DENVER – A woman who supervised Deborah Ramirez while she worked for a Colorado nonprofit that helps victims of domestic violence for several years heartily defended Ramirez Monday, lauding her integrity and her fair-tempered work with victims.
Ramirez, of Boulder, came forward in a story published by The New Yorker Sunday and accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of thrusting his genitals in her face and forcing her to touch them while they were at a party on the campus of Yale University, which they both attended at the time, in the early 1980s.
Kavanaugh has vehemently denied the accusations against him made by Ramirez and another woman, Christine Blasey Ford, over the past several weeks. He again denied the latest allegations on Monday, calling the them “smears, pure and simple.”
But Lisa Calderon, who currently teaches at Denver’s Regis University and was Ramirez’s supervisor while the two worked together at Safehouse Progressive for Nonviolence (SPAN), said the attacks on Ramirez were unfair.
Ramirez has been working for Boulder County as a volunteer since 2013, but had been a victim’s advocate coordinator for SPAN before that and still is a board member. Calderon, who was the policy director of SPAN from 1995 to 2007, said Ramirez joined the nonprofit about halfway through her tenure.
“She is someone who has great integrity,” Calderon said of her former co-worker and employee. “She’s dedicated her life to working with victims.”
Calderon said that Ramirez was initially a volunteer but that she decided to hire her because she was detail-oriented and went above and beyond at work. Calderon said Ramirez was eventually responsible for a 24/7 crisis response team, a group of volunteers coordinated by Ramirez to go to domestic violence incidents and provide support to victims.
“It didn’t matter if it was Christmas or New Year’s, Debbie made sure that women got services after they were assaulted. And so she was also a trainer, she was a trainer of law enforcement about how to be sensitive to victims’ issues,” Calderon said. “And so the fact that she has given so much of her life to others, we owe it to her to give back to her.”
Calderon said she first learned that Ramirez had accused Kavanaugh when The New Yorker’s report was published Sunday night. She said she had since received “a message passed via text” from Ramirez in which Ramirez said she appreciated her support.
“She trusts me to speak to her character,” Calderon said. “And I let her know that I support her 100 percent.”
Calderon said Ramirez is a “very private person” and that she had not brought up the alleged incident involving Kavanaugh in their past conversations.
“What that means is that for her to come forward, I know that it’s taken a lot from her and I know it’s probably taking a toll,” Calderon said. “And that’s one of the reasons I decided to come out today and got her consent to be able to speak about what I know about her.”
Calderon said she was not surprised that Ramirez had never brought up the allegation involving Kavanaugh because she was committed to her work and keeping her own experiences out of it.
“She was very good about having professional boundaries,” Calderon explained. “You know, a lot of us are survivors and that means we don’t bring in our own experiences into our work. We focus on the victim who is in front of us.”
Calderon described Ramirez as fun-loving, outdoorsy and active, and said Ramirez “has the highest integrity.” She also took issue with President Trump’s comments about Ramirez and her allegations.
“She is a good person and so it really hurts me to see her being discredited, including by the president of the United States, without knowing anything about her character,” Calderon said. “Shame on him.”
Still, Calderon says she believes that Ramirez likely knew better than anyone what she was getting herself into when she made the accusation against Kavanaugh. The New Yorker reported she deliberated with herself and former Boulder DA Stan Garnett, who has initially been representing her, for six days before deciding to come forward.
“One of the things that we teach is that we never tell victims what to do; we present options. And every option has consequences,” Calderon said. “When you speak up, someone is going to 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 is happening.”
Ramirez has referred questions from the press to Garnett or to the attorney who will be representing her going forward, Boulder-based John Clune of Hutchison Black and Cook, who declined to comment when he was reached Monday morning.
Clune did release a statement Monday from the board and staff of SPAN in which they spoke in support of Ramirez and her character.
“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,” they wrote.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., whose office connected Ramirez and Garnett at the request of staff for the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued a new statement Monday afternoon saying that people disputing the accounts of Ramirez and Ford should also have to testify under oath. He said that Kavanaugh’s nomination process should stay put until the FBI investigates the allegations, as Ford has requested.
A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said Monday that the senator “absolutely supports efforts by the Senate Judiciary Committee to gather more information and investigate” the claims.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who is the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, on Sunday called for committee chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to postpone the proceedings as well and asked for an FBI investigation.
Kavanaugh doubled down Monday, calling the allegations a “coordinated effort to destroy” his name and saying he would not withdraw as the nominee. “The last-minute character assassination will not succeed,” he said.