Kavanaugh to Maryville College to you

The Victim meets up with a group of male acquaintances at a low-key social gathering. She has one beer and walks upstairs to use the restroom. She is ambushed by the perpetrator who shoves her into a room, along with another perpetrator, both severely inebriated. They force her on the bed. They grope her. They mock her. They muffle and silence her. She escapes with the fear of death on her mind and the overwhelming trauma of sexual assault in her heart forever. She is Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

No evidence was brought forth in order to solidify Dr. Ford’s claims. The FBI investigation, though a farce from the start, turned up with nothing. Brett Kavanaugh, the alleged perpetrator, was recently confirmed as Associate Justice to the Supreme Court of the United States. Dr. Ford was ridiculed, threatened and slandered. Her life was put on hold in efforts to prevent harm to others like her.

The media is moving on now. Though the Kavanaugh scandal is a heavily convoluted matter, sexual assault affects those from all walks of life. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), college age (18-24 years of age) women are three times as likely to be sexually assaulted. Dr. Ford was three years younger than the minimum of this margin.

Even as a small, private college, Maryville College is not immune to the dangers of sexual assault. Senior Kayln Carpenter, Maryville College Democrats President and head of the Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Education (SHARE) Month program is one of many voices against sexual assault on our close-knit campus.

“At Maryville [College], what I think hurts us is that because we’re a small, private, liberal arts college, people just kind of think ‘Oh, that doesn’t happen here’, and really it doesn’t happen on-campus, but we see a higher number of off-campus assaults,” said Carpenter.

“[If] you live on campus, you usually get to know everyone; ‘Oh, that person was in my class’ or ‘Oh, I’ve seen them before’. You have this feeling that you know everybody, so I think that puts us in a position of like pseudo-safety. While our security does a great job, I don’t think we’re always as aware as we need to be.”Maryville College has many resources for victims of sexual assault, but many may not be aware or feel comfortable stepping out. “Luckily, since we are such a small campus, we all have really good relationships with our professors, so if you don’t feel comfortable going to Jessica [Boor] right off-the-bat, talk to your professor about it. They’re going have to report it, most likely, afterwards, to Jessica Boor, to have the case handled, but at the same time it’s something I think is really important,” said Carpenter. “Or even go to the counselors, we have really great counselors on campus, so do that.”

Often, sexual assault is viewed through a heteronormative lens between a helpless female, the victim, and an aggressive male, the perpetrator. However, sexual assault is not inclusive only to the victim and the perpetrator, a dangerous and exclusive narrative to the reality of the nuanced issue of sexual assault. Carpenter explained that we need to break the “dichotomous, heteronormative, cis-normative kind of way” we talk and teach about sexual assault.

Though this is the image we’ve often seen portrayed in movies, television shows and even educational videos, sexual assault is not so black and white. The problem can be traced back to the fundamental way we teach boys and girls to think about the world.

“There’s no reason we can’t talk to kids at an early stage telling them to keep their hands to themselves and not to touch things, but that conversation also changes relative to the context,” said Carpenter. “It always bothers me a little bit when I see people forcing their kids to hug somebody because then you’re saying that somebody is obligated to it. Nobody’s obligated to your touch and nobody’s obligated to touch you. It’s setting those boundaries early and keeping it consistent throughout.”

Rather than worrying about facing the repercussions of a sexual assault case, the focus should be on taking preemptive measures to stop it from ever happening. Though standing up for a cause is effective, efforts should be preventative rather than reactionary. Helpful tip in accomplishing this task: go vote! Hold candidates accountable for not standing up for sexual assault victims or women’s political struggles. In Carpenter’s words, “Raise hell.”

“Recognize that political activism, civic action is not always pretty, or some Instagram-able thing with you in the perfect millennial pink and starlit sign with something clever written on it. It’s not always that,” said Carpenter. “Sometimes, it’s a lot of the dirty groundwork of spending 3 hours a day knocking on doors for a candidate, but you know, it’s for a cause you believe in. Work on campaigns for candidates you believe in. Go vote. Please go vote.”

Though the conversation surrounding sexual assault can be messy and long, it’s one worth having, and all colleges around the United States, Maryville College included, should have a stake in it. It isn’t a “scary time for men” because men are being held accountable for their actions. It’s a scary time for everyone because sexual assault is a rampant and fundamentally mistreated problem in America. Everyone is part of the equation and should be.

To victims afraid of reaching out, don’t feel alone. Someone is always there for you. Maryville College is there for you. Kalyn is. I am. To those who want to help the situation, which should be everyone, educate yourself. Be active. Most importantly, though, just have respect for other human beings.

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