Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh captured the attention of Washington and the nation with hours of fiery, emotional testimony from the judge and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing him of sexual assault when they were high schoolers. Kavanaugh denied the accusation.
Below are the full opening remarks from Christine Blasey Ford:
Thank you, Chairman Grassley and 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 won’t detail my educational background since it has already been summarized. 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 a letter to Chairman Grassley.
I understand and appreciate the importance of your hearing from me directly about what happened to me and the impact that 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, Maryland, from 1978 to 1984. Holton-Arms is an all-girls school that opened in 1901.
During my time at this school, girls at Holton-Arms frequently met and became friendly with boys from all-boys schools in the area, including the Landon School, Georgetown Prep, Gonzaga High School, as well as our country clubs and other places where kids and families socialized. This is how I met Brett Kavanaugh, the boy who sexually assaulted me.
During 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 and sophomore 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 most every day at the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland, swimming and practicing diving.
One evening that summer, after a day of diving at the club, I attended a small gathering at a house in the Bethesda area. There were four boys I remember specifically being at the house: Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, a boy named P.J., and one other boy whose name I cannot recall. I also remember my friend Leland 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 be more helpful with more detailed answers to all of the questions that have and will be asked about how I got to the party and 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 that — about that night that bring me here today are the 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/family room-type area on the first floor of the house. I drank one beer. Brett and Mark were visibly drunk.
Early in the evening, I went up a very narrow set of stairs leading from the living room to a second floor to use the restroom. When I got to the top of the stairs, I was pushed from behind into a bedroom across from the bathroom. I couldn’t see who pushed me. Brett and Mark came into the bedroom and locked the door behind them.
There was music 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 into me. I yelled, hoping that someone downstairs might hear me, and I 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 very inebriated, and because I was wearing a one-piece bathing suit underneath my clothing.
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 yelling. This is 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 seemed to be having a very good time.
Mark seemed ambivalent, at times urging Brett on and at times telling him 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. And the last time that 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 waited until I heard Brett and Mark leave the bedroom, laughing and loudly walk down the narrow stairway, pinballing 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, went down the same stairwell through the living room, and left the house.
I remember being on the street and feeling this enormous sense of relief that I had escaped that house and that Brett and Mark were not coming outside 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 these 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 convinced myself that because Brett did not rape me, I should just move on and just pretend that it didn’t happen.
Over the years, I told very, 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 — the specific details — until May 2012, during a couples counseling session.
The reason this came up in counseling is that my husband and I had completed a very extensive, very long 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 a second front door, I began to describe 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 at an elitist all-boys school in Bethesda, Maryland. My husband recalls that I named my attacker as Brett Kavanaugh.
After that May 2012 therapy session, I did my best to ignore the memories of the assault, because recounting them caused me to relive the experience, and caused panic and anxiety.
Occasionally, I would discuss the assault in an individual therapy session, but talking about it caused more reliving of 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 the attack.
I had confided in some close friends that I had 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 September 16th, 2018. But until July 2018, I had never named Mr. Kavanaugh as my attacker outside of therapy.
This changed in early July 2018. I saw press reports stating that Brett Kavanaugh was on the shortlist of a list of very well-qualified 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 nomination would know about this assault.
On July 6th, 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 did not know how, specifically, to do this.
I called my congressional representative and let her receptionist know that someone on the president’s shortlist had attacked me. I also sent a message to the encrypted Washington Post 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 that I couldn’t not do it.
Over the next two days, I told a couple of close friends on the beach in Aptos, California, that Mr. Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted me. I was very conflicted as to whether to speak out.
On July 9th, I received a return phone call from the office of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo after Mr. Kavanaugh had become the nominee. I met with her staff on July 18th and with her on July 20th, describing the assault and discussing my fears about coming forward.
Later, we discussed the possibility of sending a letter to Ranking Member Feinstein, who is one of my state 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 30th.
The letter included my name, but also a request that it 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 that we have faced since my name became public.
In a letter dated August 31st, Senator Feinstein wrote that she would not share the letter without my explicit consent, and I appreciated this commitment. Sexual assault victims should be able to decide for themselves when and 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 without knowing the full truth of his past behaviors?
I agonized daily with this decision throughout August and September 2018. The sense of duty that originally motivated me to reach out confidentially to The Washington Post and to Anna Eshoo’s office when there was still a list of extremely qualified candidates — and to Senator Feinstein — was always there, but my fears of the consequences of speaking out started to exponentially increase.
During August 2018, the press reported that Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation was virtually certain. Persons painted him as a champion of women’s rights and empowerment. And I believed that if I came forward, my single 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 workplace, demanding information about the letter in the presence of my graduate students. They called my bosses and co-workers, 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 originally responded to the tip I had sent to the Washington Post and who had gained my trust. It was important for me to describe the details of the assault in my own words.
Since September 16th, the date of the Washington Post’s story, I have experienced an outpouring of support from people in every state of this country. Thousands and thousands of people who have had their lives dramatically altered by sexual violence have reached out to share their experience and have thanked me for coming forward. We have received tremendous support from our 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, and I have been called the most vile and hateful names imaginable. These messages, while far fewer than the expressions of support, have been terrifying and have rocked me to my core.
People have posted my personal information and that of my parents online on the Internet. This has resulted in additional e-mails, calls and threats.
My family and I were forced to move out of our home. Since September 16th, my family and I have been visiting in various secure locales, at times separated and at times together, with the help of security guards.
This past Tuesday evening, my work e-mail was hacked and messages were sent out trying to recant my description of the sexual assault.
Apart from the assault itself, these past couple of weeks have been the hardest of my life. I’ve had to relive this trauma in front of the world. And I’ve seen my life picked apart by people on television, on Twitter, other 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’m an independent person and I am no one’s pawn.
My motivation in coming forward was to be helpful and to provide facts about how Mr. Kavanaugh’s actions have damaged my life, so that you could take 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 that a professional prosecutor has been hired to ask me questions, and I’m 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 do hope to be able to engage directly with each of you.
And at this point, I will do my best to answer your questions, and would request some caffeine.