On Wednesday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York delivered a scathing speech on the Senate floor, criticizing her Republican colleagues for their “disappointing” response to the sexual-assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
“This process is sending the worst possible message to girls — and boys — everywhere,” Gillibrand said in her speech. “It’s telling American women that your voice doesn’t matter. It’s telling survivors everywhere that your experiences don’t count, they’re not important and they are not to be believed. We are saying that women are worth less than a man’s promotion.”
Referencing the way Anita Hill was treated during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, she added, “That’s not how the world is in 2018 and we cannot allow this Senate, this body, to bring us back to before 1991.”
The accusations levied by Christine Blasey Ford (who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault in high school) and Deborah Ramirez (who alleges Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a Yale dorm party) are “disturbing enough by themselves,” Gillibrand said. She then called out some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for patronizing and dismissing Ford’s allegation, and pointed out that President Donald Trump has “belittled and demeaned Dr. Blasey Ford and Ms. Ramirez, reminding us once again that he has been accused of sexual assault himself and denigrating not just women who accuse him but survivors everywhere.”
Gillibrand told the Senate that fearing this level of “retaliation and scorn” is why many survivors of sexual assault do not speak out. She then asked: “Do we value women in this country? Do we listen to women when they tell us about sexual trauma? Do we listen to their stories about how their lives have been forever scarred? Do we take their claims seriously? Or do we disbelieve them as a matter of course?”
She also reminded her colleagues in her speech that “this is not a court of law; this is a job interview,” saying they do not have to hold Kavanaugh up to the same standards needed for a conviction. “I believe Dr. Blasey Ford because she’s risking everything — her safety, her security, her reputation, her career — to tell this story at this moment for all the right reasons,” she said. “If we allow women’s experiences of sexual trauma to be second to a man’s promotion, it will not only diminish this watershed moment of societal change we are in; it will bring shame on this body and on the court.”