated confirmation process. Much of the controversy over Kavanaugh’s appointment arose from allegations of sexual assault.

U.S. President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court July 9. To be confirmed, a judge faces questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee, which eventually votes on whether to send the nomination to the full Senate. The Senate then votes to confirm or deny the nomination.

Three weeks after Kavanaugh’s nomination in July, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the committee, received a letter from Christine Blasey Ford alleging that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a party while the two were in high school. Ford requested that this information be kept private. Six weeks after receiving the letter, Feinstein forwarded it to the FBI. Sept. 14, Ford allowed the allegations to be published anonymously in The New Yorker. Sept. 16, she stepped forward in The Washington Post.

Feinstein was aware of sexual assault allegations against a man due to be confirmed to one of the highest positions of power in the country. If the allegations were true, confirmation to the Supreme Court would place more power and opportunity into Kavanaugh’s hands, possibly endangering the women around him. The FBI could have investigated these allegations thoroughly before the Senate confirmation hearings began. Why would Feinstein not have provided the letter to the FBI upon receiving it, rather than waiting for the confirmation hearings to end? Surely Feinstein was not planning to keep the contents of the letter to herself, so the only explanation for waiting so long to release it was a political calculation to delay the confirmation rather than a desire to achieve justice for Ford, Kavanaugh or the country as a whole.

Ford was treated like a political pawn by Democrats like Feinstein throughout the process. But she was also mocked and treated like a liar by Trump, who impersonated Ford at his rally by asking himself questions like, “How did you get there?” or, “How many years ago was it?” and repeatedly answering, as Ford, “I don’t know.” Dismissing Ford’s allegations altogether, he decided instead to focus on the fact that Kavanaugh’s “life is shattered.” Trump now claims that Kavanaugh was confirmed because of these derogatory comments. By mocking Ford’s story in order to rile up an audience, Trump was also politicizing sexual assault and using Ford for partisan gain.

Students at the College of William and Mary should take both sides’ treatment of Ford as negative examples. The administration as well as students at the College, in my experience, have done well showing support for sexual assault survivors as well as taking preventative measures and raising awareness of the issues. During Orientation, we discussed sexual assault at multiple different sessions. It is an issue that comes up regularly in discussions around campus. Sexual assault is something we need to treat with the gravity and seriousness it deserves. Treating allegations dismissively and making light of sexual assault are two reasons that many women feel uncomfortable coming forward with abuse. There should not be a place for that on our campus.

One of the ways that we as a student body must progress, however, is in the area of politicizing assault. Sexual assault is not a partisan issue; it is a human rights issue. We, as a campus, should be careful that we do not use the stories of sexual assault survivors to make a political point. Survivors are people, not political pawns. What is at stake is not the winning of a debate, but the lives of individuals. Taking this to heart is what will ensure that none of the serious problems apparent in the Kavanaugh confirmation process will pervade the College.

Email Chloe Folmar at csfolmar@email.wm.edu