On Thursday, Sept. 27, nearly 20.4 million people across the nation tuned into both cable and broadcasting networks to watch Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee against Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Ford is the first of multiple women to come forward and accuse Kavanaugh of sexual assault during his high school years. Ford, a research professor of psychology at Palo Alto University in California, came forward on more than one occasion once it became clear that Kavanaugh was the clear nominee for the Supreme Court. Both Ford and Kavanaugh read prepared opening statements on Thursday, followed by rounds of questioning from prosecutor Rachel Mitchell.
Ford began the opening statements, stating that she was “terrified” to be there, easily noticeable by her quiet, sometimes shaking tone of voice. She went on to state why she thought it necessary to come forward. “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.” Her statement continued, detailing the assault that occurred when she was just 15 years old.
She even went so far as to close her opening statement by combating allegations that this accusation comes as a politically motivated attempt to keep Kavanaugh away from a seat on the Supreme Court: “Those who say that do not know me. I am a fiercely independent person and I am no one’s pawn. 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. It is not my responsibility to determine whether Mr. Kavanaugh deserves to sit on the Supreme Court. My responsibility is to tell the truth.” She was then questioned on a number of matters in regard to both her personal life and in regard to the alleged assault.
When it came time for Kavanaugh to read his statements, a shift in the air of the room was palpable. Kavanaugh was visibly angry and on more than one occasion, on the verge of tears. He was appalled at how the accusations have been handled and was especially angry with those political figures involved: “This is a circus. The consequences will extend long past my nomination. The consequences will be with us for decades. This grotesque and coordinated character assassination will dissuade confident and good people of all political persuasions from serving our country.” He cited personal calendars, his own experiences with sexuality in his youth and even the fact that he has many female friends as aspects for his defense.
His fury reached an apex when he stated that he felt this was an attack led by Democrats to keep him from the position. “This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”
It was incredibly hard to watch these statements as they aired nationwide that Thursday. I was most taken aback by the difference in tone and demeanor between the two parties. Where Kavanaugh was teary and filled with anger, Ford was polite, respectful and powerful as she quietly offered information. She even apologized that she couldn’t be of more help. As I watched her testimony and questioning, I couldn’t help but think of Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas 27 years ago. One would think such a painful display would never happen again, yet here we are.
I believe her, and I spent much of the weekend hoping the rest of the nation did as well. On Saturday, the Senate voted 50-48 in favor of Kavanaugh, one of the closest Senate votes regarding confirmation of a Supreme Court justice in decades. Admittedly, how this entire situation was handled feels like a slap in the face to sexual assault survivors. When someone like Ford comes forward, knowing well what will happen to them once they do, those accusations should be taken more seriously than a hearing and weeklong investigation where neither the victim or alleged perpetrator is interviewed. Ford deserves more, women deserve more and the ripples these entire few weeks have caused will last generations — as will Kavanaugh’s decisions on the Supreme Court, now leaning to a much more conservative side. Whatever your opinion, situation or level of education, I urge you: Get involved, do independent research and most importantly, vote this November. If we take even a fraction of Christine Blasey Ford’s courage, our voices will be heard for years to come.
Elizabeth Short is a sophomore majoring in biology.