The two women survivors of sexual assault whose confrontation of Arizona senator Jeff Flake in an elevator as he was on his way to vote in favor of Brett Kavanaugh and forcing him to look and listen to them was broadcast live on TV, have been identified. New Yorkers Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher are telling their stories more fully, explaining why they felt compelled to go to Washington DC and do what they did.
“I did it in solidarity with Dr Ford. All the emotions I have felt over the last weeks came pouring out. It was Dr Ford’s story that allowed me to tell this secret to my parents. I now have to do the work of how my parents [and I] process this experience, and I don’t know how this is going to go.”
Speaking to Newsnight, Archila said the encounter with the senator took place soon after she and Gallagher had read that he planned to back Kavanaugh’s nomination in the committee meeting he was about to attend. Flake, she said, appeared to want “to be anywhere else but in that elevator”.
Speaking to the American media, she explained the impact of Ford’s testimony on her. “When the #MeToo movement broke out, I thought about saying it — but I wrote things and deleted it and eventually decided I can’t say, ‘me too’. But when Dr Blasey [Ford] did it, I forced myself to think about it again.”
She said: “I think if it had been just me, just me and Maria telling our stories, it would have had no consequence. It was the result of thousands of people coming out telling their stories, showing up to their offices and millions of people watching Dr Blasey Ford being put on trial.
“It is really the result of the collective effort, of all of us trying to make sure that our country does not shy away from staring at the darkness and shame of sexual violence, and a culture that condones it, but ignoring survivors.”
I can’t help but think that it was the very ordinariness of Christine Blasey Ford that will inspire many survivors to come forward. She seemed so nice, the kind of gentle, retiring person whom you would like to have as a friend and neighbor, not at all someone who seems tough or is a smooth talker or seeks to engage in political fights. I think that going through the minds of many people will be the thought that if such a person can summon the courage to come forward and face the hostility she knew she was going to get, then anyone can.
I wonder how many congresspeople are wondering what they are going to face in days to come if they vote in favor of Kavanaugh.