Claire Dwyer ’20
CW: racism, sexism, homophobia, law enforcement, sexuality, politics, sexual assault etc.
At this point, I’m starting to feel numb to all the atrocities the American government is committing against its people. It was not enough to elect a monstrous misogynist with absolutely no sense of normal human decency, who, amongst other things, made fun of a disabled reporter and told Billy Bush he felt he could “grab women by the p****.” He’s disrespected so many marginalized communities that I could never do justice to the scope of the wrong; and I’m not going to even try.
Somehow, the abuse did not stop with the government gradually attempting to steal all our rights, our hard-earned healthcare, our right to use the bathroom which aligns with our gender identity. It continued with the government ripping immigrant children from the arms of their parents. It continued with the consistent racism and discriminatory legal policy directed towards communities of color.
And yet here I am, in my numbness, fearing for my own safety as a feminist and a queer bisexual ace-spectrum woman, in addition to fearing that my friends of color cannot find any safe spaces in a country which above all else refuses to listen to them or respect them. And I still spray painted a wall in support of a survivor of sexual assault.
This is not a fight I wanted, or a fight that I chose. It is a fight that I fell into. I am an introverted medievalist historian. My home is between the walls of Pearsons at Pomona, reading a book about thirteenth century medieval Spanish history, not desperately trying to buy spray paint from a convenience store along with Zachary Friedman (PO ’20), my partner on this project, because no one reached out or stepped up to help us until Cameron Tipton (PO ‘20) and Olivia Gulden (SCR ‘21) lent a hand with our graffiti word art.
I’m also a Pomona Advocate for Survivors of Sexual Assault, with a long and rather exhausting history of work in that field which began with my clerkship in the sexually violent predator unit of the district attorney’s office at the age of sixteen. I’ve seen how the most severe sexual assault cases are handled from the inside of the legal system in LA county, and I have a deep respect and appreciation for the people I worked with there. But they need about twice the staff they have, or the system can never function in the way that it is supposed to. The rape kit backlog will continue. Survivors’ stories will go unheard. Justice will live in limbo.
We spray painted the wall with the words: “We believe Dr. Christine Ford” first and foremost because we wanted to support her as a survivor. Survivors have been failed by the justice system since its inception. However, in the case of the supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, we cannot go down without a fight. We cannot allow a perpetrator of sexual assault onto the supreme court again, especially when there is so much at stake for women and marginalized communities in this country. I think it is sometimes hard for young people to conceptualize how important institutions like the supreme court are to their personal safety, and how we must hang on to the legal validity of rulings such as Roe v. Wade like our lives depend on it (because they do). We cannot allow the anarchism of our peers to distract us from the fact that right now, it’s the American government which is protecting some of our core rights, such as the right to marry who we love, and the right to bodily autonomy. As much as the government makes us deeply uncomfortable, for all the wrong it has done, we must find the strength in our hearts and minds to scream at the top of our lungs, whether literally or metaphorically, against this supreme court appointment. This story is developing and changing as time marches on. As I write this, two other women have already come forth with allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh. We believe them, too.
Supporting Dr. Ford has become a partisan issue, with Democrats speaking out in favor of the investigation and Republicans for the most part doing everything they can to attack her credibility. It shouldn’t be. Kavanaugh’s appointment is a human issue. A perpetrator of sexual assault or rape can never be redeemed, in my opinion, no matter how pristine and American their perfect family might look, despite the fact that they coach their kids’ sports teams and for all intents and purposes appear like an all-American father.
We cannot allow an individual who is a perpetrator and thus deeply disrespectful of women’s bodily autonomy onto the supreme court, on which he will be able to make decisions which may very well affect women’s bodily autonomy. The Kavanaugh appointment is a defining moment for our country in which our government has a chance to stop more violence from being done to American women, or to show women across the country that cishet white males will always be considered more valuable to the fabric of American society then their most basic rights.
I think my project partner Zachary Friedman said it well: “[Republicans] are willing to break all the rules, play all the cards, their hypocrisy knows no bounds…we’ve seen little to none of [Kavanaugh’s] actual record, hardly any of his papers from working in the George W. Bush whitehouse as a public servant for the United States of America, hundreds of thousands of documents of his time under the Bush administration that are completely hidden by the Republican majority…its clear he was picked by anti-choice zealots for their number one goal of overturning Roe v Wade which constitutionally protects a woman’s right to choose, and of course he’s going to be hostile to voting rights, to healthcare rights, minority rights, immigrant rights, and furthermore is a proponent of not holding a president accountable until he is out of office, which is clearly the reason he was chosen by this president, a man who is under investigation for colluding with a hostile foreign power to sway our democratically held election…[Trump is] picking his own jury…clearly he wants hand-picked justices on his side…there should be a throughout FBI investigation of all credible allegations of assault against this nominee…”
But besides all the political issues, outside the partisan bickering and the high stakes, lies the true center of this investigation—the survivor. Dr. Ford deserves to be listened to, to be respected, to be believed. She deserves due process in the investigation of her allegations of sexual assault. She deserves a legal system which isn’t failing her, a country which doesn’t feel unsafe to exist in as a woman at the moment. She deserves better–we all do. Dr. Ford, we believe you.
Image Credit: Elle