Kavanaugh Accuser Gives Emotional Testimony: 'My Family and I' Have Received 'Death Threats'
On Thursday, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, will testify after his sexual assault accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, at a public hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Ford, a 51-year-old research psychologist and professor at Palo Alto University, claims that Kavanaugh, 53, sexually assaulted her at a high school party in the 1980s, where he allegedly pinned her down to a bed, groped her and tried to remove her clothes. (Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.)
In her emotional testimony, a tearful Ford said that she and her family have received death threats in the weeks since her story became public.
“My greatest fears have been realized — and the reality has been far worse than what I expected,” said Ford. “My family and I have been the target of constant harassment and death threats. I have been called the most vile and hateful names imaginable. These messages, while far fewer than the expressions of support, have been terrifying to receive and have rocked me to my core.”
Ford continued: “People have posted my personal information on the internet. This has resulted in additional emails, calls and threats. My family and I were forced to move out of our home. Since Sept. 16, my family and I have been living in various secure locales, at times separate and at times together, with the help of security guards. This past Tuesday evening, my work email account was hacked and messages were sent out supposedly recanting my description of the sexual assault.”
“Apart from the assault itself, these last couple of weeks have been the hardest of my life,” Ford added. “I have had to relive my trauma in front of the entire world, and I have seen my life picked apart by people on television, on Twitter, social media, other media, and in this body who have never met me or spoken with me.”
Ford also addressed allegations that she is testifying because of “partisan political motives,” saying, “Those who say that do not know me. I am an independent person and I am no one’s pawn. My motivation in coming forward was to be helpful and to provide the facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged my life, so that you can take that into a serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed.”
She continued: “It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell you the truth.”
Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, in his own opening statement, equated Ford and Kavanaugh’s ordeals. “Both Kavanaugh and Ford have been through a terrible couple of weeks. Both of them and their families have received vile threats,” Grassley said.
After asking Ford to stand and be sworn to tell the truth, he took pains to emphasize he wanted to accommodate her. “Any time you ask for a break, you get a break,” Grassley told Ford.
Ford’s voice shook near the beginning of her testimony. “I am here today not because I want to be,” she said. “I am terrified.”
She went on to say that she thought her life was going to end during the alleged sexual assault. “I believed he was going to rape me,” said Ford. “I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming. This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me.”
In her complete testimony, Ford went into further detail about the allegations as her eyes often welled with tears:
Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein, members of the committee. My name is Christine Blasey Ford. I am a professor of psychology at Palo Alto University and a research psychologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
I was an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina and earned my degree in experimental psychology in 1988. I received a master’s degree in 1991 in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University. In 1996, I received a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Southern California. I earned a master’s degree in epidemiology from the Stanford University School of Medicine in 2009.
I have been married to Russell Ford since 2002 and we have two children.
I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it is my civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett Kavanaugh and I were in high school. I have described the events publicly before. I summarized them in my letter to Ranking Member Feinstein, and again in my letter to Chairman Grassley. I understand and appreciate the importance of your hearing from me directly about what happened to me and the impact it has had on my life and on my family.
I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. I attended the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Md., from 1978 to 1984. Holton-Arms is an all-girls school that opened in 1901. During my time at the school, girls at Holton-Arms frequently met and became friendly with boys from all-boys schools in the area, including Landon School, Georgetown Prep, Gonzaga high school, country clubs, and other places where kids and their families socialized. This is how I met Brett Kavanaugh, the boy who sexually assaulted me.
In my freshman and sophomore school years, when I was 14 and 15 years old, my group of friends intersected with Brett and his friends for a short period of time. I had been friendly with a classmate of Brett’s for a short time during my freshman year, and it was through that connection that I attended a number of parties that Brett also attended. We did not know each other well, but I knew him and he knew me. In the summer of 1982, like most summers, I spent almost every day at the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md., swimming and practicing diving.
One evening that summer, after a day of swimming at the club, I attended a small gathering at a house in the Chevy Chase-Bethesda area. There were four boys I remember being there: Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, P. J. Smyth, and one other boy whose name I cannot recall. I remember my friend Leland Ingham attending. I do not remember all of the details of how that gathering came together, but like many that summer, it was almost surely a spur of the moment gathering. I truly wish I could provide detailed answers to all of the questions that have been and will be asked about how I got to the party, where it took place and so forth. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t remember as much as I would like to. But the details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget. They have been seared into my memory and have haunted me episodically as an adult.
When I got to the small gathering, people were drinking beer in a small living room on the first floor of the house. I drank one beer that evening. Brett and Mark were visibly drunk. Early in the evening, I went up a narrow set of stairs leading from the living room to a second floor to use the bathroom. When I got to the top of the stairs, I was pushed from behind into a bedroom. I couldn’t see who pushed me. Brett and Mark came into the bedroom and locked the door behind them. There was music already playing in the bedroom. It was turned up louder by either Brett or Mark once we were in the room. I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me. He began running his hands over my body and grinding his hips into me. I yelled, hoping someone downstairs might hear me, and tried to get away from him, but his weight was heavy. Brett groped me and tried to take off my clothes. He had a hard time because he was so drunk, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit under my clothes. I believed he was going to rape me. I tried to yell for help. When I did, Brett put his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming. This was what terrified me the most, and has had the most lasting impact on my life. It was hard for me to breathe, and I thought that Brett was accidentally going to kill me. Both Brett and Mark were drunkenly laughing during the attack. They both seemed to be having a good time. Mark was urging Brett on, although at times he told Brett to stop. A couple of times I made eye contact with Mark and thought he might try to help me, but he did not.
During this assault, Mark came over and jumped on the bed twice while Brett was on top of me. The last time he did this, we toppled over and Brett was no longer on top of me. I was able to get up and run out of the room. Directly across from the bedroom was a small bathroom. I ran inside the bathroom and locked the door. I heard Brett and Mark leave the bedroom laughing and loudly walk down the narrow stairs, pin-balling off the walls on the way down. I waited and when I did not hear them come back up the stairs, I left the bathroom, ran down the stairs, through the living room, and left the house. I remember being on the street and feeling an enormous sense of relief that I had escaped from the house and that Brett and Mark were not coming after me.
Brett’s assault on me drastically altered my life. For a very long time, I was too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone the details. I did not want to tell my parents that I, at age 15, was in a house without any parents present, drinking beer with boys. I tried to convince myself that because Brett did not rape me, I should be able to move on and just pretend that it had never happened. Over the years, I told very few friends that I had this traumatic experience. I told my husband before we were married that I had experienced a sexual assault. I had never told the details to anyone until May 2012, during a couples counseling session. The reason this came up in counseling is that my husband and I had completed an extensive remodel of our home, and I insisted on a second front door, an idea that he and others disagreed with and could not understand. In explaining why I wanted to have a second front door, I described the assault in detail. I recall saying that the boy who assaulted me could someday be on the U.S. Supreme Court and spoke a bit about his background. My husband recalls that I named my attacker as Brett Kavanaugh.
After that May 2012 therapy session, I did my best to suppress memories of the assault because recounting the details caused me to relive the experience, and caused panic attacks and anxiety. Occasionally, I would discuss the assault in individual therapy, but talking about it caused me to relive the trauma, so I tried not to think about it or discuss it. But over the years, I went through periods where I thought about Brett’s attack. I confided in some close friends that I had an experience with sexual assault. Occasionally, I stated that my assailant was a prominent lawyer or judge but I did not use his name. I do not recall each person I spoke to about Brett’s assault, and some friends have reminded me of these conversations since the publication of The Washington Post story on Sept. 16, 2018. But until July 2018, I had never named Mr. Kavanaugh as my attacker outside of therapy.
This all changed in early July 2018. I saw press reports stating that Brett Kavanaugh was on the “short list” of potential Supreme Court nominees. I thought it was my civic duty to relay the information I had about Mr. Kavanaugh’s conduct so that those considering his potential nomination would know about the assault.
On July 6, 2018, I had a sense of urgency to relay the information to the Senate and the president as soon as possible before a nominee was selected. I called my congressional representative and let her receptionist know that someone on the president’s short list had attacked me. I also sent a message to The Washington Post’s confidential tip line. I did not use my name, but I provided the names of Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge. I stated that Mr. Kavanaugh had assaulted me in the 1980s in Maryland. This was an extremely hard thing for me to do, but I felt I couldn’t NOT do it. Over the next two days, I told a couple of close friends on the beach in California that Mr. Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted me. I was conflicted about whether to speak out.
On July 9, 2018, I received a call from the office of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo after Mr. Kavanaugh had become the nominee. I met with her staff on July 11 and with her on July 13, describing the assault and discussing my fear about coming forward. Later, we discussed the possibility of sending a letter to Ranking Member Feinstein, who is one of my state’s senators, describing what occurred. My understanding is that Representative Eshoo’s office delivered a copy of my letter to Senator Feinstein’s office on July 30, 2018. The letter included my name, but requested that the letter be kept confidential.
My hope was that providing the information confidentially would be sufficient to allow the Senate to consider Mr. Kavanaugh’s serious misconduct without having to make myself, my family or anyone’s family vulnerable to the personal attacks and invasions of privacy we have faced since my name became public. In a letter on Aug. 31, 2018, Senator Feinstein wrote that she would not share the letter without my consent. I greatly appreciated this commitment. All sexual assault victims should be able to decide for themselves whether their private experience is made public.
As the hearing date got closer, I struggled with a terrible choice: Do I share the facts with the Senate and put myself and my family in the public spotlight? Or do I preserve our privacy and allow the Senate to make its decision on Mr. Kavanaugh’s nomination without knowing the full truth about his past behavior?
I agonized daily with this decision throughout August and early September 2018. The sense of duty that motivated me to reach out confidentially to The Washington Post, Representative Eshoo’s office, and Senator Feinstein’s office was always there, but my fears of the consequences of speaking out started to increase.
During August 2018, the press reported that Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation was virtually certain. His allies painted him as a champion of women’s rights and empowerment. I believed that if I came forward, my voice would be drowned out by a chorus of powerful supporters. By the time of the confirmation hearings, I had resigned myself to remaining quiet and letting the committee and the Senate make their decision without knowing what Mr. Kavanaugh had done to me.
Once the press started reporting on the existence of the letter I had sent to Senator Feinstein, I faced mounting pressure. Reporters appeared at my home and at my job demanding information about this letter, including in the presence of my graduate students. They called my boss and coworkers and left me many messages, making it clear that my name would inevitably be released to the media. I decided to speak out publicly to a journalist who had responded to the tip I had sent to The Washington Post and who had gained my trust. It was important to me to describe the details of the assault in my own words.
Since Sept. 16, the date of The Washington Post story, I have experienced an outpouring of support from people in every state of this country. Thousands of people who have had their lives dramatically altered by sexual violence have reached out to share their own experiences with me and have thanked me for coming forward. We have received tremendous support from friends and our community.
At the same time, my greatest fears have been realized — and the reality has been far worse than what I expected. My family and I have been the target of constant harassment and death threats. I have been called the most vile and hateful names imaginable. These messages, while far fewer than the expressions of support, have been terrifying to receive and have rocked me to my core. People have posted my personal information on the internet. This has resulted in additional emails, calls and threats. My family and I were forced to move out of our home. Since Sept. 16, my family and I have been living in various secure locales, at times separate and at times together, with the help of security guards. This past Tuesday evening, my work email account was hacked and messages were sent out supposedly recanting my description of the sexual assault.
Apart from the assault itself, these last couple of weeks have been the hardest of my life. I have had to relive my trauma in front of the entire world, and I have seen my life picked apart by people on television, on Twitter, social media, other media, and in this body who have never met me or spoken with me. I have been accused of acting out of partisan political motives. Those who say that do not know me. I am an independent person and I am no one’s pawn. My motivation in coming forward was to be helpful and to provide the facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged my life, so that you can take that into a serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed. It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell you the truth.
I understand a professional prosecutor to ask me some questions, and I am committed to doing my very best to answer them. I have never been questioned by a prosecutor and I will do my best. At the same time, because the committee members will be judging my credibility, I hope to be able to engage directly with each of you.
At this point, I will do my best to answer your questions, and I request some caffeine.
Kavanaugh continued to deny the allegations in his opening statement, which was released ahead of his testimony:
Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Members of the Committee: Eleven days ago, Dr. Ford publicly accused me of committing a serious wrong more than 36 years ago when we were both in high school. I denied the allegation immediately, unequivocally, and categorically. The next day, I told this Committee that I wanted to testify as soon as possible, under oath, to clear my name.
Over the past few days, other false and uncorroborated accusations have been aired. There has been a frenzy to come up with something—anything, no matter how far-fetched or odious—that will block a vote on my nomination. These are last-minute smears, pure and simple. They debase our public discourse. And the consequences extend beyond any one nomination. Such grotesque and obvious character assassination—if allowed to succeed—will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from serving our country.
As I told this Committee the last time I appeared before you, a federal judge must be independent, not swayed by public or political pressure. That is the kind of judge I am and will always be. I will not be intimidated into withdrawing from this process. This effort to destroy my good name will not drive me out. The vile threats of violence against my family will not drive me out. I am here this morning to answer these allegations and to tell the truth. And the truth is that I have never sexually assaulted anyone—not in high school, not in college, not ever.
Sexual assault is horrific. It is morally wrong. It is illegal. It is contrary to my religious faith. And it contradicts the core promise of this Nation that all people are created equal and entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. Allegations of sexual assault must be taken seriously. Those who make allegations deserve to be heard. The subject of allegations also deserves to be heard. Due process is a foundation of the American rule of law.
Dr. Ford’s allegation dates back more than 36 years, to a party that she says occurred during our time in high school. I spent most of my time in high school focused on academics, sports, church, and service. But I was not perfect in those days, just as I am not perfect today. I drank beer with my friends, usually on weekends. Sometimes I had too many. In retrospect, I said and did things in high school that make me cringe now. But that’s not why we are here today. What I’ve been accused of is far more serious than juvenile misbehavior. I never did anything remotely resembling what Dr. Ford describes.
The allegation of misconduct is completely inconsistent with the rest of my life. The record of my life, from my days in grade school through the present day, shows that I have always promoted the equality and dignity of women. I categorically and unequivocally deny the allegation against me by Dr. Ford. I never had any sexual or physical encounter of any kind with Dr. Ford. I am not questioning that Dr. Ford may have been sexually assaulted by some person in some place at some time. But I have never done that to her or to anyone. I am innocent of this charge.
Ford and Kavanaugh will be questioned by Rachel Mitchell, a sex-crimes prosecutor from Arizona who was hired by Senate Republicans as outside counsel.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley announced Mitchell’s hiring in a statement Tuesday night, saying, “I promised Dr. Ford that I would do everything in my power to avoid a repeat of the ‘circus’ atmosphere in the hearing room that we saw the week of September 4. I’ve taken this additional step to have questions asked by expert staff counsel to establish the most fair and respectful treatment of the witnesses possible.”
“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time,” Kavanaugh wrote in a statement released by the White House after the allegations emerged.
Kavanaugh further denied the claims to The New York Times, as well in an interview with Fox News’ Martha MacCallum on Monday.
“I never sexually assaulted anyone,” he said. “I did not have sexual intercourse or anything close to sexual intercourse in high school or for many years thereafter. The girls from the schools I went to and I were friends.”
Kavanaugh also claimed that he was “not at the party described.”
“I was not anywhere or any place described resembling that in the summer of 1982. The other people who alleged to be there don’t say anything like that,” he said. “The woman who alleged to be there, who’s her friend, said she doesn’t know me and doesn’t recall ever being at a party with me in her life.”
Many celebrities and organizations showed their support for Ford during a national walkout earlier this week. Samantha Bee, Alyssa Milano, Debra Messing, Kerry Washington and more attended to show solidarity with Ford. Ford also has the backing of more than 200 alumnae from her all-girls private high school, who created and signed a letter in support of Ford, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, a graduate of the Holton-Arms School.
A second woman, Deborah Ramirez, has also come forward and accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct during their time at Yale together. In a report published by The New Yorker, Ramirez, 53, claimed Kavanaugh “exposed himself at a drunken dormitory party, thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away.”
Kavanaugh has also denied these claims in a statement to The New Yorker, saying: “This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen. The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name — and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building — against these last-minute allegations.”
On Wednesday, a third accuser, Julie Swetnick, came forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct.
Attorney Michael Avenatti tweeted a sworn affidavit in which Swetnick alleges she was a victim of a “gang rape” where Kavanaugh was present, and that she witnessed efforts by Kavanaugh “to cause girls to become inebriated and disoriented so they could be ‘gang raped’ by a train of numerous boys.”
Kavanaugh denied Swetnick’s allegations in a statement on Wednesday, CNBC reported. “This is ridiculous and from The Twilight Zone. I don’t know who this is and this never happened,” he said.
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The White House said in a statement provided to PEOPLE earlier this month that Democratic efforts to bring Ford’s allegations to light were merely an “11th hour attempt to delay” Kavanaugh’s nomination.
President Trump himself has defended Kavanaugh, calling him “somebody very special” who has “never even had a little blemish on his record.” The president has questioned Ford’s claims. He sent out a tweet asking why Ford waited 36 years to report the incident.
The accusations have delayed Kavanaugh’s confirmation process. The Senate Judiciary Committee, facing pressure from the White House, has moved to speed up the process by scheduling a vote on his nomination Friday, the Wall Street Journal reports.
If you or someone you care about is affected by sexual violence, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).