Ka­vanaugh ac­cu­sa­tions raise ques­tions for Stam­ford stu­dents, par­ents

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Erin Kay­ata

“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.”

Michael Cummo / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

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.

Michael Cummo / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Ane­jah McLau­rin, 18, speaks about the re­cent al­le­ga­tions against Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh in­side the main con­course at UConn Stam­ford on Wed­nes­day.

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