“I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school.”
/ Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, September 27, 2018. Senate Judiciary Committee /
This “We Believe Her” Campaign started as an effort to manifest fury into action.
Hearing Dr. Ford’s account of Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, sexually assaulting her evoked outrage at those in power who allowed the status quo to place precedence on power and reputation over justice and truth. A determination rooted in sheer anger and dismay emerged after watching the real time demonstration of a “good old boys” senate culture feverishly clutching the reigns in order to retain judicial power. In the process, the senate and those who pushed the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh damaged the pillars of our democracy. Our confidence in each branch of government has been severely damaged. While stewing and wondering what on earth could be done by an average citizen to stop this nomination, a beacon of hope emerged from the archives of the New York Times — a yellowed ad from 1991, paid for by a grassroots female effort. Brought to light by one of the 1600 courageous African American women who took action, Tayari Jones told the story of how her $25 donation gave her a channel to voice support for Anita Hill as she testified against then Supreme Court nominee, Clarence Thomas. Professor Hill did so in the face of racial discrimination, sexual harassment, inequality and deep power imbalances between men who rise to power and women who stand in the way of that ascension. That inspiration caught fire. In 2o18, with a myriad of tools at our disposal, there was no way to not at least attempt to do what these impressively resourceful, intelligent, and principled women did in 1991. A simple act allowed us to reclaim our voices and harness the power of women united in support of each other, along with men who refuse to allow the deeply entrenched and toxic culture of misogyny to persist.
We believe her, because we should.
You should too.
On September 19, 2018, Ashley Horvat tweeted a call to action with a GoFundMe campaign erected to pay for full page ads in major newspapers that would showcase support for Dr. Ford, paying homage to the 1991 New York Times ad that 1600 African American women organized. A few days later, a similar campaign to get 1600 men to support Dr. Ford arose from Phenomenal Woman. Less than a week later, on September 25, 2018, USA Today published our “We Believe Her” full page ad in the front page section, page 5a, with 1300+ women and men, sadly all too often survivors themselves. The next day, on September 26, 2018, Phenomenal Woman published their full page ad in the New York Times with 1600 men believing Dr. Ford. Using the medium of the newspaper was symbolic. Newspapers, journalists, TV reporters, and the infrastructure of talent that support them are doing the essential work of searching and reporting truth. Freedom of the press gives us freedom to know, freedom to understand, the relief that somewhere out there is a muckraker ferociously seeking truth. We find comfort in this pillar of American Life. As much as we revere the Supreme Court, the right to vote, the right to speak, and equality, we also revere the power of the press to challenge those in power and shed light on those with nothing but bravery and a voice.
“There is no way to redo 1991, but there are ways to do better.”
/ Professor anita hill /
We Believer Her, because it shouldn’t matter if we believe her. Our belief of whether a sexual assault happened shouldn’t be required to validate an occurrence that forever haunts and never fully heals. Because the instinct should always to be to believe the survivor, bravely sharing their traumatic experience. Because when someone is sexually assaulted, harassed, and abused, the victim often bears the brunt of the trauma during and after. Because even when victims report the incident, with a plethora of evidence, towns revolt in opposition to sullying a boy’s reputation, victims are bullied, stigmatized and driven to suicide. Because women are blamed. Because, why go through more trauma and drag the experience out further if there is no hope of resolution?
The way the senate has handled the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, following the release of allegations that he sexual assaulted Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in the summer of 1982, has unlocked a palpable fury amongst women all over this country and beyond. Witnessing the way Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has been treated since her story came out about surviving a sexual assault in high school at the hands of Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, has been a wake up call for women everywhere. This wake up call has unleashed an intense degree of outrage in women, going into a nationwide paralysis where it feels like the perception of young men and young women hinges on this very decision - does Kavanaugh stay or go? We are all in need of the senate to do the right thing and heal this fractured country. The outrage has already been boiling over, especially so in the era of President Donald Trump, but the prospect of a Supreme Court Justice with a lifetime appointment, knowingly ruling on country-altering decisions, has shifted the national conscience into acute fear.
That we are still debating this, is testament to how far we have to go. Look no further than a stark parallel to the testimony of Professor Anita Hill, separated by a lengthy 27 years, and yet still so strangely reminiscent to Dr. Ford’s riveting testimony. The frightening and sobering fact that 27 years after Anita Hill testified, women remain scrutinized, diminished, demoralized, and lambasted as liars when bravely sharing their stories of surviving sexual assault. This whiplash has resulted in women channeling that outrage into something productive. Women will not be silenced. We are harnessing the power of our fury into good. We are reclaiming our time, taking seats in power, and demanding we be treated with respect and equality in every environment.
The nation awaits in agony over whether the U.S. Senate will do the right thing and signal to women, young and old, and boys throughout the world that there are ramifications to the misogynistic culture that bred men like Kavanaugh. Men who have been brought up in a culture that signals they can act with impunity while they treat women as disposable, mere obstacles in their quest for power. The wake up call has spotlighted a justifiable fear that women will not be afforded justice or believed. In many ways this could have been predicted. We are living in a turbulent time, where social and political norms cannot be relied upon. The election in and of itself has demonstrated that a man accused of sexual assault can still become President of the United States. Predictably, our President has used that power to diminish women, time and time again. He mocks survivors, he belittles their stories and their families, and he fails to exhibit basic empathy and kindness atop his bully pulpit. It’s time we start instinctually believing women who tell their stories of sexual abuse, harassment, and wrongdoing.
We do this so that in 27 years, young women and men don’t look back and wonder if nothing had changed at all. We do this to showcase a culture that silences survivors and elevates the accused. We do this so that one day more women are sitting on the Senate Judiciary Committee on both sides. We do this so one day, just maybe all 9 will be women. We hope in 27 years the epidemic of blaming, silencing and not believing survivors is a thing of the past. Maybe just maybe the culture will stop producing sexual assault, harassment, and derogatory behavior in the first place.
“…I don’t remember as much as I would like to. But the details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget. They have been seared into my memory and have haunted me…”
/ dr. christine blasey ford /
We stand in awe of the heroic Dr. Ford, who while under great duress, permanently disrupted her life as she knew it to try to sound the alarm on the character of a vaunted figure, at great cost to her family. Our effort to show her support stem from our deep admiration for her courage in the face of these adversities. Sexual assault survivors shouldn’t have to share their stories even if the stakes are this high, yet she did. For that we have her to thank for lighting a fire of resistance. After launching the “We Believe Her” campaign, over a thousand people reached out to donate, sending words of support and encouragement. But amongst those supporters, a few women came together to go above and beyond to help launch this effort and created something magic - turning strangers into instant friends and collaborating in our free time to channel our outrage into action. We each tapped into our networks, from which generous people poured their heart and soul into helping make this happen. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Jason Weissert of Fremont Consulting, Sherry Grummel of Marketing Springs, Inc., and countless others who’ve reached out to help through our networks.
Ashley launched the campaign from the bottom of her heart and works with compassion and determination to ensure women have a seat at the table and a voice that’s heard. She believes in women and this country.
YaoYao believes in women and survivors. This is not a partisan issue, it’s a human issue.
We believe her, we support her. We stand in solidarity with all survivors and their right to speak their truth and be heard. This is not a partisan issue, women are watching and we will not be silenced.