On Oct. 4, the voices of HWS students chanting “Kava-what? Kava-no!” over the South Main Street overpass joined the voices of those across the country who participated in the #CancelKavenaugh Walkout Against Patriarchy. The walkout protested Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court in the wake of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegations and offered support for Dr. Ford and other survivors. The march started at the South Main overpass for a banner drop and continued through downtown Geneva, stopping outside U.S. Rep. Tom Reed’s office and the police station for speeches. The walkout was organized in less than a week by Geneva Women’s Assembly to coincide with walkouts happening around the country.
“I don’t believe in having rapists in the Supreme Court,” said Cameron Miguel ‘22 when asked why he chose to attend. Catie Britt ‘22 connected her attendance to discontent with the Trump administration as a whole, saying, “I just really am not okay with where America has been for the past two years.” Hannan Issa ‘21 agreed, saying, “Lately I’ve been feeling like stuff is just kind of happening and we have no say in it.”
Several members of HWS’ social justice theatre company Mosaic New York attended the walkout, citing the importance of taking action in addition to social theatre to create societal change. Mosaic member Jessica Hariprasad ‘21 said, “As members of a theatre group that promotes social change, we promote all forms of social change and we want to make a difference in all different social groups for all oppressed people including women, including women of color, including trans people, and this falls under what we stand for and what we work for.” Fellow member Emily Briggs cited similarities between social theatre and protest, saying, “Protest is also another form of what we do anyway. It’s just a different form. Protesting and theatre, guerilla theatre … kind of all ties together so that’s why we’re here as a group.”
As with the majority of events relating to sexual assault, most of the participants were female-identifying. However, the male-identifying students who did attend expressed a wish for more of their peers to participate. Israel Oyedapo ‘20 said, “We have a say. We should use our voice to make change. I mean if no one is speaking up, there’s no change.” Matt Hogan ’19 said, “I walked out today because I have a personal vendetta against patriarchy. Being a white male on this campus, being literally the walking physical symbol of patriarchy, I feel kind of embarrassed to have any kind of ethnic or racial association with the white men I saw on those hearings defending someone who is accused of sexual assault in a way that was so heinous … It’s such a problem that we don’t get more Hobart students.” Connor McDermott ‘22 thought increased awareness would bring more male-identifying students to events, saying, “I think just make them more aware … If we could just make more men aware of what they’re doing and what’s going on in actual politics that would make more people come out.” Eros Cabrera ‘19 put the emphasis on men to step up and be allies, saying, “I feel like a lot of the men who don’t participate in events like these they find ways to exclude themselves and not identify with the cause.” He warned men that by not being “an active participant in support for [survivors’] rights to extinguish this culture of rape … then we’re not only doing a disservice to our friends and family but also to ourselves.” Linden Bascolm ‘20 echoed the sentiment that women close to him inspired him to come to the walkout, saying, “Every man has an important woman in their life, a woman who deserves respectful treatment and they deserve agency. Women’s agency is important and that’s a very unspoken truth that needs to be addressed.”
Many students who attended connected Dr. Ford’s experience while coming forward to their own experiences on campus. Pauline Lafosse ‘19 came to the event because of her role managing the Writing House, saying, “This is an issue that is prevalent on all college campuses. I have a lot of people at risk in my house. I take their safety very personally, and while I’ve not been a victim, I do know people who have been and I think it’s completely unreasonable that this is still an issue today.” Sydney Ferry ‘18 said she liked seeing HWS students stand up against injustice. Sydney Hummel ‘21 wanted her presence to be a message to survivors to know that there are people who support and believe them. She said, “I think it’s very important in the wake of the events and the response that many people have had after Dr. Ford’s testimony that people on this campus in Geneva and all over understand that we believe them, that their stories are important and that that is their truth and that they should not be denied that and that there is going to be change because we’re going to make it happen and we’re here to make that be known in the streets of Geneva.”
The Herald followed up with several students who attended the walkout after the Senate’s confirmation vote. Though many students were disappointed at the results of the confirmation vote, many still emphasized the importance of keeping the momentum alive. Chloe Brown ‘21 urged disappointed students to vote in the upcoming midterm elections on Nov. 6, saying, “It’s just another thing that really hurts, but also adds to the fuel, hopefully so that we can channel all the anger and the motivation into midterm elections.” Meredith Grimes ‘21 agreed, saying, “Every vote counts.” Dominique Marshall ‘22 called for a change in the attitudes of elected officials, saying, “He’s in power, but everyone knows what he did and just won’t do anything about it, so if people that are in the justice system are showing that they don’t care, in a sense they’re showing that they don’t care about sexual assault … It’s really up there that needs some serious change within there and it needs to go from the ground up ’cause this is a really deep-rooted problem.” Gianna DeVita ‘21 encouraged those upset to “keep up the fight.” Morgan Nellis ’21 encouraged female-identifying students on campus to check in with each other in the wake of these national events, saying, “I feel like a lot of women’s work is listening to other women and that’s something that I personally want to work on because I feel like I don’t hear enough women, so I welcome any other woman to come up to me and talk to me about what they’re doing, how they’re doing. I try to check in with anyone I know who has experienced something like this or just anyone I know in general.” Bailey DiSanto ‘21, however, let the participation at the walkout inspire her to keep moving forward, saying, “It’s so easy to feel defeated and to feel like you can’t do anything, but there’s like 50 people here right now who all felt the same way about it and got out of bed and decided to be here today, so that’s some place to start.”
Students who are interested in getting involved with the Geneva Women’s Assembly can like the group on Facebook for information about upcoming events.
Resources for survivors of sexual assault at HWS and in Geneva include Hubbs Health Center, the Deans’ Offices, Campus Safety, the HWS Counseling Center, the Chaplain, the Title IX Office and Safe Harbors, which has a 24/7 crisis hotline.