Twenty-three year-old Westchesterite Maria Gallagher is one of two women — the other being Ana Maria Archila of Queens — making national headlines after confronting Senate Judiciary Committee member Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) in an elevator last week, just before the committee voted on whether or not to recommend Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s supreme court nomination be sent to the full senate for a vote.
Flake had recently stated he supported Kavanaugh’s nomination, but while surrounded by members of the press, the two women approached the senator to be heard. Video of the exchange has made its rounds through international news cycles, and the immense weight of the situation is palpable.
The video begins with Archila and Gallagher holding the door to the elevator containing Senator Flake. Archila chastises Flake that his swing vote could place a man accused of assaulting a young woman as a similarly deciding vote on the highest court in the land, likely to rule on cases involving body autonomy and reproductive rights. Flake mostly attempts to avoid eye contact and stay silent, but the women and reporters filming prevent the elevator doors from closing. That’s when Gallagher breaks in.
“I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me,” she says, and you can hear the entire conversation audibly cede her the floor. “I didn’t tell anyone and 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 … and that you’re going to let the people who do these things into power.”
“Don’t look away from me,” she tearfully demands. “Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me. That you’ll let people like that into the highest court in the land and tell everyone what they can do to their bodies.”
Later, Flake surprised everyone watching when he voted “yea” on sending Kavanaugh’s nomination to the floor for confirmation, but only pending an investigation by the FBI, effectively delaying the vote by a week.
Gallagher posted a photo to Twitter shortly thereafter, hugging Archila with the message, “I feel relieved that @JeffFlake seems to have heard my and @AnaMariaArchil2’s voices in the Senate elevator today.”
I feel relieved that @JeffFlake seems to have heard my and @AnaMariaArchil2’s voices in the Senate elevator today. We absolutely need an FBI investigation and for him and all Senators to vote NO. #StopKavanaugh pic.twitter.com/VnsfTIRGXJ
— Maria Gallagher (@mgallagher822) September 28, 2018
Gallagher was approached only a couple hours after confronting Senator Flake by The Daily Beast, and though Archila has appeared on Good Morning America and spoken with several other outlets regarding that day and her work as Co-Executive Director of The Center for Popular Democracy, Gallagher has otherwise remained understandably quiet since. Sunday morning she simply tweeted a thank-you to everyone who has reached out to her with words of support or solidarity, and a reminder to take the time for self care today, ending with, “We fight on tomorrow.”
To everyone who reached out to share their story or tell me they told someone else, thank you. From the bottom of my heart. And remember: self care isn’t selfish. This stuff is hard. So lay in bed. Eat ice cream. Hug someone you love. Today I’m doing all 3. We fight on tomorrow.
— Maria Gallagher (@mgallagher822) September 30, 2018