This past weekend, after a rancorous and divisive confirmation process, 50 senators voted to elevate Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Even though Christine Blasey Ford testified and accused the nominee of sexual assault to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Americans watched as the people who are supposed to represent them valued partisan politics above all else. The biggest issue, however, are the implications confirming a judge with such allegations may have on the sexual assault culture in our country.
Setting aside his qualifications and stances on important issues, Kavanaugh was initially accused of committing sexual assault in high school 36 years ago with more women later coming forward with additional allegations. Although everyone is innocent until proven guilty—and he vehemently denied the claims—the confirmation process shouldn’t have been so rushed in light of this news. The accusations were handled poorly and were only looked into enough to say an effort was made, not allowing for a proper job to be done and ultimately setting our country backwards in the fight against sexual assault culture in America.
Dedicating only five days to attempt to conduct a thorough investigation is not only an insult to Ford and other witnesses who attested to his sexual misconduct behavior in the past, who sacrificed their privacy and safety to stand up to the alleged perpetrator, but also to all sexual assault survivors. By letting Kavanaugh rise to the highest court in the land, and one of the most powerful in the planet, our highest public officials are perpetuating a toxic culture that movements like #MeToo are fighting so hard to change.
While some are arguing whether the accusations are true, others are jumping the fence and defending Kavanaugh’s alleged actions entirely. His supporters argue that because it occurred—if it occurred—so long ago in a different era, he is somehow exonerated of his alleged crimes. However, in order to change the culture around sexual assault, we can’t excuse the past actions of one of the U.S.’s most powerful leaders. By ignoring his past actions, we are essentially saying that they are acceptable. We need to end sexual assault culture and hold those who lived in a so-called “different time” accountable now. If we continue to excuse perpetrators for their past actions, what will stop us from continuing to absolve these transgressions in the future?
We need to strive for a culture with a zero tolerance on sexual assault regardless of the circumstances. No age or state of inebriation should exonerate a perpetrator from being held accountable to the mentally, emotionally and physically scarring experiences they inflict on their victims. We should be teaching our children to respect others’ boundaries and the importance of consent rather than teaching them how to protect themselves and blaming them when they’re assaulted.
Some claim that people are no longer safe because everyone is accusing each other of sexaul assault, but the truth is that the culture is shifting and more and more people, the vast majority of whom are real survivors with real trauma, are just willing to speak out. Most people, especially in such a publicized case, wouldn’t come out and make these accusations knowing the sacrifices they are making to their privacy, safety and security.
The norms surrounding sexual assault are in desperate need of change. We cannot tolerate sexual assault or excuse it under any circumstances. We can’t excuse past actions based on when they occurred—simply because it should have never been nor never be acceptable.
The times are changing, and this weekend, the Senate failed to keep up. I can only hope that we, as a nation, can do better next time.