This article is a direct response to the article “I am Brett Kavanaugh.” However, more than anything, I hope this serves as a learning opportunity. For those who were just as appalled by the article as I was, I hope this helps in knowing that you are not alone. For those who either identified with the article or thought it was brave, I sincerely hope you take this as an opportunity to learn why this article was hurtful in the ways it was.
I first would like to address an issue outside of the Kavanaugh article, but one that has arisen from it nonetheless. This is a discussion of bravery. There is bravery in sharing a voice that is not widely accepted, but let me be clear about this point. That incredible form of bravery is rooted in the voices of people such as Angela Davis and Sacheen Littlefeather. These people were and remain endless sources of inspirational courage because of the ways they fought against injustice.
In people like these, you find honor in bravery. In the “bravery” demonstrated by the “I am Brett Kavanaugh” article, there is no honor. This is a cruel form of bravery, one that is equivalent to what it must take to walk into a room full of people who are angry and in pain and rub it in their face that they will never have justice. This is not something to be proud of. You are directly pouring salt into wounds that you will never have to endure, wounds historically generated by people who look like you, while daring to call yourself brave. I hope you do not take pride in that. What you could do, however, is realize that although you share the identity of historical oppressors, you do not have to share the mindset. Take the time to listen and understand the mistake you made. Please learn from it, because that would help make a change you could be proud of.
To now shift directly towards the article itself, survivors of sexual assault don’t report because not everyone’s “right to life” comes from common knowledge as Theo says it does. It instead comes from the powerful, rich, white men who have determined not only who deserves basic human-rights but also who gets to be viewed as human. Cases go unreported because survivors have to face the very people who generate the system that doesn’t believe in rape, regardless of the gender of the survivor.
I cannot fathom how naïve and privileged one is to say that his right to life is common knowledge. It may be for Theo, but it certainly is not for POC, women and trans people.
To move further into the article, Theo states, “If we ‘believe women’ more assaulters would be convicted.” Believing women or any survivor of sexual assault is what we all want. We want a society that takes people’s trauma seriously and holds fair trials. However, as I have said, we do not live in a society that enables this fair system, as seen in cases such as Brock Turner. Let me say also that you should not be worried about needing an alibi in thirty years if you do not rape someone.
This is not to say that women don’t contribute to these harmful beliefs on sexual assault as well (i.e. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)). She and other women who defend rapists are unbelievable disappointments, but they do not represent us or our voices. Similarly, those who generate false accounts of rape invalidate the narratives of so many survivors, but a fair trial would separate these few cases from the many who are true and deserve justice.
I would like to say that I do not mean for this article to sound hopeless, because I am not hopeless. This article and this conversation are not hopeless if they are taken as opportunities to listen and learn. Theo de Quillacq, I hope you listen, and I hope you learn. I am very hopeful that you will.
We are angry and in pain, but we are also so much more—we possess incredible resilience and strength. Keep pushing forward, because you are not alone.
Shannon Knight is a member of the class of 2018.