A Sept. 18 letter writer comments that if the sexual-assault allegations against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are true, the events occurred when he was a teen, too long ago and when he was young and immature. Can’t we forgive and forget? I do not think so. Many advocate for trying teens as adults. They do not seem to think that being young matters. Indeed, President Donald Trump in the past advocated the death penalty for teens who were accused of rape and maintained belief in their guilt even after they were exonerated by DNA.

To me the relevant issue is that we need to change the culture in this country where sexual assault by anyone is tolerated, even more so for presidents and for Supreme Court justices. This is unacceptable behavior, and we must send a clear message that it will not be tolerated, even when the perpetrator is young.

Gary C. Fifield, St. Paul

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U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch argues that even if the Kavanaugh allegations are credible, the Senate should consider “who the judge is today.” I agree: Today Kavanaugh remains the same as he was when he was 17 — a guy who wants to control women’s bodies. There are already enough privileged former prep school and frat boys on the Supreme Court. Men who, like Kavanaugh, were educated at elite institutions and hung out with guys who celebrated their misogyny. Take Justice Neil Gorsuch; his fraternity is reported to have painted the hydrant outside of its frat house every time a brother had sex with a virgin. As these privileged white men (who disproportionately hold judicial and legislative power) age, their abilities to physically attack women may diminish. But they can damn well work on policy that will deny women reproductive rights and reproductive health.

Julie A. Risser, Edina

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I ask that everyone take the time to listen carefully to Christine Blasey Ford’s and Kavanaugh’s testimony next week. It highlights what continues to be a tragic and complicated story in our society. For those who cannot believe that she would still remember or keep silent for so long about what happened to her or lie about this incident, please remember this is not a new story and, unfortunately, is so very common. And please do not take the stand that “teenage boys do stupid things, especially when they are drunk.” As my story below mirrors Ford’s, there is absolutely no excuse for behaviors that damage a person for the rest of her or his life. I waited 30 years to have the courage to tell my story. My rapists will never be brought to justice or accept their responsibility in hurting another human in this way. We all deserve the right to state our truth no matter how unbelievable or difficult it is to admit.

Published in this paper under the headline “Sexual assault survivors break their silence,” Aug. 19, 2015:

Sue Marshall, who kept a secret for more than 30 years, broke her silence Tuesday night among strangers, finally saying it out loud: She had been repeatedly raped when she was 17 years old.

Her date took her to his home and he and three of his friends raped her, then dumped her on her family’s front yard. She took a shower and tried to wash the horror away.

Marshall was among a dozen women and one man who fought through tears and anger to tell their stories about sexual assaults, rapes, molestations by fathers, boyfriends, husbands, strangers, a first date, cellmates.

“I hid it for so long,” she said, encircled by those who came to support the victims. Some came with friends or family. But others relied on the support of fellow victims and sexual assault advocates for strength and compassion during the Break the Silence Day in Minneapolis.

Marshall buried the gang rape deep inside, eventually got married, had children and reveled in her grandchildren. But the trauma from her teenage years eventually erupted in flashbacks, anxiety and panic attacks, she said. And on Tuesday, she walked to the front of the room and became survivor Number 6, giving voice to what few will talk about openly.”

Sue Marshall, St. Paul


Amid upheaval, know this option for those who have low incomes

Thank you for the Sept. 17 front-page article “Seniors brace for Medicare upheaval.” It explained a very complicated and confusing situation quite clearly. One option you might not know about that should be included in any follow-up articles is a statewide program for low-income (under 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline) Medicare participants. It is called Senior Partners Care. It is a community-based program designed to help pay Medicare copays and deductibles. It was created in the 1970s by a coalition of senior service organizations and Minnesota health care providers for seniors who do not qualify for county medical assistance but who really cannot afford a Medicare supplemental policy. The program is not just for seniors, but for anyone of any age who is a Medicare recipient, i.e., people on disability. It is administered throughout the state by five separate nonprofit agencies. Senior Community Services is the administrator in the metro area. The other agencies are in St. Cloud, Mora, Duluth and Virginia.

Roberta Jordan, Minnetonka


Ranked-choice turns spoilers into movers and shakers

The presentation of the Sept. 17 commentary by William Cory Labovitch (“Do third-party supporters now understand spoiler risks?”) begins by essentially questioning the IQs of all third-party supporters and ends in Labovitch’s firm embrace of the electoral status quo. He would have done better to acknowledge that ranked-choice voting at the state level would change third-party candidates from spoilers to queen- (or king-)makers, and that their supporters’ votes could be counted rather than wasted as they are by our traditional voting. Moreover, the same spoiled elections that he cites from the 1990s and 2000s were a major force behind RCV adoptions in the 2010s by both Twin Cities (and now St. Louis Park).

Thomas Kuhlman, Eden Prairie

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Mr. Labovitch’s commentary unwittingly highlights why many liberals are reluctant to vote Democrat and look elsewhere to cast their ballot. Instead of addressing the very real concerns many of us have with Democratic candidates, he talks down and looks down his nose at those who would hold his party to a higher standard.

As someone who voted for Jill Stein, I am painfully aware of the bitter divide within the Democratic Party, but attitudes like Labovitch’s only deepen the divide and make the division tougher to heal.

Instead of demonizing third-party voters, Democrats should be reaching out trying to discover what their concerns are and what it would take to change their minds. That would be a more effective manner in unifying the left.

I will probably be voting Democratic this November, but it will be with great reluctance and a sadness that many Democrats feel I should not be allowed to hope for better.

Christopher Aspelund, St. Anthony

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Regarding Labovitch’s commentary, I have to agree. And unfortunately it speaks a lot to the flaws in our political system. Other developed nations have a parliamentary system that allows for third parties to be part of coalition governments. There are two dominant parties in those countries, too, but at least third parties are not considered “spoilers” and threats to democracy, as Mr. Labovitch implies. I will continue to vote for DFL candidates, even though most DFL candidates are lukewarm and the national Democratic Party is basically Republican lite. The alternative is far scarier to vote for a genuine third-party candidate. Our political system needs a complete overhaul so that real change can come about in society, not the little bandages that the left-leaning party in this country offers to social problems. Until then, I hold my nose and vote for the least intolerable candidate in every election, local, state and national.

Maya Ram, Eden Prairie