By Haley Sweetland Edwards, TIME Magazine
October 4, 2018
History often seems inexorable in hindsight, shaped by powerful figures operating beyond our control. But when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford walked in to face the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27, raised her right hand and swore to tell the truth, it was clear that an unassuming psychology professor and mother of two was about to change the course of current events in real time.
At stake was a potential lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court that could change decades of legal rulings and affect the nation’s faith in its judiciary. Control of Congress may have hung in the balance, too, as Senators prepared to assess Ford’s allegation that Judge Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her some 36 years ago, a charge he vigorously denies. Most of all, the hopes and fears of women and men who have lived with the trauma of sexual violence were riding on the credibility of Ford’s testimony. Her treatment in the halls of power, and her reception by an expectant public, would send a signal to countless survivors wrestling with whether they should speak up.
So the country was riveted even before the figure known only from a faded photograph finally arrived on Capitol Hill, faced a towering dais of Senators and began to talk. “I am here today not because I want to be,” Ford said. “I am terrified.” For the next four hours, she answered every question. She admitted the facts she could not remember and recited her memories of that summer night in excruciating detail. The floor plan of the house. The ambush on her way to the bathroom. The sound of the two boys laughing as Kavanaugh allegedly pinned her to the bed, fumbled to remove her clothes and covered her mouth when she tried to scream. When pressed on her recollections, Ford explained how norepinephrine and epinephrine encodes in the hippocampus, her word choice reminding listeners of her Ph.D. in psychology. And when asked how sure she was that it was Kavanaugh who attacked her, Ford did not hesitate. “One hundred percent,” she said.
By the time the hearing ended, Ford had done more than prove herself a credible witness. For millions of women and men, she had replaced Kavanaugh as the protagonist in the nomination narrative. Women began calling into C-SPAN to tell their own, decades-old stories of harassment and rape. The hashtag #WhyIDidntReport exploded on social media, a rallying cry for those who had never gone public about their own sexual assault until then. Overseas, young women from San José to London gathered around smartphones and computers to watch the testimony, hands over hearts, mouths agape. In Lyon, a real estate agent rushed home from work to catch the live stream on YouTube. In Hong Kong, a young woman posted a photo in solidarity: “I Believe Christine Blasey Ford.”