The thing about gendered violence is that it’s ubiquitous.
Experiences of abuse, as well as conversations among women about how to navigate a world filled with the threat of assault, are relentlessly frequent. The addition of a national discourse about assault and harassment in the form of the #MeToo movement, while necessary, has been exhausting. So it’s not surprising it began to seem as though a kind of numbness was forming, a desensitization to the impact of assault.
But sometimes an event punctures through that fatigue, reminding us the structure is formed by individual experiences, the universal made up of the particulars.
When the news broke that a series of allegations of sexual assault had been levied against then-nominee for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, many of us on the Kaimin editorial staff considered our role as a student newspaper during a national story such as this. Did we have anything important or unique to say? Did any of our reporters?
When Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27, claiming to have been one of Kavanaugh’s victims, we found ourselves, again, paralized by the prospect of trying to comment on this story.
We are a student newspaper; our goal is to write for and about UM’s campus community. But people on campus were talking about this. Female students and faculty members, especially, were talking about Dr. Ford’s allegations, her testimony, Brett Kavanaugh’s response, all of it.
For many women, the experience of witnessing, and being asked to participate in, a “national conversation” about sexual assault is both disorrienting and familiar. Gendered harassment and assault are structural problems, but the building blocks that make up cycles and structures of abuse are specific experiences, individual victims and victimizers.
This week, we let one of our own reporters tell a specific story, her story, of surviving sexual abuse and witnessing Ford’s and Kavanaugh’s testimonies. The best way we felt we could contribute to this conversation was to give space in the paper for the emotional reality experienced by many women on this campus during the week of Kavanaugh’s confirmation.