Kavanaugh allegations provoke emotional reactions, questions about how to support sexual assault survivors
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    Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s Senate testimony of sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has revived the fervor of the #MeToo movement.

    Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, accused the Supreme Court nominee and United States Circuit Judge of sexually assaulting her thirty-six years ago. Kavanaugh continues to deny the incident and seeks to defend his “integrity.” Now, female students are raising questions about whether sexual assault survivors are fully supported at Northwestern and beyond.

    For many students, the recent series of events - which could potentially culminate in Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court - has been discouraging, especially after the progress the #MeToo movement made in the past year.

    “It’s been a rollercoaster,” Medill junior and member of the Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators (SHAPE) Gabrielle Bienasz said. “I think that we’ve seen that people are going to elect someone to a very high office in this country even if they’ve been accused very credibly of being perpetrators of sexual violence. And that realization breaks my heart.”

    Bienasz said that she has been taking breaks from social media when it gets too hard, as it is easy to become retraumatized.

    The FBI finished its investigation into the allegations yesterday, though, according to her lawyers, they did not interview Dr. Ford. Senators are reviewing the findings today and will vote tomorrow on Sen. Mitch McConnell’s motion to put Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote in cloture. If that vote passes, they will have 30 hours to vote to confirm him. Regardless of how the vote goes and whether the allegations are true, many still believe that Kavanaugh does not deserve a seat at the nation’s highest court.

    “Regardless of what happens at these [hearings], his nomination for the Supreme Court should be taken away, just because how can America trust someone like this?” McCormick junior Swetha Marisetty said.

    Last week, Kavanaugh testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Ford’s allegation was fabricated by Democrats to derail his nomination. His response, which included tears and dramatic accusations, quickly gathered attention for his temperament.

    McCormick and Communication dual-degree student Connor Selna agreed with Marisetty.

    “He’s certainly not doing himself any favors with his reaction to the allegations,” Selna said. “I’m pretty convinced he did it. But even if he didn’t, do we want someone with that kind of temperament on the Supreme Court?”

    While Ford’s accusations are still dominating the public’s interest, students hope that the culture surrounding sexual assault will change.

    “I would hope that there’s more communication up in politics about [this issue],” Marisetty said. “I hope it gives a platform for many more women to speak up about their experiences.”

    For Marisetty and Bienasz, Northwestern also has room for improvement in dealing with sexual violence.

    “There are like 50 things that I could think of right off the top of my head that Northwestern could do to better support survivors and better support their rhetorical commitment to creating a healthy culture at this university,” Bienasz said.

    Marisetty hopes that Northwestern can do more programming stressing the idea that sexual assault perpetrators will need to deal with consequences.

    “I remember my time from watching those videos and TNDs and I don’t think they ever talked about what are the consequences if you [committed sexual violence],” Marisetty said.

    According to Bienasz, the office of the Center for Awareness, Response and Education (CARE) needs more funding from the University, especially after losing important members.

    “The grad student who currently works for CARE is only allowed to work twenty hours a week,” Bienasz said. “And we just lost Erin Clark, who used to be one of the main educators and activists. She used to advise the office of CARE. The University needs to do a better job of supporting CARE financially.”

    Bienasz said SHAPE also deserves more financial support from the University, because their members “do a lot of work that the administration then doesn’t have to do.” This work includes giving presentations to fraternities, handing out sexual health materials and facilitating the conversation after the “Student Body” TND during Wildcat Welcome.

    However, SHAPE members are doing all of this work for free. She says that a stipend would be useful to support the time and commitment they put into the organization.

    Marisetty believes that Ford’s allegation and testimony brings forth the opportunity for sexual assault allegations to finally penetrate the political bubble. She says that the #MeToo movement held men mainly within the spheres of Hollywood and entertainment accountable.

    “I remember thinking at the time ‘there are so many politicians here that are doing the same thing but none of them are being taken to trial,’” Marisetty said. “So I guess there is a step forward that there are hearings for [politicians], but whatever is being said is just unacceptable and it is disheartening.”

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