Activism

Deborah Ramirez Gives Former Boss Permission to Describe Her Character During Protest

Lisa Calderón speaking before a crowd at Monday morning's demonstration in front of Cory Gardner's office.
Lisa Calderón speaking before a crowd at Monday morning's demonstration in front of Cory Gardner's office. Kenzie Bruce
Deborah Ramirez has accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct by “thrusting his penis in her face” decades ago at a dorm-room party at Yale, according to reporting by the New Yorker.

Ramirez, a Colorado resident, has worked for Boulder County's Housing and Human Services department since 2013. Before that, she was a victim's advocate coordinator for the Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, a nonprofit that assists victims of domestic violence — including women who have been sexually assaulted.

Soon after the New Yorker story broke on Sunday evening, a coalition of activist and women's advocacy groups organized a demonstration in front of Senator Cory Gardner's office urging the Republican to oppose Kavanaugh's appointment.

That demonstration took place today at 11 a.m. and was attended by over a hundred people, including many who wore black clothing to stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault. (Gardner issued a statement Monday morning saying that he "absolutely supports" efforts to investigate Ramirez's claims.)

Demonstrators, including organizers with NARAL, want a commitment that Garner won't vote to confirm Kavanaugh if his nomination moves forward.

click to enlarge
Deborah Ramirez has accused Brett Kavanaugh, seen here testifying before Congress earlier this month, of exposing himself to her at a college party.
Heavy.com/YouTube file photo
Included among the speakers was Ramirez's former director when she worked at Safehouse, Lisa Calderón.

Calderón revealed that she had exchanged text messages with Ramirez before today's event and had received her permission to speak about her and her character.

"I got her consent to be able to speak about what I know about her," Calderón said. “She's an incredibly private person. What that means is that, for her to come forward, I know it's taken a lot and has probably taken a toll on her."

Calderón, who now teaches at Regis University, was Safehouse's legal and social policy director from 1995 to 2007. She recalls meeting Ramirez, whom she refers to as “Debbie,” about halfway through that tenure. Ramirez first worked as a volunteer, Calderón said. “And I was so impressed by her that I hired her as our victim advocacy coordinator to work with victims, to go to court with victims, to sit with them after they had been traumatized. This is a woman with impeccable character."

Calderón said that Ramirez never mentioned Kavanaugh or the party at Yale, but given the line of work, that is not surprising.

click to enlarge
Kenzie Bruce
“Like I said, she was a private person,” Calderón told a group of reporters after the demonstration. “She was good about having professional boundaries. A lot of us are survivors, and that means we don't bring our own experiences into our work. We focus on the victims in front of us.

“I trained Debbie,” Calderón continued, “and one of the things that we teach is that we never tell victims what to do. We present options, and every option has consequences. When you speak up, someone may criticize you, you may not be believed. And Debbie knows the consequences of speaking up. Unfortunately, nothing can prepare you for this political circus that's happening."

Calderón said that she knew Ramirez must have taken a lot of time to think about coming forward. “She has the highest integrity. I've never heard her speak ill of anybody, and we worked with a lot of people,” Calderón said. “She sat with women who'd been recently victimized, and Debbie didn't slam their perpetrators. She did her job. She focused on what she was supposed to do.

Outside of work, Calderón characterized Ramirez as a fun-loving person. “She's an outdoors person. She cares about her community. She's a good person," Calderón said. “So it really hurts me to see her discredited, including by the president of the United States without him knowing anything about her or her character. Shame on him."

Ramirez, who has not spoken to the press since the New Yorker story broke, is being represented by attorney John Clune of Boulder, whom we profiled this morning.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein has asked for a postponement in Kavanaugh's confirmation since Ramirez has come forward. The other woman who has accused the nominee of sexual misconduct, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, is scheduled to testify in Washington on Thursday. 
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Walker is a freelancer and former staff writer at Westword. Before moving to the Mile High City he spent two years bicycling across Eurasia, during which he wrote feature stories for VICE, NPR, Forbes, and The Atlantic. Read more of Chris's feature work and view his portfolio here.
Contact: Chris Walker

Latest Stories