Christine Blasey Ford: I Expected Attacks But Felt Compelled to Share Kavanaugh Story

Christine Blasey Ford, who accused U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, at an event in San Francisco on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (Courtesy of Futures Without Violence)

Christine Blasey Ford, the psychology professor who alleged that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school during his confirmation hearings, told a group in San Francisco on Tuesday that she knew as soon as Justice Anthony Kennedy retired from the court she might need to come forward with her story — and that she'd be attacked for sharing it.

"I immediately felt compelled that I needed to say something. I just didn't know how or to whom. And so the people I started with were my friends," she said. "For six weeks, I would sit on the beach and talk with my friends about what to do."

It was only Ford's second public appearance since her 2018 testimony during Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings, which resulted in threats to her life and forced her and her family into hiding. Kavanaugh, who was later confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, has denied the allegation.

At a fundraiser hosted by Futures Without Violence, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending violence against women and children, the group presented "Courage Awards" to Ford as well as to author and survivor Chanel Miller; and to March for Our Lives activist Tyah-Amoy Roberts.

Ford, whose appearance was a surprise to audience members, was welcomed with gasps and a standing ovation. She spoke onstage with journalist Cindi Leive, former editor-in-chief of Glamour magazine, saying that even though she has tried to avoid media attention since her testimony, she does make exceptions when a group's values align with hers.

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She told Leive that her family "experienced a lot of retaliation," after her testimony and had to temporarily move out of their house. But, there was a silver lining.

"In a way, after I testified, it was a bit of a relief that I had fulfilled my commitment as a citizen and done my duty as a citizen," she said.

"There's probably people in the audience that have experienced really difficult moments in their lives where there's a lot of clarification. So what I mean by that is just a clear focus on your priorities and all of the daily stressors and hassles kind of disappear and your true friends sort of step forward," she said. "And sometimes it's not the people we thought."

Ford said her family received support from their community, including her kids' schools, and that she has been heartened to make new friends — like anti-gun activist David Hogg, who survived the Parkland school massacre.

Before she testified, though, Ford said she knew she'd be subjected to attacks.

"As psychologists and sociologists, we expect that survivors of sexual assault will experience what we call DARVO," she said. That acronym, she explained, stands for denial by the accused, attack the accuser, and then recast the victim as the offender.

"The victim becomes the offender and the offender becomes the victim. So we see that playing out on the news right now. We see that in just about all public cases of sexual assault. And I think it's really important that we all learn to recognize that and call it out while it's happening and understand that paradigm," she said.

Ford read aloud some of the responses from the people she confided in before coming forward:

"Please don't ever talk about this with me again."

"You've already done more than anyone else would ever do just by considering it. I salute you, patriot."

"Remember, no matter what, you've already won."

"You must push harder. There is so much at stake for all of us. The future of the country is in your hands. Do you understand what a critical time this is in history?"

Ford said she was incredibly stressed out during that time and having trouble sleeping. Ultimately, she said, her colleagues and mentors at work told her, "you don't owe anybody anything."

"That was really helpful for a while. And really sage advice. I would go over it in my head kind of every night. And ultimately, I decided I did owe it to the citizenry of this country, to future generations and to other people to share the information," she said.

Ford said she told her kids that it wasn't important whether her testimony changed Kavanaugh's appointment: "What's important is that I tell them this information and that they can make this decision."

Ford was followed onstage by Chanel Miller — the formerly anonymous woman whose victim impact statement went viral during the trial of Brock Turner, the man who sexually assaulted her in 2015 at Stanford University.

Last year, Miller came forward to reclaim her story, speaking out publicly about the assault  — and her attacker's lenient sentence — in a memoir about the experience.

At the event, Futures Without Violence also announced plans for the Courage Museum, which the group plans to open in San Francisco's Presidio in 2021. It will be an interactive learning center "designed to simulate a world in which violence is not an inevitable part of the human experience," the group said in a statement.