Kavanaugh protest brings sexual assault to the forefront

Corvallis community members crowd the sidewalk in front of the Benton County Courthouse to protest Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

Jarred Bierbrauer, OMN Sports Chief | Delaney Shea

Crowding the sidewalk in front of the Benton County Courthouse from 5-7 p.m. on Friday, Corvallis citizens protested Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The peaceful protest was spurred by the hearing held for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, that morning. Wherein Ford detailed her alleged high school sexual assault by Kavanaugh, which was subsequently denied by Kavanaugh. 

Jessica Nixon, president of Mid-Willamette Valley National Organization of Women, said she started organizing the event around 10 a.m. this morning, with the help of Indivisible Benton County, Our Revolution Corvallis Allies and Bird Girl Industries. The mission of the protest was to show solidarity with survivors of sexual assault. 

“We are here to support survivors, we believe survivors, and to stand up against Kavanaugh,” Nixon said. 

T-Mobile Ad about 5G coverage and value

Nixon also noted that the cars driving past the protest were expressing mixed responses, which she said was different than protests she had previously been part of, and helped organize.

As the protesters held aloft signs expressing support for Ford and all survivors of sexual assault, periodically chanting, a stream of honks threaded through the noise.

Manju Bangalore, a student activist and protestor, said that the Kavanaugh nomination process is affecting her deeply, particularly because she is a survivor herself.

“Attempting to rape someone should disqualify you from one of the highest offices in the land and it looks like it’s a debate right now which is crazy to me. Especially, I mean I have this on my sign, it’s the first time I’ve ever put it on a sign, especially as a survivor and knowing so many others, it feels like it’s treated as a joke right now and it shouldn’t be.” 

The hearing struck a chord with her past experiences of meeting disbelief and ridicule, according to Bangalore.

“Yesterday during Dr. Ford’s testimony I read that the National Sexual Assault Hotline calls spiked about 147 percent,” Bangalore said. “And then a couple minutes after her testimony a lot of politicians were sitting there laughing. And I think what she mentioned in her testimony is the laughter is still stuck in her head. I think the laughter is still stuck in a lot of our heads, both from yesterday and from our own experiences and it’s just really disappointing.”

On Thursday, RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, tweeted that the National Sexual Assault Hotline was experiencing an estimated 147 percent increase in calls above regular volume. RAINN operates the hotline. On Friday, RAINN tweeted that the hotline helped 201 percent more people than average on the previous day. 

Tim Felling, a defense attorney who was part of the protest, said that he hopes that the number of people talking about the abuse they have suffered and the accusations they have to make will encourage even more people to feel comfortable speaking out.

Felling feels that Kavanaugh has not proven himself to have lived a life above reproach, and therefore should not be elevated to the Supreme Court. 

“I think there are two camps that we’re looking at for how the testimony would be taken and the process; one camp wanted it to be more like a trial, and the standard beyond reasonable doubt,” Felling said. “That’s something I cherish, that’s part of our constitution, both the state and the federal. And the other camp was like well no, this is more of a job interview, so it’s important, you don’t have that beyond a reasonable doubt and certainly the consequences are serious. But I think it is more of a job interview, you need to look at more of a broad scope of who he is, who he relates with, who had things to say about him that might say he’s unfit to be a justice and I think we’re at that point. I think there’s just enough to say that he should not be appointed.” 

Bangalore said that the turnout at the protest made her feel supported, and proud of her community.

“This is incredible to see in action,” Bangalore said.