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Senator Gillibrand urges colleagues to take Kavanaugh's sexual assault allegations seriously

 **WATCH Senator Gillibrand’s Speech on the Senate Floor HERE**

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As Dr. Christine Blasey Ford prepares to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee that she was sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today took to the Senate floor and urged her colleagues to take Dr. Blasey Ford’s story seriously, to listen to her, and to treat her the with respect she deserves.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been credibly accused of sexual misconduct by several women, and Dr. Blasey Ford is scheduled to tell her story and testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow. The Senate Judiciary Committee has also scheduled a vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court of the United States on Friday, only a day after Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony. Senator Gillibrand urged her colleagues to take the time to fully listen to Dr. Blasey Ford, treat her claims as credible, and fully investigate all claims before voting on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Below are Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as delivered:

Mr. President, I rise to speak about Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, and I urge my colleagues to actually listen to Dr. Blasey Ford – and treat her with the respect that she deserves.

She deserves better than the setup she is walking into tomorrow.

I want to take a step back for a second, and look at the big picture of what’s actually going on with this nomination.

We have a nominee, for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land, who has been accused, credibly, of sexual assault.

Dr. Blasey Ford reluctantly came forward out of civic duty, and said that Brett Kavanaugh tried to rape her in high school.

She is now facing death threats for her courage – and her worst fears of how she would be treated by this body have come to fruition.

Another woman, Deborah Ramirez, agreed to tell her story after being contacted by a reporter – again, risking her career and her safety – and said that Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself to her face in college, while laughing, as part of a game.

These accusations are disturbing enough by themselves, but the response to these allegations by our colleagues are so disappointing.

Take a look at how Dr. Blasey Ford is being bullied because she told her story.

Listen to how she’s being patronized and dismissed by some members of the Judiciary Committee.

Look at how our President belittled and demeaned Dr. Blasey Ford and Ms. Ramirez – reminding us once again that he has been credibly accused of committing sexual assault himself, and denigrates not just women who accuse him, but survivors everywhere.

That’s not all. The chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee tweeted after Dr. Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegation, “Unfazed and determined. We will confirm Judge Kavanaugh.”

And according to Ms. Ramirez’s lawyer, the Judiciary Committee isn’t even interested in taking her claims seriously, or getting information from her about her claims.

Instead of getting the facts, instead of even wanting the facts, they try to dismiss this as a smear campaign, and plow right ahead. 

For anyone who has ever wondered why so many survivors of sexual assault don’t come forward, obviously there’s trauma, but there’s also the fear of this very kind of retaliation and scorn.

Mr. President, the question I have, that I know you have: Do we value women in this country? 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 just disbelieve them as a matter of course?

I want to echo the words of my colleague from Alaska: This is “about whether or not a woman who has been a victim at some point in her life is to be believed.”

I believe Dr. Blasey Ford.

Here’s why I believe her:

She’s risked everything – her own safety – to come out on the record to say Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.

She told her therapist and her husband about it five years ago.

She told a friend about it a year ago. She told a reporter about it before Kavanaugh was ever named.

She’s even taken a lie detector test.

So why are my colleagues moving so fast – as fast as they possibly can – to confirm this judge?

This process is sending the worst possible message to girls and boys everywhere.

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.

That’s not how the world is in 2018, and we cannot allow this Senate – this body – to bring us back to before 1991.

And to those who I hear say, over and over, “This isn’t fair to Judge Kavanaugh. He’s entitled to due process. What about the presumption of innocence until proven guilty? Dr. Blasey Ford has to prove her case beyond a reasonable doubt!”

Those are the standards for a trial! Those are the standards in criminal justice!

We are not having a trial. This is not a court. He’s not entitled to those, because we’re not actually seeking to convict him, or put him in jail.

We are seeking the truth. We are seeking facts. We are seeking just what happened.

We, Senators – not staff members, not female lawyers – we, Senators, are being asked to assess his honesty.

Is he an honest person? Is he trustworthy?

Can we trust him to do the right thing for decades – rule on women’s lives for decades to come – can we trust him to do that right?

This is not about whether or not he should be convicted. This is about whether he has the privilege – the privilege – to serve on the highest court of the land for a lifetime.

This is not a court of law. This a job interview. And it is our job as Senators to assess if he is honest.

Has he lied about his past? Has he misled members of the Judiciary Committee? Is he trustworthy?

One point that I think our colleagues are somewhat blind to, which I know, Mr. President, you are not:

The last two weeks have been so painful for women who have experienced sexual trauma.

Women have lived through this, and when they are watching some of the most powerful people in this country disregard, distrust, disbelieve, minimize, devalue – unfortunately, it’s painful for all of them.

It’s painful because they’re tired of seeing the same old outcome every single time. They’re tired of the scenario where the men are believed and the women are not.

They can’t believe their eyes when they see two women being treated with less respect, and with less of a process, than even Anita Hill received.

I want to quote a friend of mine, Amina Sow, who just disclosed today that she is a survivor. And her words are powerful and truthful and exactly the way many people feel.

“The truth is our strength. We are each other’s strengths. To the women who are struggling: I see you. I am sorry we have to go through this. Thank you for trusting us with your stories. I am heartened by them and honored to know about you.”

Mr. President, I believe Dr. Blasey Ford, because she is risking everything. Her safety, her security, her reputation, her career – to tell this story at this moment, for all the right reasons.

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.

I yield the floor.