Deborah Ramirez’s home sits on a quiet, leafy street in Boulder, Colorado – the front of it is obscured by two imposing trees, leaving just a narrow passageway along the garage that leads to the front door. The odd configuration provides one last bastion of privacy for Ramirez, whose life has suddenly become public on a national scale.
Shortly after her allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh were published in The New Yorker, a “no trespassing” sign went up on her garage, alongside another that read “I have no comment” and referred reporters to her lawyer. On Tuesday, the sign was replaced by a much bolder one that read in all caps, “Please demand an FBI investigation for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Debbie Ramirez’s claims.”
Beth Reece, a friend and neighbor, was asked by Ramirez to put that sign up. She said Ramirez is a strong but very private person. The 53-year-old has accused Kavanaugh of exposing himself to her at a party at Yale University 35 years ago.
Kavanaugh has strongly denied the allegation and called it a “smear, plain and simple.”
“[Ramirez is] not doing this to take him down, but for it to be investigated because it happened,” said Reece.
Kerry Berchem knew both Ramirez and Kavanaugh during her time at Yale.
“Debbie is not innately brave; she is being brave,” she said.
Despite the intense spotlight, Ramirez has managed to keep a low profile. Reece says she hasn’t left the house since the story broke. Her lawyers have been remarkably quiet as well – it took them two days to even confirm that Ramirez’ account in The New Yorker was accurate. What we do know about Ramirez comes from family, friends and colleagues who describe her in glowing terms.
Ramirez was raised as a Catholic in Shelton, Connecticut. According to The New York Times, one parent worked as a lineman for a phone company, the other was a medical technician. Her father’s side of the family is Puerto Rican. Her lawyers told CNN Ramirez has no comment.
Ramirez’s younger sister, Denise, told CNN that she is proud of her.
“Deb has been tremendously brave and her honesty is above reproach,” Denise Ramirez wrote in a statement.
Both Denise and Debbie attended Yale, just a stone’s throw away from their hometown. Jo Miller worked with them in the Yale dining halls, a job she says was reserved for students on financial aid.
“There were some on campus whose families were very wealthy, but that wasn’t Debbie’s family,” she said.
Socially though, there was no economic divide between students on campus. Miller said Ramirez had lots of friends.
“She is a woman of integrity and I find her story credible,” said Miller.
On the night of the alleged incident, Ramirez admits to being drunk and, since then, having gaps in her memory. According to The New Yorker, “she was reluctant to characterize Kavanaugh’s role in the alleged incident with certainty.”
The magazine reported that it took six days of “carefully assessing her memories and consulting with her attorney” for Ramirez to go on record accusing Kavanaugh.” The Times reported that Ramirez had contacted several of her former classmates to see if they remembered the incident because she could not be certain that Kavanaugh had been the perpetrator. CNN has not been able to find any firsthand eyewitnesses to corroborate her story
“There’s no reason in the world why she would come forward if this wasn’t true,” said Julie Heller, a Yale classmate who described Ramirez as social, but “not particularly rowdy.”
Life in Colorado
Ramirez, a registered Democrat, has lived in Colorado for the last 16 years and has been married for more than a decade. Lisa Calderon hired Ramirez at a victim’s advocacy organization called Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (SPAN). In the early 2000s, Ramirez worked directly with domestic violence victims to help connect them with services or support. Calderon spoke out in support of Ramirez at a rally against Kavanaugh’s nomination in Denver this week.
“Debbie knows the consequences of speaking up. Unfortunately, nothing can prepare you for the circus – this is political circus that’s happening,” she said.
Ramirez is a board member at SPAN, but her day job is now at Boulder County Housing and Human Services, where she has worked since 2013 as a volunteer coordinator – helping match needy families with financial aid and donations. The elected Boulder County Commissioners released a joint statement about their employee with whom they worked with on a committee focused on diversity.
“We believe Debbie Ramirez,” read the statement signed by Cindy Domenico, Deb Gardner and Elise Jones. “The default reaction to assault or harassment allegations should be the immediate belief of the victim.”
The commissioners were reluctant to talk at all about Judge Kavanaugh, or his right to the presumption of innocence.
“I think our statement really came from the fact that what has happened historically is victims are dismissed, and we need to make a shift in our culture, so abuse stops,” Commissioner Deb Gardner told CNN.
In a letter Wednesday, Ramirez’s legal team says she is “willing to cooperate” with the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Ms. Ramirez has no agenda. She did not volunteer for this. But nor has she, or will she, shy away from truthfully recounting the facts. She asks only to be treated fairly,” one of her attorneys, William Pittard, wrote.
CORRECTION: This story was updated to correct the name of the agency where Ramirez works.