Column: The clock on sexual assault never runs out

The case against Kavanaugh has reignited the #MeToo movement – everybody’s story is valid.

Rachel Schnelle is a freshman journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about campus-wide issues for The Maneater.

The following column contains sensitive material regarding sexual assault.

In the beginning of September, hearings began for judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination. During those hearings, Democrats became wary of his nomination. However, what made the public become wary of Brett Kavanaugh were the several sexual assault allegations made against him.

On September 27th, open hearings began for Kavanaugh’s accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford to testify. Since the judge’s nomination hearings began, Ford has accused him of sexually assaulting her at a party when they were in high school.

According to Ford, Kavanaugh pinned her down, tried to remove her clothing and then proceeded to stick his hand in her mouth when she tried to scream. The Supreme Court nominee has since denied the accusation, claiming it was completely false.

Unfortunately, this is not the first accusation that has been made against a Supreme Court justice nominee.

In 1991, Anita Hill was asked to provide background information on her co-worker and then Supreme Court nominee, Clarence Thomas.

Hill came forward and said that while she was working under Thomas, he had begun to sexually harass her and repeatedly asked Hill to have social outings together, even after she denied him several times. The FBI took a shocking three days to review Hill’s case. Thomas denied the allegations, and was later sworn in.

Since Ford has come forward with allegations against Kavanaugh, there has been a lot of talk about the parallels between the accusations of Ford and Hill.

For example, both women accused Supreme Court nominees. However, the time of the alleged assaults are different. Ford alleges that she was assaulted when her and Kavanaugh were teenagers, whereas Hill’s accusations were when Thomas was an adult and held a professional job.

Another difference between the two was how their accusations were received by the public. After Hill brought forward her story against Thomas, polling in his favor increased. This is a striking difference from Brett Kavanaugh, whose approval has decreased dramatically since Ford’s accusation.

A probable reason as to why their responses were so different is because of the culture shift.

Since the beginning of the #MeToo movment, it has become more common to see stories like Ford’s in the news. Celebrities such as Bill Cosby and Matt Lauer have had their reputation demolished because of this movement. The notion that an adored public figure has been sexually assaulting their co-workers is enough to make anybody with a female in their life despise them.

When Hill brought her story forward in 1991, the conversation of sexual harassment in the workplace was rare and obscure.

When Ford came forward, President Trump shared his thoughts on the subject tweeting, “...if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents.”

Trump’s tweet caused the hashtag #WhyIDidn'tReport to become viral. Women all over the world have shared their stories as to why they didn’t report their encounter of sexual assault.

The hashtags #WhyIDidn'tReport and #MeToo have become powerful movements in the world of sexual harassment and assault. Even my own mother has experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault in their lifetime.

Since the beginning of the #MeToo movement, celebrities and other prominent women have shared their stories. This, in turn, caused the amount of average women coming forward to drastically increase. In fact, according to BBC, since the beginning of the #MeToo movement in October, calls to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network rose by 23%.

As this sexual assault case against Brett Kavanaugh unfolds, Republicans have unsurprisingly taken his side. Ford’s accusations have been called ‘illegitimate,’ even though Ford documented a session where she told her therapist about the episode.

All too often, we see instances like Ford and Kavanaugh’s arise. This is unacceptable; we have to look at both sides of the argument and of the accuser. Even if the government official is a so called ‘good politician’ and ‘one of the greatest intellects,’ in the words of our president.

Even though society has made huge progress in opening up the conversation of sexual harassment, cases like Kavanaugh’s and our president downplaying Ford’s story has made it seemingly more difficult for survivors to come forward.

A large number of women are still haven’t shared their story because they're afraid of losing their job. In fact, a study by Vox shows that an alarming 75% of workplace harassment victims faced retaliation when they came forward with their story.

This has to change. A good start could be letting all employees, whether they are in the public sector or the private sector tell their stories. It is important for all women and men to have the freedom to tell their stories of assault and harassment within the workplace. Everyone’s story, minor or major, is important and valid.

If we don’t want instances like the Kavanaugh and Thomas case to happen again, we have to allow the survivors to come forward without ridicule.

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