Deborah Ramirez is a Yale University classmate of Justice Brett Kavanaugh who accused him of exposing his penis to her at a party while they were in college. Ramirez was the second woman to come forward with an accusation of sexual misconduct or assault against Kavanaugh before he was confirmed to the Supreme Court, following Christine Blasey Ford, and her allegation was made just days before Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Ramirez told The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a dorm room party in college and forced her to touch his penis without her consent.
New reporting from New York Times writers Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly in an upcoming book “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation,” has shed new light on Ramirez’s investigations in September 2019, a year after the Kavanaugh confirmation battle. The reporting has reignited discussion of the accusations. Two Democratic presidential candidates, Senator Kamala Harris and former HUD secretary Julian Castro, have called for Kavanaugh to be impeached.
Ramirez, now 54, told The New Yorker the incident occurred during the 1983-84 school year while Kavanaugh was a Yale freshman. Ramirez was contacted by The New Yorker after the publication learned of her possible involvement in an incident involving Kavanaugh, Farrow and Mayer write. Ramirez now lives in Colorado and works with an organization that provides support to domestic violence victims.
Democratic senators first learned of the accusation from a civil-rights lawyer, according to The New Yorker. Ramirez said she was hesitant at first to speak out publicly because “her memories contained gaps because she had been drinking at the time of the alleged incident. In her initial conversations with The New Yorker, she was reluctant to characterize Kavanaugh’s role in the alleged incident with certainty. After six days of carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney, Ramirez said that she felt confident enough of her recollections to say that she remembers Kavanaugh had exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away.”
Ramirez, who could not be reached for comment by Heavy, asked for the FBI to investigate. Ramirez told The New Yorker, “I didn’t want any of this. But now I have to speak. … I’m afraid how this will all come back on me.”
Kavanaugh denied the accusation, telling The New Yorker, “This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen. The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple.”
The White House also issued a statement denying the accusation, saying, “This 35-year-old, uncorroborated claim is the latest in a coordinated smear campaign by the Democrats designed to tear down a good man. This claim is denied by all who were said to be present and is wholly inconsistent with what many women and men who knew Judge Kavanaugh at the time in college say. The White House stands firmly behind Judge Kavanaugh.”
Despite the accusations made by Ramirez and Ford, and Ford’s testimony before the Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court on October 6, 2018, by a vote of 50-48. He was sworn in on that same day.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Ramirez Says Kavanaugh ‘Put His Penis’ in Her Face, Leaving Her ‘Mortified’
Deborah Ramirez told The New Yorker that the incident happened in a suite in Lawrence Hall at Yale’s Old Campus at a party she was invited to by a friend on the college’s women’s soccer team. Ramirez, who was also a freshman at the time, said they were playing a drinking game and she became “inebriated.” Ramirez told The New Yorker at one point a male student pointed a “gag plastic penis,” in her direction and then another male exposed himself to her. She says that person was Kavanaugh.
“I remember a penis being in front of my face,” she told The New Yorker. “I knew that’s not what I wanted, even in that state of mind.”
Others taunted her to “kiss it.” Ramirez told The New Yorker she remembers Kavanaugh pulling up his pants and laughing after the incident. She said, “I can still see his face, and his hips coming forward, like when you pull up your pants,” and then she heard other male students yelling about what happened. “Somebody yelled down the hall, ‘Brett Kavanaugh just put his penis in Debbie’s face,’ ” she told The New Yorker. “It was his full name. I don’t think it was just ‘Brett.’ And I remember hearing and being mortified that this was out there.”
Ramirez told The New Yorker there are gaps in her memory, but “I’m confident about the pants coming up, and I’m confident about Brett being there. It was kind of a joke. … And now it’s clear to me it wasn’t a joke.”
Ramirez issued a new statement ahead of the Kavanaugh confirmation vote.
“Thirty five years ago, the other students in the room chose to laugh and look the other way as sexual violence was perpetrated on me by Brett Kavanaugh. As I watched many of the Senators speak and vote on the floor of the Senate, I feel like I’m right back at Yale where half the room is laughing and looking the other way. Only this time, instead of drunk college kids, it is U.S. senators who are deliberately ignoring his behavior. This is how victims are isolated and silenced,” she said in the October 2018 statement. She said she had corroborating witnesses who were not interviewed.
“I do have corroborating witness is speaking for me, although they were not allowed to speak to the FBI, and I feel extremely grateful for them and for the overwhelming amount of support that I have received and continue to receive during this extremely difficult and painful time,” she said in the statement. “There may be people with power who are looking the other way, but there are millions more who are standing together, speaking up about personal experiences of sexual violence and taking action to support survivors. This is truly a collective moment of survivors and allies standing together.”
2. A New Book — Published a Year After the Kavanaugh Hearings — Reveals That Another Former Classmate Says He Saw Kavanaugh Expose Himself at a Different Party
The New York Times published an excerpt from an upcoming book on Kavanaugh written by two of its reporters, which reveals a second accusation that Kavanaugh exposed himself at a different Yale party. Max Stier has said he saw “Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student.”
According to the reporters, “Mr. Stier, who runs a nonprofit organization in Washington, notified senators and the F.B.I. about this account, but the F.B.I. did not investigate and Mr. Stier has declined to discuss it publicly. (We corroborated the story with two officials who have communicated with Mr. Stier.).”
Other classmates had come forward to support Ramirez in 2018.
Some Yale classmates of Ramirez and Kavanaugh talked to The New Yorker and corroborated details of what Ramirez said. But none of the eyewitnesses named by Ramirez confirmed Kavanaugh was at the party, according to The New Yorker.
One male classmate told The New Yorker he learned of the incident either the night it happened or within the next day or two. He said he is “one hundred per cent sure” he was told at the time it was Kavanaugh who exposed himself to Ramirez. He also independently said that it occurred at Lawrence Hall during their freshman year.
I’ve known this all along,” he told The New Yorker. He declined to be named because of the partisan battle over Kavanaugh’s confirmation “It’s been on my mind all these years when his name came up. It was a big deal.” He said it stuck with him because it was disturbing and out of the bounds of typical acceptable behavior. The classmate also said he was shocked, but not surprised, it had been Kavanaugh, because he said Kavanaugh would be “relatively shy,” until he drank, when he could become, “aggressive and even belligerent.”
Dr. Richard Oh, another classmate who now works at a California hospital, told The New Yorker he remembers hearing about the incident, but he wasn’t sure of the identity of the female student.
Other classmates vouched for Ramirez, calling her credible and honest, with high integrity, according to The New Yorker. James Roche, now the CEO of a software company, told the magazine, “Debbie and I became close friends shortly after we both arrived at Yale. She stood out as being exceptionally honest and gentle. I cannot imagine her making this up.”
He added, ““Is it believable that she was alone with a wolfy group of guys who thought it was funny to sexually torment a girl like Debbie? Yeah, definitely. Is it believable that Kavanaugh was one of them? Yes.”
Another classmate told The New Yorker she remembers Ramirez being victimized and taunted by Kavanuagh’s social circle, which included the controversial fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon and an all-male secret society, Truth and Courage, commonly known as “Tit and Clit.” The classmate told the magazine, “They were always, like, ‘Debbie’s here!,’ and then they’d get into their ‘Lord of the Flies’ thing.”
3. Others Who Say They Were Close to Kavanaugh at Yale & Were Friends With Ramirez, Including Her Best Friend, Say They Never Heard of the Incident Happening, but New Reporting Disputes Kavanuagh’s Claim That It Wasn’t the ‘Talk of Campus’
During his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the accusations against him, Kavanaugh addressed Ramirez’s allegations. He told the senators that if it had happened it would have been the “talk of the campus.”
New York Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly wrote in their September 14, 2019, piece in the Times, “Our reporting suggests that it was.” They wrote:
At least seven people, including Ms. Ramirez’s mother, heard about the Yale incident long before Mr. Kavanaugh was a federal judge. Two of those people were classmates who learned of it just days after the party occurred, suggesting that it was discussed among students at the time.
Other Yale classmates denied that the incident occurred or have said they do not recall it. Some, who say they were friends with Debbie Ramirez at Yale and after college, told The New Yorker she never mentioned it until Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“I don’t think Brett would flash himself to Debbie, or anyone, for that matter,” a male classmate who Ramirez says “egged on Kavanaugh,” told The New Yorker. Another male student Ramirez said was at the party told the magazine he has “zero recollection” of it.
The two male classmates who Ramirez said were involved in the incident and the wife of one of those men gave The New Yorker a statement disputing Ramirez’s account along with another classmate, Dan Murphy. The New Yorker chose not to name the classmates and the wife of one of the classmates who were accused by Ramirez of egging on Kavanaugh during the incident:
We were the people closest to Brett Kavanaugh during his first year at Yale. He was a roommate to some of us, and we spent a great deal of time with him, including in the dorm where this incident allegedly took place. Some of us were also friends with Debbie Ramirez during and after her time at Yale. We can say with confidence that if the incident Debbie alleges ever occurred, we would have seen or heard about it—and we did not. The behavior she describes would be completely out of character for Brett. In addition, some of us knew Debbie long after Yale, and she never described this incident until Brett’s Supreme Court nomination was pending. Editors from the New Yorker contacted some of us because we are the people who would know the truth, and we told them that we never saw or heard about this.
The woman who is married to one of the male classmates told The New Yorker, “This is a woman I was best friends with. We shared intimate details of our lives. And I was never told this story by her, or by anyone else. It never came up. I didn’t see it; I never heard of it happening.” She said she hadn’t spoken to Ramirez in about 10 years. In one interview with The New Yorker she said Ramirez might be politically motivated, but she later said she did not know if that was the case.
The letter, which was prepared by Kavanaugh’s attorneys, was initially also signed by two other classmates, Louisa Garry and Dino Ewing. On Monday, they both contacted The New Yorker and asked they be taken off of the statement.
“I never saw or heard anything like this,” Garry told The New Yorker. “But I cannot dispute Ramirez’s allegations, as I was not present.” Ewing said, “I also was not present and therefore am not in a position to directly dispute Ramirez’s account.”
Garry has been featured in a TV ad supporting Kavanaugh that has run on national TV. It began airing prior to the accusations against Kavanaugh.
4. Ramirez, a Connecticut Native, Says She Is a Registered Democrat, but Did Not Come Forward for Political Reasons
Deborah Ann Ramirez is a Connecticut native and studied sociology and psychology at Yale, according to The New Yorker. She said she was raised a devout Catholic in Shelton, Connecticut.
“I wasn’t going to touch a penis until I was married,” she told The New Yorker. “I was embarrassed and ashamed and humiliated.” She said she shared some details about what happened with her mother and sister at the time, but not all of it, because of the embarrassment. Her sister, who is a year younger than her, also attended Yale, according to NBC News.
Ramirez is a registered Democrat who “works toward human rights, social justice, and social change.” But she told The New Yorker she wasn’t motivated by politics. She said she was nervous about coming forward. “I’m afraid how this will all come back on me,” she told The New Yorker.
Ramirez told The New Yorker she continued to socialize with one of the male classmates who she says egged Kavanaugh on during the party and went to his wedding as a guest of his wife years later, where she posed for photographs with Kavanaugh while smiling. She said she stayed silent because she blamed herself.
“It was a story that was known, but it was a story I was embarrassed about. Even if I did drink too much, any person observing it, would they want their daughter, their granddaughter, with a penis in their face, while they’re drinking that much?” she told The New Yorker. “I can say that at fifty-three, but when I was nineteen or twenty I was vulnerable. I didn’t know better.”
In the upcoming book on Kavanaugh, the Times reporters explore the difference in his upbringing, in a privileged family, to Ramirez’s. “Ms. Ramirez grew up in a split-level ranch house in working-class Shelton, Conn., perhaps best known for producing the Wiffle ball, and didn’t drink before college. Her father, who is Puerto Rican, rose through the Southern New England Telephone Company, having started as a cable splicer. Her mother, who is French, was a medical technician,” they wrote.
5. Ramirez Now Lives in Colorado & Was Represented by a Former District Attorney Who Says She’s As Careful & Credible a Witness’ as He’s Encountered in 36 Years in Law
Deborah Ramirez was represented by Stanley Garnett, a former Democratic district attorney in Boulder, Colorado, where she now lives. “She’s as careful and credible a witness as I’ve encountered in thirty-six years of practicing law,” Garnett told The New Yorker.
Ramirez is married and has been a volunteer and board member at Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, which helps victims of domestic violence, NBC News reports. She and her husband, an engineer at a Boulder tech company, have been married since 2007.
According to a Facebook post on the Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence page, Ramirez has worked as a volunteer coordinator since 2002, when she started as a court advocate volunteer. “At SPAN I have found a community of people that I cherish. We are all different, we are all valued and we all are committed to creating a world that is just and equitable for everyone,” she wrote.
SPAN issued a statement saying, “We know Debbie Ramirez to be a woman of great integrity and honor. We stand by her and her courageous decision to come forward. It is never simple or easy for survivors to share their experiences. To do so in the face of public scrutiny requires a level of personal strength that is true to the person Debbie is. She has our support, our respect, and our admiration.”