In the News

Feminist Lawmakers and Advocates are Fighting for Christine Blasey Ford

f t # e
Washington, September 17, 2018 | comments
Written by Carmen Rios, Ms. Magazine 

Late last week, a complaint was referred to the FBI regarding a sexual assault allegation from an anonymous woman against Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Now, Christine Blasey Ford has come forward—deciding, according to the Washington Post in an exclusive report, “that if her story is going to be told, she wants to be the one to tell it.”

Speaking publicly for the first time, Ford said that one summer in the early 1980s, Kavanaugh and a friend—both “stumbling drunk,” Ford alleges—corralled her into a bedroom during a gathering of teenagers at a house in Montgomery County.

While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”

Ford said she was able to escape when Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate at Georgetown Preparatory School, Mark Judge, jumped on top of them, sending all three tumbling. She said she ran from the room, briefly locked herself in a bathroom and then fled the house.

Ford never told anyone what happened to her that night until 2012, when she disclosed that she was a survivor to her husband in couple’s therapy. The following year, she sought out therapy on her own for the long-term effects of what her session notes describe as a “rape attempt” from her teenage years.

Although notes from Ford’s therapy sessions don’t name Kavanaugh, her husband recalls that she used his last name in recounting the incident—and mentioned that she feared he may one day be nominated to the Supreme Court. When that fear was confirmed earlier this summer, Ford began breaking her silence. In early July, when Kavanaugh’s name was reported to be on Trump’s short list of potential nominees to fill Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the Court, Ford reached out to The Post through their tip line and contacted her member of Congress, Anna G. Eshoo. Later that month, Eshoo’s office sent the letter from Ford to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

The Judiciary Committee was expected to vote on whether or not to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate on Thursday, despite objections about withheld documents and evidence that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge may have perjured himself in earlier confirmation hearings for his current position.

Today, Ford announced that she would be willing to testify before the body. Congressional lawmakers are demanding that she be allowed to speak.

“Christine Blasey Ford courageously stepped forward to tell her story — it is a credible and serious allegation,” Senator Kamala Harris, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, wrote on Twitter. “The Senate has a constitutional responsibility to scrutinize SCOTUS nominees. A vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination must be delayed until there is a thorough investigation.”

In a joint letter, all 10 Democratic lawmakers on the committee have urged the chairman, Senator Chuck Grassley, to postpone the body’s confirmation vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination. “As you are aware,” they wrote, “Dr. Ford’s serious allegations were submitted to the FBI for investigation last week. Now that her story is public, it is even more important that we give the Bureau the time it needs to follow up. All Senators, regardless of party, should insist the FBI perform its due diligence and fully investigate the allegations as part of its review of Judge Kavanaugh’s background. Staff-level examination of these allegations should not go forward until the FBI’s career professionals with the requisite investigative expertise have completed their review. Once the FBI has completed its independent work, we hope that we can work together in a bipartisan manner to decide on next steps.”

Feinstein, who had not immediately acted on the contents of Ford’s letter in order to honor her explicit request to remain anonymous, also released her own statement. “It has always been Mrs. Ford’s decision whether to come forward publicly,” she explained. “From the outset, I have believed these allegations were extremely serious and bear heavily on Judge Kavanaugh’s character. However, as we have seen over the past few days, they also come at a price for the victim. I hope the attacks and shaming of her will stop and this will be treated with the seriousness it deserves. I support Mrs. Ford’s decision to share her story, and now that she has, it is in the hands of the FBI to conduct an investigation. This should happen before the Senate moves forward on this nominee.”

The House Democratic Women’s Working Group leadership—Representatives Lois Frankel (FL-21), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), and Jackie Speier—came together with 107 other congressional lawmakers to call for a delay in any confirmation vote as well. “To hold a vote now would be an insult to women and girls,” they wrote in a letter to all U.S. Senators released Monday, “sending a powerful message that they don’t matter and will not be believed. Let’s instead set an example for our children that sexual violence should be taken seriously and emphatically denounced.”

Ford’s allegations come in the wake of the #MeToo movement, in which women across the country are sharing stories of sexual harassment and assault. They also come on the heels of questioning about Kavanaugh’s relationship with the now-disgraced judge Alex Kozinski, who for years sent explicit and offensive “jokes” to a so-called “easy rider gag list” and for whom Kavanaugh is a former clerk.

During hearings before the Judiciary Committee earlier this month, Senator Mazie Hirono asked Kavanaugh about any history of misconduct he may have and asked if he had ever faced disciplnary action or forged a settlement related to sexual harassment or assault. “I started to ask these questions about sexual harassment because it’s so hard to hold lifetime appointees to the federal bench accountable,” Hirono told him, “and because I did not want the #MeToo movement to be swept under the rug.”

Over 200 of Ford’s high school classmates have signed on to a letter of support, countering the immediate attacks on Ford and praise of Kavanaugh which emerged in the media after she told her story publicly. “We believe Dr. Blasey Ford and are grateful that she came forward to tell her story,” the alumnae wrote, adding that Ford’s experience “is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton.”

Many advocates have already drawn parallels between Ford and Anita Hill. “If this moment in time feels strangely familiar,” TIME’S UP, the movement to end sexual harassment launched in the wake of #MeToo, said in a statement, “it’s because it is.” Yet 27 years after Hill’s powerful testimony against then-nominee and now-sitting Justice Clarence Thomas, the attacks being levied against Ford are stark reminders that the legal system remains stacked against survivors—and deeply insistent on maintaining their silence.

“Professor Ford asked for confidentiality,” Eleanor Smeal, Feminist Majority president, wrote in an email to supporters. “Instead she was forced into the most unwanted of spotlights and asked to share with the world one of the most traumatic experiences of her life. We applaud and are inspired by Professor Ford’s courage.” FM is urging members to email their Senators and demand that they “do everything in their power to delay Thursday’s vote on Kavanaugh and hold a hearing to allow Professor Ford to share her truth.”

f t # e