As Christine Blasey Ford Testified, So Did Women Across The Country

"I'm standing here for every person who is working a shift with the radio blasting in the background."

On Thursday, Sept. 27, New Yorkers gathered in front of Sen. Chuck Schumer's Midtown office in New York City to protest the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. As Kavanaugh and his accuser, professor Christine Blasey Ford, took the stand in D.C., women of all ages took to the megaphone to share their stories of sexual assault and call upon their legislators to stand up for gender equality and human rights. 

Organized by Arielle Swernoff, the protest was one of nearly 60 similar events staged in front of the senator's offices across the country, where, per Swernoff, "survivors are testifying in solidarity with Dr. Ford as well as demanding that their senators step up and do the right thing here." 

"We know Sen. Schumer is voting 'No' on Brett Kavanaugh, but as the minority leader, he has power over his caucus, and we need to make sure that his caucus holds the line so not one Democrat should be voting 'Yes' on [Judge] Kavanaugh," Swernoff explained. "We want no defections on this because it is too important. Survivors are too important. Our rights and our lives are too important." 

Along with the verbal testimonies shared at the protest (some of which you will read below), attendees wrote and signed more than 100 letters detailing their experiences as survivors and/or allies and demanding that the sexual allegations by professor Christine Blasey Ford and others against Kavanaugh be taken seriously by Sen. Schumer and the Democratic caucus.  Kavanaugh again denied the allegations in his Thursday testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"We're in a moment where people are coming forward in ways that we haven't seen in a long time, and people are really fucking angry and with good justification," Swernoff said. "There's a lot of power in our anger, and there's a lot of power in our pain, and we're going to keep building it and creating a society free from rape." 

These statements from real women are a testament to that power — and the positive change that they hope it will make possible.

One woman said she was forced to spend over $50,000 fighting her "abuser" in the New York City courts last year after she left the relationship, and he subsequently harassed her online and posted revenge porn, ruining her reputation and destroying her career. "...This is why women don't report. Because when we do report, it's so hard," she asserted. "...I almost lost my life because of this, but I refuse, I refuse to back down. And I believe every survivor — and I don't even know what to say — but just know that we are here with you." 

Another began her speech by listing the assaults she said she'd personally experienced, including but not limited to being roofied and ushered out of a party by a man, having her head forcibly thrust into a man's lap and held there multiple times, and being pressured into having unprotected sex for the first time with a much older, much bigger boyfriend after telling him that she didn't want to. 

"It didn't start with Clarence Thomas, and it won't end with Brett Kavanaugh. It didn't start with Dr. Anita Hill, and it won't end with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. 'Beach Week' will not be canceled," she continued in her speech. "But knowing there are brave women like those and brave men and women like these surrounding me today who believe survivors, who are fighting for justice and equality, who believe women's rights are human rights, who are as angry as I am, that makes all this hard stuff — all this vitriol coming out of people's mouths — a little easier. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, I hear you, I see you, and I will never be able to express how grateful I am for you. Women have been trained to speak softly and carry a lipstick... Those days are not over, but we need to keep fighting until they are because 'not that bad' isn't good enough for anyone — and certainly not for a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States."

Another speaker, now 58 years old, recalled how her college's solution to sexual assault on campus was giving female students self-defense lessons and teaching them statistics. "I remember hearing that one in three or one in four women will be assaulted or raped in their lifetimes, and I remember thinking at the time, 'That's ridiculous. That's not possible,'" she said. "I started asking everyone around me, 'Has this happened to you?' And I started finding out just how many women have experienced that. Here at the age of 58, I can tell you that if you're able to ask the women you know this question, you are going to be shocked that the statistic is likely true."

A rabbi then came up to the megaphone and explained that, despite previously teaching texts with a "trigger warning," she didn't really know or understand what it meant to be "triggered" until this week. "I've been sick to my stomach, and I've been close to throwing up all week, and I bet everyone in this crowd has... You know, I listened to Dr. Blasey Ford's testimony, and one of the things she said that brought me to tears — she was asked by Senator Leahy of Vermont, 'What was the most indelible thing that happened of the whole experience?' And she said it was the laughter, the laughter at her expense," she recalled. "The fact that she wasn't even relevant. She was just an instrument for these boys to have fun with each other by basically trying to fuck a woman. And that made me so sick because it also is really the whole story we're hearing. We are just perceived as toys or objects, and all these Republicans who are saying, 'We're gonna push this nomination through' ... they are the same thing, they are laughing. They are laughing at us, and that is just not right." 

Another woman, a mental health therapist who works with adolescents, shared her experienced treating trauma associated with sexual assault. "Working firsthand with trauma survivors, sexual assault survivors, I understand how difficult it is to come forward and to actually be heard and to have people actually believe you," she said. "It's extremely traumatic for somebody to disclose for the first time about their sexual assault and to have their parent, their boyfriend, their girlfriend, their partner not believe them and question them. It's extremely traumatic and sometimes even more traumatic than the sexual assault itself."

She went on to explain the insidious way sexual assault-related trauma doesn't just affect survivors, but everyone else around them who loves them. "Sexual assault and trauma is a family issue; it's a community issue; it's a mental health issue," she concluded. "It's something that's extremely important for us to bring our attention to and to be aware of how much it impacts all of the people who are close to that sexual assault survivor." 

To end the speeches, one young woman, whose managers allowed her to leave work because they know how important the issue of sexual assault was to her, stood up and aimed to represent all women who were not as fortunate. 

"I'm standing here for every person who is working a shift with the radio blasting in the background, for every mother who is watching CNN, terrified with their daughter in their arms, every woman sitting at their desk right now, streaming the testimony and holding back tears," she said. "...To those women, to those people who are thinking about what happened to them and they feel her pain and the trauma that they've grappled with every day, all I want to say is: I believe Dr. Blasey Ford, and I believe you. We are the light in this darkness, and we're going to fight like hell to stand in our light and in our truth."

Swernoff agreed with — and believed — every one of the speakers and hoped their words — and hers — could help the survivors who choose to remain silent. 

"I hope that everybody who is here or who knows about this event or who is watching it knows that they are not alone. We don't have to do this by ourselves," she concluded to A Plus. "We don't have to go through this pain by ourselves, and that we believe you, regardless of the circumstances of your assault, whether it was yesterday or 30 years ago, whether you reported it or didn't, whether it was somebody that you know or a stranger, whether this happened once or multiple times, that we believe you, we're here, and we're in this together."


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