What You Need To Know Sexual Assault In The Kavanaugh Case

Nuances About Sexual Assault Survivors That May Change Your Mind On The Kavanaugh Case

It's about Ford vs. Kavanaugh, but also about the millions of unheard others. Who do you stand for?

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Content Warning: discussion of specific instances of sexual assault and gang rape, violence as a public health issue, minority oppression, lack of safety and victim blaming.

Unfortunately, what happened between Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and researcher and college professor Christine Blasey Ford isn't something that hasn't happened countless times before. Through the #MeToo era and simply being someone who knows women, who experience sexual violence the most, we all know a survivor — and if no assault of someone in your life has come to your attention, you should probably evaluate why that is and how you can become a better ally.

Here are the facts: Ford claims that in high school, Kavanaugh forcibly tried to take her clothes off, groped her and covered her mouth when she tried to scream. Kavanaugh, on the other hand, denies these claims.

Before you begin to make judgments on who you think is telling the truth, let me remind you of an important tweet that explains it all: "Can you name all 59 women who came forward against Cosby? Can you name half of them? Can you name 5? Would you recognize them out of context? Do you want an autograph? Cool, so we agree that women don't make rape accusations to become famous."

Also, I believe it's important for everyone to understand that victim blaming comes from defensive attributions, in which people explain events in a way that helps them feel safer and less scared. Yes, it's easier and more comfortable to think that people are assaulted from "putting themselves in that position" — but this thought is a way we keep our minds safe rather than put a reason to an event that could quite literally happen to anyone. Violence is a public health issue: even if you do all of the "right things," like self-defense classes, and even if you're lucky enough that your body naturally responds in a fight or flight way rather than a freeze way, unlike most survivors, the violence you potentially avoided will occur to someone else.

It's scary to think that we have just as likely a chance of being assaulted — so we say "if I do this, then I'll be safe." I hate to say it, but that's not really the case. We aren't in control of everything that will happen to us. We may protect ourselves here and there, but that won't save us from everything. At the same time, we can't allow ourselves to walk around in fear or on eggshells all of the time. We have to live our lives.

For those who argue she should've reported sooner, please understand that only about ⅓ of sexually violent acts are reported and that statistics in which people are truly falsely accused are minuscule and the same across multiple kinds of crimes — not more so for sexual assault cases. If people do take time to decide they want to report, they have several valid reasons why. For example, the process takes years and over 99 percent of perpetrators go free, survivors may become publicly shamed by people who are on the perpetrator's side, they fear not being believed or being victim-blamed, they may feel shame over what happened to them or blame themselves, and they may feel invalidated because they don't fit the "perfect victim" stereotype.

Unfortunately, not enough people understand the truth about sexual assault situations; unfortunately, the justice system doesn't always sustain justice and investigators can sometimes be just as ignorant as the public. And frankly, with how badly Dr. Ford has been crucified over simply speaking up, why would any survivor want to report? She has everything to lose -- in which she has lost much -- and has nothing to gain, especially that's worth a loss of this caliber.

If we can understand why it might take people some time to be open about other problems they're dealing with, why is our standard for sexual assault so different?

In addition, people may dissociate or freeze (fight and flight are not the only options), which are ways the brain protects itself. These factors can contribute to survivors "changing their story" or not knowing all of the details, which are often misinterpreted as "lying" or "making the story up." Survivors may also continue to interact with their assaulter because they fear conflict or retaliation by "changing the status quo," because they potentially blame themselves or because their job depends on it.

Minorities are especially oppressed in reporting and safety. For example, survivors who identify as LGBTQIA+ may fear to report against their partner because they don't want to further the incorrect stereotype that "LGBTQIA+ people are weird/gross/wrong" or be shunned by others in the community who are on the side of their partner or assaulter. People of color may not want to report against a perpetrator of color because it could further the incorrect stereotype that "all black men are violent." People who live in a country illegally may have to put up with the abuse or assault they endure without reporting because they could be deported back to their unsafe homelands. No matter people's different opinions on immigration, how can we not acknowledge the fact that those survivors deserve safety and justice as human beings?

In addition, looking at this case and how we can better our society's understanding and bystander intervention, we would be remiss to not discuss Mark Judge's role in this case. Ford claims that Mark Judge, one of Kavanaugh's classmates, was in the room with her when Kavanaugh was assaulting her. He laughed and played loud music so no one would hear the assault. This situation does mirror some of his past words and actions, such as when he discussed a time when he took turns with other guys having sex with an intoxicated girl. In other words, gang raping her. Actions and statements like these cannot be excused. Regardless of any aspect of the girl, what he admitted to doing was wrong.

In Kavanaugh's assault against Ford, Judge isn't blameless. Similar to bullying prevention discussed in middle school, if you're not helping, you're hurting. We must be active bystanders. One Act, an organization that promotes bystander intervention, trains people on how to be active bystanders and provides multiple avenues for people to prevent violence in simple and less intimidating or confrontational ways. For example, if someone seems uncomfortable, act like you're great friends who haven't seen each other in a while and want to go hang out. Cause a distraction. Bring friends along with you so you don't feel like you're trying to intervene on potential violence alone.

One more thing: if you don't stand with the survivor, you're standing with the perpetrator. And young children are watching you, learning from you are teaching them through your actions and words. Be mindful about the messages you're sending them and how they compare with what messages we need to be sending them. What are you teaching the next generation? What are you teaching the survivors in your life who are terrified to reach out for support?

And, because I can't help myself... women are always too emotional to be in politics? Oh, okay. Ha.

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
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It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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Why The Idea Of 'No Politics At The Dinner Table' Takes Place And Why We Should Avoid It

When did having a dialogue become so rare?

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Why has the art of civilized debate and conversation become unheard of in daily life? Why is it considered impolite to talk politics with coworkers and friends? Expressing ideas and discussing different opinions should not be looked down upon.

I have a few ideas as to why this is our current societal norm.

1. Politics is personal.

Your politics can reveal a lot about who you are. Expressing these (sometimes controversial) opinions may put you in a vulnerable position. It is possible for people to draw unfair conclusions from one viewpoint you hold. This fosters a fear of judgment when it comes to our political beliefs.

Regardless of where you lie on the spectrum of political belief, there is a world of assumption that goes along with any opinion. People have a growing concern that others won't hear them out based on one belief.

As if a single opinion could tell you all that you should know about someone. Do your political opinions reflect who you are as a person? Does it reflect your hobbies? Your past?

The question becomes "are your politics indicative enough of who you are as a person to warrant a complete judgment?"

Personally, I do not think you would even scratch the surface of who I am just from knowing my political identification.

2. People are impolite.

The politics themselves are not impolite. But many people who wield passionate, political opinion act impolite and rude when it comes to those who disagree.

The avoidance of this topic among friends, family, acquaintances and just in general, is out of a desire to 'keep the peace'. Many people have friends who disagree with them and even family who disagree with them. We justify our silence out of a desire to avoid unpleasant situations.

I will offer this: It might even be better to argue with the ones you love and care about, because they already know who you are aside from your politics, and they love you unconditionally (or at least I would hope).

We should be having these unpleasant conversations. And you know what? They don't even need to be unpleasant! Shouldn't we be capable of debating in a civilized manner? Can't we find common ground?

I attribute the loss of political conversation in daily life to these factors. 'Keeping the peace' isn't an excuse. We should be discussing our opinions constantly and we should be discussing them with those who think differently.

Instead of discouraging political conversation, we should be encouraging kindness and understanding. That's how we will avoid the unpleasantness that these conversations sometimes bring.

By avoiding them altogether, we are doing our youth a disservice because they are not being exposed to government, law, and politics, and they are not learning to deal with people and ideas that they don't agree with.

Next Thanksgiving, talk politics at the table.

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