Locals host rally

NASHUA – It was a show of support and solidarity, organizers said of a local rally that took place late Thursday afternoon at Rotary Common Park in downtown Nashua.

About 30 attendees formed a circle and some people held signs during the dual-purpose Cancel Kavanaugh/We Believe Survivors Rally. The local event, organized by Jenn Morton, of Amherst, was part of a larger call to action spearheaded nationally by International Women’s Strike U.S.A. – a network of cisgender and transgender women in more than 50 different countries that emerged through planning a day of action for March 8, 2017.

On Thursday, the group mobilized again, encouraging women to walk out of their jobs, schools or homes at 4 p.m. for an International Women’s Strike. The group’s platform calls for an end to gender violence, which organizers have interpreted to mean working to block the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s nominee for the open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual assault, a point of contentious partisan debate during the confirmation hearing process and an allegation he vehemently denies. A procedural vote is expected for today with a full vote by the Senate Saturday to finalize Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“I’m fed up with the political climate, and I felt the need to do something after hearing all the testimony in Washington last week,” Morton said.

Locally, rally attendees were advocating for concerned citizens to phone U.S. senators who haven’t yet made a decision about their Kavanaugh vote. Fliers with the senators’ office numbers were distributed at the Nashua event. In addition to Annie Kuster and Jeanne Shaheen, both D-N.H., the other senators being targeted by the group were Susan Collins, R-Maine; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; and Jeff Flake, R- Ariz. The latter three are considered by political pundits to be the swing votes in the confirmation process.

In addition, the rally offered sexual assault survivors a platform through which to share their experiences. Morton said this was extremely important. “Young women can see that they can tell their story, have the strength to report and have people who believe them. (Sexual violence) has happened to far too many people, and way too many have kept silent for too long,” she said. “It’s time for us to speak up, and our voices together will create change.”

Morton’s Facebook event page for the rally urged people to bring their posters, friends and voices. Multiple women went in depth about their experiences with sexual violence.

Tristan Husby, of Nashua, said with everything that has gone on surrounding Kavanaugh’s testimony, he was surprised by “how much pain and suffering there is behind the faces of so many people that you wouldn’t necessarily see.” He was there to support his wife, who read the event’s opening prayer, and said he urges anyone who is a victim of sexual assault to seek expert help.

“As with any sort of trauma, the proper response needs to be centered on that individual person. There’s no one right way to respond,” he said.

Jennifer Hitzeman, who has been working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence for the past 20 years, brought her three daughters to the rally. Their ages ranged from 7 to 11. Hitzeman said she has had many conversations about consent with her daughters.

“I’ve talked to them since they were toddlers about what sexual assault is on their terms because they need to know in this kind of world,” Hitzeman said. “I bring them out to rallies. I had to explain to them what these hearings were as they heard all these things, so we had a whole conversation about consent.”

Hitzeman said her daughters ultimately wanted to go to the The Cancel Kavanaugh/We Believe Survivors Rally.

“I thought it was important for their voices to be heard,” Hitzeman said.

Hitzeman said her daughters believe women should have rights, and her daughters don’t want people taking that away from them. They want people to be citizens who stand up for what they believe in, not just complain.

“Whether it’s being degraded by someone at work or being sexually assaulted or harassment, every single woman I know has experienced it, and that it’s not OK anymore. It’s 2018, we’re not doing this anymore.”

Grace Pecci can be reached at 594-1243 or gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.