Brooklynite Lisa Raymond-Tolan took a day off from work this week and got on a bus down to D.C. where she did something she’d never done before: Get arrested.
It happened Monday in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building, surrounded by women talking about sexual assault experiences and their anger about allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Raymond-Tolan was angry too.
Kavanaugh’s nomination hit a snag after Californian psychologist Christine Blasey Ford said he had groped and held her down in a bedroom at a high school party decades ago. Other allegations have followed about drunkenness and sexual assault, which Kavanaugh has denied.
“It feels like a whole new level of outrage,” Raymond-Tolan, 45, of Park Slope, says — the allegations go beyond her concerns about Kavanaugh’s politics on issues like abortion rights.
The idea “lifetime appointment” floated in her mind. To give voice to her sense of outrage she felt the need to do something.
She realizes it was to some extent a symbolic gesture, and she was lucky enough to be able to pull off the protest without danger to herself. The plastic ziptie (which she kept as a souvenir), the friendly police officers, pizza and celebration of the protest at a hotel afterward.
But a raising of the stakes felt necessary to her. She has been politically active in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, is one of the co-presidents of left-leaning activist group Indivisible Nation BK. This issue, though, was so important that she felt she needed to get arrested.
New Yorker scribe Jia Tolentino wrote on Wednesday that the last few weeks have been spent in a “haze of resurfaced trauma” for many American women, given pervasive discussions of sexual assault. Raymond-Tolan says she never had an experience as intense as what at least three women have alleged with Kavanaugh and his friends, but she had moments when she felt uncomfortable. “Every woman is taking a look back into her past,” she says.
For some women, at least, that’s the personal undercurrent beneath talk of Senate Judicial Committee hearings, of midterm elections, an undercurrent even as reporters and others attempt to investigate the factual basis of the accusations against Kavanaugh.
Raymond-Tolan has two sons, ages 15 and 10, the youngest young enough to be anxious about her arrest. Would she be OK? She says she talks to her sons about these personal, intra-gender issues which are suddenly all over the news. She tells them no means no, that if someone says to stop something you’re doing, “you stop right away.”
“It’s terrifying to be the parents of boys,” she says — terrifying to be the parents of girls, too, but with the boys, “the responsibility of raising them to be men is enormous.”
These were some of the issues Raymond-Tolan was thinking about this week — after her arrest in Washington, back at work as an occupational therapist at a charter school.
Would Kavanaugh be confirmed? “Anything can happen in these times,” she says. On the positive side, she notes that if he does, it will likely “galvanize so many people to take action.”
Then she thinks more about it. “It’ll be horrifying if he’s confirmed.”