How Brett Kavanaugh's Confirmation Sets College Campuses’ Fight Against Sexual Assault Backwards

Four in ten. That’s how many undergraduate women on Tulane’s campus have experienced sexual assault. While controversial arguments have surfaced regarding Tulane’s reaction and plan of action to this number, that’s not what this article is about. It’s about why it’s scary to live on a college campus while our nation’s politics paint this startling narrative: sexual assaulters can be nominated and confirmed to the highest level of court in this country after a rushed FBI investigation fails to, and does not care to, look into the story. I believe Dr. Christine Ford. And I’m not the only one.

Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation reinforces the notions that sexual assault is taken lightly, that victim blaming is still called into play, and that assaulters are more than their crimes. In this case, he’s a politician, and a confirmed Supreme Court nominee, whose privilege and power trump his criminal and chilling past. Worse still, the president mocked Dr. Ford and her testimony. Our president, a man who proudly grabs women “by the pussy,” publicly shamed a woman who brought herself into a heated forefront by bringing her story to light.

As a girl on a college campus, especially one with intensely concerning numbers of sexual assault, I worry that these two particularly powerful men, Trump and Kavanaugh, are drastically impacting our fight against sexual assault. I worry that boys around my age see these men in the positions of authority and think that they will not be held accountable for their actions. I worry that boys think their behaviors graduate with them--that their college days can remain a blur and a part of their past, that their choices won’t follow them, whereas victim’s pain will remain etched into every day of the rest of their lives. I worry that our president praising a man who so poorly and embarrassingly and obnoxiously handled his trial makes assaulters feel powerful, they feel bigger than their crimes, they feel known for their attributes and accolades, and their acts of horror can be dismissed as part of their college past.

But what about colleges now? What about the boys on college campuses now who commit these acts? They’re the ones who see men continue to live successful lives. It makes college campus sexual assault survivors feel helpless, hopeless, and like a boy’s college-collateral as a result of too many beers and a lack of a moral compass. It reminds victims that their shorts were too short and that their choice to drink made them an obvious begging target for assault. It shows victims that coming forward in front of the whole country and sharing their trauma can still result in doors slammed in their faces, in their voices being heard, but not believed. It systematically hushes many victims, because reliving the pain of the assault in the form of sharing one’s story again and again for the questioning and reporting process can often be too much to handle, not to mention the proceeding pain that follows that process that ends with one’s assaulter being held unaccountable.

As unsettling as it’s been to watch Kavananugh go on and get his confirmation, the wave of resistance and backlash across the nation has assured me that the power still resides in the people, that our voices will continue to be heard, that voting is the key to electing those who we believe will represent our voice in these key confirmations, and that change is coming. Dr. Ford’s testimony inspired the nation, the young people, the victims, and the voiceless to not give up. Although Kavanaugh’s confirmation was a step backwards, it was the last spark we needed to light a raging, resisting fire. Time’s been up, but now we’re moving fast.