Lola Oladapo understands how sexual violence can affect generations of women.
She cares for her own mother, who survived sexual assault and still, decades later, experiences health issues from the trauma. So, Oladapo said, she wants to have more conversations about sexual violence in public spaces with the hope that future generations won't have to do the same work.
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"This is not normal behavior," said Oladapo, of West Philadelphia, while demonstrating Monday in support of women who have accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. "And we cannot normalize this."
About 100 people gathered at Dilworth Park on Monday afternoon for a #BelieveSurvivors walkout and demonstration that was part of a national action. Philadelphia native and #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, alongside dozens of progressive organizations, called on supporters across the country to wear black and walk out of work or school for a "moment of solidarity" for Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, who have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct and assault against Kavanaugh.
Several women spoke about their own experiences with sexual violence, and before marching around City Hall, participants in unison tweeted messages about supporting survivors of sexual violence at Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) — chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — and at State Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery), who has been accused of sexual misconduct.
Emily Woods, one of eight women who have accused Leach of inappropriate touching and sexually charged conversations, said the senator spoke about his history of fighting for women at a fund-raiser and then grabbed her thigh, triggering painful memories of being sexually assaulted before.
"We have had enough," she said in a message directed at Leach, adding: "We are organizing, we are taking names, and your time is up."
Leach has repeatedly denied allegations of sexual misconduct but has said he has "always been a somewhat touchy person in conversation with both men and women."
The timing of Monday's action wasn't lost on organizers — as the demonstration that was a direct response to allegations against Kavanaugh was taking place, disgraced comedian Bill Cosby was sitting in a courtroom 20 miles away for the first day of a sentencing hearing after he was found guilty in April of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman. The 81-year-old entertainer, who has been accused of sexual assault by dozens of women, is the first celebrity to face possible prison time for sexual assault in the #MeToo era.
"It's a very emotional time," said Gwen Snyder, one of the demonstration organizers. "But there's a glimmer of hope that survivors are finally being heard and believed."
Ford, who told the Washington Post that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a house party in the early 1980s while they were both in high school, is scheduled to testify Thursday about the allegations before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
And on Sunday night, the New Yorker published new allegations against the Supreme Court nominee lodged by Ramirez, a former Yale University classmate of Kavanaugh's, who said he exposed himself to her and thrust his penis near her face — causing her to touch it while trying to push him away — during a booze-soaked party in the mid-1980s. The magazine reported the offices of at least two Senate Democrats are investigating.
Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the allegations, saying Ramirez's allegation is "a smear, plain and simple." The White House has stood behind the nominee, and President Trump on Monday said: "There's a chance this could be one of the single most unfair, unjust things to happen to a candidate for anything." White House counsel Kellyanne Conway suggested that "it's starting to feel like a vast left-wing conspiracy."
Meanwhile, Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti on Sunday night publicly claimed he has "significant evidence of multiple house parties in the Washington, D.C., area during the early 1980s during which Brett Kavanaugh, [friend] Mark Judge and others would participate in the targeting of women with alcohol/drugs in order to allow a 'train' of men to subsequently gang rape them." The lawyer told Politico he represents a group of people who can corroborate the allegations, including one victim.
Nina Ahmad, a politician, board member at the National Organization for Women and the former president of the group's Philadelphia chapter, said the White House should withdraw its nomination of Kavanaugh, particularly in light of new allegations against him, saying that "when it's more than one person, skeptical people start saying, 'It's not just her.'"
She said appearing and speaking at the demonstration Monday was about mobilizing in support of legislation and policies that would make it easier for women to report sexual misconduct and standing in solidarity with women who have faced backlash for coming forward with such an allegation publicly.