Accusations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh stemming from his time at Georgetown Preparatory School and Yale University prompted a nationwide conversation involving sex, politics and consent.
In a series of interviews, University of Toledo organization officials and students took the latest political drama as a chance to reflect on their own behavior and evaluate the potential cultural shift.
A few days before a hearing featuring the accuser and the accused captivated a massive audience, three members of Kappa Delta Rho discussed around their kitchen table what it was like seeing a former fraternity member face allegations of sexual violence on his way toward the nation’s highest court.
“Everything in the political world right now is just absolutely topsy-turvy,” said Banyon Mckart, a second-year cosmetic and formulation design major.
In regards to the allegations, “this is something that definitely needs to be A, taken seriously, and B, needs to be talked about because it just seems like men can do these things, especially a long time ago and just be able to be fine and get away with it.”
Greek life institutions, preparatory school and party culture at large have been under intense scrutiny after reports surfaced about Kavanaugh as an overzealous student who drank too much and had a difficult time controlling his sexual impulses.
Cameron Downs, a member of Kappa Delta Rho who sat on the executive board as risk manager, understands sexual assault is “prevalent within all universities.”
“I think the education at UT is pretty good about that in regard to Title IX and sexual harassment in general,” he said.
Kavanaugh was accused of groping Christine Blasey Ford and covering her mouth to muffle her protest. Deborah Ramirez accused the nominee of exposing himself to her at a party. In a sworn affidavit, another woman, Julie Swetnick, alleged Kavanaugh was a danger to women at high school parties.
The underlying factors in all three scenarios: a mix of alcohol and social circles.
But, Jaclyn Friedman, writer, speaker, pleasure activist and author of “UNSCREWED: Women, Sex, Power and How to Stop Letting the System Screw Us All” wants to “divorce partying and consent as much as possible.”
“It’s totally possible to go out and have a raging great time and even to get terrifically drunk and not hurt anybody,” Friedman said.
“Partying is not an excuse for sexual violence.”
She dismissed doubts concerning the accusations, including one from President Donald Trump who called the claims against Kavanaugh, a "big fat con job.”
“You need to decide about your own morals and not listen to the adults in charge of our country,” she said.
Voicing similar concerns, third-year psychology major Megh Kumar said society often fails to create a safe environment for survivors to share their stories.
"You see how they treated Kavanaugh's 'accusers',” she said. “We're constantly victim blaming.”
Kumar, who serves as an intern at the Title IX office and also the vice president of public relations for Tri-Delta, uses both backgrounds to discuss bystander intervention and rape culture.
As part of her job, she visits classrooms and organizations to teach students how to implement the bystander training in their daily practices. Kumar does this to highlight how society is building a safe breeding ground for perpetrators and how individuals often label sexual violence.
"The possibility of being falsely accused of sexual assault is so slim.”
She referred to the FBI statistic that only two percent of all rape and related sex charges are determined as false.
"I know it can be traumatic and I understand that a lot of people don't want to tell anyone, so [they] tuck it in the back of [their] brain and never speak about it again, until one day, they're seeing their perpetrator on the news; he's being nominated by President Trump on the Supreme Court," Kumar said.
She added people often ask why the survivor didn’t report, “but if the perpetrator is barely getting a slap on the wrist why should they?”
In the People v. Turner case, where Stanford student-athlete Brock Turner was convicted of three counts of felony sexual assault for penetrating an intoxicated and unconscious 22-year old woman, Turner was only sentenced to six months of confinement of which he served half.
"Every single nightmare that a survivor goes through is just right in front of your eyes, it's right in front of their eyes because no one believes them,” she said. “Then, they speak up and society labels them…why didn't she report sooner?”
But the Greek community is trying to make a change, said fifth-year mechanical engineering major and President of Sigma Phi Epsilon Jacob Smith.
“We see that this is an issue across the nation and Greek life has been a repeat offender for instances like this, especially fraternities and we are trying to address it and be as proactive as we possibly can,” he said.
Later adding, his fraternity offers a bystander intervention training every semester.
"It's extremely unfortunate that it does keep happening,” he said. “We have made leaps and bounds as a community toward making the environment much safer.”
Kavanaugh's confirmation is uncertain. The F.B.I. is conducting an investigation into the sexual assault allegations set to wrap up Friday. With a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate, Republicans can only afford to lose one vote if all Democrats vote no.
In the event of a tie, Vice President Mike Pence would cast the deciding vote.
Students who wish to report sexual misconduct on campus can reach out to the Center for Student Advocacy and Wellness, YWCA HOPE Center Rape Crisis Services or the Title IX office. The Title IX form can be filled out online through the UToledo Website or in-person in Snyder Memorial, Room 2514.
"It’s really up to us to step up but not a lot of people are doing it,” Kumar said. “It will never be enough until it stops.”