In 2018, Ana María Archila, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, was part of a confrontation with Senator Jeff Flake in an Capitol building elevator, during where she and a fellow activist shared their stories of sexual assault and asked Flake to vote against the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh.
In response to the MSNBC Morning Joe appearance on Friday by presidential candidate Joe Biden, who was addressing sexual assault allegations by Tara Reade’s allegations, Archila issued the following statement to the media:
“As someone who helped organize the protests against Brett Kavanaugh, I know that what initially animated me, and the many thousands who joined, was an understanding that Kavanaugh’s presence on the Supreme Court posed a grave threat to the rights of women, LGBTQ families, workers, communities of color and our democracy. When Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s story surfaced, we also understood that if Kavanaugh were confirmed to the highest court of the land, it would reaffirm a culture that enables sexual violence by minimizing the experiences women, and especially of survivors, and prioritizing the interests and life story of the men accused.
“Now Joe Biden stands accused. This morning he spoke for the first time about the allegations by Tara Reade, and issued yet another blanket denial of the assault, without any reflections on how women, and survivors of all genders, are treated in our society. As someone seeking to govern the country, he has a responsibility to model how to hold the pain of survivors and speak about the reality of our collective experience, even as he denies the allegations against him. That is the role of a leader.
“When thousands of survivors told their stories in solidarity with Dr. Blasey Ford, we did so to help our leaders understand that this was not about the experience of just one woman, but a collective story of who we are as a country. In order to transform our society into one where women and gender non-conforming people are treated as equals, the stories of survivors must be taken seriously and received with empathy, not a collective shrug. That’s what “believe survivors” means.
“Those who are accused of perpetuating or enabling violence have a role to play in the effort to transform our society. They can model how to receive with empathy and circumspection the stories of individuals or communities who speak about the harm they have endured. They can model how to tease out from the story of one person the elements of our collective experience, and they can model willingness to take responsibility. This approach is necessary not just to end sexual violence, but to address the collective and generational harm of racism, xenophobia and more.
“Our country is at a moment of grave danger. President Trump’s racism and xenophobia has caused serious harm to millions of people, and his administration’s inept handling of the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in the deaths of thousands. We cannot afford to have four more years of Trump, and we will do everything necessary to defeat him in November.
“Demanding more of Joe Biden’s leadership is not in contradiction with our commitment to defeat Trump. It is, in fact, central to that effort.”