The story shared by Campbell Heinberg shocks and horrifies the working people of Southwest Virginia because the abuses and manipulations were allowed to continue for far too long while the abuser, Kip Vehorn, enjoyed a culture that protected his reputation and interests against scrutiny or justice. This culture is one bred to protect young men within a patriarchal and capitalist system so that they can maintain generational power and wealth while oppressing women and minorities.
The fraternity that Mr. Vehorn belongs to, Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), created an environment where Mr. Vehorn could feel safe from the consequences of his actions. SAE was cited as being a “significant threat… to student safety, well-being, and town-gown relationships,” in 2019 by Virginia Tech University in a report calling out eight unrecognized fraternities. This fraternity was allowed to continue operation at Virginia Tech, despite recognition by the University that it was a threat to student safety, and Mr. Vehorn, as a member of this fraternity, was able to manipulate and abuse multiple women on campus.
The Communist Party USA has long stood against the special oppression of women by capitalism and the patriarchy it creates. According to our Party Program:
“Working class women continue to face a considerable differential in wages for work of equal or comparable value. Women confront barriers to promotion, physical and sexual abuse, a continuing double workload in home and family life, and male supremacist ideology perpetuating unequal and often unsafe working conditions.
“Additional forms of oppression women experience are attacks on their reproductive rights and domestic and sexual harassment and violence…The treatment of women as sexual objects brings additional profits to the capitalists. A misogynist culture, which includes pornography, violent video games, and human trafficking, demeans all human beings, but especially women, and contributes to sexist and abusive attitudes in the home, workplace, and online. Courageous women have launched the “#Me Too” movement to draw attention to the widespread prevalence of sexual harassment, assault, and the embrace of rape in capitalist culture. In addition to the personal harm they inflict, such behaviors limit women’s freedom and effectiveness in the public sphere and warp the full development of both men and women.
“The special oppression of women cuts across class lines. This cross-class oppression means that women play a progressive role as a social group. Partnerships between national women’s organizations, the labor movement, and other progressive organizations are important in building the all-people’s front against the extreme right.“
It is, therefore, the position of the Virginia District of CPUSA to clearly and unequivocally denounce the actions of Mr. Vehorn and SAE’s lack of response that prove its complicity and approval of those actions in order to perpetuate the patriarchal and capitalist need to oppress women. We offer our support to Ms. Heinberg, and all the women harmed by Mr. Vehorn and SAE’s actions, in navigating the process of recovery and healing as she shines a light on the violent crimes and oppression she faced at their hands.
We join in the many calls for Virginia Tech, an institution tasked with providing a safe, equitable education for all students, to take swift, permanent disciplinary action against both Mr. Vehorn and SAE to ensure justice is served for the victims of the culture that has allowed women to become the victims of assault and oppression on their campus. It is necessary that the University set an example and fall on the side of these victims rather than sweep under the rug the aggressions of another young, well-to-do white male student. It must be made clear that the lives and health of the victims come before the ivory tower futures of abusers who are on the path to become the next generation of wealthy, capitalist oppressors.