WASHINGTON — Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen took to the Senate floor on Saturday and read harrowing accounts of women who said the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had emboldened them to share their own stories of abuse with the senator.
“I have received written statements from over 50 Marylanders telling me about the sexual abuse they had encountered,” the Democrat said as the Senate debated Kavanaugh’s nomination, which was later approved on a 50-48 vote.
“Some of them told me they had shared with me what they had not shared with their own family members,” said Van Hollen. “They tell me they remember the clothing they wore the day they were assaulted. They tell me they remember the scent, the cologne.”
Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, also a Democrat, said in an interview that his office has also received “specific telephone calls and emails from women who have experienced sexual assault.”
“It’s heartbreaking,” he said.
In his floor speech, Van Hollen excerpted from some of the statements without disclosing the writers’ names.
“Once I was 16. I was at a party,” began one.. “There was alcohol. He was popular, I wasn’t. He was big and strong, I have never been. He threatened me afterwards. He needn’t have bothered. He told me no one would believe me. He told me I wanted it. I showed a friend the bruises. He said everyone would say I was a slut.”
He then quoted from another account:
“I remember the assault vividly. I was on my way home from church. I don’t remember the sermon before. Details after are fuzzy. But I remember the assault. I remember looking at a nearby home where I knew elderly people lived. I could see that their TV was on and I wondered, ‘Would they even hear me scream?’ I didn’t tell people. I didn’t think people would believe me.”
Van Hollen said the women’s accounts “are reminders of how our society has let down survivors of sexual assault for decades.”
Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that a drunken Kavanaugh lay on top of her, tried to remove her clothing and put his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream. Both were students at private Montgomery County high schools at the time.
Kavanaugh angrily denied the accusations, choking back tears.
As Van Hollen spoke, protesters — many of then women — rallied at the Capitol and across the street at the Supreme Court.
Arrests were made as chants emerged from the crowd, including, “Arrest sexual predators, not protesters!”
Some signs urged people to believe survivors of sexual assault. Signs with Kavanaugh’s face read “KAVA NOPE.” Others expressed faith specifically in the women who brought sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.
Cardin said a woman from Maryland stopped him recently in the hallway of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
“She went into a detailed explanation of a horrible sexual assault. You’re thinking, ‘What do you do next?’ Your heart is broken,” Cardin said.
“When a person comes up to you and you see her face, it underscores the tragedy of these circumstances,” Cardin said.
Both Maryland senators voted against Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Rector contributed to this article.