Actions Have Consequences, Sometimes 30 Years Later
The opinions reflected in this OpEd are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of staff, faculty and students of The King's College.
The chaotic events surrounding the Kavanaugh-Ford trial the last few weeks have sparked a need to discuss the reality that careless decisions can have, especially those made in the teenage years.
Disclaimer: Sexual assault is a heinous act and in no way should allegations be dismissed without thorough investigation.
Two of the three sexual assault charges against Kavanaugh concern events that took place in high school, and one in college. Kavanaugh graduated from Yale in 1987, which means the events, if true, would have taken place over 30 years ago.
30 years ago is a long time. But it is a poignant reminder that the youth of today seem to have forgotten. Actions made in the past, in a brief moment of one’s lapse of judgement, can have consequences that affect the rest of their life.
It seems many youth today place too much emphasis on momentary satisfaction, focused on living in the moment. This can lead to acting upon hormonal urges or responding to peer pressure. Even momentary lapses in judgement can hurt others. It may be beneficial in the long term for young people to learn to sacrifice a moment's pleasure for the sake of upholding a moral standard. Limiting one’s thinking to the short term can cause harm.
“Something better might be attained in the future by giving up something of value in the present,” acclaimed psychologist and professor at The University of Toronto, Jordan Peterson, suggests.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Herein lies the cultural dichotomy. On the one hand, society implies that instant gratification is good because it means living in the moment. This is seen to be just as valid, if not more important, than focusing on the future for fear of “missing out.”
Yet on the other hand, society condemns those who succumb to these pleasures when it hurts other people. These conflicting societal messages can leave people confused.
Documentaries such as “Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution” show how quickly binge drinking and casual sex can spiral out of control and put people in bad situations. The documentary, which many freshmen at King’s are required to watch for Dr. Anthony Bradley’s course ‘Christianity and Society”, exhibits the quick moral descent that results from social situations such as parties.
Young women push themselves to be sexualized because it is expected of them. Young men feel the pressure to objectify women because society tells them that is what is means to “be a man.”
Both of these messages hold harmful consequences for society at large.
While sexual misconduct is not exclusive to the party scene, it is one of the more prevalent scenarios for sexual harassment. Rarely do young people bother to think of their moral standards or where they want to be in the next 30 years. It is partly this lack of forethought that causes horrible consequences in the present. But, what can be done?
There are policies in place to protect victims and prosecute the guilty. Title IX, the education amendment passed in 1972, was created to protect students from sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and rape. But Title IX can only be effective if incidents are reported in a timely manner. This is just one of the many reasons so many rapes and sexual assaults go unpunished.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 63% of sexual assaults are not reported. 90% of sexual assaults on college campuses go unreported. Many victims are not ready to come forward and face their assailant. Sexual assault is an gross violation of privacy and dignity like no other, deeply intimate and personal.
Movements like #MeToo are helping victims realize it is beneficial to them and to society to speak up. If sexual predators can be outed immediately, there is a far lower chance they will be allowed to reach positions of power.
In the end, students need to be wary of their actions. It is important to weigh the moral implications as well as future consequences before indulging in something that seems pleasurable in the moment. Whether or not Kavanaugh is truly guilty, the message still stands--just because something happened a long time ago does not mean it can simply be erased. It is an important but necessary lesson to remember, actions have consequences.