Judge Brett Kavanaugh has officially been confirmed by the Senate as the new Supreme Court Justice.
Despite Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s compelling and heroic testimony during Kavanaugh’s hearing, the Senate chose to disregard all evidence that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted three women. Even worse, her testimony has elicited shocking responses from some Republicans, including Trump, who openly mocked her at his rally.
The entire situation has been extremely emotional and triggering for many people. So to help us process everything that’s happened, I chatted with Project Consent‘s new CEO Olivia Montgomery and Managing Director Hailey Robertson.
You may remember that Femestella first featured Project Consent in January when #TimesUp was getting underway. The non-profit helps to educate the public about sexual consent through clever videos, social media campaigns, resources, and more.
Below you’ll find my conversation with Liv and Hailey, where we cover everything from the Kavanaugh confirmation to supporting survivors and more.
The Kavanaugh nomination, hearings, and confirmation have been extremely triggering for a lot of people. Any suggestions on how we can take care of ourselves right now?
Liv: There is nothing written anywhere that says you can’t take a break to rejuvenate yourself, to center yourself, and to let our minds feel at ease for a moment. It isn’t pretending, it is just taking the time to do what you can to support yourself. Take the time to talk to those you love the most, give them a hug, spend the day with facemasks and guilty pleasure foods. Surround yourself with people that can support you. Decompress and take a bubble bath while you watch your favorite Youtubers. When you feel like you are recharged, start making a list of ways you can make a difference and fight this. From there, you’ll only grow stronger and your voice will only get louder.
What do you think the Kavanaugh confirmation and the public’s response say about where we, as a society, are with sexual consent?
Hailey: I’ve been trying to not put too much weight on the implication of his confirmation, and rather focus on the outpouring of support for survivors that I saw from the country during the hearings, and leading up to the Senate vote. While there is certainly a lack of education about consent, I think that the Kavanaugh hearing inspired so many conversations about power relations, sexual violence, and the struggles survivors face. Students have been leading town hall discussions, and many others have reached out to us on social media about how they can learn more or how they can get involved in spreading consent education. Although we have a long way to go and there are many people who remain ignorant, the enthusiasm by younger generations to educate themselves and others gives me hope. I refuse to let the decision of 50 members of the Senate erase the movement by Dr. Ford and other survivors that has energized millions.
A lot of women, including Ivanka Trump, still stand by Kavanaugh. Why do you think that is?
Liv: Some women simply don’t believe Dr. Ford’s claims due to other reasons, some may be political, others may see doubt. I do believe that many have a lack of education surrounding sexual assault and rape culture. Many of these women never grew up in the same political climate as we have, and therefore are sticking by the ideals they were taught. Education is key, and we have the opportunity to change the viewpoints of those that perpetuate rape culture with victim-blaming behaviors. We cannot change the culture without the willingness to talk to those that supported Kavanaugh and understand why. Doing this allows us the chance to educate them on why Dr. Ford still deserves respect and the chance to have her claim be taken seriously.
One of the most important things we can do right now is support survivors of sexual assault. What’s the best way to do that?
Liv: Take a moment to reflect on the people in your life, are there any that are hurting like you are? Are there any that need a little extra support? Reach out to them and remind them that they are loved, they are heard, and they are strong. I believe that the best thing we can do to support survivors is to treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve. Give them the chance to talk, and more importantly, listen to their words. If they don’t want to talk, simply standing with them in silence tells them that you believe them.
Hailey: Everyone heals in their own unique way, and we’re all facing unique struggles following the Kavanaugh confirmation. Make sure to reach out to the survivors in your life, and if you’re not sure what they need from you, just ask. Communication is key — they might prefer to cope on their own, and if so, just remind them that you’ll still be there when they’re ready.
Why do you think so many people have trouble understanding what is and isn’t consent?
Liv: Lack of in-depth education is the biggest problem, in my opinion. The education we’ve had often seems to be one element of what consent is, and is a very cookie cutter aspect of it. There are so many different pieces to what consent is, and everybody responds differently.
Hailey: I think a lot of confusion exists because everyone’s boundaries and every instance is different, and people are unsure how to navigate those situations because they’ve never been taught. There is no “one size fits all” way to interpret consent, which is why the “no means no” model has failed — it doesn’t account for what happens when there isn’t a no or when there’s a “grey area” of consent.
Where do we go from here?
Liv: We now continue to hold our heads high and work hard to make sure our voices, and the voices of so many others, are heard. Just look at the Time magazine cover of Dr. Ford. We aren’t being silenced, and that is a fact. Going forward, we get louder. We educate, we support, we speak out, we VOTE, and we persevere. We refuse to let ourselves be silenced ever again.
Hailey: We continue speaking up. We continue supporting survivors. We continue educating. We push really, really hard on the issue of sexual violence leading into November, and we encourage people to exercise their right to vote for candidates who will be strong for survivors. I can already tell you that we will not win every battle, but that does not mean that what we are doing isn’t making a difference. Keep fighting, and know that we are in a new era where survivors will never again be silenced.
For more information on Project Consent, head to their website here.
This interview has been condensed for publication purposes. Art credit: Chelsey Andrews/ @thepapermama
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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and The Challenge. When she’s not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her taking an absurd amount of photos of her tuxedo cat Tom.