The Kavanaugh scandal should be about the victims, not the accused


The Appalachian Online

Victoria Haynes

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee Sept. 27 after at least two women have come forward accusing him of sexual misconduct.

Christine Blasey Ford, Palo Alto University professor and the first woman to come forward about Kavanaugh, originally attempted to stay anonymous by submitting a letter to Senate Democrats. On Sept. 16, she decided to come forward publicly. On Sunday, Deborah Ramirez, a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s, had her similar story of sexual assault published in The New Yorker.

Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, came forward recently announcing that a third woman, a former federal employee, accusing Kavanaugh of misconduct hired him to address the case.

This all comes amid the outpouring of testimonials from sexual assault survivors over the past year and a half, proving that the spread of these allegations runs wide.

Despite this, Kavanaugh still has unwavering support from President Trump, who also has a  score of sexual assault accusations leveled against him.

The Kavanaugh scandal is important not only for the future of the supreme court, but for every person who has experienced sexual assault.

A story like this isn’t news to us: it isn’t shocking or tear-jerking. This is a daily occurence that we have been hearing about repeatedly for years. This has happened to our friends, family or even us. The case bleeds into a larger culture – one where survivors refrain from coming forward for fear of not being believed.

The same people that scoffed at these women for not coming out sooner are the same ones who create a culture of disbelief and victim-blaming.

Yet, most of these stories are being written by men, even when the majority of victims are women and LGBTQ-identifying people.

We decided to come together as femmes of the Editorial Board to write this piece as a way of taking back the narrative.

Journalism is a male-dominated profession, with 39.1 percent of daily newspapers being comprised of women, according to American Society of News Editors. Politics show this same trend, with women holding only 27 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives and 36.8 percent of the Senate, according to Catalyst. The numbers alone show that the stories of women and LGBTQ people often are drowned out.

The Washington Post published an opinion piece by E.J Dionne Jr., a male columnist, about the “ugliness” of Kavanaugh’s confirmation and the validity of his accusers. Scroll down the list of recent New York Times op-ed columns. There are pieces written by women, like Maureen Dowd’s piece about sexual assault victims coming forward about their powerful accusers. Some pieces, however, are by male columnists like Ross Douthat, who argues that Kavanaugh has to be given “charity” regarding his burden of proof. Or maybe a better read is by columnist Bret Stephens, who argues that Kavanaugh’s first accuser should be “heard, but not automatically believed.” Male opinions about Kavanaugh and #MeToo can also be found in The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times. We are not arguing that there is anything inherently wrong with these pieces, only that the people writing them cannot fully represent those impacted by these events.

Even The Appalachian is guilty of this. We haven’t done our part in writing about the movement, or how it has affected our campus. Going forward, this is a promise to do better for our readers, staff and faculty that have been affected by Kavanaugh and all other instances of highly talked about sexual assault. Going forward, we need to make sure the primary writers of these stories are femmes.

Men are already too much a part of this story. Bring the narrative back to how femmes are affected, how Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez’s lives will forever be changed by the continuation of these events.

What does it say about the culture of sexual abuse if a man who has allegations against him becomes one of the nine most powerful decision-makers in the United States? And how does it further that culture if the overwhelming amount of people discussing its validity are not the majority of victims?

On Thursday, at least two women will stand and take back the stories of their assaults. Today, we take back the narrative of femmes who are doubted and derided for telling these stories.

By: Nora Smith, Editor-in-Chief; Victoria Haynes, Managing Editor; Sydney Spann, Visual Managing Editor; Mariah Reneau, A&E Editor; Mickey Hutchings, Photo Editor