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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

A Response to Rev. Haig’s Letter to the Community

A Response to Rev. Haig’s Letter to the Community

A total of five women have come out with sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice candidate Judge Brett Kavanaugh hours before his hearing against Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and a day before the Senate votes on his confirmation. In light of these allegations, men are squirming in their seats and looking to see who among them is going to be next.

On a practically weekly basis, countless men have been outed for previous acts of sexual assault since the #MeToo movement gained traction online last November. This came as a result of a tweet from actress Alyssa Milano that urged women to stand in solidarity with one another and to speak out against their harassers and assaulters. Just this week, actor Bill Cosby received a three to ten years prison sentence for sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in his home 14 years ago.

Women are speaking out, and no one is exempt: Harvey Weinstein, Sylvester Stallone, Morgan Freeman, James Franco, and Junot Díaz are but a few men who have done their time in the #MeToo limelight, with their celebrity doing little to save them. Powerful men are starting to see that their actions have real consequences: the loss of fame and fortune, of friends and family.

It is this fear of loss that is at the heart of Rev. Frank Haig’s recent Letter to the Editor, in which he reflects on the current scene in Washington, D.C. Rev. Haig urges students to leave parties before it becomes “too late,” both in terms of the allegations that may arise and the reputations that may be ruined by what may happen if we stay.

“Remember, it is not a question as to whether an accusation is true. It is not a question as to whether an accusation is probable. It is not a question as to whether an accusation is provable. It is only a question as to whether the accusation exists,” Rev. Haig wrote.

“Your whole career, your marriage to your wonderful spouse, the confidence of your children in your integrity, your future whatever-you-want-to-be, is at risk. The machine will operate in any case.

This “machine” that he refers to is social media—one that “destroys reputations” and “can spread a report instantly across the world but which has little or no power to present a defense.”

It seems as though Rev. Haig’s concerns have much to do with saving the reputation of potential perpetrators if and when their assaults are exposed. But what Rev. Haig fails to address are the larger issues surrounding sexual assault that go beyond drinking and partying and the threat of subsequent allegations and ruined reputations. These are simply symptoms of a larger disease, a sickness that is more pervasive and much harder to cure than a hangover.

If there exists an operating machine that allows for sexual assault to occur, it is not social media, but the patriarchy itself.

The Greyhound editorial board feels compelled to speak on the topic of sexual assault in response to Rev. Haig’s letter in order to broaden our community’s understanding of the subject and redirect our efforts toward taking action against it.

To focus on the potential surfacing of an allegation is to center the issue of sexual assault around the importance of upholding a man’s reputation rather than on seeking justice for a victim after they have experienced a grave violation. Never mind that a survivor’s sense of dignity or right to bodily autonomy is tainted, so long as a man’s status as an upstanding citizen or image of a “good guy” is not.

The issue of sexual assault is being centered around the perpetrator, thereby re-labeling him as a sort of victim of his own crime. This puts more weight on the effects of a ruined reputation rather than the trauma of being sexually assaulted. It wholeheartedly belittles the courage that it takes for a victim to speak out against their rapist and regain agency in a situation in which it has been seized from them.

To divert our attention to the mere existence of an allegation as it affects the accused rather than validating the assault through support of the victim is a deliberate silencing of their trauma and a severe hindrance to their healing process.

If the most effective deterrent we can find against sexual assault is the threat of a ruined reputation after it has taken place, then we are doing our community a great disservice.

If we attribute the root of sexual assault to anything other than the power structures that are grounded in patriarchal ideologies, then we are neglecting our Jesuit duty of being men and women for and with others.

If the only reason why we want to put an end to sexual assault is to spare perpetrators from potential defamation, then we have failed as human beings.

Is this the sense of justice we at Loyola are trying to seek? One that shows more concern for the consequences of sexual assault than for its prevention? One that protects reputations rather than exposes wrongdoings?

Rev. Haig’s advice may be able to stop individual people from committing sexual assault, but it does little to nothing to change the culture surrounding it or the system that allows for these interpersonal violences to happen over and over again.

The Greyhound editorial board urges our campus community to think critically about the structural injustices that perpetuate sexual assault and ways they might even contribute to them. More importantly, we urge our peers to think about how they might combat the systems that allow for these interpersonal violences to occur.

We thank Rev. Haig for bringing such an important issue to the forefront of our minds and hope that this is only the beginning of an ever-expanding, action-based conversation around sexual assault.

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A Response to Rev. Haig’s Letter to the Community