Women and their supporters from across the United States walked out of their offices, businesses and homes on Monday to support Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, who have accused Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, of sexual assault.
“We believe Dr Blasey Ford. We believe Deborah Ramirez,” the event’s organisers said on its Facebook page. “We believe survivors,” it added. “And we won’t stand for Senate Republicans’ despicable attempts to strong-arm a sexual assault survivor.”
Prior to the walkout, dozens of rights groups held a protest in the Senate office buildings, as well as outside the Supreme Court.
Many chanted “I believe Christine Ford,” as they called on the Senate leadership to take the allegations made by Ford and Ramirez seriously.
US Capitol Police said that more than 125 people had been arrested on charges of unlawfully demonstrating in Senate office buildings.
While I am frightened, please know, my fear will not hold me back from testifying and you will be provided answers to all of your questions.
The protests came on the same day a letter Ford sent to Republican Chuck Grassley, the Senate Judiciary chairman, was made public. In the letter, Ford said she faced death threats and was relying on her lawyers and Grassley to “agree to conditions that will allow me to testify in a fair setting”.
“While I am frightened, please know, my fear will not hold me back from testifying and you will be provided answers to all of your questions,” Ford wrote. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
In an interview with Fox News, which aired Monday evening, Kavanaugh said he would not step aside, saying “the truth is I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone, in high school or otherwise”.
Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, said Kavanaugh attacked her and tried to remove her clothing while he was drunk at a party when they were both teenagers in the 1980s.
Kavanaugh told Fox News he was not present at a party like the one described by Ford and noted that others Ford said were at the gathering had no recollection of it.
“I am not questioning and have not questioned that perhaps Dr Ford at some point in her life was sexually assaulted by someone at some place, but what I know is I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone,” Kavanaugh said. “I want a fair process where I can defend my integrity and I know I’m telling the truth. I know my lifelong record and I’m not going to let false accusations drive me out of this process.”
The interview came a day after the New Yorker magazine published the account of Ramirez in which she alleged Kavanaugh exposed himself to her without consent during a drunken party at Yale University in the 1980s.
“I can still see his face, and his hips coming forward, like when you pull up your pants,” she was quoted as saying by the New Yorker.
Kavanaugh denied the story, calling it “a smear, plain and simple”.
The controversy over Kavanaugh is unfolding just weeks before November 6 congressional elections in which Democrats are trying to take control of Congress from Trump’s fellow Republicans, against a backdrop of the #MeToo movement fighting sexual harassment and assault.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in three women in the United States experience some form of sexual violence in their lives. About 63 percent of sexual assaults in the US are not reported to the police. More than 90 percent of sexual assault survivors on US college campuses do not report the incident.
Online, women shared their messages of solidarity to Ford, Ramirez and the thousands who have been sexually assaulted in their lives. Many called out Trump, as well as some Senate Republicans who have questioned the women’s accounts.
“Together, we show them the power of solidarity, the power of having a voice,” said Twitter user and activist Delaney Tarr.
Seeing women stand together for their sisters honestly makes me so emotional.
This is- we are- the role models for every girl in the country.
— delaney (@delaneytarr) September 24, 2018
“I am over the boys’ club. I am over predators running the country. I am over the apologetics. Women should not live in fear. #BelieveWomen #BelieveSurvivors Enough,” tweeted Cathleen London, a physician who said she is running for US Senate in Maine in 2020.
— Vital Voices (@VitalVoices) September 24, 2018
“Here to tell [Senator] @JeffFlake to #BeAHero and #CancelKavanaugh. Time to make your actions match your words and show that you truly #BelieveWomen,” tweeted Jody Drenzer Alperin from the protest in the Senate office buildings.
— Jody Drezner Alperin (@dramagal) September 24, 2018