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Title IX defines sexual assault and harassment as it relates to Christine Blasey Ford

Christine Blasey Ford takes a breath at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Melina Mara/Pool/Abaca Press/TNS)

By Jack Hervela

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford sat before a Senate Judiciary Committee early Sept. 27, admittedly “terrified” as she relayed her testimony relating to sexual harassment allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.  

Ford initially penned a letter to leading Senate Judiciary committee Democrat Dianne Feinstein around July 30, detailing a disturbing physical and sexual assault she alleged was instigated by Kavanaugh during their high school years.

Per Ford’s request, Feinstein kept quiet about the letter.

Confirmation hearings on Kavanaugh’s nomination ran Sept. 4-7, with many testifying about his nomination on day four

Shortly after, Feinstein released the letter to the FBI who promptly logged it under Kavanaugh’s file but the statute of limitations concerning the incident ran out, squandering an investigation.

Ford’s name was kept quiet until she voluntarily came forward in an interview with the Washington Post on Sept. 16. After halting Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote scheduled for Sept. 21, the Senate Judiciary committee and Ford agreed to hold a hearing on Sept. 27 in which Ford would testify before the committee with Kavanaugh to follow to respond to the accusation and give his account of the event.

Thursday, Ford sat flustered between two attorneys, yet pointed in response to every question presented.

Her testimony  seemed to resonate with some members of the committee, while Kavanaugh was equally prepared later on.

In a shift from his earlier hearings, Kavanaugh spared no time in finding understanding, delivering a sharp opening statement about the night of the incident and parties involved.

After hours of testimony, Ford left the committee to think on her “100 percent” certainty of Kavanaugh as an assailant, while Kavanaugh still, “categorically and unequivocally” denied the claims.

In a case bringing to light an incident that allegedly occurred over 30-years-old, the large span of time not uncommon in sexual assault cases, beginning to even understand such instances is difficult.

Grand Rapids Community College Title IX Coordinator Kimberly DeVries helped define what sexual assault and sexual harassment are along with what students and the general public need to know when seeking consent.

“Sexual harassment is more what we think of as comments, persistent or pervasive, generally about the body or a sexual nature,” DeVries said.  While sexual assault remains the unwanted physical advances upon a certain someone, the likes of which Kavanaugh is being accused.

While arguments have been made against Ford’s credibility considering the time span, many factors influence when an assault victim comes forward.

“Maybe they don’t want anything to happen, maybe they’re scared of reporting, maybe they’re scared of people finding out, maybe they don’t even know if what happened was sexual assault,” DeVries said.

Considering many cases, from the Kavanaugh allegation to college date rape, can ensue after ingesting illicit substances, it is important to note amnesty clauses do protect the accuser from penalties stemming from alcohol or drugs. For that reason, DeVries notes the importance of coming forward as soon as is comfortable.

“We’re not going to go after you on that policy, because you’re bringing forth what to us is the bigger concern, which is the sexual assault,” DeVries said. “It is especially important during your formative, college years to say, lets have a conversation about respect, consent, communication and how all those things form a healthy relationship.”

While the FBI investigates the validity of the allegations against Kavanaugh, DeVries continues to work to keep today’s students informed and safe. “We want to create a world where one person feels comfortable being clear about their boundaries and the other person respects that,” DeVries said, again relaying a need for, “respect and healthy communication.”

The confirmation for Kavanaugh’s appointment has been pushed back again to this Friday, Oct. 5 while the FBI conducts its probe into the matter.