I met the father of my kids in Sen. Susan Collins’ office.

It was 1997 and I had just moved to Washington, D.C., to work on Capitol Hill. In retrospect, I had no idea what working on Capitol Hill meant, except that the staff assistant job sounded exciting and would get me out of New England. I was grateful to the newly elected Sen. Collins for offering a young woman from Maine a foot in the door.

Sen. Collins gave me more than that leg up in a competitive job market.

While I spent less than a year answering phones in her D.C. office, that junior position provided a stepping-stone to jobs with other senators and, ultimately, to a career working with center-right constituencies on the environment. Since 2007, that focus has been exclusively on climate change, and she stands as one of the few elected Republicans willing to talk about the issue, a plus even if her lack of action is disappointing.

Aside from a family and the kickstart to a career, there was something else that Sen. Collins provided me: an escape from Boston, the site of a nightmare that had plagued me every day for seven years.

In the summer of 1990 (I don’t remember the precise date), I went to a party at my boyfriend’s apartment (I don’t remember precisely where he lived). After too much to drink, I said goodnight to the partygoers (I don’t remember anyone’s name) and retired to his bedroom. I woke up later to my boyfriend yelling my name and a man I didn’t know having sex with me.

I immediately apologized to my boyfriend. I felt guilty. Ashamed. Embarrassed. And scared. I didn’t confide in a single friend or my loving family. I feared I was pregnant or had contracted HIV. I went home (I don’t remember if I took the T or walked) and made an appointment at the student health center. The boyfriend, who couldn’t get over what I had done to him, broke up with me. (I don’t remember where or how or the date. I hope you get the point by now.)

Every day for the rest of my days living in Boston, I feared running into the man who violated me. I never knew his name, but I will never forget his face.

So when the job offer from Sen. Collins came through, I packed up my U-Haul and never looked back.

Until 2018.

Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh triggered old ghosts. It took more than 25 years for me to acknowledge I was raped, and in her testimony, I recognized my own repressed experience. The lack of details, because we strive to forget them. The shaking. The terror. The emotion. All too familiar. Also familiar, that in the he said-she said universe, he always wins.

I couldn’t let him win. But I didn’t know what to do. So I decided to write to Sen. Collins and share my story. I don’t know why I expected to move her; looking back, I don’t think she was at all conflicted over how to vote. “I believe that (Ford) is a survivor of a sexual assault and that this trauma has upended her life,” Collins said in her floor statement before casting a yea vote for Kavanaugh. In other words. Ford was to be believed, but only partway. Yes, she was traumatized. But no, it couldn’t have possibly have been by the man whose judicial record Collins exalted. The message to women: If your attacker has an impressive resume, don’t bother reporting the crime.

On that day, I swore that even though I recognize the need for political moderates in today’s partisan politics, I would oppose Collins’ re-election. The U.S. Senate needs women serving in it who aren’t trapped by their own misogyny, women who will stand up for other women.

The U.S. Senate needs Sara Gideon.

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