“I am terrified.” They were some of the first words uttered by Dr Christine Blasey Ford in front of a Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington DC overnight, as she began to recall – in devastating detail – her sexual assault at the hands of Trump’s top pick for the US Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh.
“I am here today not because I want to be,” Dr Ford, a psychology professor, made clear as she began her testimony. “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.”
As the world waits for the US Senate Judiciary Committee to vote on the future of Kavanaugh’s nomination, these are the key points to know.
1/ Dr Ford claims Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school party
The alleged assault took place when Ford was just 15 years old and Kavanaugh was 17, at a house party in 1982. “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,” Dr Ford read from her prepared statement (which you can read in full here). “When I got to the top of the stairs, I was pushed from behind into a bedroom… Brett [Kavanaugh] and Mark [Judge] came into the bedroom and locked the door behind them… I was pushed onto the bed and Brett got on top of me.”
Dr Ford’s voice cracked audibly and she fought back tears as she read. “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.”
Later, when asked for her strongest memory of the incident, Dr Ford answered, “The laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense.”
2/ Why she waited before going public
Dr Ford spoke eloquently and heartbreakingly about the effect the assault has had on her life and explains why, like so many other women, she struggled to tell anyone about it. “For a very long time, I was too afraid and ashamed.... 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,” she explained. “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.”
She only told her husband of her experience before they got married, and withheld the details even from him until a couples counselling session in May 2012, as a means of explaining why she wanted a second front door as part of their home renovation.
3/ Why it’s so important she’s speaking out now
Dr Ford never named Kavanaugh as her attacker outside of therapy until July 2018, when he was shortlisted as a potential Supreme Court nominee – a nomination which, if successful, would make him one of the most powerful men in the United States.
“My motivation in coming forward was to provide the facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged my life, so that you can take that into serious consideration as you make your decision about how to proceed,” she said at the hearing. “It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell the truth.”
4/ How Brett Kavanaugh’s statement compares
Kavanaugh denies Dr Ford’s allegations, alternating between tears and fits of rage as he spoke in front of the Senate committee and called the situation “a national disgrace.” He, like his Republican allies, says Dr Ford is part of an orchestrated attack against him by the Democrats, and used his time to speak of his beer drinking habits, telling the Senate, “I like beer.”
When asked if he had watched Dr Ford’s testimony, he admitted that he had not, the Washington Post reports.
5/ Where Trump sits in all this
This tweet he posted after the hearing pretty much sums it up:
6/ The response on social media
Trump’s response to the hearing is in stark contrast to that of women – and men – everywhere. On Twitter, people praised Dr Ford for her courage: