Republished with permission from the Palo Alto Daily Post.
When Kristen Podulka saw the news vans outside and read the vitriolic attacks online about her neighbor, she decided to help out.
Podulka lives a few houses away from Christine Blasey Ford, the Palo Alto University psychologist accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when the two were in high school. On Monday, the day after the Washington Post identified Ford as Kavanaugh’s accuser, Podulka called on others to mail postcards of support and appreciation to Ford at her office.
“I didn’t want to go to her house and have a candlelight vigil,” Podulka said. “I chose the card-writing because it’s an un-intrusive way of showing support.”
Podulka, a Detroit native and self-described “Hillary supporter,” said she got the idea from postcard campaigns she’s worked with for local progressive groups and the ACLU.
At first, neighbors and friends dropped off postcards at Podulka’s house to forward to Ford, but then Podulka wanted to expand the effort without sharing her home address publicly. She posted Ford’s work address to Nextdoor and Facebook, where it was shared by the Sister District and Together We Will political groups. Podulka said other advocates have shared the message as far away as the East Coast and Singapore.
The purpose of the effort, Podulka said, was to counteract the hate mail and violent threats that Ford has received.
“The trolls online and the people with negative thoughts … tend to speak the loudest, so I would like to send her notes of appreciation to try to drown that out if possible,” Podulka said. “I thought, ‘OK, let’s counteract her hate mail with love mail.’”
Podulka said the only negative feedback she’d gotten so far had come from a few commenters on a Nextdoor thread who objected to the post’s politics. One commenter, south Palo Alto resident Tanya Berlaga, wrote that “not everybody believes that (Ford’s) actions are honorable.”
Another, Mountain View resident Adam Brand, called Ford a coward for waiting 36 years to come forward. Podulka said she doesn’t think anyone who hasn’t been sexually assaulted is entitled to an opinion on Ford coming forward when she did.
“What woman would want to go through this? She hasn’t been back in her house for three days,” Podulka said. “She has children, a career… She has nothing to gain from this and everything to lose.”
On Tuesday, Ford’s lawyers sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, stating that her family has been forced into hiding after receiving vicious harassment and death threats. Her email was also hacked and she has been impersonated online, her lawyers said.
Podulka said she thinks Ford’s story resonates with many women because most sexual assault victims know their attacker. “I have had so many women in my life that, well, everyone’s had a story,” Podulka said. “Her story is everyone’s story.”
‘I Believe Christine’
Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss counts herself among the women who relate to Ford’s experience. Kniss said that she remembered “something like that happening to me, and I still remember it very well.”
“I simply can’t believe she would have come forward otherwise,” Kniss said, calling Ford’s alleged assault an “incredibly horrifying experience.”
Kniss said she thought that counter to anyone who suggests the alleged assault was a “youthful prank,” that sexual violence exhibited by a teenage boy “is probably going to be pretty consistent for the rest of his life.”
Kniss added that she thinks it’s “outrageous” that the Senate Judiciary Committee is continuing to consider Kavanaugh.
The postcard project isn’t the only way Palo Altans are showing support for Ford. A group of local mothers have been signing a letter to Ford telling her that “We wanted to tell you that we are here, and we have your back.”
“If there is anything that we, your neighbors, can do to help or support you or your family, please know that we are here,” the letter states. “We will bake you cookies, bring over dinner, lend a hand with your kids, help with your pets, protest in front of City Hall, sign petitions, runs for office, write to the media and to lawmakers, form a human chain to protect your house, your workplace, your kids’ schools.”
Come Sunday, six local progressive groups will hold a candlelight vigil on the corner of El Camino Real and Embarcadero Road that they’re calling “I Believe Christine.”
Advocates from groups including Orchard City Indivisible, the Santa Clara County Democratic Club Women’s Caucus, Families Belong Together San Jose and Women’s March San Jose will hold signs at the intersection starting at 8pm.