In A Powerful Op-Ed, Survivor Ana Maria Archila Shares Why She Confronted Jeff Flake

"I had not planned to share my story that day."

One of two sexual assault survivors who confronted Sen. Jeff Flake in an elevator on Friday over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is speaking out about why she shared her story. Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher earned praise for the emotional interaction, especially after Flake asked for an FBI investigation into sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.

The elevator moment, which was caught on video and broadcast live on television, came after the Arizona senator had announced his support for Kavanaugh. The day before, both Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh testified in a hearing about Ford's allegation that he sexually assaulted her when they were in high school.

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"What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit in the Supreme Court. This is not tolerable," Archila told Flake. Gallagher then tearfully told the senator she had been sexually assaulted but not believed, adding, "You're telling me that my assault doesn't matter ... and that you're gonna let people who do these things into power."

Many credited Archila and Gallagher with possibly changing Flake's mind when he asked to delay the Senate floor vote on Kavanaugh's nomination for up to a week in order for the FBI to conduct an investigation. "This country is being ripped apart here," he said. "We've got to ensure we do our due diligence."

Archila is the co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy. As she explains in an op-ed for USA Today, she had shared her story earlier in the week outside of Flake's office. "I never thought that I would share my story of assault," she wrote. "It happened when I was 5 years old, before I had the consciousness to know exactly what was taking place. Even still, I knew that it was wrong."

She went on to share that she had told two adults about the assault, but they had not believed her. She had kept it a secret for three decades: "But Christine Blasey Ford told her story to protect our country and, in solidarity with her and as a way to thank her, I decided to tell mine."

"I, like thousands of women who have chosen to do the same, are doing this in the hopes that when the senators hear our stories, they will not only believe us but, most important, also will use their power to help heal our country, and not further reinforce the culture that condones sexual violence by ignoring survivors," Archila wrote in the piece.

"His reaction shows the power that we have, together, when we choose to tell our stories and stand up for our vision of an inclusive society," Archila wrote of Flake. "When we take action, we breathe new life and possibility into our democracy."

As HuffPost points out, Flake told The Atlantic about his decision on Friday, saying of his interaction with Archila and Gallagher, "Obviously, it's an uncomfortable situation. But it was — you know, you feel for them. It was poignant." He added, "I mean, keep in mind, their agenda may be different than mine. I think some of their concern was how Kavanaugh would rule on the court. They may have been there prior to the allegations against him because of his position on some issues. But it certainly struck a chord."

Archila posted a photo with Gallagher on Twitter Friday, sending "love to all the 1000s of people who are changing the course of history with their protests, stories, & courage." She encouraged others to follow her lead and visit their senators' offices. "Tell them to look you in the eye while you tell them your story. Ask them to be #BeAHero & vote NO. "

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