by Nisa Qarles '21
Since Dr. Ford and Justice (then the Hon.) Brett Kavanaugh’s testimonies in early October, I feel that my personal relationships with my classmates, teachers, coaches, and administrators have grown stronger.
Firstly, at NCS, I have understood even more the unity that all-girls schools foster among their students. Our bond extends far beyond our desire to learn and common interests. Rather, there is a comfort that you share with people who know exactly what you are experiencing. When my friends and I watched Dr. Ford’s testimony, we didn’t just see a sexual assault survivor, but we saw ourselves. We are fifteen and sixteen years old. We attend an all-girls school with a brother school on the same campus. We have been to the Safeway where Dr. Ford saw alleged witness to her assault Mark Judge (CNN), to Georgetown Prep, and to Holton. We have had a myriad of uncomfortable experiences. We are Dr. Ford.
In the conversations that I had with my classmates during and after this case, I discovered that our unity stems from the fears we all share as women. Fear of being catcalled when walking down the street. Fear of walking across the Close by ourselves at night. Fear of being accused of “asking for it.” Most of all, fear of not being heard and validated when we really need to be, just as Dr. Ford was not.
Additionally, during one of our upper school Chapel slots and in one of my seminar classes, my classmates and I have had opportunities to discuss the case with our teachers and administrators. They have shared personal stories with us about their own uncomfortable experiences which has allowed us to relate to them on a level that we had not prior. We have also unfortunately had to reiterate what I call the unofficial rules of being a woman in our society: never go to the bathroom by yourself; get your own drink; never separate at parties or dances; and never walk home alone.
Not surprisingly to me, I have also had conversations with my classmates from STA about this case. As a member of the cross-country team, I have developed a bond with my STA teammates just as I have with my NCS classmates. However, when this case was at its height, I was admittedly concerned that they would not want to empathize with me or their other NCS teammates. Fortunately, though, I had more conversations with my STA teammates with whom I would have not otherwise talked. They asked what they can do to support us and to understand. I even had a conversation with one of my STA coaches in which he praised me and my NCS classmates for the strength and determination with which we handled our disappointment and anger. Although my STA teammates are not the entirety of the STA student body, they gave me hope that as a community, we can combat these issues together with time and patience. In fact, the two co-presidents of the new Alliance for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) club, are from my cross-country team.
I recognize that change will not happen overnight and that some are more open to it than others, but I am optimistic. We just have to make sure that our conversations about these topics do not end when the news stops covering them. Change will only come when we are willing to come together to bring it.