Coming forward about a sexual assault experience is incredibly brave, regardless of if your experience happened yesterday, or 30 years ago.
Very recently, two such women have come forward against Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh. As of last night, the latest claim was put forward when a former Yale classmate of Kavanaugh came forward with accusations of sexual assault.
In an article, released Sunday night, New Yorker Deborah Ramirez, a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh, stated he drunkenly thrust his penis in her face at a party. When pushing him away, she inadvertently touched it.
“For Ramirez, the sudden attention has been unwelcome and prompted difficult choices. She was at first hesitant to speak publicly, partly because her memories contained gaps because she had been drinking at the time of the alleged incident” says journalist Ronan Farrow.
Ramirez is submitting her claim in hopes of supporting the first Kavanaugh accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey, whose high-profile case has brought much attention onto both herself and Kavanaugh, and who is preparing for her testimony in front of the Senate this week.
Dr. Christine Blasey, who sometimes goes by her married name Dr. Ford, came forward earlier this summer with a sexual assault claim against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. For context, in July, shortly after President Trump named Kavanaugh as his Supreme Court pick, Dr. Blasey wrote a letter to Democratic lawmakers describing her sexual assault in the early 1980’s involving Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Dr. Blasey originally asked for anonymity but stepped forward after her letter came to light. Dr. Blasey entered negotiations, requesting the FBI do an investigation into her claims and is now prepared to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, so long as she is offered fair terms and is safe.
Yet the system has done little to support Blasey – either as a person or as a witness. Since reporting this news, Blasey has received death threats and has even had to leave her home. In addition to all of this, she has also had to hire her own security team. In terms of her testimony itself, Republicans have specifically demanded that Dr. Blassey testify by Monday, or not at all. Pushing up a testimony date has been noted by some observers as a power play tactic in an especially logistically vulnerable (i.e. security) and high-profile time for Blasey. Despite this, Dr. Blasey and her lawyers have resisted Republicans attempt to bulldoze her into testifying before she had sufficient time to prepare her testimony.
Statement from lawyers for Christine Blasey Ford, who say she is “committed to moving forward” with hearing even though certain issues — like who will do questioning — are still unresolved. Those issues “will not impede the hearing taking place.” pic.twitter.com/ibXxwra25j
— Sheryl Gay Stolberg (@SherylNYT) September 23, 2018
Dr. Blasey is not the first woman to bring an accusation of sexual assault to the Senate in regards to a Supreme Court nominee. The only other time a woman has spoken out against a Supreme Court nominee was nearly 30 years ago. Anita Hill, a law professor, accused then-nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment in 1991. He now sits on the Supreme Court. Hill was vilified, persecuted, and openly attacked by public officials who brought her character into question.
In an interview with PBS, Hill backed up Dr. Blasey’s request to have an FBI investigation into her claims stating that “without an investigation, there can not be an effective hearing.”
Having an FBI investigation is key to the claim is key to Dr. Blasey’s testimony. In an effort to uphold the standard of innocent until proven guilty, survivors are often the ones put on trial where they face character assassination in an effort to discredit them, versus the examination of events and crime that were committed by the accused perpetrator. They are questioned about their number of sexual partners, what they were wearing, if they were flirtatious, and why they did not report sooner. Our very own President himself put Dr. Blasey on trial via Twitter.
I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2018
It should be noted that the Senate still lacks proper procedures to deal with accusations against a nominee. Hill shared her thoughts on the Judiciary committee stating that, “[the Senate Judiciary Committe] is not prepared to have this hearing if they don’t understand the difference between a general investigation by the FBI and a specific investigation into the allegations, then they are not prepared to go into this phase of the hearing.”
This statement was made in regard to Republicans pushing against having the FBI investigate Dr. Blasey claims and insisting that Kavanaugh has already been investigated by the FBI.
Looking back at her own experience, Hill stated that the committee went in not to give her a fair hearing, but to discredit her. This is historically the case when women try to have charges brought against their attackers.
With a justice system stacked against survivors, many of them come forward at great risk. With this, Dr. Blasey came prepared with a polygraph test administered by the FBI (she passed) and statements from her therapist showing that Dr. Blasey spoke of her assault as early as 2012.
Though we aren’t sure how the week will unfold for Dr. Blasey or for Ramirez, we are seeing the #MeToo movement continue to gain important influential traction across all areas of our culture, and now, into the highest ranks of government. This has transpired, in part, because of women (and men) coming together to voice or discontent, our outrage, and our experiences. Many brave survivors come forward in light of Trump’s tweet through the #WhyIDidntReport hashtag, sparking more conversations about just how common assault is, and raising even more important opposition to Kavanaugh’s appointment.
Just as importantly, we are seeing two women confront a horrific experience in their lives – despite how actively the system is working against them – to help change the narrative around sexual assault for our country.
Of her decision to come forward and of the collective thoughts underlying the urgency in which those oppose Kavanaugh’s appointment, Ramirez summarized, “What does it mean, that this person has a role in defining women’s rights in our future?”