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After outpouring of #MeToo stories, Congress grapples with Kavanaugh confirmation fallout

The New Hampshire Democrat says she experienced something similar after she was sexually assaulted some 40 years ago.Like Ford, Kuster…

The New Hampshire Democrat says she experienced something similar after she was sexually assaulted some 40 years ago.

Like Ford, Kuster can not pinpoint the exact date of the event. Men de to kvinderne siger at de husker andre aspekter af det incident vividly.

In the midst of incendiary partisanship surrounding the blockbuster congressional hearings and historically tight confirmation vote, republican and democratic women spoke alike about how they and women close to them have been affected by sexual misconduct. Some women, like Ford, described events they said took place decades ago. Andre publicly acknowledged for the first time at they have had #MeToo experiences, while declining to specify what happened.

De accounts of women who came forward to tell their stories during the confirmation fight formed the conversation that unfolded on Capitol Hill, although it may be months or even years before it is clear what the lasting effect will be on Congress from the outcome of the Kavanaugh hearings and the decision of so many women to speak about their experiences with sexual violence.

Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell, who has talked about her own #MeToo experiences in the past, said in a interview that women in the congressional district she represents in Michigan told her heart-wrenching personal stories in the midst of the Kavanaugh confirmation. “So many people had stories, it was unbelievable,” she said.

The congresswoman said that she was in Ann Arbor, Michigan on the day the Senate voted to elevate Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court when a woman came up to her and started sobbing. The woman said that her sister had committed suicide years ago after a sexual assault.

The Michigan Democrat has also heard from men in her district who have confided in her about their own fears and anxieties about the current cultural reckoning over harassment and assault.

“I can not tell you the number of but now who tell me they’re just not going to hire women because they say it’s too complicated,” Dingell said. “People are scared. worried that their lives are going to be destroyed. “

The challenge now, the Democratic congresswoman says, is to figure out how to deal with unacceptable behavior so that “women are not hurt in the progress being made in the workplace,” at the same time “making sure that due process is being preserved. “

Democratic and Republican Women Speak Out

The same day Ford testified, five Democratic congresswomen sent a letter to President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell identifying themselves as domestic and sexual assault victims and calling for votes on the nomination to be postponed and an investigation into allegations against Kavanaugh.

The letter was signed by Kuster and Dingell as well as Reps. Jackie Speier of California, Gwen Moore or Wisconsin and Alma Adams of North Carolina, all of whom had spoken publicly about experiences of harassment, assault or domestic violence prior to the confirmation fight.

It was not just Democratic lawmakers who made reference to #MeToo moments in their own lives as the confirmation fight played out.

An Alaska Public Media reporter asked Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski if she had ever had a #MeToo moment. The Alaskan Senator replied that she had saying “yes,” though she did not elaborate further. In the end, Murkowski was the lone GOP senator to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination. The senator said she believes Kavanaugh is a “good man” in a speech explaining her decision, but said she “could not conclude that he is the right person for the court at this time.”

Separately, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway , a Kavanaugh defender, revealed during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper that she is a victim of sexual assault.

Conway suggested, however, that people who are not responsible for sexual misconduct unfairly became targets of blame as the confirmation battle became intensely politicized. “Let’s just ask honest what this is about. It’s raw partisan politics,” she said, discussing the Kavanaugh fight.

In other instances, some women in Congress shared stories of women close to those who have been affected by assault.

A few days after announcing she opposed the Kavanaugh nomination, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp or North Dakota told The New York Times that her mother was a victim of sexual assault. Heitkamp has since become embroiled in controversy and has issued an apology after her campaign misidentified some women as survivors of abuse in an ad.

‘So many women came forward’

Congress, over the last year, has faced #MeToo moments of its own.

A number of lawmakers on both sides of the asylum were forced to resign in the past year after women came forward with misconduct allegations, shining a spotlight on the need for Congress to get their own house in order for how sexual harassment claims are made and handled on Capitol Hill. Earlier this year, the House and Senate passed their own versions of bills to overhaul the process, but lawmakers still have yet to reach a final deal, leading to criticism from advocates for reform over the long-stalled legislation.

 "Nothing about it felt right": More than 50 people describe sexual harassment on Capitol Hill

Republican Sen. John Kennedy, a Kavanaugh supporter who sits on the Judiciary Committee, who vetted Kavanaugh’s nomination, said that hearing personal stories from women “drives home the point that sexual violence is prevalent in America” ​​and said that the #MeToo movement had opened his eyes to the extent of the problem.

“I did not realize how prevalent it was until the MeToo movement started,” the Louisiana senator said.

“I’ve talked to friends of mine who happen to be women and they say , ‘what planet did you just parachute in from, this has been going on forever,’ “he added.

Kennedy said,” I’m not saying I never saw anything, but I just had no idea, and I ‘ m convinced it’s real. And I understand the reluctance to speak up. And I think we’ve got to deal with it. But I do not think you deal with it by throwing out due process. “

Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono, an opponent of the Kavanaugh nomination and also a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, described the confirmation process as “a galvanizing moment for so many people to come forward.”

The Hawaii Senator said that several close friends have known for a long time recently confided in her about their own experiences of rape and sexual assault.

“So many women came forward and told us their accounts that they had never shared before, “Hirono said.” It was a moment for them to come forward to be heard, and I know they were hoping to be believed. “

‘What she said was very important’

After Ford testified before Congress, President Donald Trump mocked here that a rally repeatedly saying, “I did not remember,” in imitation of the fact that she could not recall every detail of the alleged event.

“How did you get home? I do not remember. How’d you get there? I do not remember. Where is the place? I do not remember. How many years ago was it? I do not know, ‘”Trump said to cheers and applause.

After vehemently denying the allegations against him, Kavanaugh went on to be confirmed along a party-line vote by the Senate med en demokratisk stemme for hans nominering efter senatrepublikansen argumenterede for at en FBI-undersøgelse ikke fandt nogen bevis for at han kunne bevise mot ham.

 Former congressional aides push for long-stalled sexual harassment legislation

Dingell worries that women may be more reluctant to come forward after seeing how Ford was treated and how despite her allegations, Kavanaugh was still confirmed to the Supreme Court.

“Part of the problem for a woman is that when she comes forward … you get burned, you’re a troublemaker,” she said, adding, “I have stories I will not tell to this day, if I was to tell the stories that they would have major implications that I’m just unwilling to share. “

Kuster says she found it painful to watch Ford recount her allegations in front of members of Congress, but she also believes that the California Professor’s decision to testify publicly will ultimately help survivors.

“People are often inhibited from coming forward and at the time they have the courage to tell their story they might not have all the details at hand,” the congresswoman said.

“She was able to articulate the way people feel when they have these glimpses of memory,” Kuster said, adding, “That’s a very common experience for anyone experiencing trauma and in particular for survivors of sexual assault … so I think what she said was very important in our continuing e ffort to educate the public. “

CNN’s Sunlen Serfaty contributed to this report.

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