At 1 p.m. today, people across the country will walk out of their schools and workplaces for the #BelieveSurvivors walkout in support of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and, now, Deborah Ramirez, two women who have publicly accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.
On the one hand, this nationwide protest came about quickly. It’s only been 11 days since the New York Times first reported on the existence of a letter detailing allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh; eight days since Ford came forward as the accuser, telling the Washington Post that in high school, Kavanaugh once locked her in a room, pinned her to a bed, and tried to “force himself on her”; and one day since The New Yorker published Ramirez’s claim that in college, Kavanaugh exposed himself to her.
On the other, this walkout has been decades in the making. It’s been nearly 30 years since Dr. Anita Hill testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee about Justice Clarence Thomas’s history of sexual harassment; 12 years since Tarana Burke first started the Me Too movement; 11 months since The New Yorker published its first bombshell report on Harvey Weinstein.
For many survivors, the last 11 months in particular have felt Promethean. After the Weinstein news broke, reinvigorating the MeToo movement, countless women (and men) came forward, wielding their own fiery traumas in an attempt to shed light on the simultaneous ubiquity and invisibleness of sexual violence and harassment — a depressingly universal experience has rarely been publicly addressed. In some ways, this outpouring has been empowering, giving survivors an opportunity to feel and express solidarity and to see that, as isolating as this violence can feel, we are not alone. But it has also been excruciating.
It seems as though every day we hear a new story of assault; every day, survivors feel compelled to share their own stories, to remind others of the realities they face in coming forward or trying to report. We do this because we are too frequently reminded that survivors like Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez are not only not believed, but threatened for speaking out. Since talking to the Post, Ford and her family have had to leave their Palo Alto home because she was receiving so many death threats. She and Ramirez have had people mock them, harass them, and try to discredit their stories. It is clear that, to many people, the reputation of a man is more valuable than the humanity of a woman.
Not everyone has the privilege of being able to step away for an hour this afternoon, but if you can, you should consider the joining the walkout. There are practical reasons: As a 2011 Harvard study showed, large-scale protests can have a significant impact on policy because they get people more politically motivated — something that’s especially important ahead of the upcoming midterm elections.
But in addition to the practical reasons, today’s walkout serves as an opportunity to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault like Christine Blasey Ford, and Deborah Ramirez, and millions of women like them who have been afraid to share their stories for fear they wouldn’t be believed, or worse. It is a way to share the burden disproportionately shouldered by survivors, to lighten their load just a little bit so they can have the energy to keep fighting, so that 30 years from now, hopefully, we won’t have to do this all over again.