Teens are watching. They are listening.
They are also getting involved in the national conversation about sexual violence.
“We feel connected to the 15-year-old girl still living inside of you, and are outraged by the 17-year-old boy still living inside of him,” wrote three Idaho girls in an open letter to Christine Blasey Ford, a university professor who has accused Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a party when they were teenagers in Maryland in the 1980s.
Kavanaugh is President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, filling the seat that was held by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kavanaugh has denied Ford’s allegations.
The teens’ letter, posted on the Change.org website Wednesday, had received more than 24,300 signatures in support by early Saturday afternoon. It has been featured in articles by The Hill, Teen Vogue, Allure and the Washington Post.
The Post interviewed teens across the country, some of whom expressed concern that Kavanaugh’s supporters and others are offering up defenses of “it was a different time” and “boys will be boys” for what might have been a violent attack.
“Maybe he didn’t mean it and maybe he was a kid,” 18-year-old Anjali Berdia told the Post. “But saying it’s OK means some other girl is going to be sexually assaulted in a basement because that’s OK as long as he turns out to be a successful adult.”
The three girls who wrote the letter to Ford are all 15 – the same age Ford was at the time of the alleged assault.
They are all Treasure Valley high school students; two live in Boise, one in Caldwell. All three are youth activists with the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, according to executive director Kelly Miller. They signed the letter with their first names only: Charlotte, Jessica and Layla.
While most on the group’s Facebook page have lauded the girls’ letter, others have posted critical comments.
“This is propaganda,” one person wrote. “Don’t politicize rape.”
“How do you know he’s guilty? Presumption of innocence is still a thing in this country,” another said.
The girls sat around a large table and composed the letter as a group, using pink sticky notes to get their ideas down on paper, Miller said. She and two other women involved in the coalition asked the girls questions about how they were feeling and what they wanted to say.
“Fun for boys should never include exploiting girls,” the teens wrote. “When you are 15 you should be worried about physics classes, not whether or not you are going to be sexually assaulted.”
The empathetic letter praises Ford for speaking up now, acknowledges the difficulty of doing that and encourages her to testify before lawmakers.
What do the girls hope will be the impact of their letter?
“We hope boys read this letter and learn from it. We want boys to have these conversations with their fathers, friends and with girls,” Jessica said.
“We want to end the stigma that adults are smarter than young people,” Charlotte said. “Our letter was successful because we are 15. Don’t just dismiss people because of their age.”