SOCIAL ISSUES

First Lady shares story of sexual assault at New Jersey Women’s March

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

Propelled by passion, an estimated 15,000 marchers strode down South Street in Morristown in the second annual New Jersey Women’s March. They chanted for many reasons, but united in one overriding mission: Power to the Polls, political muscle through grassroots organization.

“We’re finally feeling like we can have a power. We can have a voice. We can make changes in our nation. And I think, once all these women are together, we are making a change,” said Jamie Baer-Paterson of New Providence.

“It’s an extraordinary show of passion, of conviction, of courage and I’m honored to be here,” said Gov. Phil Murphy.

Gov. Murphy and his wife, Tammy, marched at the front. Later, the first lady told her personal #MeToo story of being sexually assaulted as a college sophomore when she was walking through campus at the University of Virginia.

“I was thrown on my back. I had a man on top of me, pulled my shirt up, pulled my skirt up and I started screaming,” she recounted. “So, he started reaching around to see what he could find to shut me up. And he found a crab apple. And when he tried to put that in my mouth, I bit him as hard as I could.”

Murphy told the crowd she got away, but her attacker wasn’t arrested, even though she reported the incident to police. He was eventually jailed for another crime, she said.

“Until today, only a few have heard my story. Now you all know,” she said. “I tell this today, not for me, but really for all of you. Surely among us is a woman who has been silent about her own story. I know the feeling of shame, I know the feeling of helplessness and I know the disappointment of justice denied. But by speaking out we can find our strength and ensure our lives our lives are not defined by this experience.”

“Every woman I know has been affected in some way by inappropriate comments or actions, so it’s giving women the power and the respect they deserve, and saying ‘enough’ on that side,'” said Stacey Gunderman of New Providence.

In 2017, this movement found its voice and its power in the voting booth. In 2018, they plan to be on the ballot.

“I’m running for Congress in the New Jersey 11th District! We’ve got to remove Rodney,” exclaimed congressional candidate Tamara Harris.

She’s referring to Republican Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen who missed the march because of the government shutdown, and whose seat, like other New Jersey Republican members of Congress, is specifically targeted this year by Democrats. Mikie Sherrill is among them.

“Given what’s going on in Washington, the fact that Washington really is broken, and shut down right now, it’s important that we get a new generation of leaders in,” said Sherrill.

Marchers chanted,”Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go,” but not everyone agreed. Two protesters marched with Donald Trump flags.

“I’m here to support President Trump. I’m here 100 percent. We’re outnumbered with all these, if you want to call them ‘p—-heads,’ cause that’s what they are!” said Belleville resident Michael Shapiro.

Marchers in Morristown joined millions of women in marches across the country and around the world to mark the anniversary of last year’s March on Washington. A few want to return as elected representatives.