On Friday, in a gripping moment that is sure to become one of the most iconic in the debate over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, two women confronted Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in an elevator. Blocking the door and demanding to be heard, the women – both survivors of sexual violence – forcefully urged Flake to reconsider his decision to vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh, a man who stands accused of sexual assault.
Hours later, Senator Flake issued the surprising announcement that he would not support a confirmation until a one-week FBI investigation into the sexual assault accusations takes place. For the millions who saw the elevator confrontation on video, it seemed clear that the courageous actions of these women played a role in Senator Flake’s decision. And in the days since, one of the two women involved, Ana Maria Archila, has opened up about why she chose to share her story with Flake and with the world.
“I never thought that I would share my story,” Archila writes in a powerful Op-Ed. “It happened when I was five years old, before I had the consciousness to know exactly what was taking place. Even still, I knew that it was wrong.”
“I told two adults at the time and they didn’t believe me,” she wrote. “So I kept this as a secret, too afraid and ashamed to tell my parents. It has been a burden that has weighed on me greatly ever since.”
Archila explained that it was the bravery of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford that convinced her to speak up. “When the #MeToo movement broke out, I thought about saying it — but I wrote things and deleted it and eventually decided I can’t say, ‘Me too,’” Ms. Archila shared in an interview with the NY Times. “But when Dr. Blasey did it, I forced myself to think about it again.”
Ana Maria Archila is a 39-year old Colombia-native and the co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy. The Astoria resident emigrated from Colombia at age 17, and has made a career working for progressive advocacy and immigrant rights organizations. Prior to joining the Center for Popular Democracy, she was the co-executive director of Make the Road New York and was the executive director of the Latin American Integration Center.
But though she has decades of advocacy and activism under her belt, Archila explains that these are not necessary in order to make a difference. “The people who have been coming to Washington, D.C., are not people who have been activists for 20 years,” she explained in an interview with the Washington Post. “Maria [Gallagher, the other woman involved in the confrontation] was there [in the capital] for the first time. She told her story for the first time. She spoke with an elected official for the first time.”
Archila insists that it is the actions of regular people, who find the courage to stand up and hold our elected officials to account, who will help make change in this country.
“[Senator Flake’s] reaction shows the power that we have, together, when we choose to tell our stories and stand up for our vision of an inclusive society,” she writes. “When we take action, we breathe new life and possibility into our democracy.