We represented Dr. Christine Blasey Ford one year ago when she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about being sexually assaulted as a teenager by now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
While the world watched with rapt attention, Dr. Ford spoke for hours about the single most traumatizing experience of her life. She acknowledged that she was terrified to be there, but that did not prevent her from answering every question put to her with poise and respect, even though the outcome appeared to be a foregone conclusion. Her appearance before the Committee was a stunning act of courage and public service that gave voice to millions of survivors around the world, and continues to resonate with the men and women who recognized the tremendous risk she took and the price she paid for her testimony.
We are repeatedly asked: “How is Dr. Ford doing now?” The answer, unfortunately, is that the price to Dr. Ford and those around her has been enormous, and continues. Even though she has tried valiantly to return to life as a professor, scientist, mother, wife and private citizen, she has been thwarted at every turn. She continues to be subjected to hateful rhetoric and lies—including those regularly disseminated by a well-oiled attack machine, and repeated at the highest levels of our government.
These attacks have escalated in recent days as we approached the one-year anniversary of her testimony.
While detractors continue to try to paint Dr. Ford as partisan and her decision to come forward as political, any fair-minded person who saw her testimony knows that they are lying. Sexual assault is not a partisan issue. Dr. Ford was not politically motivated—she came forward privately, to her local congressperson, because she believed it was her duty as a citizen and that any citizen in her shoes would do the same. She struggled with the decision to come forward publicly; aware of the potential costs to her and her family, she decided not to come forward. That choice was taken from her by the media and others who were intent on her story coming to light.
Despite the obvious credibility of Dr. Ford and her testimony one year ago, the smear tactics against her and those around her have been relentless. In the last month alone, she was falsely attacked on the basis of an incomplete recording of a speech one of us recently gave at a feminist legal scholar conference. Conflating her attorney’s personal views with her own was deliberately dishonest and meant to further inflame the partisan attack machine that appears intent on destroying her. The Justice now retains a lifetime position of leadership, but his allies continue their relentless efforts to cruelly and unfairly smear Dr. Ford.
There have been many other baseless accusations against Dr. Ford and her family, so frequent and calculated that trying to respond to each would only lead to more attacks. We want to put to rest some of the repeated falsehoods.
First, Dr. Ford was never mistaken about who attacked her.
Next, Dr. Ford’s parents supported her—before, during and after her testimony—and were with her at the hotel the evening after she testified.
Finally, Dr. Ford’s childhood friend, Leland Keyser, who Dr. Ford testified was downstairs at the party with her but could not be expected to remember the otherwise unremarkable event 35 years later, has written to Dr. Ford many expressions of support and has stated both privately and publicly that she believes her in contradiction to her more recent statements to the contrary. It may be that her personal struggles affected her change of heart, as authors Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly conclude in their book, The Education of Brett Kavanaugh.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. It is tragic that instead of applauding courage, a vengeful, politically motivated bloc is intent on making Dr. Ford’s life, and the lives of those around her, as painful as possible.
If we don’t resist cynical efforts to intimidate citizens into remaining silent, we all stand to lose.