Content warning: Sexual assault Christine Blasey Ford took America by surprise when she came forward against then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh about his sexual misconduct in high school.
It seems there’s a trend in women voicing their traumatic experiences and having their claims disregarded. Despite the courage it takes for a survivor to step forward and share their story, they have too often been easily dismissed. When status and power take precedence over the facts of the investigation, justice is not fully served. As we enter Sexual Assault Awareness month, it’s time to reflect upon the role women have played in crafting the justices of the nation’s highest court.
Christine Blasey Ford took America by surprise when she came forward against then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh about his sexual misconduct in high school. Ford, now an esteemed psychology professor at Palo Alto University and Research Psychologist at Stanford’s School of Medicine, became acquainted with Kavanaugh in high school. In mid September of 2018, after months of debating whether she should make her trauma widely known, Ford released her allegations of assault toward Judge Kavanaugh in high school.
In her opening statement to the committee and Americans streaming the hearing, Ford made her purpose and presence blunt. She declared, “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.” She then proceeded to detail what happened one summer night at a small party when she went upstairs to use the bathroom. Kavanaugh and his friend Mark then pushed her into a bedroom, locked the door, and drunken Kavanaugh assaulted her.
Throughout the nomination, Ford continued to relive and recall this traumatic evening of her childhood and the impact the assault had on her life. Begining in her opening statement, Ford noted how she was ashamed by the event and the fact she was drinking alcohol underage at a party. This led her to not disclose the assault to many friends or family until years later. Explaining the trauma created panic attacks and anxiety for Ford, resulting in her only explicitly detailing her experience to her husband at a therapy session.
Like Anita Hill, Ford’s claims were deemed by some as lies, and Kavanaugh’s representative tried to paint him as the victim. An article in Time describes a tactic various Republicans like John Cornyn (R-TX) used to evoke sympathy for their side, saying “Any woman can ruin a man’s life.” This encouraged senators to see Kavanaugh as the victim, with others also noting how the story lacks credibility without corroboration.
While Ford’s presence in the nomination process had ties to Hill, one difference is how the public perceived the accounts. According to a Time article, “45% of respondents thought Ford was telling the truth, compared to 33% who believed Kavanaugh.” Ford’s testimony was given greater credence in 2018 than Hill’s in the 1990s, and Americans began to give survivors greater authority. In the end, however, Brett Kavanaugh was still appointed to a lifetime position on the Supreme Court with a vote of 50-48.
Although Ford’s assailant now serves in one of America’s highest positions of government, her willingness to share her experience and highlight an occurrance that far too many women face each year was important. Ford’s bravery has brought women together, creating #WhyIDidntReport on social media for fellow survivors to share their stories. Also, she has helped make a safer space for women to come forth with their experiences. This Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we recognize and honor survivors of assualt like Christine Blasey Ford in ultimately spreading information about the prevalence of these issues in our society and in continually reminding us that survivor’s stories matter.
If you are in immediate need of support, call the National Sexual Assault Helpline.
They accept phone calls 24 hours a day at 1-800-656-4673.
A comprehensive list of services and resources is available at rainn.org.