BOULDER — Deborah Ramirez’s associates are standing with the intensely private Boulder woman who launched herself into the national spotlight Sunday with allegations of sexual misconduct by U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
“I fully support Debbie, 100 percent,” said Lisa Calderon, who hired and supervised Ramirez more than a decade ago to work with victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault at Boulder nonprofit Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence.
“She came to this decision, knowing her, through a very deliberate process,” Calderon said. “We’re behind her. She has her community behind her.”
Ramirez, 53, has been a senior coordinator of volunteers for Boulder County’s Department of Housing and Human Services since 2013.
She alleged in a story published by The New Yorker magazine on Sunday that Kavanaugh exposed himself and put his genitals in her face during a drunken dorm party when both were freshmen at Yale University in the early 1980s.
It was the second public allegation of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh, the appeals court judge nominated by President Donald Trump in July. Remirez’s claims emerged the same day that the Senate Judiciary Committee arranged for an extraordinary hearing Thursday with Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who last week alleged that Kavanaugh held her down, covered her mouth and sexually assaulted her at a high school party in Maryland 36 years ago.
Kavanaugh has denied both women’s allegations, calling Ramirez’s account a “coordinated effort to destroy my good name” and pledging the “last-minute character assassination” won’t lead him to withdraw his nomination.
Trump on Monday denounced the fresh charges as “totally political” and said he’s with Kavanaugh “all the way.”
GOP leaders have said his nomination could come to a full Senate vote by Friday.
Calderon, a co-chair of the Colorado Latino Forum and member of the sociology and criminal justice faculty at Regis University, said the woman depicted in conservative attacks on Ramirez bore no resemblance to the woman she knows.
“I’ve never heard her speak ill of anybody. I think that goes to her principles as a devout Catholic,” Calderon said. “This would have had to be something very big, very significant to come forward with, because that’s quite the opposite of the very private person she is.”
“I have no comment,” Ramirez wrote on a note taped to a trash receptacle outside her Boulder home Monday. “Thank you for respecting my privacy.”
In the note, she urged interested parties to contact her attorney, former Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett.
Garnett, a shareholder with Denver law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, said he only represented Ramirez for several days last week, when she was talking with The New Yorker, and that John Clune, an attorney specializing in Title IX cases with the Boulder firm Hutchinson Black and Cook, was representing her now.
An assistant at that firm confirmed that Clune is handling the case, but he didn’t respond to a message.
Earlier Monday, though, Clune pointed to a statement posted online by staff and board members of the Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence:
“We know Debbie Ramirez to be a woman of great integrity and honor. We stand by her and her courageous decision to come forward. It is never simple or easy for survivors to share their experiences. To do so in the face of public scrutiny requires a level of personal strength that is true to the person Debbie is. She has our support, our respect, and our admiration.”
“I looked up to Debbie while I volunteered with her at the safehouse, and I will continue to look up to the strong woman she continues to be!” wrote Elena Robles, a New York resident, on Facebook.
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Calderon said Ramirez’s dedication as a volunteer prompted her hiring to coordinate the nonprofit’s advocacy programs for victims — eventually being in charge of a crisis-response team on call around the clock.
“This is a grueling job,” she said. “Debbie was responsible for managing volunteers going to the scene of domestic violence incidents. She was with these women in their homes, she went to jails, she was in court. She has this extraordinary amount of training and information about how to support victims.”
She noted that she exchanged text messages with Ramirez Sunday and made sure it was OK to speak about their shared experiences.
“She knows she has a community network around her,” Calderon said. “That gives you some strength, but nothing can fully prepare you for being put into the spotlight.”
That’s one reason Calderon said her “heart broke” when she read The New Yorker story and saw her friend’s name.
“When you’ve experienced something like this in your past, there’s almost more responsibility,” she said. “You don’t want to impose your own experience into someone else’s life. That’s why we never told women what they should do. Debbie knows this. Every option has consequences. Just by speaking out doesn’t keep you safe. Debbie is fully aware of the consequences that come up with speaking out in this way.
“We also know why women don’t speak out when issues of sexual assault happen is the fear of not being believed, the fear of being questioned about your conduct and actions. This is what is happening now. It takes a lot to speak out on something like this and be judged by your community.”
Ramirez told The New Yorker that attacks on Ford last week — including death threats that drove the California woman and her family from their home — made her frightened to tell her story, which she acknowledged could be criticized because her memory was spotty and she was drunk when it happened.
“I’m afraid how this will all come back on me,” she told the magazine.
“Not everyone is going to be supportive,” Calderon said, chuckling for a moment at the understatement. “But the victim is the expert in their own life. But we will see victim-blaming, sometimes implicit, sometimes explicit, that she must have done something wrong.”
After speaking with Colorado Politics, Calderon joined more than 100 protesters in a rally in front of U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s office in downtown Denver, urging the Republican to oppose the Kavanaugh nomination.
(Gardner said he wants the Senate committee to look into the allegations but said before the recent allegations emerged that he supports putting Kavanaugh on the bench.)
“The incredible bravery shown by these women — coming forward despite threats, ignorant presumptions and intense media scrutiny — is proof that the times are truly changing,” said Alex Ferencz, an organizer with ProgressNow Colorado. “The days of sweeping sexual violence under the rug in order to protect powerful men who commit these horrific crimes are over.”
Calderon said the rally was intended to send a message to Ramirez as well as Gardner.
“We support Debbie telling her story,” she said. “I’d like her to not forget that. She has a community galvanizing behind her, even if she doesn’t see it.”