DEN­VER & THE WEST

OUT­POUR­ING COM­FORTS AC­CUSER

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Elise Sch­melzer

Cards and let­ters have kept com­ing for Deb­o­rah Ramirez in the days af­ter the Se­nate voted to con­firm Brett Ka­vanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

When John Clune walked into his Boul­der law of­fice Thurs­day morn­ing, he found an­other en­ve­lope of hand­writ­ten cards thank­ing Deb­o­rah Ramirez for speak­ing up.

The cards and let­ters have kept com­ing for Ramirez in the days af­ter the Se­nate voted to con­firm Brett Ka­vanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, de­spite Ramirez’s ac­count that Ka­vanaugh ex­posed him­self to her at a party at a Yale Univer­sity dor­mi­tory in the early 1980s. Ka­vanaugh ve­he­mently de­nied the al­le­ga­tion.

The cards thank the Boul­der woman for bring­ing her story to the pub­lic, for stand­ing up for what she thought was right.

They’re a com­fort to Ramirez and her at­tor­neys as they at­tempt to re­turn to nor­mal life af­ter the whirl­wind of pub­lic­ity and scru­tiny that be­gan with the Sept. 23 pub­li­ca­tion of a story in The New Yorker de­tail­ing her ac­count, said Clune, one of four at­tor­neys who rep­re­sented her.

Ramirez has de­clined in­ter­view re­quests by The Den­ver Post and hasn’t spo­ken pub­licly to re­porters since the pub­li­ca­tion of the maga­ zine story.

The news vans have dis­ap­peared from out­side Ramirez’s house, Clune said. She’s been able to leave her house for er­rands, he said, and has be­gun pro­cess­ing the events that thrust her name into the na­tional spot­light.

“It’ll take a lit­tle while to ad­just back to reg­u­lar life,” he said. “It will be a process for her.”

Ramirez was not par­tic­u­larly up­set when Ka­vanaugh was con­firmed, Clune said. But block­ing the judge’s con­fir­ma­tion was never Ramirez’s goal, he said.

“She was never fo­cused on what the vote would be,” he said. “So I think it prob­a­bly im­pacted her less than it im­pacted most peo­ple.”

Ramirez never wanted to speak pub­licly in the first place, he said. It wasn’t un­til a re­porter with The New Yorker called her and an­other re­porter, this time from The Washington Post, showed up at her house that she de­cided to talk, he said. She felt like the story was go­ing to get out whether she par­tic­i­pated or not, and she wanted to sup­port Chris­tine Blasey Ford, who said Ka­vanaugh sex­u­ally as­saulted her when they were in high school, and who was the first woman to ac­cuse him of sex­ual mis­con­duct.

“Her goal wasn’t to keep (Ka­vanaugh) off the bench,” Clune said. “Her goal was to tell about what her ex­pe­ri­ence was with him and to make sure that in­for­ma­tion got to the right places. She felt that she did that.”

Even though Clune crit­i­cized the FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the ac­cu­sa­tions against Ka­vanaugh as re­stricted, he said the process of be­ing in­ter­viewed by the in­ves­ti­ga­tors was heal­ing for Ramirez. The in­ter­view­ers were re­spect­ful and thor­ough, he said.

“That was her op­por­tu­nity to be heard,” he said. “It was em­pow­er­ing.”

Ramirez and an­other one of her at­tor­neys, Stan Gar­nett, worked with a se­cu­rity com­pany to cre­ate a safety plan for her be­fore the magazine story pub­lished. They had seen how Ford had been at­tacked and forced to leave her home. Gar­nett, a for­mer Boul­der County district at­tor­ney, rep­re­sented Ramirez dur­ing the re­port­ing of The New Yorker story and un­til the Sun­day it pub­lished, at which point he tran­si­tioned the case to Clune.

“I think she felt pro­tected and I think we were able to keep the in­evitable crazy at­tacks that I knew were com­ing away from her,” Gar­nett said.

Ramirez, who works as a vol­un­teer co­or­di­na­tor for Boul­der County, was never forced to live else­where and was shielded from the vast ma­jor­ity of hate, Clune said, though news re­porters camped out­side her Boul­der home for days and she wasn’t able to leave.

Most of the vit­riol was in­stead di­rected at her at­tor­neys and the Boul­der do­mes­tic­vi­o­lence sup­port or­ga­ni­za­tion with which she’s af­fil­i­ated. Gar­nett said he re­ceived hun­dreds of hate­ful phone calls, text mes­sages and emails. Strangers reg­is­tered his work email ad­dress to porn sites.

“My wife and I didn’t an­swer the home line for a num­ber of days,” Gar­nett said.

A look through mes­sages sent pub­licly to Clune’s Twit­ter ac­count show peo­ple call­ing him and Ramirez pa­thetic, telling him to “crawl back in your hole” and worse.

But those com­ments are far out­weighed by oth­ers. “Deb­bie Ramirez will be a light for the fu­ture to fol­low,” one per­son wrote. “I wish you jus­tice, heal­ing and peace,” wrote an­other. “We be­lieve you,” dozens wrote.

The cards and other en­cour­ag­ing mes­sages, mostly from strangers, were a coun­ter­weight to the hate­ful, hos­tile com­ments.

“Peo­ple out of the wood­work were reach­ing out to us,” Clune said. “Peo­ple would send me let­ters to send to her, emails to for­ward on. I think it was a tremen­dous help to her.”

Clune doesn’t ex­pect any fur­ther gov­ern­ment action to come of Ramirez’s ac­count about Ka­vanaugh. She and her at­tor­neys will de­brief, he said, but it seemed that the na­tion has moved on to the next news story, he said.

“She did her part and I don’t foresee any­thing else hap­pen­ing,” Clune said.

Clune is op­ti­mistic about the ef­fect of the en­tire or­deal, how­ever. De­spite his own dis­ap­point­ment that Ka­vanaugh was con­firmed and the ugly rhetoric sur­round­ing the process, he said, the mo­ment show­cased the brav­ery of women who step for­ward with their ex­pe­ri­ences of sex­ual abuse and as­sault. He thinks the spec­ta­cle ul­ti­mately was em­pow­er­ing to women and that women will con­tinue to come for­ward.

“I’m a keg half full kind of guy,” Clune said, quot­ing the “Satur­day Night Live” sketch that mocked Ka­vanaugh’s tes­ti­mony to the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee.

Clune also was happy to see sex­ual abuse, as­sault and the re­sult­ing trauma dis­cussed on such a pub­lic stage. He said that gen­eral knowl­edge about the top­ics has in­creased greatly since he started work­ing on such cases, and the con­ver­sa­tions sur­round­ing the Ka­vanaugh con­fir­ma­tion proved that.

“When I started do­ing Ti­tle IX work, this stuff was a for­eign lan­guage to most peo­ple, and to my­self to some ex­tent,” he said, re­fer­ring to the fed­eral law that pro­hibits dis­crim­i­na­tion based on sex at col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties.

“I think for the ma­jor­ity of the pub­lic there is a much greater un­der­stand­ing of trauma, at least on a fun­da­men­tal level, and ex­pec­ta­tions around mem­ory. Or ex­pec­ta­tions about how a trauma sur­vivor is sup­posed to act or re­act or who they’re sup­posed to re­port to.”

He ac­knowl­edged that there also has been push back to the change in cul­ture.

“But I’m very en­cour­aged by the fact that women con­tinue to stand up, par­tic­u­larly in the face of some of the most hos­tile op­po­si­tion and the big­gest stage imag­in­able,” Clune said. “It’s en­cour­ag­ing to me. And I don’t think it’s go­ing to stop.”

He­len H. Richard­son, The Den­ver Post

Deb­o­rah Ramirez wasn’t par­tic­u­larly up­set when Brett Ka­vanaugh was con­firmed last week­end as a U.S. Supreme Court jus­tice, said at­tor­ney John Clune, above. But block­ing Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion was never her goal, Clune said.

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