This week we’re dedicating this space to the women who dropped everything to travel to Washington, D.C. to share their personal experiences with Alaska’s U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, asking them to oppose the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. Many brought with them their own experience of sexual assault.
Though the confirmation of Kavanaugh is certain with the votes of Republican Sen. Susan Collins, Sullivan and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, Kavanaugh will not be getting Murkowski’s vote. For Murkowski, who’s revealed during the fight that she’s had her own Me Too moment, the decision appeared to ultimately come down not to whether or not the sexual assault claims could be substantiated by a hurried FBI investigation but what her constituents had told her: That the nomination of a person with Kavanaugh’s temperament would damage the trust highest court, damage country and hurt the many survivors of sexual assault.
For that, we can thank the many women and men who’ve spent countless heartbreaking hours standing up and reliving their pain.
Below are the responses we received from some of the Alaskans who made the trip to D.C. to the question of “Why is this fight important to you.” Be warned, some of these stories include personal accounts of sexual assault and rape.
This post may be updated and expanded. If you were one of the women who participated in this trip and would want to share your story, contact me at [email protected].
Full time senior at UAA, and a canvasser for the Alaska Center on the Stand for Salmon campaign. Life-long Alaskan.
I’m a survivor of sexual assault from when I was a teenager in high school. The relationship I have with my trauma is a complicated one. From the start, I had been told to silence my experience and was gaslighted into believing I wasn’t a victim, because it was my boyfriend at the time who had assaulted me.
The years of silence I’ve experienced is a product a misinformed culture of silence that women of all ages fall victim to everyday. I choose to break the silence in the light of Dr. Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh, because as a survivor, I understand why women don’t speak up right away—or at all, for that matter.
I traveled across the country with a few days notice to ask Senator Murkowski to stand with Alaskan women, and work against a culture of silence. This vote isn’t a difficult one when we have young women’s safety at stake. A vote against Kavanaugh is a vote for women everywhere to finally be told they can expect more out of the men in our society. Values of consent and respect is the baseline for the men in our lives, and for the leaders of our country. This is the America we’re demanding, and a anything other than a vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation is a step in regression.
In Trump’s America, the Kavanaughs and the Brock Turners need to be shown that their are consequences for their actions. If we can’t break the silence now that the future of our country is at stake, when can we? This is why I’m in D.C. right now—I’m fighting for the dignities of survivors everywhere, my own included.
I’ve been asked why I made this trip to DC in hope of convincing Senator Murkowski to vote no on the Kavanaugh nomination. It is important to me for two reasons.
First, I don’t know any woman who has not had frightening or degrading situations related to violence and power. Sexual assault is just that; violence and power. It is a common experience and impacts our lives daily from the traumatic to the “normal” fear of walking down the street at dusk. Men, too, experience abuse and I want to recognize that it too deserves our advocacy. I want this fear to be greatly diminished for future generations.
Which gets me to my second reason. There are others who, better than myself, can speak to Kavanaugh’s alleged abuse, drunkenness, and financial improprieties. I want to talk about the process.
We need to believe in the integrity of our highest court and those who place this in this unique position of power. Like the Problem Solvers Caucus in the House putting forward a bipartisan approach to selecting House leadership, we need a better approach to creating a nonpartisan Supreme Court. I recognize that I am speaking of the ideal and not our current reality. We must remember though, that the decisions made today make progress toward the perfect and that is the goal of government.
Since we have justices who have ideologies that lean left and right, the least we can do now is insist, as citizens and political leaders, that a moderate, fair minded candidate is put forward to replace moderate Justice Kennedy. Brett Kavanaugh clearly does not represent the middle and his influence will not advance balance on the bench.
I understand that our current system and political partisanship does not make this likely. The president selects the candidate and the Senate performs advise and consent. However, there can be higher expectations, standards, and proper vetting in place that can improve this process. I do believe there are good people, many of whom are political leaders, who can move us to a place of greater trust in our courts and our government.
Our job is to insist and persist.
Sarah Evans, 31
Anchorage resident but raised in the Bristol Bay region
This fight is important to me because I grew up in rural Alaska, where sexual assault is shoved under the rug and not talked about. When I was in high school my very good friend was raped and murdered, and her assailant dumped her body at the town dump for the bears to eat. This was in Manakotak, a neighboring community to Dillingham, where I lived in as a child. The person who did this to her was her uncle when she was 15 years old. Since that time I have had countless friends come forward as survivors of sexual assault, including myself. I am a rape and sexual assault survivor and I have never come forward because I never felt the support of anyone believing me. I strongly believe that you could not meet a woman in rural Alaska, nor an Alaskan Native female who hasn’t been sexually assaulted.
I believe Dr. Christine Beasley Ford with every ounce of my body. It may have been a long time ago, she may not remember every detail but she is 100% sure it was Judge Brett Kavanaugh who sexually assaulted her.
I’m also here because of the way Judge Kavanaugh presented himself during a “job interview” in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He was entitled, harsh, he cried, he had a fit, he was dishonest and lied under oath, he was child like, he was disrespectful (especially to the women in the room) and most of all he played the blame game–it was the Clinton’s fault, it was Dr. Ford’s fault.
A judge’s role in the courtroom is to hold order, and as a brilliant woman put it, they are supposed to be the emotional anchor in the room. Judge Kavanaugh proved that he is not fit to serve a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court! I am not down here to fight against Judge Kavanaugh because he is a conservative. I did not put up a fight with Judge Gorsuch. I am fighting because Kavanaugh is not fit to serve on SCOTUS…..bottom line, that’s it!
Karena Perry, 50
Writer and photographer
I traveled to DC for just 24 hours to stand together with other Alaskan women who are sexual abuse survivors. The political narrative is hostile towards our personal stories. This nomination is important to me because I do not believe that Judge Kavanaugh is impartial. He has not spoken out against the mocking of Dr. Ford. As a non-native living on traditional Alaska Native land, I also have concerns that their way of life be protected at the federal level.
Perry also gave us permission to publish her essay “I Was Raped Yesterday.”
I Was Raped Yesterday
I was raped yesterday. Yesterday sounds more realistic than today. How could I have gone about my day if I had been raped today? I repeat the words, silently to myself as I walk home. As soon as I get home, I say it aloud for the first time, just under my breath. “I was raped.” I say it a little louder in the shower. I keep practicing saying those same three words. They sound so different out loud than deep inside my being. Some day will be the right time to speak those words to someone. The right person will listen without judging. There will be a perfect day to say those words, not a fun day, not a busy day, not a romantic day, not a day where someone needs me to listen to them. Not on a holiday or a workday. Not on a day when news articles say, “why did the women wait so many years?” Not to a church leader who says, “children lie”. Not to a friend who will say, “but, you never said anything about it at the time.” I find new rules; I tell stories I feel are more important to share. Suddenly I am one of those women who 35 years later wants to say I was raped yesterday, but I remind myself of those ominous words a boyfriend once told me about being a domestic violence victim, “No one will believe you.” So I stay silent. I go on a hike. I ride my bike. I hike a mountain. I read a book. I write a poem. I feed the homeless. I go to work everyday. I go out to dinner with friends. I photograph whales and bears. There is never a good day to interrupt the rest of my life and say I was raped yesterday and then politely listen to the comments I don’t need to hear.
I found it hard to believe I had to wait in line to get a seat assignment. At the other train stations, the seats were all first come, first serve, so I arrived at the Los Angeles Union Station early to get a window seat. My backpack was heavy on my shoulders standing in line. It seemed each person was having a fifteen-minute conversation at the ticket counter. I hoped I would get a window seat. My train wasn’t departing for two more hours. The slow line was okay; there was no rush. I shifted the weight off of my bad ankle, which then meant my opposite hip would ache from a nerve being pinched if I stood in place too long.
“I’ve never ridden a train before, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.” A young man, nicely dressed in a business suit, seemed slightly distressed, waiting for my answer. I asked him where he was headed and found out he was going to be riding on the same train I was. I felt a little embarrassed, in my wrinkled travel clothes, chatting with this lost businessman, wondering why he was wearing a suit on a trip that would take him three nights, wondering why he didn’t ask any of the train personnel wandering around the area. I explained what little I knew about the process of getting a seat assignment and how we were then to wait in the cordoned off area until we would all walk together to our train.
I listened to his story of heartbreak and the spontaneous trip he was taking across the country to spend Thanksgiving with his family. I could have interrupted his story and told him 35 years ago I was raped on this train, but instead I told him the sanitized, official version of my trip that I had told my family and friends; this was my 50th birthday vacation.
“I’m going to buy something to eat, I haven’t eaten all day. Do you want anything?” I shook my head no and watched Mr. Heartbroken as he walked to the nearby shop. I was guessing his wife had kicked him out of the home that morning with just the clothes he was wearing. He probably cheated on her. It really didn’t matter right now. I believe people were put into our lives for a reason. I appeared to be his designated friend for this time in his life.
He came back with a large sandwich and quickly ate it. We compared tickets in the waiting area and our seats would be several cars apart from one another, but I knew that wouldn’t really matter because we could always meet up in the observation deck or even the downstairs cafe. He continued to tell me how upset he was, I continued to tell him he was going to be okay and he was doing the right thing. You’re just visiting family. You’re just giving the situation some space. Let things cool down. You’re going to be okay, but I understand this is a difficult situation.
My life seemed to be saved when my grandfather died and my grandmother asked me to go on a vacation with her. We would take the train to San Diego from Seattle, stay in a hotel with a pool for five nights and return on the train. I had never told anyone what my home life was like. I had heard teachers at my parochial school scold my classmates who were tattletales, so I knew that I would be punished if I told anyone what happened to me at home. I grasped at any opportunities I could to get away from home, but my grandmother treated me well and I cherished the opportunity to spend time with someone who loved me.
While my grandmother was reading her romance novel, I took a walk through the train cars and ended up in the downstairs café car. The five Marines playing cards asked me to sit with them. One of them kept winning, so he bought me a soda and said I was his good luck charm as he patted my leg. I didn’t want my grandmother to wonder where I was so I said I needed to go back upstairs to my seat.
I was his good luck charm. The Marine kept reminding me of that while he held me against the metal wall of the train and raped me in the narrow space before the steep staircase. He grabbed my face and told me not to tell anyone or he would get in big trouble. I knew from reading Nancy Drew I should try and remember everything about him, but his nametag on his uniform was a blur. I hadn’t noticed the color of his eyes; all I could say for certain was that he was white and taller than I was. I could hear the four other Marine’s laughing around the corner as they continued their card game.
When I got back to my seat, my grandmother was sleeping. I was in pain, but didn’t want to wake her. I didn’t want to ruin our weeklong trip that had only just started the day before. Just like at home, I thought of something to dream about to distract me from the pain. Tomorrow would be a new day I told myself.
I added another rule to my list: wait until my grandmother passes away before telling anyone I was raped while in her care. I wouldn’t want her to feel sad about our train trip to San Diego and staying in the hotel with the pool. Having a free newspaper delivered to our door every morning while we drank coffee together and I felt so grown up. Maybe she would have told me that at fourteen I shouldn’t have been hanging out with five Marines. Fourteen years after her death, I still can’t find the right day.
Mr. Heartbroken continued talking; I continued listening. I gave him encouraging words at the appropriate times. It wasn’t the right day to tell anyone I was raped yesterday.