Tearful woman confronts Sen. Flake on elevator

Two protesters who say they survived sexual assault confronted Sen. Jeff Flake in an elevator after he said he would vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Watch AC360 to hear from the women who confronted Jeff Flake.

Posted: Sep 30, 2018 10:29 PM
Updated: Sep 30, 2018 10:43 PM

Anger, pain, and courage.

That was what the moment was about.

Two women and their pain.

A U.S. Senator in an elevator, literally trapped and torn.

Frozen by their escalating anger and anguish over what he had just announced.

A yes vote for Brett Kavanaugh to join the Supreme Court.

I met these two young women earlier that morning waiting outside Sen. Jeff Flake's office. Our CNN crew (photographer Dave Burgess and producer Jasmine Wright) and I were positioned there at 7:30 a.m., hoping to catch him to get a heads-up on his vote.

Ana Maria Archila, a self-described activist from New York City, told me she was sexually assaulted when she was five years old. She had been to Flake's office on Monday hoping to see him, but could not, so she revealed the story of her attack to Flake's staffers instead.

And Maria Gallagher, 23, a recent graduate from Virginia, who said she had never spoken publicly about her own sexual assault until that face-to-face moment with Flake in the elevator.

The two were strangers just hours ago who discovered they had a similar pain and decided to go to Flake's office because they thought he could be their critical ally.

About five minutes before the Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote, we all got the message at the same time, an email on our cell phones, announcing Flake was supporting Kavanaugh.

Immediately, Archila and Gallagher gasped, becoming very emotional. Then we spotted Flake darting from his office with a few staffers and heading down the hall.

We took off after him, as did the women. We caught up with him just as he was getting into the elevator. The doors were closing, and Archila literally and figuratively put her foot down — causing the doors to open.

Everything changed.

Flake was stuck. Having to explain his position. In this small, hot, enclosed space which quickly filled with raw unbridled, unscripted emotion.

"You have children in your family. Think about them. I have two children. I cannot imagine that for the next 50 years they will have to have someone in the Supreme Court who has been accused of violating a young girl," Archila shouted. "What are you doing, sir?"

And then Gallagher.

"I was sexually assaulted and nobody believed me. 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 are going to ignore them,'" she shouted. "That's what happened to me, and that's what you are telling all women in America, that they don't matter."

The two took turns confronting Flake, as the elevator buzzed, and his aides tried to push any button that would close the doors.

Initially, I had started to ask Flake a question but I quickly realized this was a moment to be quiet. That what was unfolding before our eyes was much more impactful than anything I could ask or say.

"Don't look away from me. Look at me and tell me that it doesn't matter what happened to me, that you will let people like that go into the highest court of the land," Gallagher insisted when Flake lowered his head.

What I heard, and what the world would see live on CNN, was rage and pain. Pain on Flake's face, and pain in the voices of the women who needed him to hear their stories. It was roughly 24 hours after professor Christine Blasey Ford raised her hand before this same senator, to tell of her 36 years of pain. She was polite, cooperative, sometimes scientific. If she was angry, she didn't show it. But the anger came anyway. On Twitter, on C-SPAN, in furious texts sent by women all over the country, who felt unheard and unseen.

And there, in the elevator, Flake, with nowhere to go, was forced to hear their rage.

"Do you think that Brett is telling the truth? Do you think that he's able to hold the pain of this country and repair it? That is the work of justice," Archila yelled.

The exchange was close to five minutes but felt much longer. As the doors began to close, I asked Flake if he would consider delaying the vote for an FBI investigation as the American Bar Association had just requested. At that moment he had no response.

After the senator was gone, I talked with Archila, and later found Gallagher, overcome with emotion, crying with a friend on the floor. Gallagher later told me she initially had merely planned to hold up a little sign and position herself in the back of a larger group of demonstrators. She felt nauseous and powerless upon hearing about Flake's supportive Kavanaugh position, and grew angry, she said.

Gallagher said her mother called her shortly after the elevator confrontation to tell her she had seen her on live TV, and how proud she was of her daughter and her courage. Gallagher felt empowered.

At the time of the confrontation, I had no idea it was playing out live on television. As journalists, we often focus on the big, obvious moments; speeches, foreign trips, and policy announcements.

But from this rare, personal and intimate elevator moment,we would soon learn afterward the power those two women, survivors of sexual assault, wielded in having it play out.

Their voices were heard and change was about to come.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 595436

Reported Deaths: 9466
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion822851311
Lake44626670
Allen32165543
Hamilton28684308
St. Joseph26917378
Elkhart24173343
Vanderburgh18856236
Tippecanoe17638125
Johnson14687289
Porter14513163
Hendricks14010242
Madison10715216
Vigo10540177
Clark10349135
Monroe9189108
Delaware8956134
LaPorte8867158
Howard7982140
Kosciusko791380
Warrick652994
Hancock646999
Bartholomew631096
Floyd6205107
Wayne5984159
Grant5874110
Dubois547175
Boone538867
Morgan524192
Henry497764
Marshall495384
Cass475362
Dearborn464545
Noble463157
Jackson417846
Shelby405680
Lawrence383876
Clinton367840
Gibson360058
DeKalb339163
Montgomery338152
Harrison333643
Knox329839
Miami312743
Steuben309343
Adams297435
Whitley297225
Wabash294947
Ripley294345
Putnam288047
Jasper285234
Huntington284959
White269138
Daviess263073
Jefferson253838
Decatur243482
Fayette242948
Greene237062
Posey234427
Wells231347
LaGrange225061
Clay219032
Scott218538
Randolph209845
Jennings193935
Sullivan189632
Spencer184319
Fountain180527
Washington179321
Starke172743
Jay163922
Fulton161130
Owen161137
Carroll153915
Orange152933
Rush151618
Perry149327
Vermillion145833
Franklin144433
Tipton129232
Parke12918
Pike114326
Blackford109222
Pulaski95337
Newton89821
Brown85931
Benton85310
Crawford7719
Martin70713
Warren6637
Switzerland6235
Union6146
Ohio4727
Unassigned0374

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 836049

Reported Deaths: 10323
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin98533705
Cuyahoga831801065
Hamilton61931441
Montgomery42028399
Summit33849736
Lucas30524605
Butler30003228
Stark25093419
Warren19083140
Lorain18418212
Mahoning16931337
Lake15592136
Clermont15335105
Delaware1403077
Licking12819132
Trumbull12515307
Fairfield1232480
Greene11729135
Medina11286165
Clark10672264
Wood10081156
Allen9639126
Portage9006107
Miami895273
Richland8910116
Marion7377113
Tuscarawas7177174
Columbiana7164124
Pickaway710350
Wayne6855165
Muskingum678241
Erie5976118
Hancock542990
Ross535287
Scioto527063
Geauga491755
Darke459489
Ashtabula443172
Lawrence439353
Union437028
Sandusky427462
Mercer427387
Seneca417357
Auglaize416259
Huron416138
Shelby413521
Jefferson409066
Belmont403740
Washington375940
Putnam367872
Athens36759
Madison343429
Knox340122
Ashland336838
Fulton328543
Defiance322578
Crawford316371
Preble313836
Brown298819
Logan296529
Ottawa283934
Clinton281243
Williams272866
Highland266018
Jackson259043
Guernsey245325
Champaign244427
Fayette229729
Morrow22574
Perry223318
Holmes220362
Henry213547
Hardin206433
Coshocton199620
Van Wert198744
Wyandot192549
Gallia192126
Adams167415
Pike167417
Hocking165523
Carroll151316
Paulding141121
Noble118740
Meigs105021
Monroe97229
Harrison8598
Morgan79728
Vinton67613
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
24° wxIcon
Hi: 29° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 14°
Angola
Cloudy
21° wxIcon
Hi: 26° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 14°
Huntington
Cloudy
23° wxIcon
Hi: 28° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 23°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
24° wxIcon
Hi: 29° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 14°
Lima
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 29° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 18°
Light Snow Overnight, Colder Wednesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events