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Kavanaugh protest personal for Ford supporters

Michael Knigge Washington
September 28, 2018

The testimonies of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who accuses Kavanaugh of sexual assault, drew hundreds of protesters. One woman explained why supporting Ford is extremely personal.

USA Proteste gegen Kavanaugh in Washington
Emily Paterson in front of the Supreme CourtImage: DW/M. Knigge

On a day that turned from gloomy to soggy, hundreds of protesters took first to Capitol Hill and then to the streets of Washington to march to the Supreme Court, where Brett Kavanaugh, if confirmed by the Senate, would serve as a justice with a lifetime appointment within a matter of days.

To try to prevent that from happening, but even more to show their support for Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who said she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh at a party when both were high school students, marchers — many holding red and white carnations and hand-written placards — braved the increasingly inclement weather.

For Emily Paterson, who lives in Virginia, the rain pouring down as she stood at the steps leading up to Supreme Court building did not matter. What mattered was being there as Ford was testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, just a brief walk away.

USA Proteste gegen Kavanaugh in Washington
The protesters marched from Congress to the Supreme CourtImage: DW/M. Knigge

"All of our stories"

"Her story is all of our stories," said Paterson. "I was sexually assaulted as a teenager and so many women that I know also were, and it is something that most people just don't talk about."

Being a sexual abuse survivor herself, Ford's experience and her public telling of it deeply resonated with her and millions of other women, Paterson said. "We are just here to support Dr. Blasey Ford and let her know that she is not alone."

Paterson said she knows the importance of not being alone and being believed. After she was sexually assaulted in her teens by an older man she told her parents, who believed her.

But after consulting with lawyers, who advised against pressing charges because they said she would not be believed and her life would be ruined, no charges were filed against the abuser.

"Nothing ever happened to him," said Paterson.

She cannot only relate to Ford's experience; the Yale graduate can also back up descriptions of the misogynistic culture at the elite university's DKE fraternity to which Brett Kavanaugh belonged to during his time at Yale.

Rape culture at Yale

That culture came into focus recently after The New Yorker magazine published allegations by a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.

USA Proteste gegen Kavanaugh in Washington
Flowers left at the steps of the Supreme CourtImage: DW/M. Knigge

"I definitely saw the rape culture in action when I was an undergrad at Yale," said Paterson, whose time at the university did not overlap with when Kavanaugh was there.

DKE, the fraternity, was considered a "rapey frat," she said. "You wouldn't go to the parties, because you knew it was dangerous."

While The New Yorker article made international headlines because it involved the nominee to the highest court in the United States, the underlying toxic behavior described it depicted is nothing new, noted Paterson. 

"This has been going on at college campuses among elite white boys forever," she said. "For women, this is not a surprise. It is only a surprise that it is now being reported."

Women have had enough

Asked what concretely her protest and that of hundreds of others in support of Ford and against Kavanaugh's confirmation on this historic Thursday in Washington should achieve, Paterson called for an FBI investigation into the allegations against the nominee, and a delay of what she views as a rushed through a process that she said was a sham.

Read more: Will 2018 be the year of the woman in US politics?

Should that fail and Kavanaugh be confirmed, it would amount to a "devastating blow" — at least for now. 

"But the November elections are coming and we are going to take back the country," Paterson said. "Women have had enough. We are really tired of not being believed. I think we have reached this moment where we just had enough and it is really empowering to see the change happening."

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