During Christine Blasey Ford’s devastating testimony Thursday as she graphically recounted Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assault, women across the country say they felt—deeply and personally—her pain.
“When Dr. Ford choked up, I choked up. When her voice broke as she described the details of the assault, I burst into tears,” says Natasha Stoynoff, a PEOPLE writer and author who accused then-candidate Donald Trump of pushing her against a wall and forcing his tongue down her throat during a 2005 interview.
“I thought of the hundreds of thousands of women who’ve been in that same horrible place, with a hand pressed over their mouth — and felt they had to be silent from that moment on.”
Another writer, at home in Montclair N.J., tells PEOPLE she suddenly began reliving the acquaintance rape she experienced during the 1980s.
“I am sobbing. Omg I feel sick to my stomach. I can’t stop watching & I’m remembering my own rape, which I never ever talk about or consciously think about,” the woman, now 60, who does not wish her name to be revealed due to privacy concerns, texted a friend.
Until today, she had kept the rape a secret except from her husband, because she blames herself.
She tells PEOPLE through tears she was particularly moved by Ford’s account of a teenaged Kavanaugh as he allegedly groped the then 15-year-old Ford over her bathing suit and tried to remove it as his friend, Mark Judge, watched and the two boys laughed.
“And when she was talking the force of his body, the not being able to move, the hand over the mouth…” the writer tells PEOPLE through tears.
Tears also flowed in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, where Ford told her story.
As CNN reporter MJ Lee tweeted from the hearing: “As Blasey Ford emotionally describes the alleged assault, crying, you can also hear crying and see tears throughout the audience in the room.”
In another tweet,Lee writes: “And it is not just her supporters or friends — some Senate staffers, as well as senators, visibly emotional and wiping away tears.”
The Atlantic‘s Elaina Plott described an emotional scene in the Dirksen building’s corridors as well. “Outside the hearing, there are groups of women, huddled over phones streaming Dr. Ford’s testimony, crying,” Plott tweeted.
Ford’s almost four hours of testimony, which concluded Thursday afternoon, also elicited support across social media. Some saluted Ford for giving a voice to other survivors.
“I am crying. My daughter is crying. My granddaughter is crying. My niece is crying. This has happened to 3 generations of women in the same family. None of us knew about the other. No. We will not speak of the details, even to each other. Because what happens to those who do,” tweeted @kathcor.
As former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah tweeted: “Dr. Christine Blasey Ford: there are men and women all over this country crying – but most of all cheering – for you right now. Thank you.”
If you or someone you care about is affected by sexual violence, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).