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#MeToo One Year After Christine Blasey Ford: Inclusion, The Law, And Forgiveness

Wednesday, a diverse panel of reflected on the Me Too movement one year after Christine Blasey Ford.

For further information and support on the subject matter discussed in this piece, please visit: Columbia Sexual Violence Response –


On September 27th, 2018, just a year after a myriad of shocking allegations were published in The New York Times in regards to high-profile Hollywood director Harvey Weinstein, Christine Blasey Ford stood among the Senate Judiciary Committee and recounted her experience of sexual assault at the hands of Brett Kavanaugh, who was at the time being considered for appointment to the Supreme Court. Her fearless testimony was heard across the world, and sparked a much larger debate around the level of accountability we place on people in positions of power, particularly political power.

Now, two years after Weinstein and just over a year after this groundbreaking testimony which undoubtedly changed the face of the #MeToo movement, the conversation has by no means ended. #MeToo: One Year After Christine Blasey Ford, a panel discussion organized by Women Creating Change (a subdivision of the Centre for Social Difference at Columbia University), centers around the release of the book Indelible in the Hippocampus, a collection of essays, poetry and non-fiction writing created in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Curated by short story writer Shelly Oria, the title of the anthology is a nod to Blasey Ford’s visceral retelling of her assault in her testimony: “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two, and they’re having fun at my expense.”

The moderator of the panel, Davia Temin, has been involved in sexual violence activism since the 1970s. A Columbia graduate herself, she went on to become a counselor at the school for survivors of sexual violence. For Temin, the urgency of these kinds of discussions is clear; with more and more women rising to positions of power, voices that were once silent are now being amplified and advocated for. She notes that whilst much of the attention around the #MeToo discussion is centered around the high-profile celebrity accusations, it is not just beautiful celebrities that experience this kind of harassment; it is an epidemic that does not discriminate.

Oria used her time to highlight the exclusionary nature of the movement, and how, even though #MeToo has gained significant traction in the past two years, women “have been writing about this shit forever.” Though the media’s exposure of these stories has done great things for the movement, Oria notes that those gaining attention for their stories are “beautiful, white, straight celebrities”, which is not, in fact, an accurate representation of those who experience sexual violence. After all, as Oria recognizes, the #MeToo hashtag was conceived by a black woman, Tamara Burke. Oria also chose to emphasize the importance of her anthology containing a number of different mediums, both fiction and non-fiction. She noted the inherent power of addressing trauma through poetry and story-telling, a concept that Elissa Schappell later touched on.

Elissa Schappell began writing stories about her experiences because of the anger she felt towards the injustices in the world, emphasizing the power the fictive world can have in situations like these. She found herself writing for Indelible in the Hippocampus after watching Blasey Ford’s testimony herself. As a firm believer that trigger warnings were unnecessary, she was initially unfazed; however, as the testimony went on she found herself becoming more and more affected by Blasey Ford’s words, realizing that she too could relate to the violence that was being discussed. She set out to use her writing as a way to unite people who have faced similar experiences, literature women could truly see themselves in.

A particularly interesting feature of the panel was the presence of Olatunde Johnson, who is a professor at Columbia Law School with an incredibly prolific legal background, and therefore offered a new perspective. Though she is not a contributor to the book, her voice was vital in the understanding of what sexual violence looks like on the legal landscape. Her discussion was geared towards how we must attempt to reform the legal system in order to protect those who are most at risk, those who may not have advocates. Johnson, when pressed by Temin about her view on unions as a way to protect workers at risk of sexual assault, highlighted that the corruption within unions prevents accountability for sexual harassment in the workplace.

Without a doubt, the most powerful voice among the panel was that of Gabrielle Bellot, who, as a black transgender woman, offered a refreshing perspective to the conversation which has at this point centered largely around cisgender white women. Bellot used the story of Virginia Rappe, a young woman who died in 1921 at a party held by the infamous Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle to illustrate her understanding of exclusion. Rappe entered a hotel room with Arbuckle, who locked the door behind him (as Bellot says, much like Weinstein), and allegedly began to sexually assault her, her death the result of a ruptured bladder caused by immense pressure on her body. Arbuckle was ultimately found not guilty for Rappe’s death, due largely to the information that came out about Rappe having had an abortion and venereal diseases that could have led to her untimely death. Bellot relates this anecdote to a larger question: who can take part in this movement? Who is, as she says, “the wrong kind of woman”? When Bellot began her journey writing for this anthology, she detailed a great turmoil she experienced, feeling as if there was not a place for people like her in this movement; her nerves around writing came not from revealing any kind of scandal, but from feeling like she did not belong. She is not critical of the movement itself but wants to emphasize that the movement needs to be inclusionary of all identities in order to achieve its goal.

The conversation ended with the topic of forgiveness. Can we allow those who have committed crimes of such a heinous nature to reintegrate into society? The answer is unclear. As one member of the audience posited, our focus should be on ensuring these kinds of acts are treated with the utmost seriousness, and the consequences are severe, both in the legal and social sphere. Overall, there was certainly a sentiment that rang true throughout those who spoke, panelists and audience members alike; without repentance, there can be no forgiveness.

Panel via bwog staff

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  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous The story of Virginia Rappe is a pretty interesting case from a criminal law perspective. In criminal law, there’s a concept called “causation”, for which, there are varying standards. Two of the most common are but for causation and substantial factor causation. But for causation is fairly straightforward. The inquiry looks to whether a result would have occurred if the underlying act never happened. While this is obvious, in certain cases but for causation creates liability where liability wouldn’t make sensed to attenuation. Hence, it is limited by foreseeability and proximate cause (not the same FYI). Substantial factor causation, on the other hand, is more complicated and is a lower bar for causation than but for. In fact, it is the lowest standard of causation permissible in criminal law. The substantial factor test looks to whether an action was a substantial factor in causing a particular result. Imagine a house getting burned down by fires set independently by two separate arsonists. Applying the but for standard would absolve both arsonists of liability. However, each arsonist’s fire was a substantial factor in the house burning down. The clear issue with this approach is defining “substantial”. To do that, courts look to (1) whether a factor would have independently caused the outcome, or (2) whether that factor combined with another factor present would have caused the outcome. The first is a straightforward test while the second is more nuanced and is limited by foreseeability.

    In the Arbuckle case, If we apply but for causation, then the question we would need to answer is whether Ms. Rappe would have died of a ruptured bladder if Fatty Arbuckle hadn’t assaulted her. If we apply substantial factor causation, then the question we need to answer is whether Fatty’s assault would have independently caused Ms. Rappe’s death or whether (1) Fatty knew about Ms. Rappe’s issues with venereal diseases and abortion and (2) if the assault combined with those medical issues would would have resulted in Ms. Rappe’s death.

    Above is a more modern approach under which Fatty would likely have been found guilty. However, there’s a famous causation case, R v. White, that was decided in 1910. The defendant put poison into the evening drink of the victim, his mother, with the intention of killing her. She did not wake up, however the medical evidence was that she had died of a heart attack rather than as a result of the poison. The defendant also gave evidence that he had not intended to kill her by a single dose but had planned to deliver multiple doses over a longer period of time. On appeal, the court held that “but for” causation was the correct standard in this case and that the defendant did not cause his mother’s death. However, the court did rule that the defendant attempted to kill his mother, and thus, upheld his conviction for attempted murder. The contemporaneous reasoning in R v. White illustrates why the court chose to use the but for standard in Fatty’s case and why a conviction was more difficult (setting issues of the “type” of victim aside).

  • barnard alumna says:

    @barnard alumna “Christine Blasey Ford stood among the Senate Judiciary Committee and recounted her experience of sexual assault at the hands of Brett Kavanaugh, who was at the time being considered for appointment to the Supreme Court”

    What, did your legal team graduate or something? This is literally libel. Are you so dedicated to a sociopolitical ideology that you refuse to just add in the word “alleged” before “sexual assault”? You can do better, Bwog.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous brett kavanaugh is a rapist

      sue me for libel pls

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Here’s a timeline regarding Christine Ford:
    1982 – Something may or may not have happened with another 2 (or 4) teenagers at a party, she cannot remember who threw the party, where the party was held, who she was with or how she got home. She was drinking and said nothing to anyone.
    2002… She said nothing.
    July 25, 2003: President George W. Bush nominated Kavanaugh to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C Circuit… She said nothing.
    2005… She said nothing.
    May 11, 2006: The United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary recommended confirmation. Kavanaugh subsequently confirmed by the United States Senate… She said nothing.
    June 1, 2006: Kavanaugh sworn in by Justice Anthony Kennedy… She said nothing.
    2011… She said nothing.
    2012… She remembered ‘something’ happened in 1982, yet doesn’t name Kavanaugh, still said nothing to authorities.
    2017 – becomes an anti-trump activist.
    2018 – now 36 years later, with Kavanaugh’s SCOTUS confirmation looming, she pens an anonymous letter with grave accusations against Kavanaugh regarding foggy circumstance that occurred while they were both minors, then reveals herself and DEMANDS an FBI investigation before testifying to her incredible allegations?

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous rape apologists OUT OUT OUT

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous “the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies” – Justinian

    Why did we abandon a 1500 year old principle for political convenience?

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous have you considered that brett kavanaugh is a rapist?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous No evidence, no witnesses, no corroboration. Due process doesn’t magically disappear because a woman “claims” something happened.

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