Voices of the Stop Kavanaugh Vigil

Protestors in front of the Supreme Court at the Stop Kavanaugh Vigil
Protestors in front of the Supreme Court at the Stop Kavanaugh Vigil
Fiona Flaherty

On the evening of Oct 3, several hundred people gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court of the United States in peaceful protest against the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. The event, called the Stop Kavanaugh Vigil, was one of over 200 organized in just 48 hours by the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL). Ilyse Hogue, the current head of NARAL gave remarks along with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Rabbi Shira Stutman of Sixth & I, and Representative Nancy Pelosi. Out of all of these outspoken women (and several men) the voices of the attendees rang out the loudest of all, providing unique insight into what the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh is saying to people all over the country.

Among the first to arrive at the steps was Jana Goldman, a protester from Silver Spring, Maryland, who attended the hearings last week in the overflow room of the Senate.

“Dr. Blasey Ford was so compelling and her story could have been anybody’s in that room. I think it resonated with a lot of people in that room and the people formed a little community because we were all in it together. But after her testimony, Judge Kavanaugh comes out, and it was so bombastic and abrasive. We all felt like he was verbally attacking us,” Goldman said.

This attack was felt by survivors and women all across the nation, including Tania Fatovich, a former emergency room doctor.

“As an ER doc practicing over ten years, I witnessed a lot of sexual assault survivors, victims who came in for help. I think many of them would not have reported if they didn’t have to come in for HIV prevention access and […] for pregnancy prevention. I unfortunately have many friends and family who have experienced assaults. But for me, the last straw was the president mocking Blasey-Ford yesterday, and the crowd cheering. After last week, I felt a lot of sadness and anger, and now what I am left with is determination,” Fatovich said.

This same determination mobilized hundreds of people across the nation. Ian MacDuff travelled all the way from Seattle, Washington to participate in the vigil.

“I am here because I am a sexual abuse survivor myself, and I watched the Kavanaugh hearings last week, and it was so upsetting to see how the whole thing was handled. I decided that I have the means and the capability to be here, and I wanted to come be with my sisters and stand with survivors and say no to this craziness,” MacDuff said.

Like MacDuff, the hundreds gathered were fed up with the silencing of women’s and survivor’s voices. Protester Nikki Enfield of Alexandria, Virginia stood beside MacDuff on the front lines of the vigil.  

“The fact that we have to be here is why I am here. We shouldn’t have to do this. The fact that women are not considered humans, the fact that most Americans are questioned for their Americanism and their validity, is unacceptable. We are really hoping that these are the death rattles of this type of thinking. We have been sweeping this stuff under the rug for too long, and the rug is full,” Enfield said.

To many people, Kavanaugh’s outbursts and actions under questioning have implied a blatant disrespect women, and the fact that he could be appointed to the court for life is particularly concerning for Gabby Weiss, who lives in Washington D.C.

“This isn’t someone that we can just vote out in two years or four years. This guy will be on the Supreme Court for nearly the rest of my life, and to think that we would even consider appointing someone to a position of such power, with such power over so many women when at every turn when he has displayed a complete disregard for women’s humanity and bodily autonomy,” Weiss said.

Weiss and many others feel that the hearings are telling young women and survivors of sexual assault that their lives and stories do not matter, thereby validating and normalizing totally inexcusable behavior on the behalf of young men. The fact that so many people gathered so quickly to oppose Kavanaugh and these harmful messages was a spark of hope for many in attendance. Kimberly, a former law student from Hong Kong, saw this spark.

“I think it’s changing the national conversation, even just on social media and casual dinner table talk. I see a lot more sharing of people’s experiences, a lot of dialogue between men and women. A lot of men are finally saying that ‘I didn’t know it was so hard to be a woman,’” Kimberly said.

Many think that Kavanaugh’s nomination will not be withdrawn. Nevertheless, the hope is spreading and people are becoming more and more willing to come together and talk about their experiences. Weiss and Enfield shared their thoughts.

“It is all about those relationships, and the community we are talking about. People need to know that you’re not alone, it’s not just you standing up to all of these old dudes in Congress, we are here together and there is strength in numbers. When we band together, we can make that change, and we’ll have each other’s backs. You’re not going to be out here all alone at the end of the day because we are in this together,” Weiss said.

“This can be difficult because we may disagree with people with every fiber of our being, but that is not helping. Trying to meet people where they are and hear their side of the story and simply state where you are coming from; I am a woman, I cannot  just go for a walk after dark. That is my reality. Men don’t ever have to think about these things, so if you give them your perspective, often the lightbulbs will go on. But you have to do it with kindness. You have to do it with empathy. You have to do it with love,” Enfield said.

After today’s vote of 51-49 to move to the final vote, who knows what Saturday will bring. Nevertheless, awareness and awakenings are happening all over America; people who once felt powerless are making their voices heard and people who once turned a deaf ear are now listening. 

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