CALL FOR CHANGE
Kavanaugh accusations raise questions for Stamford students, parents
“You kind of have to investigate.”
Susan Bolognino, Stamford
STAMFORD — The country turned its eyes last week to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as she testified about allegedly being sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
The hearings left many questions as the judiciary committee voted in favor of advancing Kavanaugh’s nomination, with Senate Republicans agreeing to a weeklong FBI investigation into Ford’s claims.
They also intrigued many of those watching — particularly teenagers around the same age Kavanaugh was when the alleged assault occurred and their parents.
“You kind of have to investigate,” said Susan Bolognino, mother of a 17-year-old senior at Stamford High who watched the hearings. “I’m glad to see there will be an investigation and hopefully a resolution, but I’m doubtful as to whether or not there will be a resolution and whether anything that happens can repair any of the damage that has been done. It’s just really sad every way you look at it.”
The hearings begged questions: Should someone be held accountable for their actions as a teenager? In the generation of #MeToo, is this kind of behavior still happening? And is there a path for redemption for those who made mistakes as teens?
Bolognino isn’t sure. “Do we want to hold high school students accountable for their actions when they’re adults? The frontal lobes don’t close until they’re 26,” the 53-year-old Bolognino said. “I don’t know how I feel about it. As a parent, what’s right and wrong, they know. But at that age, they’re not necessarily capable of acting.”
Her 17-year-old son, John, is the same age Kavanaugh was when Ford claims he sexually assaulted her at a Maryland house party.
“He should've been held accountable for his actions if something had happened at the time,” John Bolognino said. “It’s not a question of being held accountable as much as it is a lot of things that happened between the age he is now and (when he was) 17 years old. I don’t think he should be hung in the court of public opinion for something that occurred before that time.”
While it’s been nearly four decades since Kavanaugh was in high school, Bolognino says he could see the same scenario happening today.
”The amount of high-profile calling outs that have happened make me more cautious of my actions and wary of if something is coming off wrong,” Bolognino said. “What we’re seeing where you make sure you have consent, make sure you’re aware of your actions, all of that rhetoric is what’s important. I don’t see any panacea other than making sure everyone, teenagers especially, are aware of the dangers.”
However, Bolognino does give pause to Kavanaugh when considering two other women, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, have also accused him of sexual misconduct in the 1980s.
But some teenagers, many shaped by the recent national conversations about sexual assault and consent, have a stronger stance.
“Either way, it’s bad,” said
Aaliyah Asante, 17, a freshman biology student at the University of Connecticut Stamford. “We’re all growing up together, but at the same time, people have common sense.”
Asante and fellow freshman, Anejah McLaurin, 18, of Hamden, say the issue is rooted in the culture surrounding sex, consent and sexual assault. While males are lauded for sexual conquests, women are condemned for this behavior.
Their male counterparts agree.
“(Men) feel they don’t have to pleasure a woman,” said Kwame Lee, 19, a UConn Stamford freshman mechanical engineering student and New Haven native. “People should practice more empathy.”
Equally problematic, the students say, is the culture surrounding sexual assault and the stigma for victims who report the attacks. Asante, a Stratford native, said she has concerns about Ford waiting so long to come forward.
“I understand you can be scared,” she said. “At the same time, why hide that when you can be saving someone else?”
Part of the problem, she said, is the judgment victims face.
“It’s like people say her skirt is too short and she was asking for it,” Asante said. “You shouldn’t judge the person.”
Susan Bolognino recalls an atmosphere similar to the one described in Ford’s allegations when she attended Stamford Catholic.
But after witnessing Anita Hill endure a similar hearing for the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and the testimony of White House intern Monica Lewinsky following an affair with then-President Bill Clinton, Bolognino said consent has always been part of her conversations with her son.
“I have had conversations with my teenage son since before all of this happened,” she said. “Today’s generation of young men are being raised completely differently...It’s been a totally different world for quite some time now. It’s my job to raise a responsible young man. I think his generation is quite different than my generation. You didn’t understand, you didn’t realize.”
Aaliyah Asante, 17, speaks about the recent allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in the main concourse at the University of Connecticut’s Stamford campus.
Anejah McLaurin, 18, speaks about the recent allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh inside the main concourse at UConn Stamford on Wednesday.