Sen. Dianne Feinstein vowed Friday to speak out about the sexual harassment and assault of women following the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
“So what I have decided to do – and I’ve never done this before – is talk a little bit about it, and say to people, ‘we must change,’” she said during a small luncheon at the Elbow Room in Fresno. “We cannot educate our kids to go to college, play around and attack girls sexually. We just cannot do that.”
“I’m going to be asking people to think about it, and to also take whatever steps I can as life goes on,” she said.
Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was the first person Dr. Christine Blasey Ford reached out to about her sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh prior to his confirmation. But that wasn’t the first time a woman has gone to the California senator – who has held the role since 1992 – with a story like that.
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“Through my life in politics, I must tell you I’ve had a lot of women tell me their story, and there is nothing harder, particularly if a woman is young and is attacked,” Feinstein said, saying it changes victims’ lives forever.
Since Ford’s testimony, Feinstein has received more than 300,000 emails and letters from constituents, including stories from women who have shared their own sexual abuse stories. Just this week, Feinstein said, a 75-year-old woman told her about her sexual assault, saying it was the first time she had come forward.
Feinstein’s visit to Fresno comes three days after people chanted “lock her up” at a rally held by President Donald Trump in Iowa after he accused her of leaking Ford’s letter first claiming she was sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh when they were teenagers.
She denied those accusations on Friday.
“I got accused of keeping the letter confidential, which I did, and then of leaking it, which I didn’t,” she said. “The point being if somebody is going to be of value to testify, they have to come forward. You can’t do it without the name. If it’s going to be investigated, you have to come forward.”
The luncheon, hosted by the Feinstein campaign, focused on water, immigration and health care issues and was attended by Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, former Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin, Fresno City Council President Esmeralda Soria and others.