After Dr. Christine Blasey Ford made public her allegation that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school party in 1982, more than 1,200 alumnae of the all-girls Holton-Arms School signed an online letter of support.
One of the catalysts behind the letter is Nahid Markosian, PhD., who graduated from the school two years after Ford in 1986 and is the parent of current Middlebury College student Leila Markosian ’21. Kavanaugh attended the all-boys Georgetown Preparatory School. Both are located in Bethesda, MD.
The letter, which garnered national attention as Ford prepared to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, can be found at www.standwithblaseyford.com.
In a phone interview with The Campus, Markosian discussed the letter, Dr. Ford and prep school culture.
Middlebury Campus (MC): What made you decide to try and organize support for Ford?
Nahid Markosian (NM): I graduated from Holton-Arms in 1986, so I didn’t know Christine Blasey Ford but I had heard on the news that she had wanted to remain anonymous.
One thing led to another and then she came out publicly. I was just thinking about how brave she is to do something like that and how much courage it takes. I felt for her and her family and really wanted her not to feel alone going through all of this. I wanted her to feel support from people who knew her way back then or were familiar with the culture of the school.
It all kind of started with me putting a post on our alumni page after asking, “how can we support our peer who has been so brave and courageous in sharing her story of the sexual assault?”
It really was the alumni group that picked it up and ran with it. They’re the ones who drafted the letter and it really sort of activated this solidarity among women.
When I was at Holton-Arms I don’t remember any conversations about date rape or sexual assault or anything. So I decided I didn’t want to keep the silence going. The petition started off with 15 people and it grew to 200 and I think now we’re at 1,100. It’s so important to remove the shame – to help people remove the shame from the experience. One woman said so eloquently, when she saw that we were all trying to help Dr. Blasey Ford not feel alone in this — she said “it gave me courage to know that I could say something and not be alone either.” This is about showing support for Dr. Blasey Ford, but also changing the norms around this [culture] in doing so.
MC: Could you speak to the atmosphere and the culture at Holton-Arms and how, in your opinion, it has changed (or not) since your time there?
NM: I had super protective parents and wasn’t allowed to do a lot of things so I feel like I can’t really speak too much about that particular social scene because I wasn’t part of it. I do know that there’s a lot of affluence and entitlement so in retrospect I think my parents were probably smart; what they were doing made sense. One thing I will say is that I don’t think it was just Georgetown Prep — I think that was the dynamic among a lot of those schools.
MC: In light of all the retroactive support the alumnae of Holton-Arms have given Ford, what advice would you give to current high school and college students to better have these sorts of conversations now? What can young people do now to help?
NM: I think that trying to have a community where it’s safe to share stories about what happened to you and share experiences and raise questions is crucial. Letting people know that they’re not going to be alone and that there’s support and help for them. Be vocal, be verbal. If you are getting close to somebody and things are moving along, it’s always a good idea to ask are you okay with this, are you comfortable with this?
MC: How might you respond to somebody who defends Kavanaugh by saying that his actions are excusable given how much time has passed and because he was a drunk high school student/college student? Essentially, how would you respond to the “boys will be boys” argument?
NM: I think actions matter. I think that kind of behavior was not normal then and it’s not normal now. It dismays me when people can’t look at what they’ve done and realize that maybe it wasn’t a big deal for them, but it really affected somebody else’s life. It’s troubling that adults now looking back at what they did during their teenage years are so quick to just brush it aside.
MC: Are there things that you think we, as college students, and more broadly, that the world should be paying particular attention to in all of this national drama? Are there things that we should be remembering?
NM: For centuries, women have not been believed. Women have very, very little to gain from disclosing these experiences in a public forum. And I think that when they do it’s really important to listen and take it seriously and understand what happened. I want to say that and I want to tell people who are going through this: talk to your friends, talk to your counselors, talk to police, and we need to listen and we need to hear. It’s not easy — it takes a lot of courage, and we need to respect people who speak up.
MC: Do you know at all what Ford’s response to the petition has been or if she’s made any sort of a response?
NM: I don’t know, I don’t believe she’s responded.
MC: I definitely imagine it would make her feel less alone.
NM: I really, really hope so. We want her to feel that we have her back. And I know that some people are trying to make this into a political issue, but I don’t think it is. I think she is speaking out about an atrocity that was done to her, and she wants people to know about this person’s character.