Yesterday, the nation watched as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford relived the details of her sexual assault in front of the United States Senate.
“I am terrified,” she bluntly stated, in front of a group that is 77 percent male. Terrified, but acting regardless—true bravery in a moment where it counts most. Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said it best: “I want to use a different word for your courage because this is more—as much as this hearing is about a Supreme Court justice, the reality is—is by you coming forward, your courage, you are affecting the culture of our country.”
Ford’s accusations were from her high school days. Some of the other accusations against Kavanaugh were from his college days at Yale. These incidents are not far removed from our own campus and the things that have happened or could one day happen here. Questions about drinking games and sexual innuendos rang familiar for every Bowdoin student. When Kavanaugh asked a senator if he was familiar with the rules of the game quarters, many of us were reminded of drunken nights in Quinby basement.
Think about the worst sexual assault story that you’ve heard on campus. That abuser could be a Supreme Court Justice one day.
In the 11 days since Ford first made her allegation, the news has been full of other victims and former classmates who have also come forward with stories of Kavanaugh’s misconduct. Many of them point out that, at the time, the culture of conversation around this topic was different. “Date rape” was only just entering the public lexicon, and the idea that “boys will be boys” still reigned supreme.
Nowadays, we don’t have those same excuses. We do know better. We have conversations about consent and sexual assault everywhere, from high school health classes to the pages of the Orient. As such, we must acknowledge that sexual assault plays out in our small community. We also have to acknowledge that we can play a role when we see something that makes us ask questions about consent, about safety, about basic decency. It is better to have an awkward or difficult conversation now than it is to watch the news 20 years from now and realize you might have been able to do something, to say something.
Talking about being sexually assaulted is not easy. It can be, as Ford said, terrifying. While most Bowdoin students don’t have to face the hostility that such a high-profile survivor encounters, trauma manifests itself in different ways. Some victims fear that they’ll be cast as attention-seekers, even amongst their peers. Others are told “it couldn’t be, he’s a really good guy,” and have to live with the denial of their struggle all over again. Some still see their assaulters around campus.
We realize that the process of reporting sexual assault is difficult and often puts an unfair burden on the victim. Reporting takes a tremendous amount of time and energy and can be deeply traumatic. Not every survivor should have to put themselves through what Ford has for our country to take sexual assault seriously.
Thus, we must, as Booker said, work to change culture. We must act as better bystanders so that fewer things happen that need to be reported. And when things, unfortunately, do happen that need to be reported, we can support and believe survivors. We can help prevent future Kavanaughs.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is composed of Nell Fitzgerald, Dakota Griffin, Calder McHugh and Jessica Piper.