Sexual assault is scary. Speaking up about sexual assault has become even scarier. I am lucky to say I am not a victim, but I stand with them. With the #MeToo movement in full force, women and men around the country have formed a powerful alliance fighting against sexual assault and harassment. One would think this dominant movement attempting to normalize conversations surrounding sexual misconduct would allow victims to feel more comfortable speaking out on their own experiences. Humans tend to feel more confident when they know a group of people, millions in the case of #MeToo, are there to support them. The case of Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford, however, demonstrates how difficult it is for a victim to not only speak out, but also how easy it is for the perpetrator to get away with their unlawful actions.
Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the United States Supreme Court has sparked major debate in my life and has gotten me to think deeply about how serious this topic truly is. When Dr. Ford bravely spoke out and testified against Kavanaugh, the country erupted. In a matter of days, he became a Supreme Court Justice, escaping all punishment. People’s reactions varied, as expected. There was empathy and concern, but there were also people questioning her claims and trying to invalidate her experiences. That is where I took a step back and evaluated the shortcomings of conversations surrounding sexual assault in this country.
What perplexes me the most is how the conversation, even in a progressive 21stcentury, still remains, “Do we believe the victim?” rather than, “Why did the offender sexually assault someone in the first place?”. If this dialogue is occurring on a national scale in front of the entire nation, then it would not be irrational to think it applies to all victims. It is completely understandable why victims are deterred from speaking out, even when they know the entire #MeToo movement stands behind them.
I have no magical solution to this complex problem, but there is always somewhere to start. Practice empathy. Listen before speaking. Most importantly, understand that a victim’s story is never easy to relive. Believe them, support them, and stand with them.