Survivors Are Not Your Political Pawns

NINE. THAT’S HOW many women in the state of Alabama have alleged that U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore made inappropriate advances toward them as teenagers and young adults. These advances range from acts of inappropriately flirting to sexual assault. Many women have come forward years later, with stories that seem credible, yet I’m not surprised to detect the heavy stench of victim blaming in the air. Upon discussing the allegations with my old camp friends from Alabama, I was disappointed to hear statements like “Why only come out now?” and “They’re only saying this stuff as a smear campaign.”

These stories are generally deemed believable due to substantial evidence surrounding the cases. A colleague of Moore told “CNN” that Moore’s tendency to date high-school-aged girls was “common knowledge.” One of Moore’s accusers presented a flirtatious high school yearbook note written and signed by Moore, while another accuser showed Christmas cards from Moore she received as a teenager. The stories presented by Moore’s accusers are also consistent with his whereabouts and positions at the time. They’re just too specific — backed by other people associated with the victims and Moore — to be false.

It is disappointing to see that even as evidence-backed as these allegations are, and perhaps even if Moore himself confessed, many supporters of Moore would likely still ignore them. In the world of politics, this pattern is common. Victims of sexual assault often face unwarranted backlash, especially when coming forward to accuse public figures. These victims have not come forward specifically to put one political party at a disadvantage; in fact, according to “The Washington Post,” several of Moore’s accusers belong to his party. Victims are coming forward at this time to ensure that their abuser is not placed in positions of power. Yet, we continue to make excuses upon excuses as to why else someone may come forward, overlooking — sometimes intentionally — what is truly happening.

So, the question exists: why can’t we accept allegations against figures we support? This question exhibits itself strongly in the political sphere. Many of my conservative friends would condemn Bill Clinton for rape allegations made against him in the blink of an eye and offer public support for his victims, but they kept their mouths shut or offered flimsy excuses when allegations against President Trump came to light. The truth is, sexual assault is not a partisan issue — we cannot believe survivors only when it is convenient for our agendas. Somehow, we have managed to become so selfish that we warp the trauma faced by others to fit our own motives and narratives. It’s becoming increasingly common.

And it’s disgusting.

“We’ll surely win the race if women keep coming forward,” reads a text another Alabamian friend sent to me regarding the allegations against Moore. At first, I didn’t think much of it. Yeah, it was true: the more survivors came forward, the more leverage Moore’s opponent had in the polls. Then, I began thinking: why did my friend reference the race and not Moore’s victims? It became clear that people are largely using survivors as pawns to advance their own political agendas. This is more a fault of our personal biases than anything else. When recent sexual harassment allegations against U.S. Senator Al Franken first arose, Democrats in the Senate were hesitant to call for his resignation, despite most Democrats calling for candidate Roy Moore to resign. We have made this more about power than the stories, pain, and strength of the people who came forward.

Roy Moore should not be elected as the next U.S. Senator from Alabama. Not because of his political affiliation, but because of his character and actions. It is our responsibility to take power out of the hands of abusers and hold ourselves accountable to our own biases. At the same time, people on the opposite side of the political spectrum in such situations must stop insensitively milking the stories of survivors for their own personal gain. This is not about the polls or which party holds control. This is about holding all abusers equally accountable, no matter who they are.