Editorial | It’s time to listen


Illustrated by Gaby Fantone

On Oct. 10, at least 300 people attended a walkout in Chapman’s Attallah Piazza to protest Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Attendees held signs with slogans like, “No justice, no seat,” “#BelieveHer,” “ I don’t give a damn about your reputation” and “KAVA-NOPE” to protest Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual misconduct by three women.

During the walkout, several people shared stories about their experiences with sexual assault, abuse or harassment. Often, they were tearful. About halfway through the event, James Farmer, a student who said he was a Navy veteran, walked to the microphone to speak.

“I’m going to say this frankly: An accusation is not enough to put someone in the ground,” said Farmer, a junior biological sciences major, as members of the crowd began to yell and interrupt him. “So you want no other opinions except for your own?”

Farmer’s reason for interrupting the event, where several women shared detailed and personal stories about their experiences, was to tell attendees, “You will never learn anything unless you hear the opposite of what you believe.”

While it’s unclear what Farmer’s political beliefs are, his response echoes those of many Republican leaders following the Kavanaugh hearings and other high-profile sexual misconduct allegations against Republicans, where too often, politicians’ defenders are quick to weigh the accused’s word over the accuser under the guise of giving both sides equal credence.

“These allegations, 99 percent of the time, are just absolutely fabricated,” said Chris McDaniel, a Republican running for U.S. Senate in September before the hearings, although studies show that only around 2 to 8 percent of sexual assaults are falsely reported.

President Donald Trump event went so far as to call the allegations against Kavanaugh a “hoax” and “fabricated” shortly after Kavanaugh was sworn in, and said that the investigation into the allegations was brought about by Democrats, or, as he put it, “people who are evil.”

Earlier this year, before Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, he also publicly endorsed Roy Moore after the Republican Alabama senatorial candidate was accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward teenage girls around 30 years ago.

This kind of language and unabashed support shifts the attention away from those who report sexual misconduct and instead, focuses it on backing those who have had credible assault allegations brought against them.

It’s unfair, disrespectful and an egregious misuse of a political platform to try and derail the narrative in spaces, of which there are few, designed for people to be honest and open about their experiences with sexual misconduct.

There are some platforms where it makes sense to discuss both sides of an issue, like at a Chapman protest against Trump that took place the day after he was elected, during which some students held signs in support of his election and yelled “Lock her up,” in reference to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.  

But the Oct. 10 rally at Chapman was a space for survivors of sexual assault to share their stories, be heard and be believed. Too often have assault survivors been talked over or outright silenced, and it’s important to recognize that sometimes, the most constructive thing to do is stand back and listen.