Sexual assault survivors confronted Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and shared their experiences of abuse on Capitol Hill Friday morning, just moments after he announced his plans to back Judge Brett Kavanaugh in Friday’s Senate Judiciary Committee vote.
The Committee’s vote to move Kavanaugh’s nomination forward was scheduled less than 24 hours after the country heard tense and emotional testimony from both Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused him of sexual assaulting her in 1982. While Flake, a key Republican swing vote, had indicated that he was undecided about Kavanaugh, he released a statement sharing his intentions to bring the embattled nominee closer to the Supreme Court. A short time later, a group of protesters followed Flake to an elevator and let him know what message he was sending to women and to survivors of assault.
“I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me,” one woman told him through tears. “I didn’t tell anyone, and you’re telling all women that they don’t matter, that they should just stay quiet because if they tell you what happened to them, you’re going to ignore them. That’s what happened to me, and that’s what you’re telling all women in America, that they don’t matter, that they just keep it to themselves.”
Flake remained silent during the exchange, looking down at the ground. The woman continued, urging him, “Don’t look away from me. You’re telling me that my assault doesn’t matter… That’s what you’re telling me when you vote for him.”
“Senator Flake, do you think that Brett Kavanaugh is telling the truth?,” another woman asked.
Eventually, a reporter asks Flake if he wants to respond to the protesters’ concerns. Flake says simple, “No, I need to go to the hearing. I just issued a statement, I’ll be saying more as well.”
In his statement, Flake said that he hadn’t seen enough evidence that corroborated Ford’s story.
“Yesterday, we heard compelling testimony from Dr. Ford, as well as a persuasive response from Judge Kavanaugh. I wish that I could express the confidence that some of my colleagues have conveyed about what either did or did not happen in the early 1980s, but I left the hearing yesterday with as much doubt as certainty,” he said.
His vote is expected to round out support in the Judiciary Committee. After Friday’s vote, Kavanaugh’s nomination will continue to move through a full Senate vote. Republican leaders have said they will push to confirm Kavanaugh by early next week.