(EDITOR’S NOTE, 9/28/18, 11:52 PM ET: The headline of this article has been changed from “Jeff Flake Could Press Charges Against Sexual Assault Survivors Who Confronted Him” to “Jeff Flake Won’t Press Charges Against Sexual Assault Survivors Who Confronted Him,” after Sen. Flake responded to Grit Post’s inquiry Friday night. The tweet from UltraViolet about the potential charges has since been deleted.
“No one is filing charges,” Sen. Flake told Grit Post. “They were exercising their constitutional rights – very effectively, I might add.”)
Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) may be getting a lot of praise for insisting on an FBI investigation into the sexual assault accusations against Brett Kavanaugh, but talk of him possibly pressing charges against sexual assault survivors on Friday attracted sharp criticism.
On Friday evening, UltraViolet Action — which had several of its members present during the confrontation with Flake — tweeted that, according to U.S. Capitol Police, the Arizona senator hadn’t ruled out pressing charges against the activists who confronted him in a senate elevator shortly after he announced his support for Kavanaugh (the tweet has since been deleted).
“Charging sexual assault survivors for sharing their stories is shameful and cowardly,” said UltraViolet executive director Shaunna Thomas in a public statement. “Senator Flake should be ashamed of himself for attempting to frighten survivors into silence. This is absolutely unbelievable.”
“UltraViolet and its members will fight these potential charges,” she added.
BREAKING: @JeffFlake is potentially pressing charges against two sexual assault survivors and UltraViolet members who confronted him on his way into the hearing earlier today.
— UltraViolet (@UltraViolet) September 28, 2018
However, late Friday night, Sen. Flake said no charges would be filed, and praised the women for their action.
“No one is filing charges,” Sen. Flake told Grit Post. “They were exercising their constitutional rights – very effectively, I might add.”
Prior to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s final meeting on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, several women walked up to Jeff Flake as he entered a senate elevator, reliving their experiences of being sexually assaulted, and telling him that his support of Kavanaugh — who has been accused of sexual assault by several women — was a tacit endorsement of future sexual assault against women and girls.
“You’re telling all women that they don’t matter — that they should just stay quiet because if they tell you what happened to them, you’re going to ignore them,” a woman is heard saying in the video of the confrontation. “You’re just going to help that man to power anyway. That’s what you’re telling all of these women. That’s what you’re telling me right now.”
Flake refused to look at the woman confronting him, prompting the woman to shout, “look at me when I’m talking to you!”
“You’re telling me that my assault doesn’t matter, that what happened to me doesn’t matter and that you’re going to let people who do these things into power! That’s what you’re telling me when you vote for him!” The woman said. “Don’t look away from me! Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me — that you’ll let people like that go into the highest court in the land!”
Jeff Flake who voted Yes on Kavanaugh just got yelled at in an elevator for 5 minutes by women who say there were sexually assaulted pic.twitter.com/3rQDQZpYUP
— Tasneem N (@TasneemN) September 28, 2018
It hasn’t yet been specified what, if any, charges would have been brought against the women who confronted Jeff Flake had he decided to do so. When reached by phone, UltraViolet spokeswoman Madison Denzis referred Grit Post to Sen. Flake.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.