Deborah Ramirez led a private life dedicated to helping Colorado’s underserved communities before going public Sunday with accusations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Now, the 53-year-old married government worker is under the nation’s microscope as her lawyer pushes for an FBI investigation into her claims and the Senate Judiciary Committee gears up for a Thursday hearing to air separate allegations brought by a woman who knew Mr. Kavanaugh in high school.
Ms. Ramirez’s and Mr. Kavanaugh’s lives crossed in the mid-1980s on the campus of Yale University, not far from her hometown of Shelton, Conn. Ms. Ramirez says that Mr. Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a drunken party when they were both freshmen, according to a story published Sunday in the New Yorker.
Mr. Kavanaugh, a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in D.C., has denied the allegation.
This undated photo provided by Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence shows Deborah Ramirez.
Thursday’s scheduled hearing will vet an earlier allegation made by Christine Blasey Ford, a California college professor who says Mr. Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school. Mr. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.
A group of 65 women who knew Mr. Kavanaugh in high school sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee after the allegation came out saying he has always “behaved honorably and treated women with respect.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday on Good Morning America that “we would be open” to having Ms. Ramirez testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, possibly on Thursday.
Ms. Ramirez’s attorney, John Clune, said on Twitter on Tuesday that he has reached out to the Judiciary Committee and that he believes an FBI investigation “is the only way to get the truth.” He said Ms. Ramirez “stands by the facts of the New Yorker story as reported.”
A second attorney for Ms. Ramirez sent a letter Wednesday to Judiciary Committee leaders saying she is willing to cooperate but that a request by staff that she first “provide her evidence” is misguided.
In Colorado, Ms. Ramirez made a career switch in the early 2000s from the corporate to the nonprofit realm, said her longtime friend Dana James, a decision she said came with “considerable financial sacrifice.” She had volunteered with the Boulder-based Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence and then joined full time in a role overseeing a team of advocates on-call to assist women facing domestic violence.
Brett Kavanaugh is President Trump's Supreme Court nominee. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press
The job, which involved counseling women on their legal options and what it meant to press charges, gave her insight into her current situation, former co-workers said.
“She knows the consequences of coming forward,” said Lisa Calderon, who supervised Ms. Ramirez at the organization. “She knows how sometimes the system does not treat them kindly.”
Ms. Ramirez has worked since 2013 as volunteer coordinator for Boulder County’s Department of Housing & Human Services, an agency spokesman confirmed Monday. She recruits volunteers and helps families find short-term funding for utility bills, groceries and other expenses.
Ms. Ramirez has been registered as a Democrat in Boulder since at least 2001, voter registration records show. She married Vikram Shah in September 2007, according to the county clerk’s office. A phone number listed for Mr. Shah had a recording late Tuesday by a woman who identified herself as Debbie, referring callers to an attorney.
The couple have no children, but Ms. James said Ms. Ramirez is “like a beloved aunt” to her own three children.
Friends and former colleagues describe Ms. Ramirez as a private and conscientious person who is dedicated to her work and wouldn’t make a sexual-misconduct allegation lightly.
She expresses pride in her heritage, with a father who is Puerto Rican and mother who is French Canadian, said her longtime friend and former colleague in Colorado, Angela Hardin.
Two allegations of decades-old sexual misconduct are threatening Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is scheduled to testify Thursday. WSJ’s Shelby Holliday explains how Dr. Ford's allegation came to light at the 11th hour. Photo: AP.
“She’s a person of great integrity,” said Pete Salas, who has known her professionally for around 15 years. Mr. Salas said she speaks her mind when she feels strongly about something.
In 2014, Ms. Ramirez wrote a letter to the local newspaper decrying the use of the word “sissies” on a T-shirt slogan, calling it a slight against characteristics that tend to be associated with women. She wrote that she “runs, rock climbs and performs well athletically,” but “I also have the traits associated with someone who is called a sissy. I cry, I get hurt and I express my emotions.”
Ms. Ramirez graduated from St. Joseph High School in Trumbull, Conn., in 1983. Head of School William Fitzgerald arrived at the school a decade ago and didn’t know Ms. Ramirez, but said others have referred to her as “quiet, studious, a humble kid.”
She was involved in the literary magazine, student newsletter and yearbook in high school, he said, and graduated in the top five of her class. “She did get a B in typing,” he said.
At Thursday’s hearing, veteran sex-crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell will question Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused him of trying to rape her when they were teenagers. Here’s what you need to know. Jack Kurtz/Associated Press
Ms. Ramirez’s father worked for a phone company and her mother was a medical technician, Mr. Fitzgerald said, and she attended a Catholic elementary school as well. Mr. Fitzgerald said St. Joseph drew students from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds in the 1980s.
Mr. Kavanaugh also attended a Catholic school, the prestigious Georgetown Preparatory School near Washington, D.C., where he played football and basketball.
Ms. Ramirez said in the New Yorker article that she and others had been drinking at the time of the alleged incident with Mr. Kavanaugh. The two enrolled in Yale at a time when undergraduate students drank openly on campus, and the legal drinking age in Connecticut only reached 21 in September 1985, when they started their junior year.
James Roche, who said he was Mr. Kavanaugh’s freshman roommate and had been close friends with Ms. Ramirez, said in a statement that although Mr. Kavanaugh was normally reserved, he was “a notably heavy drinker” who became “aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk.” Mr. Roche, the head of a real-estate industry technology company in San Francisco, said he believes Ms. Ramirez felt like an outsider at Yale, where she saw her classmates as “very rich, very smart and very sophisticated.” He declined to comment further through a spokesman.
—Jim Oberman and Jacob Gershman contributed to this article.